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[This story contains spoilers for the season two premiere of Yellowjackets, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.”]
Two months have passed when Yellowjackets returns to the wilderness. Two whole months since the teen survivors of a plane crash suffered the loss of one of their own — and hunted their last source of food.
The second season of Showtime’s hit coming-of-age survival series opened with the 1996 timeline to show how teen Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) and her teammates are handling the death of Jackie (Ella Parnell), who froze to death when she slept outside following a brutal fight with best friend Shauna that led to the team exiling her from the house they’ve inhabited heading into winter.
The short answer for Shauna is, not well. Clearly wrecked with remorse over Jackie dying (a cold front swept in overnight after Shauna instigated her banishment), Shauna has decided to keep Jackie’s corpse around for conversations and even dress-up. While the scenes mark an exciting return for actress Parnell, the onscreen reunion is all the more disturbing as Shauna seems tempted by Jackie’s flesh and struggles to let go of their past (a ’90s game of MASH that sparked Reddit theories over Jackie’s journals makes an appearance in Shauna’s hallucinations). After Jackie’s frozen ear falls off, Shauna keeps it and then, in the final moment of the episode, she consumes Jackie’s body part.
And that’s only one character amid the sprawling Yellowjackets ensemble, which spans both the teen and adult cast as the show continues to follow the past and present timelines. The first hour of the 10-episode sophomore season returned to questions raised by season one (Javi is still missing) and provided some big answers. Adult Nat (Juliette Lewis) survived her finale abduction, and when she realizes it was indeed Lottie’s cult who took her, she comes face-to-face with adult Lottie (introducing new series regular Simone Kessell) for the first time since they were rescued 25 years ago.
The show traveled to a new timeline (1998) to show how teen Lottie (Courtney Eaton) was given electroshock therapy and institutionalized in Switzerland following their rescue, and the adult survivors (also played by Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci and Tawny Cypress) had never known her current whereabouts. Lottie tells Nat she has a message from Travis (Andres Soto), whose suicide was revealed in season one, and back home, Misty (Ricci) is dedicated to finding her missing friend.
Elsewhere, adult Shauna’s (Lynskey) daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins) is suspecting her parents in the disappearance of Adam (Peter Gadiot), whom Shauna killed after having an affair with him and then made her fellow survivors and husband Jeff (Warren Kole) accomplices in the murder. And Taissa (Cypress) has realized that, even though she doesn’t seem to remember doing it, she sacrificed the family dog on an altar so she could be elected to Senate.
Also in the 1996 timeline, Lottie makes an impression on Travis, and the relationship between Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson) grows stronger, along with Taissa’s sleepwalking.
All of these threads will continue to be explored throughout the second season. Below, in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, married creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson and their co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco look ahead to what they have in store, including discussing their five-season plan, whether or not they know how the series will end, and why they are diving into the cannibalism that has been looming ever since the opening moments of the series.
You recently spoke to THR about the pressures going into season two after the first season was so well-received and well-analyzed by viewers. Is there any fan theory you read that you actually wrote into the show or that influenced something in season two?
Jonathan Lisco: I’ll answer for myself, and my answer is no. But that’s not to say that I don’t read and appreciate the fan reactions. I’m very grateful for them. But my process is just very specific. The more I get down the rabbit hole of what everybody thinks, the less sometimes I know what I think. And ultimately, to create a cohesive narrative with Ashely and Bart and our team of writers, we really need to cut out the noise sometimes and make sure that we know what we want to do. Because, let’s not forget, that is allegedly what our audience responded to in season one. It was us trusting our impulses. And while sometimes we’ll read something that’s a great idea, it may also not fit the tapestry of what we’re doing. So we have to be very careful, I think. Cautious is what I really mean.
Ashley Lyle: I think we try to be really cautious, and what’s fun is that occasionally people do guess at things we’ve already talked about or a road that we’re going down. But I can’t think of anything — and again, it’s a very conscious choice where we don’t try to in any way cherry-pick anything from fan theories. We very much have a plan and a path, and we’ve been sticking to that. But it is very fun to read the theories, especially the more outlandish ones.
Bart Nickerson: We definitely love the fan theories. I still am such a giant fan of “Callie is the pit girl.” Where the flashback is actually a flash-forward [for Shauna’s daughter, played by Sarah Desjardins]. And it kind of breaks down, because we see in the pilot that’s not true. But still, such a fun theory.
In the season two episodes screened for press, you answer some of these questions that have been the source of Reddit threads. How did you decide how much you wanted to answer, and how much you wanted to hold back for season two?
Nickerson: There isn’t really a discussion about the timing of: Should we wait on this one thing? It’s more just when it feels right to do it. We’re all firm believers that for a season of television, we don’t want it to feel like a 10-hour movie. Each discrete piece has to have a reason to be a discrete piece and the season as well. So it’s not just one sort of continuous story that serves to tantalize and satisfy. When it feels right, in terms of the story and the kind of momentum where something has come to the end of its youthfulness as a propulsive device, and it starts to just feel like, “Oh this is just about moving the finish line on things,” then we would like to answer it because it feels like it’s a good place for it to land.
Lyle: We’re very aware of the questions we were asking in season one, and it was very satisfying to see that the audience latched onto some of those questions. Obviously, what happens to Shauna’s baby? What happened to Javi? Will they [Shauna and co.] get away with murder? And we had those answers already. So it was just about meting them out in the most organic way.
You said initially that you have a five-season plan for Yellowjackets, and now you are already gearing up for the writers room for season three. Is five still the plan, and how much have you mapped out?
Lyle: Five is still currently the plan, but we’re big believers in the idea that the story will tell us when it’s over. We just want to tell the best story that we can and so that means not rushing, and it also means not dragging things out. And we’ll find the natural conclusion point.
Do you know the ending?
Nickerson: We actually did [pitch the ending] as part of the pitch. For full transparency, the plan was a five-season plan, but just like the realities of television are, the plan is more detailed in the beginning because that’s what you’re working on. But we did actually pitch a last scene that … would still work (looking to Lyle and Lisco for agreement).
Nickerson: I don’t know if it will [work] a couple of seasons from now, or if we’ll have a different idea. But the plan is still there, and I think we view the plan as the plan.
Lisco: Having that scaffold in place is really meaningful because then you can A, B, C, D things, right? So you had a plan, but then via the feedback loop of TV — which is one of the most succulent parts of doing TV, right? — you’re building the aircraft as they’re taking off. You can’t just build. You do sort of need to know where you want to travel to. So it’s all valuable at the same time. Knowing where you want to go, having that plan but comparing it to everything that then comes up in the writers room to see if you can then trump it and beat it.
Lyle: Obviously, when we first pitched this we had ideas. And in season one, we’ve talked about them even further, and then even more in season two. But we pitched this show in 2019, and there’s a certain amount of hubris involved in thinking you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen six years in the future! So I think we like to leave ourselves open to our own creativity. And people change and grow, and I think stories change and grow similarly. But it’s a comfort to us that we do have a plan.
The end of the first episode tips off that cannibalism is coming when teen Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) pops Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) ear in her mouth. What were your discussions about how early you wanted to get into the cannibalism this season?
Lisco: This is a question that we really love fielding. I hope this is an interesting answer. It can’t just be incident. It can’t just be plot. It has to emanate from character. And so, for us, it really began as kind of a Shauna story to try to locate where Shauna was, emotionally and psychologically, at the beginning of the season. She’s such an important linchpin for a lot of what happens in the wilderness, and so once we realized that she was sort of harboring all of this guilt and self-recrimination and anguish and shame from her stubbornness that led to, arguably, Jackie dying in the wilderness, how could we continue that story in a really vivid way? And, given that the friendship was so fraught and complex in that she loved Jackie, but she also wanted to destroy her, she lived in her shadow, yet this was her best friend. The next step in that is consumption, in a way. And she’s also pregnant, let’s not forget. And starving. And so it started to speak to us as a very truthful story. And once it started to speak to us in that way, it felt like, why should we wait? Why should we tease it out?
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Yellowjackets releases new episodes of season two weekly on Fridays for Showtime subscribers, and airs on cable Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.
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