The characters on Yellowjackets say a lot of worrisome things. They say them out loud, and they say them often. They say them in multiple timelines and multiple states of consciousness. They say them while possessed by a demonic forest spirit (or something), and they say them with their whole chest, looking right into their friends’ eyes, with no awareness that they’re saying anything worrisome at all. Sometimes, they say them in French. The Yellowjackets say—and, OK, yeah, do—these worrisome things not because they’re downers or because there’s some quota for the number of different ways they have to repeat the phrase “It wants blood” while in a fugue state. They say these worrisome things because they are literally in mortal peril at all times, and we should be worried about them.
These are girls, and later women, who have been traumatized beyond measure. And 25 years after being stranded in the Canadian wilderness and allegedly becoming ritualistic cannibals, they have wrapped themselves in the shame they associate with that trauma—or, just as detrimental, they have stuffed it deep, deep down into the basements of their psyches, near where that shrine of Biscuit lives. The coping mechanisms and adaptive animal instincts that kept the girls alive in the woods for 19 months are exactly what keep them from being able to readapt to a society whose currency isn’t blood sacrifices or hunting or “being the best at skinning a bear.” Both Yellowjacket timelines are the living embodiment of: “I don’t believe in the glorification of murder; I do believe in the empowerment of women.” Empowered though they may be—and hoarse though our voices may go from yelling “MOTHER” at the screen every time Lottie does a maybe-miracle—that does not erase the fact that these children are starving in the woods, and their best friends keep dying at an increasingly rapid pace (deaths that they are increasingly involved in).
When the series premiere opened with a terrified girl running through the woods in a virginal white nightgown and ended with that girl being trapped, killed, skinned, and chomp-chomp-chomped by a group of fur-clad, masked-up other girls, it seemed like we would spend the rest of the series trying to identify which teenage girls we needed to be scared of and which ones we needed to keep out of that pit by any means necessary. But as it turns out, this isn’t really a story about heroes and villains, good and bad. It’s a story about people trying to survive and the varying lengths they’ll go to in order to do that. And instead of being scared of any of them, I’m just scared for them. Like, all the time!
We can make as many (amazing) fan edits of as many Yellowjacket pairings as we want, but the girlies are not OK! And the people and pets around them? Even worse! Which is why at the midseason point, and with the recent reveal that the “darkness” that lived with them in the forest probably came back to New Jersey, it seems like a good time to check in on how worried we are for the most endangered Yellowjackets characters. It would be impossible to fully rank my doomed darlings, so instead, I’ll be grouping them into levels of increasing peril, based on the Homeland Security Advisory System and with reasoning ranging from “imminent death by ritualistic cannibals” to “I really don’t want her to be sad ever.”
Threat Level: Guarded (Danger Is Possible but Not Likely)
Akilah’s Mouse: I’m not sure what’s going on with this adorable mouse—and it’s certainly not in as much danger as other pets on the show—but Akilah seems very aware that she can’t let the other girls know she’s currently housing a mouse in her coat pocket, and it’s making me uneasy. It doesn’t seem like one field mouse could provide enough sustenance to be worth killing … but it’s also feeling like things could get real Mr. Jingles real fast.
Lisa: Watching Lisa and Natalie bond has been an unexpectedly sweet twist in Season 2. Natalie is the adult Yellowjacket at the lowest risk of inflicting violence on someone else—and yes, I do know that she stabbed Lisa in the face with a fork, but that was after she had been abducted by a cult, and they are working through that under the watchful eye of former frenemy and current cult leader Lottie. And yet, the focus on this bond and what Lisa’s forgiveness means to Natalie is … giving foreboding, to say the least.
Adult Misty: Here’s the thing about Misty all grown up: She is a well-documented murderer. I worry not for her soul, nor her spirit; those things have long ago been exchanged for a high-speed internet connection and just enough medical training and access to easily practice her favorite homicidal hobbies. I worry that she’s flying too close to the sun and that she will get caught. I worry that she thinks she’s a little better at crime than she actually is and that she sent a torso with a distinctive back tattoo out into the wild. I worry that she’s met her match in Walter and that she’s either about to get got—or get her heart broken (which might be worse!).
Teen Natalie: I admit that I’m part of the problem by being yet another adult in Natalie’s life who doesn’t worry about her enough. But for the most part, Natalie has far-less-worrying behaviors out in the wilderness than the Yellowjackets who are sneaking nibbles of their dead best friend’s ears, chasing eyeless phantoms in their sleep, or having nonstop ominous visions that frequently lead to bloodshed. But also, Natalie’s best friend now knows she lied to him about his brother dying; there’s quite a bit of pressure on her narrow shoulders as not only the sole provider of (nonhuman) food, but also the self-appointed moral compass of the group. Plus, she recently lost out on killing a moose. Twice! At some point, the confidence has to take a hit.
Adult Van: Teen Van doesn’t even make it on the list because teen Van is always doing fine. Sleepwalking, fugue-state girlfriend? No problem. Budding teenage deity gives you a bone that maybe brings you back to life after a wolf attack, so now you kind of worship her? Roll with it. But a few of those things may have finally caught up with adult Van. She’s running a rapidly failing VHS business, lost in time to the last decade in which she was happy … and also, there’s that thing where she’s lying about popping Oxy like it’s a multivitamin. Not great!
Dead Cabin Guy: I definitely don’t have a lot of warm feelings toward the French Canadian ghost that once possessed Lottie and also told Jackie he’d been just jonesing for her to die and come join him. But we also must acknowledge that if this guy was out in these woods without an entire soccer team to keep him semi-sane, things probably didn’t go very well for him. Also, not for nothing, he’s provided a lot of coats and blankets for our girls.
Threat Level: Elevated (Danger Is Likely)
Steve the Dog: Listen, I am extremely worried for Steve the tiny dog, on a personal level. But on a logistics level, Steve is getting safer by the day. Rapidly decreasing his threat level is noted dog-killer Taissa fleeing to Ohio and then counter-fleeing to upstate New York. Sure, I remain concerned that we’ve seen neither the head nor furry tail of Steve since Taissa hallucinated Sammy playing with him … but on the Steve front, we must accept that no news is good news, no Taissa is the best news, and he is still very much in danger—just ask Biscuit(’s head).
Simone and Sammy: Likewise, Simone and Sammy’s decreasing proximity to Taissa can only be a good thing. But we also can’t forget that Taissa did briefly get possessed by her alter ego and blow through a red light so that a car would crash into Simone’s side of the car after Simone threatened to go public with Tai’s … well, whatever the hell is going on with Tai. We also can’t forget that while in the hospital in an extended coma, someone drew the forest symbol on Simone’s hand. Conscious Tai definitely loves and wants to protect Sammy and Simone. Unconscious Tai is an unknowable, red-eyed, mirror-dwelling, ghost-following entity whose actions absolutely cannot be predicted. None of them seem great, though.
Teen Akilah: I feel absolutely certain that every sweet, humanizing moment Akilah shares with Taissa brings her one step closer to the pit, and it’s not fair!!! She has an endangered mouse to take care of now!
The Sadecki Family: Oh, these sweet dummies are going to jail. They are very bad—unbelievably bad!—at crime! Which could be a compliment if it weren’t for the fact that they’re so often trying to commit crimes, including the murder of Adam, which they are now linked to in about 100 different ways. I’m only a little less worried about the entire family getting locked up forever because the Sadeckis do have a certain cockroach element—in their own unique ways, they’ll all find a way to survive. Speaking of …
Jay the Pedophile/Matt the Cop: If ever someone was begging to get his skin peeled by Shauna, it’s this guy.
Teen Lottie: With all the power she wields in the group and the future we know she has as a profitable cult leader, it seems like Lottie should be feeling pretty good in the woods, what with leading her very special circle time every morning and having people listen to her and drink her special teas and defend her all the time. But the pressure of being followed comes with its own set of demands (frequently, those demands are made by Mari). You have to keep producing, even when you’re unsure of how much talent or skill you really possess, let alone how to harness those talents without, like, constantly slicing your hands open. As much as Lottie embraces the positive effects of her visions, she also seems weary of their unpredictability. And she really just has the saddest face when she’s unsure of herself. So while I worry about Lottie’s road toward becoming the (probable) Antler Queen, I also worry about her getting to be a kid trapped out in those frozen woods and not always having to be a deity making blood sacrifices to those frozen woods.
Threat Level: High (Danger Is Highly Likely)
Adult Lottie: There seems to be an intentional dissonance between teen Lottie’s and adult Lottie’s behavior, and it’s seeming more and more like that gap is due to teen Lottie blazing a trail that adult Lottie can’t tend. Which is wild, because adult Lottie is quite literally a cult leader. But she’s one who seems more interested in being followed and less interested in shedding blood and following visions. Unfortunately, she’s now seeing visions of queen of hearts cards with their eyes scratched out, feeling the draw to sacrifice on altars again, and desperately asking her psychiatrist to up her meds because she’s worried what happened “before” will happen again. A truly worried Lottie is indeed something—and someone—to worry about.
Teen Misty: I mean … we know how Misty turns out. It’s really anyone within 500 feet of Misty we should be worried about. But watching Misty discover what true friendship felt like with Crystal, only to have it ripped away—not because Misty pushed her over the cliff, necessarily, but because Misty actually opened her truest self up to her—was heartbreaking. Watching Misty actually be sad that someone died … was unmooring. Knowing how Misty will likely deal with the tragedy of losing the only best friend she’s ever had or ever will have … is wildly concerning.
Walter: Which is why I’m very fearful for Walter’s fate! Sure, it seems like Misty has sent him off with a still-beating pulse, even after finding out that he definitely knows she was involved in Adam’s murder. But if she gets even one whiff that he’s setting her up—or, even more unsettling, that it was all genuine—it’s probably the Parsippany Poisoner for you, my guy. Because, for Misty, the rare feeling of acceptance has only ever been coupled with the immediate sting of betrayal. The only hope for Walter and his beloved, unpoisoned Tahitian Treat is that he really is Misty’s equal.
Mari: Mari, just let me say this: I like you. I really do. But you better start acting a little nicer before they put you in that pit, girl. You better find that dripping before that dripping finds you! You better do whatever it takes to keep that heart charm off your clavicle! Because there is absolutely no explanation for Mari’s sustained mean-girl energy in the face of complete societal collapse except that she is destined for that pit. Godspeed, Mari.
Threat Level: Severe (Danger Is Highly Likely and in the Near Future)
Coach Ben: Oh, Coach Ben is gonna die die, huh? Though he’s perked up a bit from the dissociative state he went into after realizing that he turned down moving into a kick-ass New York apartment with his handsome boyfriend, Paul, in order to watch his teenage cohorts do cannibalism on their soccer captain … he’s still down a leg, far less nourished than the folks who ate Jackie, and disassociating pretty frequently. And people (Mari) are just openly talking about eating him in the cabin now. Ben is absolutely toast, and I only hope that he goes before the girls start digging their pit.
Pit Girl: Speaking of, the stakes have always been high for Pit Girl—whoever she is, she’s definitely dying, and she’s definitely getting eaten. But that flash-forward is growing closer and closer to reality because, the cabin? The cabin gang is getting real good at rituals. Lottie is leading morning meetings where they get in touch with nature, and even Tai is attending. How much longer will it be until listening to the wind becomes listening to the wind tell your friendly local forest conduit that if you just choose a gal to chase through the woods and spill her blood, it’ll keep you safe until summer, hmm?
Shauna’s Baby: Yellowjackets cocreator Ashley Lyle has thrown water on the idea that anyone is eating that baby. It’s perhaps the only thing we don’t have to worry about! But cannibalism isn’t the only risk to an infant out here. First of all, the only person in this cabin who likely knows anything about childbirth is Misty, and she’s a little rattled on account of her first BFF manslaughter. Second, Shauna has been actively starving for the last nine months, so the chances of a healthy delivery feel grim. And perhaps most daunting, we haven’t heard a single thing about Shauna’s baby in the current timeline, and it has become increasingly evident that Jeff never learned about this baby from Shauna or her journals. (My theory is that Jeff’s a skimmer at best, but it’s also possible that Shauna eliminated things from her journals that were too painful to retain.) Plus—and I hate to say this, because I truly believe the only bad thing Lottie Matthews has ever intentionally done is shoplift thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise from T.J. Maxx—Lottie seems a little too excited for this baby to come. What does she know?!
Teen Shauna: Do you know how hard it is to peel the skin off a human body? Adult Shauna does. She knows because teen Shauna (allegedly) did it … a bunch of times. That’s Shauna, who recently kicked her best friend out of the cabin, woke up to find her dead the next morning, carried on a hallucinatory relationship with her for weeks, and then ate her alongside her teammates. That’s Shauna, who just went into labor, and—absolute best-case scenario—now has to raise an infant in the frigid woods with no food. That’s Shauna, who will grow up and murder a guy and seem pretty much unbothered by the moral ramifications of that. Under the constant pummel of trauma, our girl is not doing well, and there’s, uh, little to suggest she ever will be.
Maybe-Javi: Javi is also doing horribly, as far as we know. But we have far less knowledge about what’s given him that hollow look behind his eyes upon his eerie return to the cabin. Have you ever seen someone less happy to be found alive? After witnessing his cabinmates hunt down his brother like a prized stag on Doomcoming, Javi disappeared into the woods, and he was still out there on the same night that an unexpected snow froze Jackie to death. How could he have possibly survived that? How could he have possibly survived weeks after that when the snow stuck 3 feet deep and when he had no provisions, no way to eat or drink, and no way to stay warm? The only words he’s spoken since Tai and Van found him were to tell Ben, “She told me not to come back … my friend.” Your friend, Javi!?!? Where have you been? Who have you been with? Oh, I’m so sorry babe, but whether it’s possession or a doppelganger situation or you’ve been creeping around in tunnels with some lady, you are absolutely haunted now.
Tai, in All Timelines: Likewise, there’s absolutely no getting around the fact that Tai is supremely doomed by her own repression and perhaps a genetic disposition toward being haunted by an eyeless specter. There has never been a clearer picture of “OK, maybe now we should be worried” than Tai waking up in a car that she’s run off the road, with no recollection of how she got there, and just immediately trying to walk to Ohio because that’s where the only person she has ever been fully honest with lives, even though she hasn’t seen that person in two decades. Now, I will say one thing in Tai’s favor: She does seem to be eating less dirt these days. But it simply does not make up for the fact that she’s still disassociating into an entirely different personality every time she gets sleepy, she has no idea how to stop, and the person who told her to go to Van for help … is her other personality. Yeesh.
Adult Natalie: In Season 1, Natalie told Shauna and Taissa that they like to think she’s the fucked-up one because she’s in and out of rehab, but their inability to acknowledge how fucked up they are is, in fact, way more fucked up. And Natalie is right—she usually is, but no one listens to her! Unfortunately, come Episode 5, Natalie has a night of realizing stuff. Under the watchful eye of Lottie, she un-represses a new level of fucked up that will likely force her to recalibrate what she’s believed for, say, the last 26 and a half years of her life. Lottie helps Natalie remember that the last thing she said to Travis—the thing he wrote in his note to “tell Nat she was right” about—was that there was a darkness in the woods with them. She felt it when she overdosed with Travis, and she knew she had to tell him: They brought the darkness back with them. It’s inside of them.
And either that’s true or Natalie made Travis believe it is true—and one is just as devastating as the other to Natalie, who is about to go completely off the deep end or, perhaps worse, put on some Lottie purple to try to find some peace. Protect Natalie, and, for that matter, protect everyone, because if that darkness is well and truly back—no one is safe.