The Yellowjackets hive continues to buzz after its season one finale. There are plenty of theories, questions, and frankly wonderful memes to chew on until we hopefully hit full cannibalism in season two. One of the biggest looming questions surrounds the mysterious and all-powerful Antler Queen. She’s the coven leader of flesh hungry girls who have traded society’s rules for their own in a wintry wilderness. While there is great debate about this figurehead, Yellowjackets gives us something equally interesting to analyze with a key character: Taissa “Tai” Turner’s connection to the wolf.
Yes, I must admit that I have a strong bias towards Tai. We are Black women who share a name and the same high school mascot, after all. But, my furious love aside, the show has set up a great mirror between Tai and this powerful animal. The wolf plays a key role in Tai’s evolution in the woods as well as her present day story.
In Yellowjackets‘ “No Compass,” Tai battles against a pack of wolves to save her own pack seeking help for their dire situation. It’s a pivotal moment that makes her question her instincts and leadership abilities after her girlfriend Van is seriously injured. But, it also functions as a “death to self” moment in a sense. Tai faces (and kills) an oft-misunderstood animal that exhibits many of her personality traits: keen intelligence, cunning, passionate, ambitious, protective, and a staunchly loyal leader.
It’s an undeniable thread that actress Jasmin Savoy Brown recognizes in her younger version of the character as well as adult Tai (portrayed by Tawny Cypress). “I think maybe as time goes on, she embraces that she shares these qualities with the wolf and becomes inspired by them,” she tells Nerdist. “I mean, even as the girls are running through the woods in episode nine, howling like a wolf, that’s them kind of starting to embrace their animalistic side, which I think is what helps them survive.”
Throughout the series, we realize that Tai is the weird “lady in the tree” who is eating dirt. Beyond the logical-ish explanation of trauma causing her to do this, there’s no firmer explanation behind her sleepwalking behavior. However, the visions of the wolf coincide with Tai’s strange happenings. Sure, the wolf incident with Van was pretty traumatic. And there may be more wolf confrontations to come that cause her to see these visions.
But Brown thinks that Tai seeing the wolf is an internal nudge to embrace the fierceness within her when she needs to protect herself from danger. “My favorite line in the series is when older Tai is talking to that white woman [campaign donor Diane Rafelson], who’s like, ‘Tell me your secrets.’ And Tai says, all kindly, ‘I’ll perfectly calibrate my tone as I tell you to go fuck yourself.’ That’s my favorite line of Tai’s and it is very wolf-like. And it is interesting that prior to that, she thought she saw a wolf walking through the party.”
It’s that duality of bringing out the inner wolf and protecting herself from, as the folktales say, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that further establishes a significant bond between Tai and the wolf. In general, Tai straddles a brilliant line of amorality and duplicitousness along with flashes of warmth and love. She, like the wolf, is perceived by general society in a way that focuses on her exterior. They see the political powerhouse with a picture perfect family and a no-nonsense approach to solving community problems. But there is something vulnerable beneath the surface.
Wolves are often mistaken for being aggressive when the reality is they shy away from contacting humans because they have been hurt and hunted before. They, like Tai, have seen the brutal and violent side of humanity and are more about self-preservation and protecting their family above all. In other words, if you don’t want to get bitten, leave the wolf alone. Just ask Phil Bathurst how Tai verbally tore him up after he did his little smear campaign. Although Tai goes about it in a not-so-great way, she separates herself from Simone and Sammy to protect them…from herself. There’s something taking over her, ready to unleash itself in a glorious new way.
The Yellowjackets season one finale hints that Tai will embrace her inner wolf. Who can forget our political queen wearing red as she smirks after working some blood magic (maybe?) with raw meat to win the election. This new position makes her a high rolling leader of the public pack in the ultimate power play move. Tai is one of the most intriguing characters on the show with a strong (and possibly supernatural) arc coming in Yellowjackets second season. And I can’t wait to see how she will sink her teeth into another round of drama.