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Yellowjackets finale recap: Hello, Antler Queen

The gripping Showtime series delivers an explosive finale. We get a few answers, a ton more questions and direction for next season.

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Christina Ricci plays ruthless manipulator Misty.
Showtime

Showdowns, reunions, elections and... bears capped off a glorious first season of Showtime's Yellowjackets.

The show about a high school girls soccer team stranded in the harsh wilderness promised Lord of the Flies, but with periods, complicated relationships and more intelligent female leaders. Creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson knew the fire had to burn slowly, so that when the girls finally forget all remnants of who they once were -- when they get an appetite for human flesh -- it's as believable, impactful and disturbing as can be.

Episode 10 unleashes some of that hell. We get answers. Not all of them -- the season 1 finale poses a ton more questions -- but at least we find out (some of) Jackie's fate. Once team captain of the Wiskayok Yellowjackets, once best friend of Shauna, Jackie is the only main character who isn't around in the present timeline. How does she die? Is she killed in the opening chase scene that everything seems to hinge on?

Apparently, no. After finally confronting Shauna about sleeping with her boyfriend Jeff behind her back -- not to mention picking apart the cliches in their cool girl and sidekick best friend dynamic -- Jackie angrily spends the night outside the cabin. Just before tragically freezing to death during the unexpected first snowfall of winter (who else was pleasantly surprised Jackie didn't end up being brutally stabbed by anyone?), Jackie has a vision, one that was presaged by Van's similar experience in the limbo between life and death. Jackie dreams herself and Shauna as best friends once again, and the rest of the Yellowjackets team, including Laura Lee, who died in a plane explosion two episodes ago, welcome her back into the warmth with open arms.

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Jackie (Ella Purnell) succumbs to a tragic fate.

Showtime

Only, there's one more figure waiting in the corner. A shadowy man, with a not so subtle demonic vibe. "So glad you're joining us," he intones. "We've been waiting for you."

So... is Jackie really gone for good? I'm guessing the answer is a tenuous no (although apparently actress Ella Purnell only had a one-season contract). Maybe all the dead Yellowjackets are set to return thanks to supernatural forces, which the writers wisely kept at bay for the majority of season 1. Is the man the same person who died in the cabin? Is this "in between" place, as Van describes it, the basis of a cult? One connected to the group of people who kidnap Natalie just before she sadly attempts suicide?

The man in the shadows.

Showtime

Speaking of the supernatural -- it turns out Taissa, the logical one, the one who always had an explanation for Lottie's dreams and omens, has been keeping a dark secret in the basement all along. Her wife, Simone, stumbles across a blood spatter, and then she lays wide eyes on Taissa's secret shrine to, presumably, "the ancient gods of the sky and the dirt," to use Lottie's words. The family dog and his heart are sacrificed, it seems, to ensure Taissa wins her election. We should have seen it coming. She was always obsessed with winning, whatever the means. RIP Allie's broken leg.

Another huge revelation: Lottie Matthews is still alive? Natalia receives a phone call just before she's kidnapped by the mysterious symbol-wearing group (are they other survivors of the Rockies?). She blackmailed bank worker Suzie into looking into who took the money out of Travis' bank account just before he was found dead from hanging. The answer is someone named Lottie Matthews. Can we safely say she's The Antler Queen at this point?

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Is Lottie The Antler Queen?

Showtime

Probably not, but all signs are pointing to Lottie. Her visions of a deer shedding its antlers. The scene where she wakes up in the middle of the night and stands up in front of antlers mounted to the cabin wall, giving her an antler crown. Her crown-esque headgear for the wilderness homecoming. Her bear heart sacrifice out in the snow. By the way, "Versez le sang, mes beaux amis," translates as, "Shed blood, my beautiful friends." Just a few signs, there. That being said, there's a theory that, in the end, it's Lottie who's killed and eaten in the opening scene.

More loose ends: Did Travis, coach Martinez's eldest son and Natalie's best friend, really commit suicide? Or was he murdered? Why can Lottie stare down bears until they surrender and let her stab them in the head? Who's the man with no eyes haunting Taissa? When will we discover what the symbol means?

Not that it really matters given how entertaining Yellowjackets is, but it took a while for me to figure out what Yellowjackets is really about. The story goes, creators Lyle and Nickerson were asked, in early development, what they were trying to say with the show. The two different timelines didn't help with clearing up the overall message. In the present, it seems destruction and trauma are key themes. But, overall, as we see in the 1996 timeline, the dismantling of hierarchy among teenage girls is the answer.

With a deliberate, measured unraveling of the girls' relationships with each other and grasp of reality, Yellowjackets has definitely delivered on that promise. It brought some of the best TV of 2021 and into the beginning of 2022. The planned five-season series has been renewed for a second season, promising more answers and more enthralling storytelling to come. Praise be, Yellowjackets. Praise be.

Deeper into the occult

More stray observations...

  • What happened to poor Javi, Coach Martinez's youngest son?
  • RIP Coach Scott's amputated leg.
  • Maybe Lottie isn't alive, but a lovely cult has sprung up in her name. Although, apparently casting discussions have been had over an adult Lottie.
  • Who's still haunted by Jackie's horrible death? How often do we see young girls brutally torn apart by realistic forces of nature on screen? It's deeply unsettling.
  • Misty seems to be one of Lottie's other sidekicks, next to Van, in the wilderness. Maybe Misty is still in contact with Lottie in the present? She's been a double agent all along? That's so Misty...
  • An explanation for the weird-acting bear: It ate the leftover shrooms.
  • Any more Shauna baby theories? We know it can't be Callie, because the timing doesn't add up. Shauna doesn't have a secret child running around, does she?