Nathan‘s first entry in the watch-along in which we dive into the Yellowjackets Season 2 Premiere.
Lend me your ears! In a new weekly column for The Fantasy Review I will be reviewing and diving into the second season of Yellowjackets. So, make sure to check in every week as we talk about and theorize this kooky and chaotic series.
This is a spoiler filled discussion of the Yellowjackets season 2 premiere, so make sure you check it out after you’ve watched the episode.
But first, we need to cover our weekly spoiler-free update to the column:
Does the dog that Taissa adopted for her son survive the episode?
Yes, the new dog survives the episode!
Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s move on.
Yellowjackets was probably my favorite new show of 2022 (well, late 2021 into 2022). I am an unabashed fan of any show that results in characters getting marooned in the wilderness after a plane crash; Lost is still one of my favorite shows of all time, and The Wilds on Amazon Prime was cut way too short before it could finish its story. Yellowjackets is the latest in this twisty genre, and I absolutely fell in love.
I fell in love so hard and so fast that I’m trying to a bit reserved as we move into the second season. I have been burned by twisty puzzle box shows that start off strong and then lose their way too many times before – Westworld, Killing Eve, Orphan Black, and I can keep going. Hopefully Yellowjackets is able to keep everything on the rails this season, and the second season premiere shows no sign of slowing down.
The premiere had the difficult task of not only reacquainting us with what is going on, but also to introduce time jumps in both timelines in the show.
In the 1990s, unlike in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, winter has come. This was really cool to see because “plane crash” stories are so often set in tropical climates that we don’t get to see the survivors grappling with the challenges of a cold climate. The storylines we visit in the 1990s side of the show are mostly table setting for the rest of the season. Natalie and Travis are looking for Travis’ brother who escaped during the “mushroom tripping murder night” and hasn’t been seen since; Talia and Van are flirting and developing their relationship; Lottie is now the leader of the group; after the mushroom mess up, Misty is very much on the outs of the group.
The most interesting development here is the guilt Shauna has over Jackie’s death. What started as what seemed to be Shauna was just talking to a version of Jackie in her own mind turned into Shauna talking to the Jackie’s literal frozen body. As we get closer and closer to the full-blown unhinged behavior that we were promised in the first episode of the series, this was a creepy and yet natural development. Shauna was projecting her own thoughts and feelings onto Jackie as she processes all of the ways she failed her best friend. The guilt Shauna feels makes it so that she cannot let Jackie go, and the closest thing Shauna has is this lifeless corpse. However, even as we know in our own encounters with dead, a “person” isn’t completely removed from their own body upon death, and Shauna is trying to keep Jackie around as long as possible. This even results in Shauna wanting to keep Jackie’s body in pristine condition, to ensure that she isn’t hurting Jackie any more than she already has. She panics when Jackie’s body falls and her ear chips off, which leads to Shauna Jackie’s ear – the first on-screen indication of the show’s promised cannibalism.
We also get a sense of some of the other girls from the varsity soccer team that didn’t get much of the spotlight in the first season. Like with Lost, the show has always filled in the background with nameless characters to flesh out the world a bit, and now that so many of the characters have died it is cool to see some of them getting a bit more development (hopefully we just don’t get another Nikki and Paulo situation). My favorite of the new crop of secondary characters is Crystal, who only wants to hum and sing without being bullied over it. By the end of the episode Crystal had found a similar misfit outcast in Misty, which I am assuming can only end in something bad for somebody (and since Crystal isn’t someone who is confirmed to be alive in the modern timeline, unfortunately it might be her).
We also have to talk about Lottie, who I’m glad to see will have an expanded role this season (as both a teen and an adult). Lottie has definitely drunk her own Kool-Aid, and is now forcing the surviving soccer players to practice all kinds of occultist practices, including drinking tea with Lottie’s blood in it before venturing out of the cabin and drawing runic symbols on the windows. I know that this is the kind of stuff all Yellowjackets fans signed up for. We want to see things descend into absolute chaos and to go all feminist Lord of the Flies.
For the 1990s timeline, I am interested in how slow/fast the writers are going to track the descent into in-fighting and conflict. The entire hook of the show was “teen girls becoming cannibals in the wilderness”, and as I mentioned above we are just starting the get first hints of that. I don’t envy the writers in the position they are in right now – if they move things too slowly, they risk the show becoming a plodding bore, but if they go too quickly they will reach a climax from which there is nothing to build future seasons from. In an interview on the TV’s Top 5 podcast after the show’s first season, the show’s creators indicated they have anywhere from a 3-5 season plan, and part of the success for this second season is how they can avoid spinning their wheels without burning through too much plot.
In the present timeline, the adult versions of our core four are dealing with the fallout of last season’s actions. Shauna gets the most screentime here, as she cleans up the mess she made after murdering Adam (whom she thought was blackmailing the Yellowjackets, although he was innocent). The contrast between older Shauna here and younger Shauna was a really nice character contrast. Adam may have been Shauna’s first explicit victim (that we know of), she does think of herself as Jackie’s murderer. But while Shauna could not escape Jackie, even keeping her frozen body physically near here (and even going so far as to eat part of it), Shauna does not hesitate to destroy any and all last remnants of Adam, even though he was a man she genuinely loved – and she even goes so far as to have visceral sex with Jeff in Adam’s apartment (which, considering Jeff and Jackie used to date, makes the whole situation full of emotions and bodies).
We do have to talk about Jeff for a moment. Is there any character you want to see completely offed more than him? I don’t care at all about Jeff or his feelings. While he and Shauna do make an entertainingly toxic pairing, I can’t help feeling like the show would be better off without him. And he and Shauna are dumb for not clearing out the grill after burning Adam’s stuff (and for trusting that a plastic driver’s license would burn up in the first place), and we shall see what happens now that their daughter is starting to suspect foul play. The offspring of main characters in these kinds of shows tend to be annoying nuisances, but I’m intrigued to see where this goes forward.
Elsewhere, Misty doesn’t have much to do in this episode as she is more concerned about helping Shauna clean up the whole Adam mess. But we do get a scene where she is looking up conspiracy theories on the internet – and was that Lord of the Rings‘ Elijah Wood’s voice I heard? I looked it up afterward and he is supposed to appear in this season, and I can’t wait to see what he does. Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe have had very similar career trajectories – star in a massively profitable fantasy franchise and then go do the weirdest stuff you can. Elijah Wood will fit right into this world, whether he becomes Misty’s ally or enemy.
Taissa is dealing with her own mess after her wife found the creepy cult altar with the dead dog head, and subsequently took their son away. Taissa adopted a new dog (prompting the “is the dog alive” watch at the beginning of this article). As much as Taissa’s storyline is fun to explore (maybe because, at least before this episode, it was most closely connected to all of the weird stuff happening with the teen versions), I think that as a character and maybe performance this is the weakest. I feel like I know Taissa the least of the core four, and she is by far the least developed character. Part of this is her personality – as a queer politician she has to protect herself by putting up walls – but it doesn’t make for the most engaging watch. Sometimes it feels the weirdness of her storyline is an attempt to make up for the relatively bland character, and I hope we dig deeper because Tawny Cypress is a wonderful actress.
Plot-wise, we got the biggest developments with Natalie, who was kidnapped at the very end of season one. It turns out that she was taken by Lottie, who has continued her cult-leader ways into her adult life, including creepy masks and burying naked men alive. We still don’t know much about Lottie’s new cult, or how it connects to the events from the 1990s, but this is the kind of plot work that I want to see from this show! Bringing Lottie into the modern day timeline is sure to inject some energy and weirdness into the proceedings, and it is the plot line I am most interested to see develop.
In the Yellowjackets season 2 premiere we got to check in on everyone and everyone is still…a mess (well, everyone except Misty because she doesn’t let anything phase her!). We didn’t get a lot of answers in the premiere, and not too many new questions (which is good, since I don’t want the puzzle box building another puzzle box around it!).
If you have any thoughts, theories, or opinions on this episode, comment below or join our Discord! I’m always happy to meet some fellow Yellowjackets fans!