Editor’s note: The below contains spoilers for the Season 2 finale of Yellowjackets.The slow burn style for this ‘90s throwback, ensemble thriller may not be for everyone. But Yellowjackets is committed to keeping many of its secrets for as long as possible, spilling them out as carefully as the bloodletting from the butchery Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) knows how to do. With Season 2 over, there are some answers given and a whole lot more unanswered. It will be a little while until the third season arrives, with pre-production paused due to the ongoing 2023 WGA Strike. While fans wait, the fate of one of the few male characters is no longer one of the show’s mysteries. Javi Martinez (Luciano Leroux) disappeared at the end of Season 1, then suddenly returned, only to end up having a brutal death scene, and yet, for how harrowing it was, it also falls flat. The show has done better when it comes to shocking deaths and there are a few reasons as to why this one in particular didn’t hit as hard as the others.
‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 Kills Off an Innocent Character
“It Chooses” is a point of no return of which there are plenty. Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) must be tired of breaking the news to her fellow teammates that they are suffering from hallucinations. The adult Yellowjackets learn about Shauna’s (Melanie Lynskey) growing deception. And as the episode reaches the closing minutes, younger Nat (Sophie Thatcher) draws the Queen of Hearts and is marked for death. There is no way she dies then, as Juliette Lewis wouldn’t be playing the deeply hurting adult version — until the Season 2 finale that is. All the Yellowjackets hunt Nat down in a delirious sequence. Javi tries to save her, only to then fall through the ice into the water, with no way out. Of the girls, Misty (Sammi Hanratty) is the one to realize Nat can survive if Javi drowns. Killing off this character comes out of nowhere. He quietly kept to himself before his disappearance and this continued during his reappearance. He didn’t deserve it, but not many who die on this show do. A major reason why it feels like a plot convenience than the tragic end it should is how Season 2 treats him.
Back in Season 1, Javi runs off after seeing the girls, high on wild mushrooms, attack his older brother. Two months later, Nat tries to help Travis (Kevin Alves) heal by giving closure through fake evidence of Javi’s demise. That obviously backfires when Javi suddenly returns. Bringing him back should have added to the bizarre mystery of how much the wilderness is actually in control or how much “it chooses.” It doesn’t do that, and it’s a baffling story choice to have Javi remain mute and keep to the background. His character can’t do much from this, so when he dies, the brutality to it feels forced. That doesn’t make it any less of a haunting scene, watching Javi’s hands jutting out of the icy water while the girls wait just long enough for him to go lifeless, but for his body not to sink.
A Season 1 Death Haunts the Adults
Yellowjackets has previously, unexpectedly killed off a character that felt a lot more earned as it threatened the adult characters in the 2021 timeline. Adam (Peter Gadiot) has an affair with Shauna, until she believes (and many fans did too) that he must be the blackmailer of the freshman season. There was an oddness to Adam’s gentle qualities — maybe he was too friendly, which could mean he must be hiding a dark side. This isn’t the case; instead, Shauna’s paranoia clouds her mind from rational thinking, leading to her stabbing him to death, although his motives were pure the entire time. What helps this be one of the most shocking moments is how integral Adam is as a supporting character for most of Season 1, unlike how Javi gets plucked out of the series to then be popped right back in.
There was a time when Adam could have been an older version of Javi, and that would have drastically changed the narrative. “There may have been some viewers out there who wanted, for example, Adam to be Javi come back from the wilderness to torture and torment Shauna,” co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco said in a EW interview. “And by the way, that was absolutely something that we considered, well before we ever read that theory on Reddit.” Lisco also went on to say, “I’m hoping that once they see the fabric and tapestry of season 2 and then where we’re gonna go in season 3, they will realize that that set the table for more poignant long-term storytelling than just closing the loop on someone coming back for revenge.”
Who knows what the motives of that version of Adam would have involved for reentering Shauna’s life? And that “poignant, long-term storytelling” is no doubt referring to Javi’s death and the cannibalized aftermath. Those lasting effects will certainly carry onward, even if Travis doesn’t take too long to bite into his brother’s heart and, based on Season 1, older Travis and Natalie still saw each other for a while. The bad blood between the two isn’t too bad. But the final result of having Adam just be Adam is what Yellowjackets is all about. It takes an unflinching look at how destructive (or self-destructive) the central girls and women are.
‘Yellowjackets’ Is About the Women, Not the Men
Javi’s return and subsequent silence didn’t give him the screen time to justify his fate, mainly because this show isn’t too concentrated on the male characters. In 2021, an adult Travis (Andres Soto) is glimpsed through the flashbacks of Nat and Lottie (Simone Kessell). There is no peek into Kevyn Tan’s (Alex Wyndham) life, but he has a critical supporting role, first in a failed hookup with Nat, then an investigation into Adam’s murder. In the Season 2 finale, this justice-seeking detective gets killed off, bluntly, after a few sips of phenobarbital-laced hot cocoa. Then Walter (Elijah Wood) goes further, shooting Kevyn’s body to frame or blackmail scummy detective Matt Saracusa (John Reynolds), depending on whichever he chooses to comply with. Kevyn couldn’t be the one to be framed or blackmailed, unlike his partner, with his sleazy methods. Walter does this to protect Misty (Christine Ricci), and this goes with Jeff (Warren Kole) too, who gets more attention in the series due to his strained marriage with Shauna. In the past timeline, Season 2 moves away from Travis and leaves Coach Ben (Steven Krueger) to slip into his fantasies.
The focus shifts over to Akilah (Nia Sondaya), who learns her poor pet mouse is all bones, no fur carcass, and Crystal/Kristen (Nuha Jes Izman), who sings her last show tune when she dares to play a fatal game of truth-telling with Misty. Crystal/Kristen’s accidental plummet and Shauna’s stillbirth are two very different shock deaths, but they work due to the dread of each. Misty and her new friend lose the honeymoon stage to their bond when Misty blurts out her worst secret and there was no coming back from that. There is no mention of the livelihood of Shauna’s baby in 2021, and with a severe lack of nourishment, it felt natural to have Shauna lose it — if only Javi’s fate felt like a natural progression too.
Javi’s Death Sets Up More Darkness to Come in Season 3
After Javi’s return, he opens up to Coach Ben, muttering, “She told me not to come back… my friend.” There is no answer as to who this friend is, except Ben finds drawings of what seems to be the shelter Javi was hiding out in. The “friend’s” warning was dire and Javi finds out the hard way. “It Chooses” offers two small moments for the Martinez brothers: Javi and Travis hug after they both don’t pull out the doomed card from the shuffled pack; Javi stares at Travis who is held in place, a knife to his throat, while Nat runs away. The howling girls hunt her down, and Javi seems to understand the pleading on Travis’ face. Unlike the moose Nat finds earlier in the season and fails to pull up, Icicle-Javi’s body might be stiff, but considerably less heavy. The aftermath of the drowning is more successful in advancing the plot than what comes before. The camera painfully lingers on Shauna as she forces herself to act as the butcher again, morbidly cutting into Icicle-Javi with a gentle hand. Here’s yet another point of no return, for Shauna and the others.
Keeping a mute Javi in the background meant he wouldn’t be interacting with the main girls until the story made it necessary. To suddenly make him a crucial character by killing him off feels like a cheat, relying on him being the youngest and on remembering his fearful disappearance during the Doomcoming celebration in Season 1. How the show dispatches Javi feels too easy of a way to depict the girls’ downward spiral out in the wilderness, and it’s obvious this moment is to finally get the show reaching into the darker, cannibalistic elements.
Yellowjackets is a show that, at its best, devours the complex, messy human behavior of characters who are stuck in dangerous, bleak circumstances. Survival after a plane crash. Getting away with murder. At least the show has enough of a dark sense of humor to play “Poor Sucker” by Low as a requiem for Javi, with soft vocals singing, “Some poor sucker at the bottom of the lake, took the wrong way up.”