“When things get tough out there, those girls are going to need someone to guide them.” When Coach Bill Martinez said these words to Jackie Taylor all the way back in the Yellowjackets pilot, he had no idea that both he and Jackie would be dead within the next few weeks neither could he have suspected the even darker fate awaiting the Yellowjackets team captain, who has now been revealed as the Showtime drama’s first cannibalism casualty. Under most circumstances, getting eaten by your friends would feel like a pretty conclusive end to your story. But this is Yellowjackets, and despite becoming a dinner buffet, Jackie’s story feels like it’s just heating up.
In season two’s second episode, “Edible Complex,” Shauna—having already eaten one of Jackie’s ears (a casual sentence one can only comfortably utter about Yellowjackets)—finally agrees to do away with Jackie’s body. With the ground still too frozen to bury her, the team settles instead on a funeral pyre. But even that plan takes a huge turn when something interferes. Call it the winds of winter; call it a malevolent spirit. (The show is certainly not naming names yet.) But whatever force exists out there in the wild brings a huge sheet of snow down upon Jackie’s burning corpse, effectively stopping the cooking process just in time to turn her into a five-course meal.
Jackie’s consumption finally advances the show’s cannibalism narrative, a plot point introduced in the pilot’s very first scenes. In addition to fueling the story, it literally fuels her teammates, who are starving through a cold and hungry winter. But beyond both points, Jackie’s transformation into a human holiday roast advances something else: the great mystery of the Antler Queen.
Folks keeping score at home know all about the Antler Queen, even though we actually know precious little about the horned figure. The Antler Queen first appears in the series premiere presiding over the consumption of Pit Girl, but we still don’t know who she is or what she represents.
There’s no shortage of Antler Queen candidates. By the end of season one, most theories pointed at Lottie Matthews, who seems poised to use her visionary powers to direct her teammates to eat each other to stay alive—not to mention as a ritualistic sacrifice to the powers that be.
But Lottie’s ascension isn’t yet canon, and other Yellowjackets still seem like Antler Queen possibilities as well. There’s Taissa, clearly a leader in her own right both as a teenager and an adult—all of which obscures a darker side that eats dirt and tries to chew off her girlfriend’s face.
There’s Shauna, whose mercilessness as an adult (Adam who?) suggests she would be willing to lead the charge on the merciless consumption of her friends. (Let’s not forget Shauna kicked this party off by eating Jackie’s frozen ear in the season two premiere.)
Really, just about everyone’s still a contender for the Antler Queen job, other than Misty—the only character we have definitively seen unmasked next to the cannibal cult leader. And Jackie’s fate points at another possibility: that the Antler Queen could be Jackie herself.
To advance this theory forward, we have to look all the way back to one of the show’s earliest points of origin: Lord of the Flies.
Creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson have made no secret about the show’s connections with William Golding’s seminal novel. Lord of the Flies gets its name from the titular rotting pig head who communes with Simon, a visionary in his own right. Given their almost mystical connections to their surroundings, Simon and Lottie are easily analogous. Her precognitive abilities are what make Lottie such an obvious contender for the Antler Queen’s throne.
More often than not, though, Lottie serves as a vessel rather than someone with her own clear understanding of her powers, whatever they may be. The blood in the tea, her healing touch with Travis, the community she leads as an adult—all of these things feel less like Lottie in control, and more like something moving through Lottie.
Enter the proverbial pig head: Jackie.
When the Yellowjackets exit the cabin and find Jackie’s perfectly charred body, there is an immediate sense of awe and reverence, specifically from Shauna. Already Simon-like in her own right, what with her connection to Jackie’s ghost, Shauna utters maybe the most important line in the episode, as she hungrily looks down at her best friend’s barbecued form: “She wants us to.” These words are presented as if spoken by Jackie herself, reminiscent of how Ralph, Jack, Piggy, and the rest of the crash-landed boys revered and communed with the Lord of the Flies. Except, in the case of Yellowjackets, the Lord of the Flies may go by another name: the Antler Queen, a.k.a., Jackie.
“When things get tough out there, those girls are going to need someone to guide them,” Coach Martinez once said to Jackie. If her devoured form becomes something of a spirit guide for the team, then consider the coach’s prophecy fulfilled.
If Jackie is the Antler Queen, how do we explain the fact that we saw the Antler Queen in the pilot? The same way we explain the fantastical way the show depicted the girls eating Jackie, or even how someone like Lottie sees tree stumps in the forest and envisions them as altars.
Yellowjackets also has a proven track record of mixing reality and surreality, which leads us to another ghoulish possibility: Jackie’s skeletal remains could be repurposed as an idol of sorts donning an antler crown, a Lord of the Flies in her own right.