Yellowjackets is back for the second season of the survival tale, psychological horror, and come-of-age drama that follows members of a high school football team in two different timelines. In 1996 a plane crash left the Yellowjackets stranded in the wilderness for just under two years and did horrendous things to survive the wilderness and the harsh winter. Twenty-five years later, the adult versions deal with their trauma as they are forced to relive their past ordeals and do whatever it takes to hide what they did to survive.
Last season in the wilderness of 1996, ended with Jackie (Ella Purnell) freezing to death after a confrontation with Shauna (the teen version played by Sophie Nelisse and the adult version by Melanie Lynskey), who is pregnant by Jackie’s boyfriend. In the adult timeline, Shauna killed Adam (Peter Gadiot) for thinking he was blackmailing her, and Misty (the adult version played by Christina Ricci and teen Sammi Hanratty) killed Jessica, while Taissa (the adult version played by Tawny Cypress and teen Jasmin Savoy Brown) wins the election just as her wife discovers a shrine with their dog's dismembered head, insinuating she is still in the cult. The mystery deepens when the last words from Jessica are "Who the fuck is Lottie Matthews?"—another survivor from the wilderness who seemingly looks like she started a cult in the wilderness.
The second season does not waste time. In 1996, two months have passed since Jackie’s death, but the ground is frozen solid, so they cannot bury her. Instead, they keep her in the meat shed, where Shauna talks and imagines Jackie is still responding to her. Shauna is seven months pregnant and not doing as well as her imagination Jackie encourages her to eat her corpse, noting that the meat from the bear is running low and that the hunting party has yet to return with anything. The first episode is a little slow and deals more with the aftermath of the previous season's finale, but it is not until the second episode that everything is pushed forward.
The time-jumping narrative and the intertwined mystery between the past and present remain the most stellar parts of the show, with excellent casting for both time periods. Still, 1996 proves to be the strongest part of the story and excels when the Yellowjackets are enticed by the smell of Jackie’s char-grilled body in a harrowing moment that shows the show has finally crossed the line into cannibalism. The quick cut between the Grecian-style banquet and the reality of what the teens are doing escalates the horror, making cannibalism more disturbing. That is highlighted when one of the characters looks upon the scene in horror, retreats slowly, and closes the door on the scene. Every aspect of that moment will change the series going forward as it enters darker territory in the 1996 time period. One of the strengths of the first season was how the timelines intertwined and how the past affected the present and mysteries interlinked. That, however, seems to be a disconnect in the first two episodes, but they are still entertaining.
At the end of last season, adult Natalie (Juliette Lewis) was saved from killing herself by cultists dressed in purple wearing pendants of the wilderness triangle symbol. 1996 Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) tries to hunt and search for Javi (Luciano Leroux) with Travis (Kevin Alves). We see a darker side of Natalie as she fakes finding remnants of Javi’s clothing to stop Travis from holding onto false hope, but adult Natalie is more of the same as from the previous season. It would have been better to have some variety, but the performance is the same in every scene despite differing circumstances. The array that saves it is the addition of adult Lottie (Simone Kessell). There is a disconnect between the teen version of Lottie and Courtney Eaton, but it works and adds to the mystery of who Lottie really is. The series awkwardly tries to maneuver Lottie into the present-day plot straight away instead of building her into the narrative more organically, allowing for buildup and mystery that would have benefited the fantastic performance by Kessell. One thing that carries forward from both versions of Lottie that works great for the narrative is how she comes across as caring, but there is the gnawing feeling there is something more going on and a hidden darkness in her that resurfaces in her adult life.
It is a good but slightly clunky start to the second season, but the second episode opens the door to the darker themes of how the 1996 characters did everything to survive and how it impacts their adult selves.
Final Score- [8/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: March 24 and 31, 2023, on Showtime
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