‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: Best Friends Forever
The hit Showtime series returns to find the young and pregnant Shauna becoming a little kooky. And hungry.
Season 2, Episode 1: ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’
In a 1994 interview with The Baltimore Sun about her album “Under the Pink,” Tori Amos explained: “Part of this record is dealing with the betrayal of women, by women.” She went on to say that “the history of woman has been very lonely, and when you think that we should support each other, understand each other, that makes sense to me.”
“But the concept of a sisterhood,” she continued, “is not real.”
I found the interview after watching the Season 2 premiere of “Yellowjackets,” Showtime’s hit drama about a high school girls’ soccer team stranded in the wilderness in 1996 and their counterparts in the present day. (Amos’s song “Cornflake Girl,” which appears on “Under the Pink,” plays over the episode’s final moments.) And boy, does that quote ring true for the series. In its sensational first season, “Yellowjackets” blew through any notions that young women in a “Lord of the Flies”-type situation would be kinder or less messed up than their male counterparts. Based on the premiere, Season 2 seeks to double down on that.
The Amos track is an apt choice for framing some of the prevailing themes of the series, delineating between the boring and repressed “cornflake girls” and the more thrilling “raisin girls,” who are freethinkers. (Amos counts herself as a “raisin girl.”) We hear Amos’s jaunty piano and her incredible range as Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) eats the ear of Jackie (Ella Purnell), her best friend, who froze to death in the Season 1 finale after being exiled from the warmth of the other girls’ cabin in a fight.
Shauna (Melanie Lynskey when all grown up), we can fairly say, is not a “cornflake girl.” Not in the past timeline, where she has taken solace in talking to Jackie’s frozen body while carrying Jackie’s boyfriend’s baby. And not in the present, where she is still trying to cover up the murder of the artist with whom she had an affair. Her husband, Jeff (Warren Kole), you’ll recall, is Jackie’s aforementioned former beau. (Messy!) Shauna’s idea of marital rehabilitation? Having sex with Jeff in the dead artist’s studio as they stare at portraits that said artist made of Shauna. Raisin girl, for sure.
And she is not the only one. Team Yellowjackets is full of raisin girls, to whom we are reintroduced over the course of this premiere. There were a lot of threads left hanging at the end of the first season finale, and the premiere spends most of its time catching its audience up.
In the ’90s timeline, two months have passed, and everything has remained mostly static. Jackie is still dead, her corpse left in the meat shed for Shauna to visit. Jackie is now a manifestation of Shauna’s guilt and the two “talk” frequently — scare quotes necessary — a fact that rightly weirds out her teammates. Travis (Kevin Alves) remains dedicated to searching for his little brother, Javi (Luciano Leroux), who ran away during the hedonistic “Doomcoming” episode, when everyone accidentally ingested psychedelic mushrooms.
Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson) sleep in the attic so Taissa’s sleepwalking and sleep biting stay under control. Misty (Samantha Hanratty) remains an outcast for her unintentional drugging of everyone. And then there’s Lottie (Courtney Eaton), who has made herself the group’s healer, offering up blessings for those going out on the hunt and curing panic attacks.
The mystery of “who the [expletive] is Lottie Matthews?,” as articulated last season by Natalie’s former sponsor, was the most tantalizing one that the series’s showrunners — Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson and Jonathan Lisco — left dangling, and now they give us only half an answer. Lottie, upon being rescued in 1998, refused to speak and was sent to a mental institution where she was given electroshock treatments. She emerged from that trauma with a mission to help others and now leads a commune where her followers wear purple and participate in rituals involving animal masks and burying their members alive. Her group kidnaps Natalie (Juliette Lewis), but they seem more artisanal than evil, at least at this point.
Simone Kessell makes a striking debut as the elder Lottie, the newest member of the present day squad, turning the sort of shamanic qualities that Eaton gives the younger version into something steelier, maybe a little more calculated. The past Lottie might be magic; the present Lottie seems to have lost or suppressed that for something based in capitalism rather than mysticism.
It remains to be seen how she fits into the dynamic of the Yellowjackets survivors, who in the present day are all off on their mini plots. Taissa (Tawny Cypress) has been elected as a state senator and is trying to patch things up with her son, even getting a new dog to replace the one she butchered in a hypnotic state. (Pray for Steve, an adorable little Yorkie who doesn’t deserve what could be coming to him.) Meanwhile, Misty (Christina Ricci) is back to feeling neglected. Shauna doesn’t really want her legal advice — written out on a cookie cake — and Natalie has gone missing.
Which brings me back to Tori Amos. By the end of the first season, there was some unity among the adult characters as they came together to deal with Shauna’s not-so-little murder accident. Now they have all been cast to the winds, dealing with their own problems, rejecting the aid of their so-called sisters.
“Yellowjackets” loves to remind us that there’s a transactional nature to its female solidarity — it’s about survival more than support. I think about that final image of Shauna putting Jackie’s ear into her mouth. She is hungry, surely, but she also seems to want to absorb her friend, to keep her inside of her soul for as long as possible. Eating Jackie’s ear is a source of sustenance, but it is also Shauna’s penance and her comfort. She needs Jackie with her even if that means consuming a defrosted lobe.
More to chew on
– Outside the Amos cue at the end of the episode, the music choices remain incredible. The episode opens with Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen,” a song that is powerfully evocative of teenage longing. Also, Jeff has an incredible car freak-out to Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” which is sure to make the internet go wild. What a perfect depiction of dorky Gen X angst.
– I was wondering if Purnell would be back in some capacity despite Jackie’s untimely freezing. Sure enough, there she is as Jackie’s ghost — or as Shauna’s inner monologue as Jackie’s ghost. I’m happy to see her still in the mix, nailing that queen bee tenor.
– Do you think Javi is still alive? Honestly, I think maybe. Maybe I’m just one of Lottie’s little minions.
– I’m fascinated by the incorporation of new girls into the 1996 timeline, specifically Nuha Jes Izman as Crystal, a musical theater-lover who reaches out to the exiled Misty. Izman sings “The Glory of Love” in a way that makes it absolutely clear Crystal has watched “Beaches” a million times.
– It is truly exciting to hear the voice of Elijah Wood as one of Misty’s fellow online “citizen detectives.”
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