Starting from an alternative decomposition of the turbulent field, a multi-dimensional statistical formalism for the description and understanding of turbulence in free-shear flows is proposed and applied to the symmetries of planar temporal jets. The theoretical framework is based on the exact equation for the second-order moment of the two-point velocity increment and allows us to trace, for the first time, the spatially evolving cascade processes at the basis of turbulence mixing and entrainment. Fascinating reverse energy cascade mechanisms are found to be responsible for the generation of long and wide structures in the interface region. Analogously to two-dimensional turbulence, the energy provided by these spatially ascending reverse cascades is found to be eventually dissipated by viscosity at large scales through friction shearing processes involving a thin cross-flow layer of these large-scale structures. Finally, the external non-turbulent region of the jet is also found to be active from an energetic point of view. It is found that pressure-mediated non-local phenomena of displacement of almost quiescent fluid give rise to non-turbulent fluctuations that in time, through transitional mechanisms, would contribute to the growth of the turbulent jet. Overall, the unexpected paths taken by the scale-energy flux in the combined physical/scale space, which are a substantial novelty with respect to known descriptions of turbulent mixing and entrainment, may have major repercussions on our theoretical understanding and modelling, as anticipated here by reduced equations capable of giving a simple scale-dependent description of the rich dynamics of the flow.