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Yellowjackets - 2x01 - Friends, Romans, Countrymen - Review

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It’s not that often that a new show comes out swinging like Yellowjackets did in 2021, instantly becoming a critical and commercial favorite, and generating theories by the dozen every week. It’s even rarer when the second season delivers on what the first promised, and disappointingly, for me this season premiere didn’t quite do that. I’m hopeful for the rest of the season, though! But this episode fell a little flat. Of course, that’s not saying much since Yellowjackets is still more entertaining than much of the currently airing shows (which, to be fair, I’m not watching), but still. When you’ve tasted (ha) greatness, it’s hard to be satisfied with mere okay-ness.

Still, let’s dig in (no pun intended)! To my chagrin, season 2 did not open with a scene echoing season 1’s fantastic setting, and basically picks up where season 1 left off, give or take a couple of months in the wilderness. Winter is now in full swing, and our Yellowjackets have bundled up, settling into a survival routine. Travis and Natalie are still hunting for game, except now Lottie « blesses » them before they leave, perpetuating the semi-ritualistic thanks to the wilderness gods that was set up late in season 1. Their forrays into the snow-ladden mountains now have different, more desperate, goals. Opportunities for making out have turned into making maps of the area, as well as heartbreakingly still trying to find any signs of Javi. Travis’ raw emotion as every dead fox takes the shape of his lost brother is harrowing to watch, as even he knows, deep down, chances that Javi’s still alive are less than slim. It would probably be easier for him to come to terms with it if Lottie wasn’t insisting that Javi is, indeed, alive, but Lottie seems to have everyone else in a chokehold when it comes to her beliefs, including in the present timeline, this time about Travis. Which is something she has transformed into a lifestyle, since not only are we introduced to a third timeline in 1998, right after the rescue, but we also see Adult Lottie (Simone Kessel, perfect casting once again) amidst a group of what can only be called cult converts, and let’s just say she’d fit right into the Nine Perfect Strangers wellness center.

But back to the 1998 timeline! First of all, my wishes have been granted since I was really curious to see how the Yellowjackets had handled their return to real life, as well as how the world reacted to their rescue. The short answer is: not well, if Lottie’s situation is anything to go by. From feral to catatonic, it takes electroshock treatment in a psychiatric facility for her to resurface. Then again, as far as we know, she would likely be the one with the most to lose by leaving the wilderness. We also know that as a child she used to have eery premonitions, and as soon as she went off her medication following the crash, things started to get decidedly weird. What’s more disquieting though, is that the other girls are now following her lead. In any case, once she’s « healed » as a teen, and even more as an adult, she returns to what she knew best how to do in the wilderness: i.e. lead a cult. Natalie, however, does not adhere to Lottie’s mystic, she’s still firmly in -this is bullshit-land, and her adult self being kidnapped by Lottie’s team doesn’t really bode well for a change in heart (nor should it). In true Natalie style, plunging a fork into Lottie’s minion doesn’t make her sweat, but she almost comes undone when crossing a few stray chickens on her way to freedom. Oh Natalie, never change. I do wish Adult Natalie/Teen Natalie made more sense as a whole though. While both acting performances are stellar, I often find myself having to realign them in my mind, because they seem so different on the show.
On a lighter note, is Adult Natalie aware that Misty thinks they’re best friends? I suppose it’s a better description than « former schoolmate I started eating people with », but she isn’t fooling the motel manager once she starts checking Natalie’s whereabouts. In true Lord of the Rings fashion, she Aragorns her way into deducing a struggle happened thanks to bits of wood hanging off the doorframe, I was half expecting her to start sniffing the ground and declaring that « blood had been spilled this night ». Misty often tiptoes between incredibly ruthless and surprisingly naive, which makes it hard to assess what she’s really aware of when it comes to her « friends ». Case in point, she trains Shauna for potential police interrogation with a distorted fake voice, but thinks the occasion is also perfect for a murder-club reunion which somehow includes cookies (albeit a message-heavy cookie). Spoiler alert: it’s not. Taissa, having just won the election, has other dogs fish to fry (although one would think avoiding going to prison would be high on her to-do list), and Natalie, as we know, is MIA. Misty’s citizen detective antennae are still on high alert though, she’s checking the internets on Adam’s « disappearance », which has her scouring the message boards for any signs, and low and behold! What I assume, based on the voice, is Elijah Wood’s character, is (rightly) wondering about Adam’s recent change in purchases (the fact that these people have that kind of access is wild, true-crime podcasts only wish they could go in this deep!) and pointing to a mysterious girlfriend, i.e. miss meat-slicer herself!

For someone who has just deleted her ex-lover from the living realm, Shauna sure seems nonchalant. She does wonder about Adam having a studio that could potentially link her to him, but when she and Jeff find it, she mostly seems to regret her life choices when a bunch of edgy stickers compell her to confirm they’re indeed in the right place. Adam was cute girl, we get it. Far from apologizing for the affair to Jeff, the discussion then switches to being turned on by adultery and she and Jeff end up having sex on Adam’s painting equipment, surrounded by portraits of Shauna in unequivocally compromising states. To each their own, of course, but season one’s furniture store roleplay seemed so vanilla in comparison! Who knew « There’s no book club?! » Jeff actually had it in him! Evidence-wise, I’d think leaving any DNA in that place would be a huge risk and Misty would definitely freak out, but maybe they pulled out some plastic tarp or something and were more careful than they seemed. Still, I’m never disappointed by the choices these characters, and especially Shauna, make. One of the paintings shows Shauna’s face in a somewhat horrifying, skinless, way that seems much closer to the darkness within her than her soft-spoken, shy, outward personality. I actually first thought it was Van right after the accident, the picture was so disturbing.
Callie, on the other hand, is getting increasingly suspicious of what may have happened to Adam, and her parents’ not-so-covert attempts to get rid of the evidence they are aware of aren’t fooling her. Time will tell how she uses this information, but her saving Adam’s ID doesn’t bode well for Shauna’s prison-free days. That said, I also doubt she knows exactly what Shauna is capable of, so… Be careful, Callie, you might end up in the casserole du jour!
"Oh, good. ‘Attitude voice’."
Back in the wilderness, Teen Shauna isn’t quite as sassy as her future daughter (still no answer on where that wilderness baby ends up, but the birth seems to be looming close so chances are, we’ll know soon), and is not in great shape following Jackie’s death. In fact, her way of dealing with it is odd, to say the least. Hello, long chats with Jackie’s frozen corpse in the meat shed! Seriously, at first I really thought/hoped that this version of Jackie was just Shauna hallucinating things and trying to work out her feelings by having posthumous conversations that would somehow explain how they came to, well, freeze each other out. But realizing Jackie’s actual body was really there was, well, chilling (I’ll stop now). But not as chilling as Corpse Jackie’s ear falling off, and DEFINITELY not as chilling as Shauna actually popping it in her mouth like a mint a few hours later. Listen, I know what this show is supposed to be about, and the lengths the girls end up going to, in order to survive. Shauna did have that weird fascination with the bear’s blood in season one, until one of the other girls cut it short and warned her it was dangerous. However, that does not mean I was expecting the first forray into cannibalism to be Shauna trying out her friend’s raw flesh as casually as one would eat a little afternoon snack! Sidenote: what’s with all the bad wigs this season?! Natalie’s emulation of Davy Crockett’s style barely disguises hers, and yes, people will rejoice about her roots showing in those 1998 snaps, but I’d rather her hair look like actual hair. Jackie has more of an excuse since she’s, uh, dead but still, having rewatched season one a few weeks ago, it’s still jarring. In any case, doubtful coping mechanisms aside, I’m not sure Jackie’s corpse being so close to the meat would pass any kind of health inspection, so the question is: why are they keeping her there? Is Shauna so far gone that she won’t allow them to bury her? Or, more practically, is the ground too hard to consider that? Surely they could build a funeral pyre like they almost did for poor Van? Still, that and, well, the ear episode, do seem to confirm that Jackie being in the meat hut is the gateway towards what will inevitably follow: friends eating (ex)friends.

Teen Taissa is concerned about Shauna (who wouldn’t be) but has her own sleep-walking to handle. Having Van be tied to her at night does seem to help though, as does their (truly) sweet relationship. It’s not everyday a girl gets her first ‘I love you’ written in blood on her hand! I’m sure this is setting up Adult Taissa calling Adult Van in future episodes because her little dirt digging problem came back, but there are worse reasons to « you up? » an ex. Also, the more we get to see Lauren Ambrose, the better. Unfortunately, Adult Taissa doesn’t know the extent of her troubles since unlike Simone, she initially has no idea she used Biscuit as a sacrifice to win the election. Which makes her adopting another cute, tiny, dog all the more worrying. I don’t even like dogs but pleaseeeeeee don’t hurt Steve, Taissa, pretty please! Simone isn’t having any of it when Taissa comes to pick up Sammy from school, and they seem headed straight to Divorce Town. All the more reason to call Van, right?
Speaking of friends, old and new, Teen Misty might actually have made one. I’m not particularly enthused about this storyline though because while I understand we couldn’t get to know all the Yellowjackets in season 1, Crystal truly seems to have sprung out of nowhere. Wouldn’t we have heard her sing during all those months? Wouldn’t someone have mentioned how annoying she is? I’m willing to suspend disbelief but this just feels very contrived. With Coach seemingly out of Misty’s poisonous little hands, I guess she needed a new obsession.

It was a good episode, and I suppose my (relative) disappointment comes from the fact that it felt like it could have been a middle-season ep from season 1, and it probably wouldn’t have been one of the better ones. It felt like an update, but it didn’t feel like the premiere of the new season of a show that enthralled millions of people barely a year ago, or like my new favorite show, which it had become at that point. Still, hope springs eternal and I’m excited to see what this season brings up, hopefully without spinning its wheels too much. What did you guys think, were you satisfied by the premiere? As usual, sound off in the comments!

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