Warning: Spoilers for “Yellowjackets” season 2. Do not read if you have not watched episode one, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” written by creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson and directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer. The creators, showrunner Jonathan Lisco, actor Sophie Nélisse and others break down the season 2 premiere while speaking with ET’s Deidre Behar.
After a surprise-filled season 1 finale, “Yellowjackets” is finally back with new episodes — and the season 2 premiere did not disappoint, delivering one shocking moment after another. And the biggest one was the return of Ella Purnell as Jackie Taylor, the captain of the soccer team who initially survived the plane crash before freezing to death in the wilderness at the end of season 1.
While the series did not resurrect Jackie, she was fully alive as part of the visions Shauna Shipman (Sophie Nélisse) was having of her late best friend while sitting with her dead body in the meat shed. In the weeks that followed Jackie’s death after Shauna forced her out of the cabin where the remaining teenage survivors had taken refuge, she started spending hours talking to a version of Jackie, who berated her for various indiscretions in her past.
At the end of season 1, both the creators told ET that Jackie’s fate was planned all along, with Ashley Lyle explaining that so much of those episodes were “built around Shauna and Jackie’s friendship and the solution of that.” She added that “oftentimes female friendship, you know, it ebbs and flows, particularly at that age. It can be really volatile, their fights and then their makeups. And we fell in love with the idea that this is a situation that back in the real world would have probably resolved itself.”
But given that the two were stranded in the wilderness with no real signs of rescue, their relationship deteriorated. “And in terms of something that could weigh on Shauna and really change her moving forward, to have Jackie’s death be something that could arguably be her fault or not be her fault — it’s really sort of a mutually assured situation because of their stubbornness and their pride and their refusal to just cross that line and make amends — just felt really heartbreaking to us,” Lyle said.
And according to Jonathan Lisco, Purnell’s return as Jackie was something that just made sense for them. “We did have time at the end of season 1, in the writers’ room, to really think about bringing Jackie’s character [back] because it made such a meaningful difference for like where we would see Shauna at the top of season 2,” he explains now.
“So, it was really, in some ways, about Shauna,” Lisco continues, before noting that even though “Ella Purnell was amazing,” bringing Jackie back was a way “to say this is where Shauna is psychologically at the beginning of season 2. And so, I felt like this was a great device through which to do that.”
Adding to that, Lyle explains that “Ella knew that she had a one-season series regular role. As part of that deal, we had options to bring her back for a few episodes cause we wanted to. And we had this in mind.”
While the scenes were disturbing to watch, for Nélisse it was an opportunity to work with her friend again. “It was such a treat,” she says. “I mean, Ella was one of my closest friends in the first season. And it was really devastating losing her. She just really left such a hole and such a blank space in our group when she wasn’t there.”
She adds, “So, it was nice to have her for a little snippet. But I knew she was going to go away again, so I really cherished every moment we had together.”