Showtime’s Yellowjackets has taken the internet by storm as folks speculate where the darkly horrific, steeped-in-mystery dual narrative will take us. Bolstered by fiery performances and an intricate story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, this show boasts some of the best trauma depictions I’ve ever seen. It’s fascinating to watch how the teen versions of these characters respond to trauma in the wilderness and how it profoundly affects them decades later. 

So, in celebration of TV’s most traumatic and enthralling genre-bending series, let’s explore how Yellowjackets showcases standard trauma responses through its main characters. Strap in, folks. We’re going to Spoiler City, so if you’re not caught up, that’s on you. 

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What are the four types of trauma responses? 

We all react to trauma in our own way as a means of self-protection and survival. This article by Dr. Leaf provides a comprehensive breakdown of the four types of responses, including ways in which they healthily and unhealthily manifest. Before we dive into how our primary Yellowjackets process trauma, let’s define these responses. 

Fight —  Those who respond by fighting are in full self-preservation mode. They find it best to combat the threat directly, hoping to eliminate it. 

Flight — If you’re prone to flight, you’ll do anything to escape the threat. Fliers flee the situation at hand instead of confronting it.  

Freeze — Sometimes, one might freeze when in peril. Think of freezing as a bodily pause—a “shutdown,” if you will. Freezers might think of their bodies as a shell of protection, retreating inward instead of attacking the threat. 

Fawn — People pleasers know a thing or two about fawning. Those who fawn do everything in their power to keep the threat content. They bend over backward to make their tormentor happy. 

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How Trauma Presents in the Four Main Yellowjackets 

Like real people, the Yellowjackets exhibit multiple trauma responses to keep their heads above water. It’s a rarity to find only one response that applies to someone. Instead, they might react with whatever suits their situation. 

Shauna Sadecki 

Adult Shauna sits in the dark at a table with her hands folded in front of her in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Melanie Lynskey as Shauna in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kimberley French/SHOWTIME.

Trauma Responses: Fight, Flight, Freeze

Adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) appears to oscillate between flight, fight and freeze perpetually, but there are times when her fight definitively kicks into high gear. Notably when she stabs Adam (Peter Gadiot). The brilliant editing makes it look like teen Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) committed the act to show she’s regressing to the basic survivalist instincts she relied on in the wilderness. Adult Shauna’s manipulative tendencies, i.e., when she manipulates Jeff (Warren Kole) into having sex with her in Adam’s art studio and manipulates Callie into not revealing her affair to Jeff, fall under the “fight” category. 

Another prominent example of teen Shauna exhibiting the fight response is during the shroom-fueled ritual in “Doomcoming,” when she holds a knife to Travis’s (Kevin Alves) throat. As for Shauna’s reliance on the flight response, we see that in action predominantly in adulthood. Instead of unpacking her trauma, Shauna incessantly tells everyone she’s fine. Particularly when she insists to Callie (Sarah Desjardins) that her past is in the past. She tries so hard to move forward without healing from her pain. 

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Remember when she thought Adam stole her journals and, as it turned out, they were still in her safe? It shows her tenuous grip on reality as she seeks to legitimize Adam as a threat. In a way, it’s part of her fight response. 

Taissa Turner 

Adult Taissa stands in front of a mirror while staring at her reflection in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 3, "Digestif."

Tawny Cypress as Taissa in YELLOWJACKETS, “Digestif,” Season 2 Episode 3. Photo Credit: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME.

Trauma Response: Freeze, Flight, Fight

As we learned from adult Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress) conversation with Shauna, none of the life she lived post-wilderness felt real to her. She dissociates, which is a typical freeze response, and goes through the motions. You could also consider her sleepwalking as a form of dissociation and disconnection. Of course, we see her fight response bubble to the surface when she confronts Diane Rafelson (Lauren K. Robek), a potential donor to her campaign, and when she speaks to the press about staying in the senate race. 

All of the adults seem to exhibit some form of the flight response. It ostensibly manifests in Taissa’s penchant for workaholism. Despite her wife Simone’s (Rukiya Bernard) protests and insistence that it’s wearing her down, she throws herself into her senate campaign. Taissa forgoes her mental and physical health in favor of work. That’s a classic flight response. 

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Teen Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) displays similar responses, namely, fight and freeze. That said, Taissa in the wilderness probably showcases a healthier fight response than most. A healthy fight response includes “becoming a strong leader,” “finding courage” and “protecting yourself and loved ones.” Examples include venturing out to find help despite the outcome (wolves attacking Van) and helping Shauna during her pregnancy. Of course, just because teen Taissa occasionally exhibits healthy behaviors doesn’t mean she’s immune to the trauma of sheer survival. 

Natalie Scatorccio 

Adult Natalie sits outside in the sunshine while looking pensive in Yellowjackets Season 2 Episode 3, "Digestif."

Juliette Lewis as Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS, “Digestif,” Season 2 Episode 3. Photo Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.

Trauma Response: Fight, Flight

Natalie, both as an adult (Juliette Lewis) and a teen (Sophie Thatcher), is the personification of the fight response. She incessantly lashes out, seemingly in a perpetual state of combat. As one of the sole food providers handy with a gun, Nat developed a hardened exterior in the wilderness. You see it crop up after Travis dies in the present when she fights tooth and nail to unravel the mystery surrounding his death. 

In addition, you could consider Nat’s reliance on substances as a flight response, as she utilizes alcohol and drugs to numb her pain/escape her trauma. She flees from New Jersey to LA to presumably break free from everything associated with the crash. 

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That said, adult Nat boasts the most awareness regarding her trauma and grief among the other survivors. Nat remarks in Season 1 Episode 7, “No Compass,” that her friends are in the same boat as her. “You guys are just as f*cked up as I am. You are just better at lying to yourselves. You’re not healthy; you’re not stable; you’re living on the brink just like me,” she says. It’s a surface-level awareness, but the body keeps the score, and that trauma has embedded itself there. 

Even her relationship with Travis in the wilderness stems from trauma. We learn from Shauna and Taissa that Nat’s relationship with Travis post-wilderness is tumultuous and toxic, lending itself to the fawn response, especially if there’s a sense of co-dependency between them. 

Misty Quigley 

Adult Misty sits on a bed with her arms crossed while looking irritated in Season 2 Episode 1, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen."

Christina Ricci as Misty in YELLOWJACKETS Season 2 Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.” Photo Credit: Kimberley French/SHOWTIME.

Trauma Response: Fawn, Flight, Fight 

Misty Quigley’s trauma responses are immensely complex as an adult (Christina Ricci) and a teen (Samantha Hanratty). Misty displays obsessive/compulsive tendencies, which fall into the flight camp. The fawn response primarily springs to mind when thinking of Misty. Notably when teen Misty develops a crush on Ben (Steven Krueger). She goes the people-pleasing route and banishes all personal boundaries to satisfy his needs despite him not reciprocating her feelings. 

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Another fawn example is in the present when Misty tries to appeal to Nat and joins the latter on her mission to prove Travis was murdered. This behavior also represents the fight response, as Misty manipulates Nat by putting her vehicle out of commission so that she’ll have to ride with Misty. Secondly, the fight response rears its head in 1996 when Misty destroyed the plane’s black box, ensuring any search and rescue teams would struggle to find the stranded survivors. She controlled the situation so that the others would need her. Misty ostensibly possesses zero self-awareness regarding her behavior. That stems from trauma as well. 

What have you noticed about these characters and how trauma affects them on Yellowjackets? Let us know in the comments. 

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Melody McCune
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