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 A teenager sits in the wilderness in this photo by Showtime.
Teen Van (Liv Hewson) talking about finding help in Season 1. (Image: Showtime Networks)

How many times can your faith truly be tested before you begin to have doubts? It’s no secret the faith of our dear teenage Yellowjackets has been tested time and time again. But one player on the team seems to have had a rougher go than the rest.

Enter Vanessa Palmer (Liv Hewson), resident goalie and comedic relief on “Yellowjackets.” With 10 more months of wilderness storyline left to play out, our girl Van has already had quite the handful of near-death experiences. As the show has progressed and Van’s brushes with death become more precarious, she's seemed to search for true meaning as to what's transpiring out in those woods. Will she — or we — ever find it?

Hungry Like the Wolf

A teenager plays paper football in this photo by Showtime
Teen Van (Liv Hewson), scars and all, playing paper football. (Image: Showtime Networks)

“I kept surviving all this s**t that should have killed me, and you know, I figured that it meant something, you know? Like, maybe it meant that I had some kind of purpose in all of this, but yeah, I’m not f***ing seeing it, Tai.”

You need a whole hand to tally up Van’s near misses when it comes to almost losing her life in the wilderness. But nothing was more jarring than her face-to-face encounter with the wolf in Episode 7 of Season 1 — her literal face gets ripped off! When the episode ended, we, along with the rest of the “Yellowjackets” fandom, assumed that Van was a goner. To our relief, we were pleasantly surprised that she managed to hang on and persevere, despite her gruesome injuries.

The attack made Van begin to question a lot in regard to what was happening to them since the plane crash and made her seek comfort in something bigger than herself. Cue Lottie (Courtney Eaton), queen of the wilderness and spiritual guru, who becomes quite the powerful force in Van's life. This ramped up big time in the Season 1 finale when we saw Lottie “sacrifice” the lone bear that wandered into camp in one fell swoop. The look on Van’s face at that moment truly said it all — she now saw Lottie as a badass. Per Van’s suggestion, they “say grace” before they all dug into their dinner of fresh bear meat, but she again turned to Lottie to lead the charge. Van found the pillar she needed within Lottie and Lottie's gift of being in tune with their wilderness surroundings.

Witchy Woman

A teenager sits indoors in a darkly lit cabin in this photo by Showtime
Teen Van (Liv Hewson) preparing to tell the group a story. (Image: Showtime Networks)

As “Yellowjackets” progressed further along in Season 2, Lottie very much became a leader for the wilderness group as a whole. However, Van was arguably her biggest supporter from the very beginning. It’s Van and Misty (Samantha Hanratty) we see kneeling behind Lottie in the Season 1 finale scene as Lottie put the bear heart on her makeshift altar. Van was one of the first to gather the dead birds in the second season's third episode, and we saw her encouraging Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) to join the “prayer circle” Lottie created as a way for the team to bond.

When we think about what it is that Van believes is happening out there, we are brought back to a conversation Van had with Taissa in the Season 1 finale. Van essentially scolded Tai and told her that she has no idea what is happening to them out there; none of them do. But she also said that after the wolf attack, she wasn’t dead — she was “in-between.”

In that state, Van saw something that strongly convinced her they were not alone. But what did she see? A spirit? The man with no eyes? Will we ever know or will it remain one of the many “Yellowjackets” mysteries? Either way, the series of events Van faced during her time in the wilderness caused her to seek guidance and comfort in something bigger than herself. We're eager to see whether this will continue to be Lottie in the teen timeline.

Are We Out of the Woods?

Two women stand next to each other staring at something in this photo by Showtime
Adult Taissa (Tawny Cypress) stands in awe with adult Van (Lauren Ambrose) at Lottie’s (Simone Kessell) compound. (Image: Showtime Networks)

The adult Van (Lauren Ambrose) we come across in the present day is far from the person she was out in those woods. She makes it very clear that she no longer believes in whatever it was out there with them in that forest. She’s hesitant to head to Lottie’s (Simone Kessell) compound, but why? What we’ve seen so far in the teen timeline shows no indication of a division between Van and Lottie, but as we said, there are still 10 more months left in the wilderness.

When Van locks eyes with Lottie for the first time in what we assume is over 25 years now, you can visibly see a shift in her. It’s like she was brought back in time for a brief moment. Could this have something to do with the fact that Van’s battling terminal cancer? She tells Tai she only has mere months left to live. Could it be that Van thinks Lottie could possibly help her rid herself of the cancer in some way? Is that why she went along with Lottie and menacingly chased Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) in those woods?

In the Season 2 finale, after they watch Natalie (Juliette Lewis) die, Lottie says to Tai and Van, “We gave it what it wants. It is pleased with us.” She then looks directly at Van and simply says, “You’ll see.” To us, that seemed like some major foreshadowing of what's to come in Season 3. Will Van want to “sacrifice” someone to save herself? Is she now buying into Lottie's spiritual worldview again as an adult? It’s hard to say just yet, but something tells us we are sure to find out.

Testing 1, 2, 3

A worried teenager stares in this photo by Showtime
Teen Van (Liv Hewson) looking concerned for a teammate. (Image: Showtime Networks)

We think it’s a safe bet that the faith of our Yellowjackets, Van included, will continue to be tested in the wilderness timeline whenever Season 3 is released. After all, they’re technically homeless after watching the cabin burn down before their very eyes in the final moments of the Season 2 finale.

Whether or not Van continues to follow Lottie’s lead in these teen years is one of our biggest questions. We know there’s an eventual split in the group — will Lottie and Van be on opposite sides? Van clearly needs something to believe in; if not Lottie, then who or what?

Will Van sing a new tune in the adult timeline in an attempt to save herself from death yet again? It may be a while before we get some concrete answers. In the meantime, you’ll find us on the Yellowjackets Hive hub page, theorizing and speculating about it all, including everyone’s favorite goalie.

2 thoughts on “‘Yellowjackets’ Goalie Van Palmer: Then I Saw Her Face — Is She a Believer?

  1. Keith says:

    Interesting article. Van both adult and teen is one of the highlights of the show.

  2. Shift Orion says:

    Wow. What a thorough, concentrated write-up! I love it. And I have a whole bunch of thoughts lol.

    1st, I think Van is such a rich character. She’s really got such a vital, irreplaceable vibe (to the fans and the fictional team) and yet she’s abandoned by… everyone at some point. The volleying of neglect from her mom being always never quite there to Jackie and Shauna leaving her to an engulfing inferno to Tai straight up stealing her talisman and ditching post to let her be eaten by literal wolves IN HER SLEEP to the ENTIRE GROUP JUST NOT EVEN CHECKING HER FOR SIGNS OF LIFE (my fucking god…) really leaves her nothing healthy to anchor to. Yet, she never stops loving. Ever. Even when Adult Van is introduced, her anger and walls drop rapidly to make way for a tenderness that immediately seeks connection. She’s maimed internally much more than externally. Her harshness even tends to be reserved for preserving peace (her self-isolation while freshly healing new facial scars, telling Tai to stfu about her cancer and not warp the group vibe by grieving her prognosis). I’m interested to see where the show carries her to get from what we’ve seen of the end of the beginning to the beginning of the end. She’s packed with a gunpowder narrative that can blow in so many directions even though we’ve seen past what we’ve yet to be shown…! Thanks for keeping us engaged while we hold on tight during this powerful, long-overdue strike.

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