The deck of cards first appears in season 1 episode eight, when Travis (Kevin Alves) can be seen playing with them. “There are no queens in that deck,” Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) tells him, in a throwaway line that feels like anything but. The moment has inspired fans to speculate that the four queens have a symbolic meaning that foreshadows the rest of the girls’ time in the wild. Whether they’re referring to four different girls taking up the mantle of Antler Queen, four being slaughtered to feed the others, or even four becoming predatory huntresses like the ones we saw in the pilot’s cold open, the off-the-cuff statement it certainly seemed significant.
We finally saw the return of one of the queens in the fourth episode of season 2, when cult leader Lottie (Courtney Eaton) has a vision of a queen of hearts card. She’s looking at a deck of “thank you tickets” (basically a list of things she’s thankful for) when she suddenly sees a wrinkled and dirty queen of hearts card with the queen’s eyes crossed out with what looks like a pen black. Lottie blinks hard and the image of her fades; it was another vision (or hallucination).
Fans of the series, including Reddit users like logiclymagical, have posited that the missing queen cards hint at a system whereby, perhaps in a future moment of hunger and despair, the girls will choose who becomes their prey. The first scene of the series features a group of sheltered survivors led by a horned queen who chases after a frantic girl who ultimately falls into a spiked pit. That girl ends up feeding the group and setting the stage for all of our questions about how the group would ultimately turn to cannibalism.