It’s been over a year since the premiere of the Showtime drama about a stranded high school soccer team became a sleeper hit and surprise Emmy contender. If you hovered around any TV social conversations, you likely overheard some talk. But if the idea of a Lord of the Flies-inspired mystery-horror about cannibalistic teenage girls left you cold, you might be tempted to jump in to the show as the buzz gets louder for Season 2 — debuting Friday, March 25th.
To tease the new season, AI was used to create a 1990s MTV News segment about the missing girls using a de-aged Kurt Loder, which is delighting those who remember the all important “anchor.” Hints of an even more unhinged new season have entertainment writers and viewers
So we’ve created a quick Watercooler guide to help explain the hype, the hooks, and the first season — and prep you to jump in to Season 2. Otherwise? Brace yourself for spoilers around your watercoolers.
What’s the premise, and how is it different from Lord of the Flies?
Alternating between 1996 and the present, Yellowjackets begins with the New Jersey high school soccer team as they travel to Seattle for the championship match. Their plane crashes over the Canadian wilderness, killing most of the adults, leaving the girls and a few boys to find a way to survive for 19 months. When they reunite in the present, now famous survivors, we see how their lives unfolded — and how the traumatic events and secrets they all share have shaped them.
What makes the show so watercooler-worthy?
Shocking, thought-provoking, bloody, mystical, and sometimes mystifying, Yellowjackets is made vivid and often realistic by its powerhouse cast, with the former “Wednesday” Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, and Melanie Lynskey among them. Besides all that, the series works as a tense psychological horror that flips you back and forth between two very different eras to piece together the eerie mysteries behind all that unfolds in the Canadian wilderness.
While it might seem like too much Lost meets Lord of the Flies, Yellowjackets is also inspired by a true story, the 1972 plane crash of an Uruguay rugby team in the Andes mountains, in which 32 people initially survived, in some cases resorting to cannibalism.
As for the more trippy and demented elements, the series has roots in Greek mythology, according to writer and academic Sakhi Thirani, particularly as it circles the idea of maenadism, “the practices of frenzied women, called maenads, who performed horrific rites to worship Dionysus (or Bacchus), the god of wine.”
The series’ choice to focus on teen girls — in this case, a model team of champion soccer players — also raises questions about what any of us might be capable of under extreme circumstances, regardless of our gender or age. The tensions between friendship and competition, the “tribe” versus the individual, and what constitutes sanity versus madness are threaded throughout.
What to watch to jump into Season 2?
If you haven’t seen Season 1, you will benefit from watching the first and last episodes of Season 1, or the whole season, as several hints and mysteries are established. Or you can read below and jump in to the new season, then go back and read episode recaps to fill in the gaps.
The need-to-know on the main characters
Shauna Shipman (Sophie Nelisse as a teen, Melanie Lynskey as an adult) — One of the more morally corrupt girls, Shauna isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. In high school, she’s best friends with soccer captain Jackie, but she’s also sleeping with her boyfriend, Jeff. Shauna quickly adapts to life in the wilderness, having no qualms whatsoever with skinning a rabbit. Adult Shauna has a bleak home life: she suspects that her husband — the same Jeff, Jackie’s ex — is cheating on her and she can’t connect with her teenage daughter.
Jackie Taylor (Ella Purnell) — The captain of the Yellowjackets, Jackie is the popular girl, captain of the team, and undeniable leader of the group in the woods. She struggles with insecurities, however, and adjusting to life in the wild. As her relationship with Shauna is increasingly strained, she also begins to lose the faith of the others.
Misty Quigley (Sammi Hanratty as a teenager, Christina Ricci as an adult) — By far the most manipulative of the girls, Misty is not one to be crossed. As the equipment manager of the team, she was often shunned by the other players, who found her creepy. But after the crash, Misty proves herself to be quite useful, thanks to her outdoor skills. As an adult, Misty is a care facility nurse and is even more sneaky than she was as a teenager.
Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown as a teenager, Tawny Cypress as an adult) — The class president, Taissa is competitive. She’s so determined to win that she injures a weaker player before the championship. Out in no man’s land, she mellows out a bit by helping Shauna and dating fellow player Vanessa (“Van”). In her adult life, Taissa is married to a woman and remains as determined as ever: she’s running for New Jersey state senate, even though that may not be the best decision for her family.
Natalie “Nat” Scatorccio (Sophie Thatcher as a teen, Juliette Lewis as the adult) — Nat didn’t have the easiest time as a teenager. She had an abusive home life, and coped by using drugs and alcohol. After the crash, Nat becomes the primary hunter and provides food for the girls. She also starts to date Travis, the coach’s son.
As an adult, Nat has gone through rehab (more than once) but still struggles with her addiction and inner demons.
Vanessa “Van” Palmer (Liv Hewson as a teen, and Lauren Ambrose shows up in Season 2 as adult Van) — The team’s goalie, Van is just a tad bit sarcastic. But she tries to help the team however she can, and starts dating Taissa. We’ll get to meet adult Van this season.
Lottie (Charlotte) Matthews (Courtney Eaton as a teen, and Season 2 introduces Simone Kessel as the adult Lottie) — After running out of medication for her schizophrenia, Lottie begins to experience disturbing visions. But is it madness or premonitions? Before the plane crash, Lottie might have had some powers of precognition, preventing her parents from ending up in a fatal car crash. Yet she’s unable to prevent her closest friend in the woods, Laura Lee, from suffering an unfortunate fate. Lottie does, however, have some kind of bond with the Wilderness, and an important role to play in the group’s survival. We will finally meet adult Lottie in Season 2, and she has transformed into a guru. Or, as some would say, a cult leader.
What happened at the end of season one? (SPOILERS)
When we last left the Yellowjackets, Shauna turned out to be pregnant with Jeff’s baby, her best friend Jackie’s beau. But she finally stood up to the domineering Jackie, leading her romantic rival to spend the night outside. Shauna woke up to find Jackie frozen to death.
As an adult, Shauna catches her now-husband Jeff cheating on her at a hotel with another woman, which sends her headlong into her own affair — with a mysterious guy named Adam, whose car she rear ends. When suspicions swirl around Adam’s motives, Shauna ends up killing him and destroying his remains…with the help of some of her old teammates.
Back in the wilderness years, Taissa and Van seem happy together, but they have differing views on how to handle life in the hinterland: Taissa wants to take a more logical approach while Van is ready to delve into more mythical theories. While Taissa is the de facto leader now, she faces competition from Lottie. Flashing forward to the present, adult Taissa wins her election, but she’s also been making weird altars in the basement and creepily staring into her son’s bedroom.
The Powers of Lottie
When Lottie ran out of her medication after the crash, she started to become more “in tune” with the forest spirits. She never trusted the cabin the girls camped out in, and her odd behavior left her alienated from most of them. But then she sees more visions, like a deer with blood on its antlers. She warns the girls against going on a specific hunt after seeing a “river of blood.” They set out on a hike soon after, and Van is viciously attacked by a wolf, leaving a big trail of blood.
The girls begin to question whether Lottie might actually have a connection to the other side, and start to follow her lead. At the end of the first season, some have joined her in a de facto cult. After unintentionally drugging the girls at their “doomcoming” (life in the forest gets weird), Misty deems herself Lottie’s right-hand woman.
In the present day, their lives increasingly intersect. Adult Misty helps Shauna get rid of her lover Adam’s body. Lottie has a powerful ability to cultivate followers, and a suspiciously cult-like group kidnaps Nat on her behalf.
As for Nat and Travis, whose relationship was rocky back in the forest, they seemed to kiss and make up at the end of Season 1. But in the present day, Adult Nat has been grappling with the fact that Travis died by suicide. But did he? It’s not clear. And why would Nat be kidnapped by a mysterious group that’s somehow tied to Lottie?
What can we expect in Season 2?
Back in the wilderness, the girls have to survive the harsh winter, which, considering the fact that they’re on the brink of starvation and have no idea how to handle the cold, is bound to get interesting. The showrunners have even referred to the second season as “the winter of our discontent,” a reference to Shakespeare’s tragedy Richard III. Cannibalism is sure to pop up, as we might finally learn who the girls “sacrifice” back in the first season.
We’ll get to follow adult Lottie, and her loyal grown-up wing woman, played by Nicole Maines, who is dealing with her own past trauma. We’ll also meet adult Van, who will get to reunite with her ex, Taissa. Misty will also have a foil this season: Walter (played by Elijah Wood), a citizen detective who will give her a run for her money (we’re not quite sure what that means, but we can’t wait to find out!)
The actors have also revealed that Season 2 is far wilder than season one. Christina Ricci admitted to audibly gasping when she read the scripts, and that the entire cast was shocked. Apparently, cannibalism is just the tip of the iceberg for the girls as life continues to unfold.
Even better, Yellowjackets won’t wrap up its story this season. Filming for season three is currently underway.