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Themes and Clues in the Yellowjackets Opening Credits — Buzz!

A student wearing a Yellowjackets letterman's jacket

The following focuses on the opening credits/title sequence of Yellowjackets as it appears in S1E3 and S1E4, and includes spoilers through Episode 4 of the series (“Bear Down“)

As of this writing, I have seen the first four episodes of Yellowjackets and have been thinking about the opening title sequence since it appeared in Episode 3.

That this was withheld until then is itself noteworthy. The pilot hits with “Today” and Episode 2 with “Mother Mother,” right where opening credits would go. So one might even argue that these episodes were before the beginning, and it is with Episode 3 that we’ve really begun.

Regardless, my intention here is to set myself to interpreting what we see in these frames, noting that of course there is no guarantee that what we see will happen in the show, just as the poster promo doesn’t necessarily mean Jackie will get a nosebleed or have a bee land on her face.

A girl has a bee on her face in a promo for Yellowjackets on Showtime

Nonetheless, there are a number of shots included on the grainy VHS footage-type montage that seem worthy of discussion, so I am going to take them and jump right into the deep end of speculation.

Some might prefer to just go along for the ride and not engage in this kind of theorizing, which I totally respect. I find myself somewhere in the middle on the question. I can’t help but obsess over the details, but don’t care a lot if I end up being right or wrong. I love opening title sequences and care more about interpreting their thematic significance than I do about finding clues, though I will be doing both.

The Man With No Eyes in the woods in the opening credits of Yellowjackets S1E3

In many ways, my starting point was in noticing the Man With No Eyes at the end of the opening credits. The most significant thing is simply that he is there, shown in the woods. His first appearance diegetically was later in Episode 3, as the young Ty attended to her dying grandmother, so we might not have noticed his presence the first time we watched these titles. At least, I didn’t.

It’s a cool trick the creators of Yellowjackets played, as on a second viewing this image jumped out to my consciousness and frankly terrified me a bit.

But so, if he is in the woods and we take this seriously then it is a strong indication of a supernatural element in Yellowjackets. Alternately, we might speculate that he is a vision that only appears to Taissa—some indication of her creeping madness, not actually seen but also imagined as her nana cried out in fear. Being a phantasm wouldn’t make him any less real.

I can’t help but draw some connection to the recurring symbols—on trees, the floor of the cabin attic, the postcard—though I also don’t have much of an interpretation of this symbol to offer at the moment. Perhaps it is playing with the hobo code and some sign of danger?

In Episode 4, Natalie’s dead father tells her “it’s waiting for us,” so what is it? Is there a connection to how she has proverbial blood on her hands, as though it is some punishment that awaits, or is this simply a manifestation of the fear of death stemming from her own psyche?

Jackie puts a finger across her throat in grainy footage from the Yellowjackets opening credits

In another shot we see Jackie, on the soccer field, drawing her finger across her throat. So we can’t help but think of the slit throat of the girl at the beginning of the pilot. She was wearing Jackie’s necklace but the hair color doesn’t match. So is this someone else? Why does she seem bewildered?

Perhaps it is just fear. Other shots in the credits show the girls forming a circle, as though some voting or other selection process were occurring. So perhaps it is a game and the necklace is some kind of marker?

The girls form a circle in the woods, raising arms into the air

Maybe Jackie survives and donates this totem, though I am still inclined to think she’ll die earlier. Regardless, we are left to wonder how this all functions, as it also seems to involve blindfolds and a marking on the head. And whence the nightgown?

A girl has a dark X on her forehead and a blindfold over her eyes in the Yellowjackets opening credits

Episode 4 shows us Natalie effectively killing a deer to feed the group, so out the window goes any thought that they’ll need to practice cannibalism to survive. No, this is a game, a ritual…the purpose involves enjoyment.

No wonder it is such a secret.

A man stands in a doorway, looking intimidating

Here’s a question that clearly has an objective answer: who is this guy? That is, clearly the man in this image above that blips on the screen for only a couple of frames towards the end of the Yellowjackets opening credits is a human being in the real world and it should in theory be possible to identify the actor.

I, however, do not feel that I have been able to do so. Of course, one’s first thought is that this is Coach Ben Scott (Steven Krueger), but I wonder to what extent that’s because we can’t think of anyone else who it could be. If it is Ben, this would have implications of its own, insofar as the man in the doorway here looks rather threatening. Could it be the case that, as Misty goes too far, coach decides he’s had enough? Or might he perhaps become possessed by some demonic spirit in the woods? He seems like a pretty nice guy so far, all things considered.

But I don’t think it’s him. I don’t think it looks like him. I could be wrong, but I feel like this is a mystery slipped in between frames of the opening title sequence—a character we haven’t met yet and thus know nothing about. It’s not the adult Travis, if you might be thinking that, and plus it seems pretty clear that this is at the cabin in the woods. So Ben feels like the only option, but I still don’t think that is Steven Krueger I’m looking at.

If that doesn’t pique your curiosity, or you’re inclined to just tell me that it’s Ben and move on, here’s another shot that you might find more intriguing. Four girls look downwards—are they perhaps looking into the pit trap we saw in the pilot, at a time when they had started with the ritual murder but before they all started wearing masks? That the girl on the top left is Misty is clear, as is the fact that it is Taissa on the bottom right, but who is the girl to the top right of the frame? I tend to think it is Mari, which is noteworthy mostly because she’s felt like a background character so far, but I have to admit I’m not sure. The girl on the bottom left looks like Akilah.

Misty, Taissa and a third girl look downwards, with the woods in the background above them

Other shots seem present in the opening credits more to contribute to the vibe of the title sequence than anything, as we see the girls partying, someone puking in a parking lot, and so on. Maybe it is worth noting that in the mix is a shot of someone being chased, which for some reason makes me think of 2021 Natalie though I can’t point to concrete reasons as to why other than the dark hair.

Of course it would be Natalie chasing someone, not Natalie being chased, which does track with where her character arc currently stands. I think this might happen somehow as she investigates Travis’s death.

A woman chases someone who is fully masked such that you cannot see their face

The overall vibe is quite effective, regardless, soundtracked by “No Return” by Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker, which is such an effective homage to a certain style of ’90s rock that I didn’t trust my judgment that it was original to Yellowjackets until I got confirmation. The name of the song itself is striking, given that we know with certainty that there is some return from the wilderness insofar as we’re following certain characters in 2021, but the point is clear enough thematically—there is no going back from these events, which split time into a before and an after.

The antler queen in her hood in grainy VHS type footage

In retrospect, we might see a thematic progression from The Smashing Pumpkins in Episode 1 (“Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”) to Tracy Bonham in Episode 2 (“I’m hungry/I’m dirty/I’m losing my mind/Everything’s fine!”) to the wailing of “No Return” we get come Episode 3. Given that Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker are credited for the music on Yellowjackets, and not just for this particular song, it’s entirely possible that we may see the opening song change again at some point in the future, and perhaps the visuals as well.

The girls sit in a circle on the floor

One thing I know is that it would have felt quite off to have had this opening title sequence in either of the first two episodes. Yellowjackets simply wasn’t there yet. But I’m so glad we have it now.

Enjoyable on its own terms, and reminiscent of my personal experience stumbling onto the video for NIN’s “Closer” late at night when I was a teen in the ’90s, the style nonetheless isn’t nostalgic so much as it feels novel, tying together the past and the present in the same way the narrative of Yellowjackets does—not through straightforward connections so much as through a kind of harmony.

I’m sure there are other things in these opening credits worth talking about that I’ve missed or didn’t find worth noting. I’d love to hear what you think, so let me know in the comments!

[Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to reflect the presence of Akilah in the shot of the girls looking downwards.]

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos


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  1. Some of these questions like who is the man staring ominously are kind of obvious. Yes that is clearly Ben. And it’s also obvious that Lottie is the girl who falls into the spikes in the opening scene of the pilot. As for the symbol on the trees, to me it looks like a woman with a wire hanger hanging out of the bottom of her dress with a slash through the image. Clearly a reference to the abortion Shauna is considering. The hook at the bottom of the dress is the wire hanger hook.

    As for Jackie, I think it’s all but been confirmed she is dead since we are now at episode 6 and saw her parents confirm it. The only question now is who is responsible for the text messages and blackmail? That will be determined as we go in am sure and I’m thinking it’s Laura Lee (the Catholic girl), who maybe survives by running and is just presumed dead. But we still have a lot of show to go.

    • Yeah it just doesn’t look like Ben to me, so I don’t know what to say there. It probably is, logically.

      But I don’t know how you could think it is obviously Lottie at the beginning of the pilot given that we don’t see a face and I have read it is a stunt performer and not even the actor playing the character.

      I do think Jackie is dead, but I am not sure we know that. Could be missing, I guess, but I have always thought she was dead.

      Anyway, genuine questions on my part when I wrote this. Thanks for reading!

      • One thing not mentioned in this article is how Jackie’s face morphs into a skull in the opening credits. Could that be a precursor of her fate?

  2. That is totally Coach Ben there.

    One thing I noticed when you google Yellowjackets Cast, you see an actress named Amy Okuda playing a character named Cat Wheeler. However, apart from a fleeting scene in episode 1 where Ben is conversing with her in the hallway at the school, she does not appear in the show. However, you also catch a fleeting glimpse of her in the opening credits sequence just before you see Juliette Lewis looking at something and then her head pulls back in reaction to something.

    There are some web pages about the show that make it seem Cat Wheeler is an important character, but that obviously is not the case, since we really never see her. She is described as a teacher who helps out with the team. One theory I have is that she was supposed to go to Nationals with the team and that Ben was planning to sleep with her, hence the ample supply of condoms he has that he gives to Travis in episode 6. What probably happened is that her character was eliminated after an initial rough cut of the pilot episode.

    • Except we just out Ben is gay. Definitely Ben in the door. I think the girls and Coach’s two sons are doing their own thing and not really looking to Ben, so he’s standing in the door while they run amuck with their Doomcoming party or whatever it is. I don’t think he’s looking evil, more like he’s concerned, worried and knows he cant rein them in. The four girls are looking down on Van as she’s in the fire.

  3. Now that we’re at episode 8. We know that the 4 girls are looking down at Van in the fire.
    I definitely think that is Ben in the door of the cabin. The picture of the man in the plaid shirt looks like he’s in Travis’s house so I’m going to guess that’s him. My theory on Ben, the girls & guys are doing their Doomcoming thing, he has no control over what they are doing but he is very concerned and worried. Looks to me there is a big bonfire that is reflecting on him and it makes him look angry/evil. Probably somewhat scared too.
    And now we know it’s Natalie chasing the blackmailer who happens to be Adam. I think Adam, who was Javi, Travis’s little brother had a bit of a crush on Shauna. Might be one of the reasons he hooked up her besides a little inside info. And boy he did he grow up fine!
    At first I thought it was Shauna who fell into the pit since Jackie put her necklace on her, but Shauna gave it back to her.
    So if you’ve seen the next four episodes you know the answers to some of your questions.
    Someone here mentioned the symbol, that looks like a scythe to me, not a wire hanger. Scythe reminds me of the Grim Reaper. A symbol of death for someone? Who knows. Enjoyed the article.

    • Yeah, it’s turning out that most of these things are in Season 1 and maybe all of them will be except the more random type shots thrown in the mix which I don’t think will be in the show. So maybe they will change the sequence in Season 2? That would be fun. I’m doing an article on each episode each week, if people are interested. This one was sort of extra because I was so taken with the credits, basically. I don’t think we know that the blackmailer is Adam, fwiw. I said more about this in my writeup on S1E8. I think it could be misdirection. But I suppose we’ll find out soon enough!

      Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed the article

  4. I know the second season is coming up so I am rewatching but the sickle really looks like a planetary symbol probably Jupiter. Very Twin Peaks ish.

    • And the symbol looks like a women on a hook with a slash through her if you turn it upside down. I guess the antler queen requires a sacrifice?

    • Yeah, it definitely evokes Peaks to me. It’s an interesting symbol. I need to land on something to call it consistently

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