Did ‘Yellowjackets’ Just Make Most of Its Characters Irredeemable?

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[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 8 “It Chooses.”]

We knew the Yellowjackets survivors did horrible things during their time in the wilderness… but somehow, the ending of “It Chooses” still managed to shock.

In an intense, stomach-churning final sequence, a trembling Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) runs for her life from a howling pack of her teammates. She’d drawn the “human sacrifice” card fair and square, and the starving soccer players who never made it to Nationals demanded her flesh as sustenance. A sympathetic Javi (Luciano Leroux) offers Nat the safe place that allowed him to survive. They carefully run through the woods and over the frozen lake, only to be cornered by Shauna (Sophie Nelisse), Van (Liv Hewson), Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Misty (Samantha Hanratty), Akilah (Nia Sondaya), and Mari (Alexa Barajas). The ice cracks. Javi falls in. He screams for Natalie to help him, and while she tries at first, eventually the girls simply let Javi drown.

“The wilderness chose!” Van exclaims… but did it? Or was this a deliberate choice made by those standing on the ice? Regardless of the show’s nebulous references to the supernatural, it’s hard not to view it as the latter.

Sophie Thatcher as Teen Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS

Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

Granted, Yellowjackets has never been a happy-go-lucky show. The whole thing opened with a ritual wherein a screaming girl falls into a pit of spikes (yikes) and her body is summarily consumed by others wearing fur blankets, antlers, and bones (double yikes). Javi’s death really shouldn’t come as a surprise. But there’s something truly horrifying about watching a group of teenage girls stand by and refuse to help a drowning boy, especially when they’d been searching for him for months.

The suddenness with which some of the survivors — Van, Taissa, Akilah — shed their humanity is shocking. Misty’s somewhat exempt, considering she’s never been all there; Shauna’s somewhat exempt, considering she beat Lottie (Courtney Eaton) to near-death only the episode before. It was one thing to consume Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) flesh; she was already dead and gone. But watching Javi drown seems more an act of open cruelty, and not one that was entirely set up in earlier episodes.

Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa and Samantha Hanratty as Teen Misty in YELLOWJACKETS

Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

“It Chooses” did take time to show the girls suffering the side effects of starvation, as almost everyone fell prey to hallucinations. Madness lurked in creaky floorboards and settled over the cabin like fresh-fallen snow. But Yellowjackets stretched the limits of credibility last week as the whole team stood around and watched Shauna pummel Lottie within millimeters of death — seriously, no one was willing to step in and stop her? — and that credibility is tested again this week as the survivors unravel conveniently quickly. We knew the team members would eventually arrive at a place of ritual sacrifice and cannibalism, but not helping Javi borders on out-of-character for the kinder among them. And that’s not even mentioning the over-the-top-ness of the other girls’ hunt for Natalie — since when do they all yell and howl like wolves?

The central issue isn’t that Yellowjackets can’t be a dark show. From the start, it’s never pulled punches — and it shouldn’t. But as we see more and more of the lead characters spiral downward into what feels like depravity, it grows more and more difficult to root for them in earnest. They all have blood on their hands, but it’s one thing to know that and quite another to see it, and in such gruesome fashion. How can audiences sympathize for another three whole seasons with a group of people who let a child die?

Natalie, Coach Ben, and the survivors at the cabin are exempt, but the events of “It Chooses” reframed some of the adult characters in a truly unpleasant light. Now, it seems, we know some of the secrets the 2020s Yellowjackets want to keep buried… but should we be pulling for them to stay buried, or for them to come to light?

Yellowjackets, Sundays, 9/8c, Showtime (and Fridays on On Demand and Streaming)

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