[This story contains major spoilers from the fourth episode of Yellowjackets season two, “Old Wounds.”]
In the latest episode of Yellowjackets, there’s an argument over divine intervention or coincidence in the 1996 storyline. The Yellowjackets soccer team and their fellow survivors are starving in the wilderness, and they argue over young Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton) role in the game that has — and hasn’t — materialized in order for them to be able to eat and survive winter.
The teammates who believe that Lottie has developed some sort of powers during their time out in the wilderness argue that the bear and flock of birds that showed up at their cabin door were fateful occurrences, brought on by their newfound spiritual leader and her blood sacrifices. The dissenters to Divine Lottie counter that those events were coincidences, and balk at the opinion that Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis (Kevin Alves) can’t find any meat because they won’t let Lottie “bless” their hunts.
The two sides of this argument represent the larger question Yellowjackets is asking. When unpacking the loaded events of the first two episodes of season two with The Hollywood Reporter, showrunners Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco distilled the Jackie feast down to being about the battle between faith and pragmatism. “We’re really interested in the unexplained. And I think that whether or not everything happens for a reason or is completely random is one of the greatest questions that humanity has asked of the universe around us,” said Lyle. “Are things happening for a reason? Is there some sort of divine purpose or supernatural purpose? Or is it a confluence of events that are lining up in such a way as to result in certain consequences? People are constantly trying to find order and meaning in the unexplained. And particularly, when it comes to the bad things that happen to you.”
The debate in the third episode, “Old Wounds,” prompts Natalie to pitch a hunting contest between herself and Lottie, which sends the pair out in the wilderness looking for a kill. Both women come back empty-handed, but not for lack of trying. Natalie finds the white moose she spotted last episode frozen in water by his antlers; despite their hardest efforts, they can’t pull him out and the animal slips into the water. And Lottie returns frostbitten, after passing out and hallucinating.
They both agree they failed. Neither proved their point. And even Lottie offering her own blood as a sacrifice while out on the hunt bore nothing fruitful.
Right? Wrong. Because, that’s when Javi shows up — and the faith vs. pragmatism debate is relevant once again.
For a refresher, Javi (Luciano Leroux), Travis’ younger brother, has been missing since the “Doomcoming” episode of season one, on his own in the wilderness for more than two months and presumed dead. But when Van (Liv Hewson) and Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) head out in the woods to track down the trees with the Lottie symbol that “other Tai” has been finding while sleepwalking, the final tree is the exact location where Javi returns and runs into the pair.
All of this, meanwhile, plays out while the present-day storyline follows adults Natalie (Juliette Lewis) and Lottie (Simone Kessell) in their own separate attempts to excavate their trauma. Natalie road trips with Lisa (Nicole Maines) for a visit to the latter’s estranged mother and Lottie visits her therapist to divulge about her recent, disturbing visions related to the wilderness. When Lottie returns to her cult compound, she offers what appears to be her first blood sacrifice in quite some time.
Below, Lewis and Kessell spoke to THR about some of the burning questions raised in these first four episodes, as viewers wait to see more from the newly returned Javi and the now-reunited Taissa and Van (played by Lauren Ambrose).
This season sees the survivors starting to make their way towards Lottie. So far, Natalie is on the cult compound and adult Misty (Christina Ricci) is on her way. Simone, do you think Lottie has the answers?
Simone Kessell: I think Lottie would like to think she has the answers. But she kind of unravels herself. We all end up sort of with the duality of the past and the present. We’re there to find out some answers, and then it all kind of goes pear-shaped. I mostly work with Juliette for the first five episodes. We got to play and do some amazing work. We fell in love. And then [after episode five] it takes a new life and goes from there. Everything moves forward.
Was there one question you had as a season one viewer that you put to the writers about playing Lottie?
Kessell: You mean like the whole Antler Queen or the symbols? I remember saying, “What is the Antler Queen? Is it a symbol, is it a metaphor, is it real?” And I remember them going [no answer].
Lewis: All of the above.
Kessell: It can kind of be anything that we deem it to be. There was so much about Lottie being the Antler Queen. But really now, we’ve distilled it into the fact that the Antler Queen is a part of all of us, and she really was something that kind of kept these women going to survive in the wilderness. That was my interpretation of it. I had so many questions, but I was trying to play it cool.
Juliette, how did reading more about the relationship between young Nat and young Lottie help you approach your scenes together in season two?
Lewis: Earlier on in the first season, the creators mentioned family or a dysfunctional family, or people who survive a horrific event, and how you go right into these roles. There’s a connection. Even my best friend — we didn’t do horrible things in the woods, but I’ve known her since I’m 9 and years will go by, and there’s a permanent connectivity on a cellular level. I analyze it like our bodies were growing at that time. We’ve gone through all these adventures and time periods. And what’s interesting about the writing is that it’s never about one thing. So even if it becomes adversarial, there’s an affinity that is underneath.
Because I kept asking myself, “Why isn’t Nat leaving?” If she’s done with her and saying snappy things. But it’s because she’s not just one thing. She’s concealing her confusion, her search for truth, her desperation to trust. But she doesn’t; she can’t. It’s all this conflicting stuff that makes it interesting. And it’s because of their history in the woods where they did have really warm, amazing bonds together.
Kessell: They have a sisterhood and you can love your sister and want to [strangle] your sister. But you’ll always go back and have Christmas with them.
What do you think would have happened if Lottie’s followers hadn’t barged into Nat’s hotel room in the season one finale?
Lewis: Oh my God, she would have shot herself. She’d be in the high heavens. That’s horrifying. But that was the trajectory of that darkness. They call it circling the drain. In that first season, that is a real personality that has nowhere to go. It’s just brick wall. And then the murder of her only functional but totally toxic love relationship [with Travis], that was her big love bond; it was really sad. So if they hadn’t barged in, I think that trigger would have been pulled.
Kessell: Then that answers what you’re saying. Even though she bucks at the idea of being at Lottie’s compound, she still stays because something inside of her knows that we saved her and she has a place. Like, where else would you be? As unsettling and uncomfortable as that is, it then moves into a different direction yet again.
I was wondering myself why Natalie stays.
Lewis: I wonder if the audience will figure out what they think. There were a few versions. I would have liked a bridge episode of a little bit more of a fight, and then she stays. But I don’t know. That kind of person… I can’t explain, but they don’t know themselves.
Courtney Eaton spoke to THR at the beginning of the season and said that Lottie has “an energy that draws people to her even if she doesn’t know how to process it.” Simone, how did you work with Courtney to shape adult Lottie, coming in after a full season?
Kessell: I wanted to understand the essence of Courtney, rather than the character. I wanted to see her in the flesh and in a way I could understand her, so I could give an honest portrayal. [They] created the characters from the pilot. So, she already created it. But then we completely recreated the present-day Lottie, that she’s come out of the darkness and into the light. I think with a lot of spiritual healers, perhaps gurus, people in these positions, they’re all wearing a mask. It’s all a performance. She’s created this character for herself in order to hide from the pain and the past. What we see is the Lottie with this love and light and these caftans and her silk-flowing dresses and her impeccable everything, her detail — it’s all an act. So I got to create a few Lotties. The one that’s in front of everyone is performing. But then behind closed doors, she’s completely different. And i think she keeps Natalie there because it reminds her of that, and having Natalie there then starts bringing out the truth.
So they are as good for each other as bad for each other, which again I think takes it back to a sisterhood.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
Yellowjackets releases new episodes weekly on Fridays for Showtime subscribers and airs on cable Sundays at 9 p.m. Keep up with THR‘s Yellowjackets season two coverage and interviews.