On Yellowjackets, the question of the supernatural is central. Is it magic or madness? The show asks repeatedly. And, the answer is hard to parse. The introduction’s profane feeling combined with the mundane present timeline make for excellent red herrings. Viewers become anchored to beliefs the on-screen universe follows the rules of our own. And that feeling is hard to part with. But like Yellowjackets’ characters, part with it we must. While initially, the show feels like a realistic, albeit psychological, fiction, it is actually a fairy tale.
The Fairy Tale of Yellowjackets
As society falls away, the girls on Yellowjackets shed their skins to reveal what’s underneath. And what’s underneath are a slew of fantasy archetypes. From Queen to Damsel to Fool, new players emerge, indicating the story, too, has changed.
Is it all an elaborate game of pretend? Unimportant. The narrative supports this transformation. And we must feed into this or little will make sense. We wouldn’t question Ariel’s sudden legs in The Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty’s slumber. We would know that is the universe’s way in a fantasy story. The further Yellowjackets’ characters get from society’s grip, the more the show becomes folklore.
To understand this story better, let’s meet our fairy tale court.
Yellowjackets Characters As Their Fairy Tale Archetypes
Lottie: The Queen (of Antlers)
Amidst a snowy wilderness a bonfire burns, and viewers glimpse the Antler Queen seated at the center of her court. When burnt offerings appear, it is the Queen who nods her crowned head to begin the ritualistic meal.
The final episodes of Yellowjackets see Her Majesty, Queen Lottie ascend the throne. Lottie begins as a mild-mannered girl. Someone who never talks sh*t. But in the wilderness, free from those who bind her, she rises to power. Lottie touches the fairy tale first, embracing the idea the wilderness is alive, hungry, and full of strange power. And through her, we glimpse the changes in the walls of the story.
In episode nine, “Doomcoming,” Lottie communes with the earth, listening to its whisperings. And her magic touches the other girls, shifting them out of “themselves” into fantastical figures under her command. In her swirling power, Lottie cuts down the Pretend Queen (Jackie), initiating her demise. And transforms Travis into a stag for the hunt, like the goddess Artemis before her. In this episode, Lottie first dons her antler crown, cementing a connection to the wilderness and to the throne.
Serene regality then overtakes Lottie. In Yellowjackets’ season finale, she commands Coach Ben not to interfere in their affairs and calmly orders Shauna to hand her their knife when a bear appears. And, as said bear prostrates himself to her, yielding to her knife, she becomes a fairy queen to rival any myth. This scene is mirrored when Van and Misty kneel around her during the show’s final moments.
The girls are at her feet, the forest is at her feet. And Queen Lottie commands them with her magic.
Lottie: The Priestess
In addition to Queen, Lottie also plays Priestess. Her power is social and divine. Though Laura Lee was the initial priestess, she was too embedded in a societal vision of religion to survive the transition into folklore. But in death, she passes the mantle onto Lottie.
When it comes to fairy tale queens, there are good queens and evil. But which story does Lottie inhabit?
Shauna: The Executioner
It would not do for the Queen to dirty her hands. Someone else must handle the business of blood. Especially if the gods require blood. In the fairy tale Snow White, the Queen sends her huntsman to bring back Snow White’s heart, which she intends to eat. Just as Lottie orders Shauna to slay Travis. And Lottie, we know, is fond of hearts.
Throughout the show, Shauna wields her knife with abject fascination, losing herself in drawing blood. Like any good executioner, she will become her Queen’s blade. In particular, Shauna has a fascination with killing rabbits. What rabbits represent to Shauna, we don’t yet know. But rabbits have a history with fantastical stories, serving as everything from innocents to wicked familiars.
The executioner appears less noble than a knight and more insular. But in Snow White, the huntsman has a change of heart. And so too, may Shauna.
Van: The Knight
In a previous life, Van was the good-natured teammate who always smiled. But in the wilderness, she transforms into the Queen’s Knight. In medieval folklore, knights wear the favor of their lady as a pledge to fight with devotion. Sometimes for a love interest, sometimes a liege.
In Yellowjackets, Lottie bestows her favor onto Van, a deer bone that Van wears around her neck. This also evokes a traditional knighting ceremony. Lottie touched Van with the signifier of her power (the deer) and now Van’s sword is hers.
And Van wields it. It is Knight Van who cements Lottie’s power. In the finale, she heralds Lottie’s prophecy of meat. And then looks to her Queen to lead them in a prayer that entrances everyone. In Yellowjackets‘ finale, she kneels at Lottie’s right hand. A Queen could not retain power, after all, without her most loyal.
In the future timeline, we meet a coven Lottie leads. Could Van be among them, perpetuating the fairy tale? Only maybe. Because Van is tied to another kingdom.
Taissa: The Queen (of Wolves)
Though Taissa presents as a skeptic, a reluctant member of court, she seems destined for Queenship. Like Lottie, the fairy tale has followed her home, signifying her power and position. Whereas Lottie dons the sigil of the antlers, Taissa connects to wolves, the natural enemy of deer. Two Queens do make sense for our story. Rarely are fairy tales peaceful.
Van and Taissa are a couple but tragedy lurks since Van’s loyalties are torn. In episode seven, Tai steals Lottie’s favor from Van while wolves attack. Though Van reclaims the favor and sides with Lottie’s legion, she remains marked by wolves.
We haven’t seen Taissa ascend her throne, but her power is plain. Whenever a decision is needed, Taissa makes it and others follow. In the future timeline, she is a politician, a Queen for the mundane world. And inside Taissa lives a presence that hails from the wilderness; a wolf that longs to spill out. In the finale, Taissa embraces this force. In a sense, she allows the fairy tale to unfurl around her anew.
Misty: The Witch
Who is always making brews and slipping poisons? It’s Misty. Every fairy tale needs a Witch to be a purveyor of things unnatural. From her book of plants to her uncanny ability to blend the right tea, Misty plays the perfect Witch. But a Witch isn’t steeped only in the unnatural. In fact, she often draws her power from an uncanny understanding of the earth’s magic.
Although she isn’t enshrined by antlers or claws, the wilderness has accepted Misty. In her old life, she was an outcast, as witches often are in polite society. But in the forest, she is a powerhouse. A desirable ally to have on one’s side. In the pilot, Misty delivers the meal to her Antler Queen. Ritual cooking (with a touch of cannibalism) falls perfectly under the purview of the Witch and her cauldron. Away from the “normal” world, Misty steps into herself, learning what makes her dangerous.
Misty, too, carries her witchcraft with her back into society. There she continues to poison and curse her enemies. Interestingly there her loyalty lies with Nat (The Rogue Knight). A Witch, after all, cannot be commanded for long.
Mari and Akilah: The Courtiers
Mari and Akilah are wild cards in our fairy tale. A court needs courtiers to function. Without subjects, there is no court. And, in true courtier fashion, at least Mari’s loyalties have swayed constantly. She first tried to curry favor with Jackie, giggling about lockers on the beach. But then follows Taissa on an escape expedition. When that fails, she surrenders to Lottie’s power.
In the finale, she cuts Jackie down in front of the group, proving herself to her queen. But like other courtiers before her, Mari’s fickleness could cost her. She may end up on a royal plate.
Akilah, meanwhile, has stayed true to her friendship with Tai. Could she join the Wolf Kingdom? We hope to find out in season two.
Coach Ben Scott: The Queen Mother / The Fool
Poor Coach Scott. Nothing good waits in this Yellowjackets fairy tale for our Queen Mother/Fool. Ben’s time of power has long gone as either character. As the Aging Queen, he represents a waning power with no more space in this tale. First Laura Lee, then Lottie, publicly display to him that no one is listening. For now, they care for him. But consumption of past power is a ritual that would strengthen a budding Queen.
Coach Ben also plays the part of the fool, especially with Misty. Which is fitting. Witches only need mortal men to toy with them. But, beyond that, what makes him a true fool? Foolishly, he hasn’t realized the power has shifted. We hope he understands before bells decorate his head… Or a knife touches his throat.
Travis: The Damsel
In another story, Travis may have played hero. But in this queer, woman-centric tale, he occupies the Damsel role. In Yellowjackets, Travis needs saving repeatedly and can’t save himself. Natalie rescues his dead father’s ring, he is helpless during the Doomcoming, and Natalie and Jackie have to prevent his death. Of course, in the end, he gets murdered. Traditionally fridged for Natalie’s arc.
No one needs as much help as Travis does. He is Yellowjackets’ damsel in distress character in every way. We assume this continues. Fairy tales need damsels, and the Queen already set her sights on him.
Natalie: The Rogue Knight
Natalie is the knight to Travis’ damsel. But not a traditional knight like Van. The Black Knight is a fairy tale archetype of a warrior who masks their liege’s identity by wearing no heraldry. In this fairy tale, Nat feels more like a Rogue Knight. A knight escaped from all loyalties. Her alliance is foremost to herself.
Before the crash, Nat was a rebel without a cause. An outcast save for her participation on the team. In her fairy tale version, she remains the same. Hopefully, though, she can find chivalrous acts that extend beyond saving Travis.
Javi: The Innocent
The Innocent plays an important role in fantasy stories. A force of pure good, this naïve figure either serves to reveal others’ evil or becomes “The Chosen One.” If Javi has a “Chosen One” narrative, he will undertake a great quest through which he will lose himself. Of course, what he is chosen for and who is choosing him are questions without answers. He could just end up on the menu.
One thing does ring true about Javi. He has taken to the land in a way his brother has not and the land rewards that. Javi also carves a wolf for Shauna. Perhaps a sign of his future loyalties.
Jackie: The Pretender To The Throne
R.I.P. Jackie. Once, Jackie had true power as captain, but like many viewers, she refused to understand when the story changed around her. And would not bend the knee to the fairy tale. She turned down food from both Misty and Lottie, thus refusing to become trapped in fairyland with the rest. (Traditionally, eating a fairy’s food means becoming trapped in their realm.) And she ostentatiously rejected thanking the land for its gifts. Grave mistakes. Lottie spelled her doom when she locked her away from the Doomcoming hunt, sharpening the gulf around her. Priming the girls for the moment they exiled Jackie, ending her reign forever, Shauna perfectly playing her executioner role.
That said, never count out ghosts in a fairy tale. Long live, Jackie.