‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 Finale Recap: Fade Out

A new leader is anointed. Decades later, the Yellowjackets still aren’t free of the consequences.

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By Esther Zuckerman

Season 2, Episode 9: ‘Storytelling’

For Natalie Scatorccio, this season finale of “Yellowjackets” is both a coronation and a funeral.

In the past, Nat, as played by Sophie Thatcher, is anointed. In the present, as played by Juliette Lewis, she is killed.

“I’m not supposed to be here,” Adult Nat says in an airplane purgatory, where she is joined by her younger self; Javi, whom she let die; and young Lottie, a lead orchestrator of this madness. While they console her, Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” plays. It’s a song with the lyrics, “I can feel death, can see its beady eyes.” The end is bearing down on Natalie, someone who has come to the edge of it several times but continued to survive. Now she can’t fight any longer.

Looking back, her fate appears almost inevitable. Natalie was just about to die at the end of last season. She had a gun to her chin when Lottie’s minions whisked her away. At the compound, her friendship with Lisa helped her evolve out of her nihilism, and it’s that compassion that ultimately resulted in her demise. As Misty runs toward Lisa, syringe in hand, Natalie steps in front of her pal and takes Misty’s jab.

It’s the reverse of Natalie’s interaction with Javi on the ice all those years ago. Her empathy has gotten the best of her.

It makes sense that one of the main grown-up Yellowjackets would die this week. For the majority of these nine episodes, the modern-day plot lines contained a lot of wheel-spinning. It felt as if the writers were biding time so they could drop a bomb.

Shauna seemed like the most likely candidate. She is the one who is about to be charged with murder, so when she pulls the queen from the deck of cards in their ritual, it is convenient, a solution to one of the season’s open-ended questions: How is Shauna going to get away with killing Adam Martin? But Shauna is too central to the show to kill her off. More than any other character, she is the protagonist. Her very messed up “normal” life is our window into the trauma of these women. Grown-up Natalie, meanwhile, had already begun to feel less essential to the narrative once the mystery of Travis’s death was ostensibly solved — even if her recent evolution enhanced the tragedy of her death.

Does this mean the end of Juliette Lewis’s time on the show? Probably, and that’s disappointing. But Natalie in the 1990s is now more vital than ever, taking over as the spiritual leader of the group with Lottie’s blessing. Despite Nat’s resistance to all the talk of what the wilderness wants, she seems to welcome this new role.

Javi’s drowning in the icy waters is a turning point in almost all the Yellowjackets’ ability to tolerate this brutality. Even Travis, Javi’s brother, eventually accepts it. After Shauna butchers Javi, she offers Travis his heart. Travis takes a bite out of it, raw, before putting it in a pan to fry with the rest of the meat.

It’s Lottie, in her attic sick ward, who hesitates to eat, guilty that her instruction to use her body for sustenance resulted in this outcome. When she finally comes downstairs, she relinquishes her power. “I never wanted to be in charge,” she says. “It chose me, I think, because I was the only one who knew how to listen, and I can’t hear it anymore. I think that’s because it doesn’t need me anymore.”

The wilderness, according to Lottie, has picked Natalie to lead them. “We tried to kill you, and it wouldn’t let us,” Lottie says. She kisses Nat’s hand, and the others follow suit. Something almost holy passes over Natalie’s face as she accepts these tributes. Tears fall down her cheeks, and she smiles. There is a sense of relief. We hear a twinkly cover of Echo & the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon,” a track about fate.

The only survivor of that initial plane crash who remains outside of this ritual is Coach Ben, whom Natalie told to flee to Javi’s hiding place, away from the rest. Ben watches Natalie’s ascension as he sneaks around outside to gather supplies. He looks betrayed by how she welcomes the others’ devotion. He thought she was not susceptible to the mania. Instead, she is now the queen of it.

Is this what drives Ben to set the cabin on fire? He is never confirmed to be the perpetrator, but he is the only likely suspect. The teens will head into the third season without shelter, and Natalie, who knows about Javi’s den, is in control. Ben’s action may have just led to his own undoing. Instead of being safe, he now has a target on his back.

In all the timelines, the showrunners Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco are resetting the narrative. Thanks to the schemes of Walter, Shauna apparently doesn’t have to worry about Adam Martin anymore. Lottie is being shipped away to another mental institution. Misty’s confidence is shattered now that she is responsible for the death of her “best friend.” Who knows what will become of Tai and Van, reunited and unmoored?

Lottie seems to think that Natalie’s death, blamed on a drug overdose, means “it” has gotten what it wants. “It is pleased with us,” she says. “You’ll see.” And yet I can’t imagine that killing Natalie has solved all of these women’s problems. That’s too easy, and the scenario is too sad.

The second season of “Yellowjackets” has been an uneven one — not unusual for a breakout series trying to find its footing after a sensational first go around. But there were frequent moments of transcendence. The farewell to adult Natalie was one of those instances. It was tragic and somehow cathartic and will be hard to shake as the show moves forward.

More to chew on

In the beat just before the fire breaks out, we see Shauna writing in her diary, complaining that Natalie was chosen and not her. She, more than even Nat, was offended by Lottie’s mysticism. Why does she want this?

Although the use of “Zombie” by the Cranberries was a little obvious, the rest of the music cues were on point. I’ve already mentioned the Radiohead and Echo & the Bunnymen drops, but I would be remiss not to highlight the eerie use of “God Is Alive Magic Is Afoot” by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

My big hope for Season 3 is that Adult Van gets some more material. Her presence felt largely like a waste of Lauren Ambrose’s prodigious talents.

Very interested to see what becomes of guilty Misty. (I do want Walter, a deranged delight, to stick around.)

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