Yellowjackets began as a story about a game. After all, the Yellowjackets team crashed because they were heading off to play soccer at Nationals. For the girls on the team, the game was always a serious thing. They played a lot harder than most and even viciously at times. And now, the team might end up seeing another game transform into something dark. In their sanctuary cabin, the Yellowjackets team found a deck of playing cards. And the cards have been lurking in the background since season one. So far, they’ve taken on innocuous roles such as existing as an entertaining pastime or indicating which chores the survivors will do. But in the present timeline, we see the cards present more ominously.
In the fourth episode of Yellowjackets season two, Lottie sees a vision of the Queen of Hearts, her eyes scratched out, and it seems to haunt her. We can’t say for certain, but it feels like Yellowjackets playing cards are about to become lots that point to cannibalism or safety. Or should we say, the cards will become Lot(tie)s.
Just in case the term feels a bit archaic, drawing lots means choosing from a set of objects in order to determine an outcome. So, let’s start off with the obvious. The Yellowjackets team is already using the playing cards to determine fate in the wilderness timeline. In episode one, we learn that Misty has to get the water because she drew the four. And even though she protests, the others have no sympathy for her. That was her lot, after all, and so she must follow the letter of the card. This was once again highlighted in episode five. It’s easy to see how this might devolve now that the girls are considering cannibalism as an option for survival. We basically see Mari threaten Coach Ben with it.
The team is also growing increasingly fatalistic. They clearly express their faith in Lottie and her powers of the wilderness in season two, episode four. It really feels like they have leaned fully into the idea of Lottie as a kind of Messiah, a vessel for otherworldly powers, and the wilderness as a purveyor of magical gifts… for the right price. If Lottie were to imbue the playing cards on Yellowjackets with a symbolic meaning, it seems likely the team would quickly come to believe there was a destiny associated with them. It would be an easy leap to believe whoever drew the cannibalism card was meant for death.
Additionally, in season one of Yellowjackets, we get a glimpse of the full-fledged cannibalism of the team. And we even likened that structure to a fairy tale court. Playing cards, of course, have exactly that, a royal court. Every person who participates in the scene of cannibalism has a role to play and a place to sit. Someone serves, someone butchers, there’s a Queen at the center, and she’s flanked by other members. The idea of choosing roles or “court positions” for the cannibalistic feast via playing card draws aligns with the vision we see.
From a more mythological standpoint, an article in Primertimer, discusses Yellowjackets ties to the god Bacchus. The article notes that traditional sacrifices to the god were made to be seen as willing participants. Worshippers would place grain on the ground, and animals would bow their heads to eat and thus “willingly” agree to their own sacrifice. When the team consumes Jackie, Shauna notes, “She wants us to.” And the original wilderness sacrifice, the bear, also knelt at Lottie’s feet. The cards could serve as a strange indicator of “willingness” to participate in the ritual if the entire team agrees on the construct. Thus, the religious rite could feel good to those who partook.
And, in fact, judging by what we saw in the first episode of Yellowjackets, the playing cards could go from game to murder to game in a breath. It’s possible the team will set up something like a game of fate. The Yellowjacket who draws the cannibalism card will have to make it to the team’s “goal” without dying and can thus earn their life. This would bring the team full-circle and back to the game of soccer from which they began.
For some super spoilers, turn away now. But Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse seem to confirm the theory in an interview with Bustle. Nélisse says to Lynskey, “If you were to pick that card to get killed, we’d be like, no, we can’t kill her, let’s just give it to someone else.”
So which card means cannibalism on Yellowjackets? Lottie’s vision and the details of the original cannibalistic scene point us to the Queen of Hearts. As Lottie is reading her cult’s affirmations in the present timeline, the vision of the Queen of Hearts comes to her. Its appearance clearly shocks and scares her. Later she spills blood on a stump and asks, “Can this just be enough?” It sounds like the darkness of the wilderness is hungry for blood and flesh once again. Could this foreshadow the adult Yellowjackets sacrificing one of their own in a recreation of their wilderness games? Clearly, the palm blood will not be enough.
Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what the Queen of Hearts means. But we do know that the Queen of Hearts is missing her eyes. And on Yellowjackets, that’s a cogent sign that death is lurking on the horizon. In addition, we saw in season one that the sacrificed girl, a.k.a. pit girl, was wearing Jackie’s heart necklace. Since Jackie was wearing it when she died as well, the heart could become a symbol of death. Another check in the Queen of Hearts equals death card on Yellowjackets. Finally, while discussing honey bees in season two, Nat implies Lottie has always enjoyed getting rid of other queens. That could serve as another veiled Yellowjackets reference to the Queen of Hearts.
For now, as we know from season one, the Queens are missing from the deck. But as the Antler Queen rises and the Queen of Hearts stares eyelessly at us on Yellowjackets, we bet their discovery, and more cannibalism, is just around the corner.
Originally published on April 13, 2023.