The Big Death on 'Yellowjackets' Finale Was Quietly Brutal
It wasn't cannibalism or ritualistic murder. It was just sad.
This post has copious spoilers for the season 1 finale of Yellowjackets.
The season one finale of Yellowjackets left a lot unresolved, but it provided a conclusive answer to one of the burning questions lingering over the Showtime series: What became of Jackie, the beautiful, popular team captain? Turns out her death wasn't the product of some mystical ritual. She just freezes, quietly and slowly, in the first snowfall of the year, after being ostracized by the rest of the group.
Jackie's death is not gruesome or strange. It's just brutal and sad. And while that may disappoint some viewers who were rooting for her demise to be a form of vengeful comeuppance, it's an eerie, unshakeable choice on the part of creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson.
As portrayed by Ella Purnell, Jackie is an archetype we're conditioned to hate. She's pretty and confident, and leaves people like Shauna (played as a teen by Sophie Nélisse), who are awkward and less self-assured, in her wake. Jackie is resistant to doing the grunt work required of fending for herself in the wilderness, even taking a beat to respond when someone asks if her Sea Breeze skin astringent can be used as disinfectant. She reveals Shauna's pregnancy to the rest of the Yellowjackets in a catty betrayal, and decides she's going to lose her virginity to Travis (Kevin Alves) despite his relationship with Nat (Sophie Thatcher).
But in her final moments, the viewer is forced to consider whether Jackie's anger is really that unjustified. Her best friend, Shauna, was sleeping with her boyfriend Jeff behind her back. Travis wasn't dating Natalie at the time, and after he and Jackie have sex, she is accosted by her supposed friends, high on mushrooms, who lock her in a closet, and threaten to murder the guy she just slept with after engaging him in a sort of fucked up orgy. As the rest of the team falls more and more susceptible to premonitions of Lottie (Courtney Eaton), possibly the result of some sort of psychosis, Jackie is firmly rooted in the reality of their situation: It sucks.
When Shauna accosts Jackie as the group dines on the meat of the bear Lottie has just slayed, her words are more hurtful than anything Jackie has done so far. Yes, Shauna has reasons for her rage, the pent up anger of being in someone's shadow, but she resorts to the mean put downs of a broken person. "I'm not jealous of you Jackie," Shauna screams. "I feel sorry for you because you're weak and I think that deep down you know it." She calls her best friend "tragic and boring and insecure." And even though Shauna's words are cruel, the rest of the group backs her up when she wants to banish Jackie from the house. Even more so than the "Doomcoming" orgy-slash-aborted sacrifice, it's the sign of the social order breaking down. Not because Jackie as teen queen should be revered, but because it's wrong to make someone sleep outside. In the pilot, Jackie is the team captain, the person able to assuage conflict with pep talks and bonding exercises. Now there are no kind words for her. Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) encourages Shauna to go talk to Jackie before going to sleep, but Shauna refuses. In the morning, Jackie's body is frozen, covered in fresh snow. Shauna's howls of sorrow are piercing, the wails of someone who must accept responsibility.
It's a death that reframes everything we know about Shauna's guilt in her adult life where she's played by Melanie Lynskey. Jackie didn't have to die. She didn't die because of some horrific accident. She didn't die because everyone else around her was starving and they wanted meat. She died because of a petty argument. In the present, Shauna has assumed Jackie's life. She married Jeff (Warren Kole). She peaked in high school, just as she said Jackie would.
There are certainly other mysteries Jackie's death provokes. What lie did the Yellowjackets tell the world about how her life ended? Does Jeff know what happened to his ex? And, yeah, what are they going to do with her body? But those feel mild or minor compared to the overwhelming bleakness of the situation. Jackie suffered the kind of cruelty that doesn't make good headlines or sensational rumors. She was bullied, and that's scarier than any kind of cannibalism.