‘Yellowjackets’ Finale Ending Spoilers: Jonathan Lisco Interview

SPOILER ALERT: This piece contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of “Yellowjackets,” “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” which premiered Sunday, January 16 on Showtime.

Internally at “Yellowjackets,” the nickname for the show’s trifecta of showrunners is JAB — which stands for Jonathan Lisco, Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson.

Lyle and Nickerson created the genre-defying Showtime series — which has become a sensation over its 10-episode run, concluding Sunday — and Lisco (“Halt and Catch Fire,” “Animal Kingdom”) joined as an executive producer to run it with them. When Lisco completed the head-writing team, “I really wanted to mind-meld with them,” he said during an interview with Variety. That meant that he “wanted to know everything that Ash and Bart had thought about — even things that they had dispensed with.”

According to Lisco, that bonding process worked so well that the trio became an acronym: “When people talk about us, they say, ‘What does JAB think?’”

The explosive season finale of “Yellowjackets,” called “Sic Transit Gloria Mundi,” was directed by Eduardo Sanchez, and written by Nickerson and Lyle. If you’re reading this, you likely know what happened within it, but in brief summary: In the episode’s final moments, 2021 Natalie (Juliette Lewis), about to shoot herself in the head with a shotgun, is instead taken from her motel room by four sweat-suited kidnappers — as we hear Nat’s ex-sponsor, Suzie (Colleen Wheeler), leaving a desperate voicemail, saying in part: “I think someone is following me. Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?”

Good question, Suzie. The episode then returns to the snowy 1996 woods, where Lottie (Courtney Eaton) ritualistically places a bear’s bloody heart in a tree-stump altar, flanked by Misty (Samantha Hanratty) and Van (Liv Hewson).

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Courtesy of Showtime

Earlier in the episode, the adult Misty (Christina Ricci) kills Jessica (Rekha Sharma), who thinks she’s been freed, having tempted Misty with the promise of riches to tell her story (ha, Jessica, no way). Taissa (Tawny Cypress) has won her election in an upset — but her victory was perhaps thanks to the sacrifice of Biscuit, the family dog whom she’d beheaded in (an unconscious?) ritual discovered by her horrified wife, Simone (Rukiya Bernard).

And if that weren’t enough, we finally learn how Jackie (Ella Purnell) died in the woods. She freezes to death after a fight with her best friend, Shauna (Sophie Nèlisse) — and the ordinariness of her death, and how avoidable it was, will haunt (literally) 2021 Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) forever.

Lisco broke down the “Yellowjackets” finale in a conversation with Variety, sharing details about how the showrunners — let’s just call them JAB — built toward its propulsive conclusion, how they feel about the show’s rabid fanbase and why they’re hell-bent on creating a “mind-blowing” second season.

“People who are outside the business might think this is our moment. They might think, ‘Oh, my God, you guys must feel great!’” Lisco said. “And while we do feel great, it’s actually quite stressful. Like, success is actually in some ways more stressful than mediocre failure, right?”

Lisco continued, as he laughed. “Ash, Bart and I were talking about it last night. And we made this very nerve-racking realization, which is, ‘Guess what, guys? Now, we don’t have to actually be as good as Season 1. We have to be better.”

What was the show’s general approach to where you wanted it to end up at the end of Season 1?   

When I first got involved with this project, I had long discussions with Ash and Bart about the cannibalism of it all. And that’s not what the show is about. In fact, some of the commentary that I’ve most appreciated from our very enthusiastic fans is, like, “Wow, this is a show where cannibalism is the least interesting thing about the show!” And that’s because we’ve tried to have these characters with a great deal of specificity, and psychological nuance. Because ultimately, the show is not about if cannibalism, it’s about why cannibalism, and how cannibalism. And it’s about this group of people, young women in the mid-90s, who suddenly wind up — ironically — more alive than they’ve ever felt in their entire lives. Because there’s a kind of rhapsodic freedom when they are stranded. 

Of course, it’s terrifying. Of course, it’s terrible. But at the same time, with all the gender conventions coming down, and the savagery of high-school hierarchies coming down in the woods, when they actually have to be themselves — a true version of themselves and try and find out how to survive, oddly, they self-actualize in ways that surprise them, surprise their peers. Like, who are they? 

And then, of course, they may have to resort to cannibalism. But it may not be…

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