Yellowjackets: “Edible Complex” Was Truly the Ballad of Jackie and Shauna

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Yellowjackets: “Edible Complex” Was Truly the Ballad of Jackie and Shauna

[Spoilers for Yellowjackets Season 2, Episode 2 below.]

They finally did it: after a season’s worth of hinting, teasing, and speculating, this week’s Yellowjackets finally passed the point of no return when the surviving players (spoiler alert) feasted on Jackie’s barbecued corpse. Though the scene itself—a horrific, animalistic mania intercut with a dreamlike sequence of the Yellowjackets feasting like Greek gods—may be utterly disturbing, it’s also been a longtime coming, in more ways than one. But while for most of the Yellowjackets, eating Jackie’s corpse was an act of ravenous self-preservation, for Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) it’s something different and far deeper: the final culmination of a lifetime of obsession.

From the moment we meet them in the series premiere, it’s immediately clear that the supposed airtight friendship between best friends Shauna and Jackie (Ella Purnell) is far messier than meets the eye. Though they may be thick as thieves, the introverted, bookish Shauna is almost always playing second fiddle to the uber-popular, uber-beautiful Jackie: often by Jackie’s design. While the friendship is real, it’s also rooted in the understanding that it’s dominated and guided by Jackie: whether it’s about boys, clothes, or soccer strategy, whatever Jackie says, goes.

For her part, Shauna seems strangely content to go along with things at first—but the more time we spend with her, the more we realize that Jackie’s isn’t the only one with a skewed perspective of their “friendship.” Shauna is obsessed with Jackie to a nearly debilitating degree. Her willingness to go along with Jackie’s constant demands and instructions, and yield to her not-so-infrequent insults, doesn’t stem from a lack of a backbone—they’re byproducts of her desperation to know Jackie, to spend time with her by any means necessary.

Jackie is Shauna’s friend, certainly, but to Shauna, she’s something more than that. She’s someone to be admired, to be coveted, to be put on a pedestal: someone she aspires to be. One of the first major plot twists in Season 1 is the reveal that Shauna not only lied to Jackie about still being a virgin, but that she’s repeatedly been sleeping with Jackie’s boyfriend, Jeff, behind Jackie’s back. At first glance, that sounds like classic high school drama: the backstabbing friend steals her bestie’s man.

But once we actually see Shauna and Jeff together, it quickly becomes clear that Shauna doesn’t seem to have any genuine passion or love for Jeff: she’s sleeping with him because Jackie is. Jackie’s ghost (or rather, the fictional version of Jackie in Shauna’s head) even tells Shauna in the most recent episode: “You only had sex with him so you could imagine being me.” Shauna has a deep-seated desire not just to have Jackie’s friendship, but to be Jackie—to be that beautiful, seemingly powerful girl she so admires.

Undoubtedly, there is a genuine affection and care for each other that’s the driving force between Shauna and Jackie’s friendship. It’s where their relationship started: an unbreakable connection that spiraled into fanatical obsession once Jackie and Shauna began to age and drift apart. But in every seemingly friendly interaction, there’s an intense tinge to how Shauna watches Jackie: how she touches her, how her gaze lingers on her, hanging off Jackie’s every word.

Shauna is so used to playing second fiddle to Jackie that her years of quiet resentment have transformed into sinister infatuation: first, it was dressing exactly the way Jackie told her to, then was dating Jackie’s boyfriend. In some lights, it could be viewed as simply wanting to destroy Jackie, to take revenge for the constant one-upping and dismissiveness. But as much as she’s frustrated by Jackie, there’s that constant, lingering need: the need to at first be loved and accepted by her, but to become her, to finally be the girl she’s always lived in the shadow of.

Though Shauna’s resentment and infatuation may have just simmered had they lived out normal, mundane lives, the plane crash turns their dynamic on its head: when Jackie proves herself useless and her vapid personality eclipses any lingering respect/fear she had among the group, Jackie quickly becomes a social pariah, and Shauna her only friend. It’s Shauna’s first true taste (pun very much intended) of being able to wield power over Jackie: and it’s come at the price of losing all contact with civilization.

But as tensions build around the survivors’ camp and Lottie begins her descent further and further into what may be supernaturally-induced madness, Shauna herself also finds a new presence in her life: the dangerous, intoxicating call of the woods. Though we don’t yet know the exact nature of what’s going on (whether it’s supernatural, psychological, or some combination of the two), the increasingly strange and animalistic behaviors of the group eventually yield the darkest possibility Shauna’s obsession with Jackie spiraled into a need to consume her.

Throughout their time in the woods, Shauna’s role at camp (a key difference between their new dynamic: Shauna is useful to the group, Jackie is not) is as a butcher: she bleeds their game dry, strings them up, airs them out before preparing and cooking it for everyone to eat each night. Cut into neat, concise cubes and served on a block of wood like a silver platter, Shauna’s proficiency in butchering/cooking is presented as an instinctual, deep fulfillment of her basest human instincts.

With her new ritualistic purpose as butcher and the dizzying influence of the woods to amplify her darkest desires, Shauna finally has the means and the power to achieve what she’s always wanted: to be Jackie, and to utterly consume her. But, of course, Shauna’s infatuation stems from her reliance on Jackie: she’d never kill her best friend on purpose, that would rob her of the most important person in her life, and the reason for her mania.

It’s just Shauna’s luck, then, that after a drug-fuelled “Doomcoming,” the group finally turns on Jackie and casts her out of the cabin, leaving her to accidentally freeze to death overnight. Shauna is obviously distraught at her best friend’s death, and spends the first two episodes of the second season sitting in the cabin’s meat locker, in constant conversation with Jackie’s corpse. Even in death, Jackie still controls Shauna’s life: Shauna simply has no idea how to function day-to-day without Jackie there.

But when reality does creep in, and Shauna remembers that Jackie’s well and truly dead, that oh-so-forbidden desire to consume Jackie, to engulf her entirely and become one with her suddenly doesn’t seem so far away. Of course, it takes another accident for Shauna to actually bring herself to eat a piece of Jackie’s flesh, but when the corpse’s frozen ear falls off, Shauna finally, almost reverently, gives into temptation and takes her first true bite of Jackie.

And, one convenient gust of wind blowing a snow bank onto Jackie’s burning corpse later, Shauna is gifted with the culmination of her years of resentment, adoration, and obsession: the opportunity to eat Jackie. It’s no mistake that once the smell of Jackie’s burning corpse wafts towards the cabin, Shauna is the first to wake, and the first to take a piece of Jackie’s flesh. “She wants us to,” Shauna tells the others before chowing down.

Shauna, wearing Jackie’s necklace and carrying Jackie’s boyfriend’s baby, ravenously cannibalizing Jackie’s body, is an extreme manifestation of the her unrelenting, oppressing adoration of her: at long last, she’s found a way to take Jackie entirely for herself, to make her a part of her. Though this will no doubt be the first of many high schoolers eaten in the name of survival and the spirits in the woods, the Yellowjackets eating Jackie’s body isn’t just their first true descent into madness, but a terrifying, cathartic experience for Shauna.

Lauren Coates is a freelance entertainment writer with a passion for sci-fi, an unhealthy obsession with bad reality television, and a constant yearning to be at Disney World. She has contributed to Paste since 2020. You can follow her on Twitter @laurenjcoates, where she’s probably talking about Star Trek.

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