Shauna's Big Moment At The End Of Yellowjackets' Season 2 Premiere Was A Constant Debate Behind The Scenes

This post contains spoilers for the "Yellowjackets" season 2 premiere.

"Have a little cannibalism, as a treat." So said the season 2 premiere of "Yellowjackets" in its closing moments, as the teenaged Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) chomped down on her BFF Jackie's (Ella Purnell) severed ear two months after the latter froze to death in the season 1 finale. It was a characteristically surprising payoff for Showtime's multi-timeline cannibalism thriller, a series that spent its initial 10 episodes messing with the very conventions of the puzzle box TV series format.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, though, we probably should've seen this coming ... and not just because it was subtly foreshadowed in season 1, as /Film's BJ Colangelo observed in her meticulous breakdown of the season 2 premiere. Prior to being stranded in the Canadian wilderness with their fellow Yellowjackets, Shauna and Jackie had a co-dependent, toxic relationship that felt all too real. Heck, even after finding themselves trapped in life-and-death circumstances, Jackie couldn't help but make something as important as Shauna's unplanned pregnancy all about her. Once she discovered the identity of Shauna's baby daddy to be, it was inevitable the two were headed for a brutally painful breakup.

Considering Jackie died right after their big blow-up, before the pair could make so much as a first attempt at mending fences, it's no wonder we found the deeply-traumatized Shauna imagining conversations with her friend's frozen corpse in the season 2 premiere (going so far as to fill out her notebook to maintain the illusion). According to the "Yellowjackets" showrunners, there was never any question as to whether or not Shauna would eventually turn to literally consuming Jackie to hold onto her. No, the real point of contention among the show's creatives was how best to depict the ear-munching itself.

Destroy that which you love

Speaking to Variety, "Yellowjackets" co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco noted there is, in fact, a practical reason for Shauna being the first Yellowjacket to turn to cannibalism. "Of course, she's hungry and she's pregnant, so she eats the ear that accidentally broke off when she pushed Jackie down — but it's really about their friendship," he commented, adding:

"It's about this very specific friendship that Jackie and Shauna had, where Shauna loves Jackie, but also was always in her shadow. She adored this friend of hers, but also in some ways, was always wanting to kind of destroy her — maybe that's going a bridge too far? But I think that is very relatable to a lot of people who are in these intense friendships."

Indeed, this idea of wanting to destroy that which you love isn't limited to unhealthy relationships between humans. It's also at the heart of toxic fandom, wherein people form harmful attachments to the pop culture they enjoy, even tying it to their identities in a way that brings Shauna and Jackie's dynamic to mind. It's how we end up with fans defending corporations over individuals, as they go from finding legitimate enjoyment in engaging with something to merely "consuming" the thing. So it is with Shauna, Lisco reasoned, albeit with "consumption" taking on a much more literal meaning:

"And so the next step of that is consumption, right? I literally want to consume this person, because I love them so much — but I also want them no longer to exist in a way. I also want to keep them a part of me for my entire existence. We were playing with that kind of plasticity on a psychological and emotional level, and not just have it be about, 'Oh, I'm gonna eat the ear!'"

How does one eat an ear, anyway?

Co-showrunner Bart Nickerson not only echoed Jonathan Lisco's observations during that same interview, he took them one step further. "Two things. This idea of wanting to destroy that which you love — there's almost a part of me that's starting to create this theory that those aren't actually opposing views," he explained, comparing it to when people claim "they're just so overwhelmed with cuteness and affection that they actually want to destroy the thing that is the object of that."

Perhaps proving his point that certain things might not exist in opposition to one another the way we assume, Nickerson shifted pretty smoothly from that rather disturbing insight to a much more darkly comedic tone:

"And then the other thing is — and I usually don't want to do this, talk about what almost was — but I just think it's hilarious the amount of time that we spent both in breaking writing, and then in editing, deciding how much of the ear — like, should it go in the mouth, should it not go in the mouth? Should there be a chew?"

Co-showrunner Ashley Lyle added:

"There's a crunch, yeah. We went for it. We ultimately decided to go for it, but definitely debated endlessly. Cutting as it went up. And it felt as though — like, we're already here."

The end result is a pretty perfect mic-drop to the season 2 premiere, capped off by Tori Amos' "Cornflake Girl" playing over the closing credits. It's unquestionably to the show's benefit its creatives took so much time getting Shauna's big moment precisely right. All we need is a taste of what's to come for the time being. Er, you know what I mean.

New episodes of "Yellowjackets" stream Fridays on Paramount+ and air Sunday evenings on Showtime.