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Yellowjackets: Season Two, Part Two

"This is exactly where we belong. We've been here for years."

(This review covers the Yellowjackets episodes 2.6 through 2.9, and includes spoilers!)

Sometimes it’s frustrating as a viewer when you’re watching something and it seems so clear to you just how easy a show’s problems could be fixed, even if you understand that there’s more to the story making process than meets the eye. I spent a lot of these Yellowjackets episodes feeling this way, despite most of the events making sense thematically and emotionally.

The majority of my frustrations were with the present day storylines in the opening run of episodes this season, and that remained mostly true where the final four episodes are concerned. In order to get all six of the Yellowjackets together in one place, clunky writing choices were made, the biggest of which happens just as Shauna’s struggles with the police are coming to a head. Jeff happens to answer Tai’s call and talks Shauna into joining her ex-teammates (why?), abandoning her family when they appear to need her most; it felt rushed and ill-timed. I’m all for dumping the series’ weakest plot (by a mile) but not at the expense of decent storytelling elsewhere.

We did get some wonderful moments as the girls finally came face to face with one another that made some of what happened prior to this worth the messiness. Lottie is the driving force here, giving each of the ladies a chance to work through some of their issues, some of which are buried deeper than others.

Shauna’s biggest trauma might be what she went through during childbirth in ‘Qui’, a devastating episode that drags you through the emotional turmoil that giving birth in the wilderness under harsh, harsh conditions might have on a young woman. The horrific fakeout scene depicting Shauna’s teammates devouring her baby boy, that comes just after her seemingly calming him down, is made even more jarring by what follows – the shocking realisation that Shauna never gave birth to a healthy baby at all, rather he was stillborn. Naturally this has an impact on all the survivors, but the scars Shauna bears from it are still evident in the present, not just in how she acts during Lottie's weird goat exercise, but in how she treats her daughter Callie.

After the other ladies undergo whatever Lottie's versions of therapy are, things escalate pretty quickly. As her own trauma resurfaces in the form of the Antler Queen, Lottie pushes her fellow survivors to the extreme – a recreation of their old tradition formed in the wilderness – a good old fashioned hunt to the death. This decision comes at the end of ‘It Chooses’, where the flashbacks reveal quite a bit about the rules that will eventually lead to the death of ‘Pit Girl’ we saw in the pilot.

The card scene itself is quite brilliant, performed incredibly well by all the cast, and laden with heaps of tension and drama. The problem is that it sort of comes out of nowhere. We do see a lot of the signs of desperation within the team just before they start – Akilah’s mouse pal was actually dead the whole time, Mari’s hallucinations got pretty surreal, and people had grown quite desperate after the emotional turmoil of the stillbirth and the gruesome beating Lottie forces Shauna into. It feels like all it would have taken was one scene that explains the rules of the game, perhaps a few more “obvious” crumbs throughout the season, for it to feel less rushed. As it stands, we’re taken right into the thick of it, as the girls draw cards, choosing the unlucky victim and huntee by whoever draws the single queen card. Then they’re off chasing and screaming after Nat. The cruel twist of Javi’s death didn’t feel all that surprising – it’s been pretty obvious he wouldn’t make it for a while - but it all felt a bit off, even if it made sense that this is where we were headed.

In the present, the same issues apply – things feel rushed, or missing an extra bit of context. We’re sort of pushed into believing the idea that all of the survivors were okay with faking Lottie’s hunt in order to get her institutionalized. As plans go, it felt rather extreme and not something any of these ladies would ever choose to accept, Lottie herself excluded. Perhaps more is to come on this – I suspect Van was a lot more into this and ready to believe that a sacrifice will help her and her health issues – but currently it’s all a little far fetched.

Then we get to Nat’s death, which comes following a hijinks-ey confrontation in the forest, and a syringe plunged into the neck of the wrong woman. I sort of get everyone’s reasons for acting how they did in these circumstances. We know Misty would do anything to protect Nat; we know Lisa would do anything to protect Lottie; and we had seen just how strong a bond Nat had formed with Lisa in such a short time. The fact that Nat would die in such a blundering moment feels wrong, but this season feels like it was pushing her in a certain direction. Though she felt she lacked purpose when she was taken to Lottie’s compound, she found a reason to keep going in being there for Lisa, be it in small gestures like stealing her fish from her mother’s house, or larger ones like diving in front of Misty’s needle.

It’ll be interesting to see how killing Nat, albeit indirectly, will affect Misty in the present. The feelings of guilt over the death of a friend aren’t new to her, since she’s the reason Crystal plunged to her death in the wilderness, even if she wasn’t the one who pushed her. I’m sure some interesting parallels will be drawn between past and present as she grapples with these feelings. I’m also sure Walter will become a lot more trouble further down the line. The ease with which he tidied up all those loose ends in the finale was scary. He could really be a problem if Misty pushes him the wrong way.

I also feel like Tai needs to tread carefully around Van. As we’re seeing more clearly in the past, she was very much a believer in Lottie’s connection to the wilderness and the rewards that connection brings. Now that we know about her illness, it seems like there’s a very real chance she may try to utilize that “connection” again to cure herself. During Lottie’s game when Shauna was ready for the others to show their cards, Van seemed pretty determined to keep going. She also called off the cavalry who were to come in and take Lottie to get treated. I think she was ready to take things as far as they could go. Will she reap the rewards of Nat’s death next season?

So far, it doesn't seem like the deaths they've given the wilderness in the past have shown any rewards of any kind. Following Javi's "sacrifice", the remaining Yellowjackets are left without a shelter, after Ben seemingly went nuclear and turned on the others and burned the cabin to the ground. It's a shocking twist to be sure, but we've seen all season just how quickly Ben is being ostracised from the group, be it by their hand or his own. Only Nat remained as his only confidante, and when the group made her their new leader, he did what he felt he had to in order to protect himself, whilst keeping his knowledge of Javi's secret hiding place to himself. I don't think things will be ending well for him.


  • I read a lot of discourse about Tai's political duties. She was elected to office and promptly left town following her wife's hospitalisation. I guess the latter might give her an out but it's a little silly it wasn't addressed. At least not this season. And where the heck is Sammy? Or the dog?
  • Misty's dream sequence in 'Burial' was definitely... something.
  • At time of writing, Yellowjackets has been nominated for best drama at the Emmys. Only Melanie Lynskey made the cut in any of acting categories, which is a bit of a shame.
  • Apparently there is a "mystery" bonus episode that is taking the place of the tenth episode this season. I'm not sure when it drops but I'll see you back here whenever that is.

Yellowjackets, despite falling victim to a standard sophomore slump, still remains an engaging and arresting series. I just wish it was a bit of a tighter and more streamlined viewing experience. Hopefully the extra thinking time awarded by the on-going strikes will give the writing time a chance to re-evaluate.

7 out of 10 queen of hearts cards.

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