“Yellowjackets” goes full on Norman Bates in its primal, elemental return

I graduated high school in 1995, just a year prior to when the girls of the Wiskayok High School Yellowjackets soccer team would have likewise been preparing to celebrate their own diplomas and blow off steam before heading into “the real world.” That fact would be nothing more than a minor similarity to draw between myself and the characters we reunite with in this second season premiere — were it just a show about normal teens doing normal things — but because it’s one that challenges me to consider the primal, elemental version of myself that I’ve equally kept in check between then and now, it’s impossible to forget. I’ve certainly never eaten the ear of my dead best friend but, presented with the opportunity as a teen in the 90s, I would have considered it. And I don’t think starvation would have factored in much either way. 

Teenage girls are wild, and I guess you’d have had to have been one in order to truly understand the degree to which that’s true. 

Last week, I was talking about everything that went down last season with an acquaintance and we exchanged theories over what we expect to see over the upcoming episodes which, according to co-creator Ashley Lyle, will be “9 main eps,” leaving an opening for a bonus 10th? TBD. This acquaintance was a guy, which I only reference here because he seemed so shocked when I gave an example of how wild teenage girls left on their own can be by saying my friends and I, after a Boone’s Farm or two, would immediately dive into spooky mode, breaking out Ouija Boards if they were on hand, or cramming into the bathroom of our parent’s homes to play Bloody Mary. I summarized my theories for Season 2 as being more shocking than that which, if that alone was shocking, will be more than he could ever imagine. Teenage girls are wild, and I guess you’d have had to have been one in order to truly understand the degree to which that’s true. If you weren’t — and want an idea — this season, in the first episode alone, paints a not too unrealistic portrayal. My first girlfriend as a freshman in high school was a redhead just like Van Palmer (Liv Hewson). We had our first kiss in an abandoned building and got so frothed up about it that we cut the backs of each other’s hands and drank the blood. She still has a scar. Mine healed. I’m kind of jealous.

We were goths, and while this level of carried away isn’t anything I’m proud of, I’m not embarrassed of it either. I’m proud that I could go wild. But lucky that I went wild and came back. Some don’t.

“Yellowjackets” is, at face value, a show about a group of young athletes struggling to stay alive after a plane crash finds them stranded in remote Canadian wilderness, but I see it more as a dark depiction of what it’s like to be a teenage girl on the brink of a lifetime of possibilities, where any choice, on any given day, can lead you closer to or further away from your “true self,” while also pushing you to question if that self is who you really want to be in, you know, polite society.

Resuming its previously established pattern of jumping back and forth between the ’90s timeline and roughly present day, Season 2 picks up in 2021 with adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) getting her story straight just days after stabbing and dismembering her boyfriend Adam (Peter Gadiot) and with teen Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) having spent two months mourning the death of her best friend Jackie (Ella Purnell) in close proximity that is a little less than healthy. 

Quickly killing a theory I had that we would not get Jackie flashbacks this season, based on the fact that Purnell had not been sharing any Season 2 promo to her socials ramping up to the premiere, we see the frozen corpse/apparition that Mari (Alexa Barajas) refers to as “Dead Ass Jackie” propped up in their makeshift meat shed, having heart to hearts from beyond the grave with the friend who slept with her boyfriend and ultimately led to her death. 

Animated in Shauna’s mind during pleasant conversation, and turning back into a corpse again when things get heated, Jackie grills Shauna on how things started between her and Jeff. Reluctant to talk about it at first, she admits that they broke off together on a post-party walk one night and that she kissed him. In a tiff over this, Jackie goes stiff and her ear falls off. Shauna picks it up, puts it in her pocket, and in a pivotal scene at the end of the episode, pops it

“This is not really/This, this, this is not really happening/You bet your life it is.”

in her mouth to the tune of Tori Amos’ 1994 hit, “Cornflake Girl.” As this moment ends the episode, we’re left to question if we’ll see her spit the ear back out in Episode 2, or if she chews it up, beginning the foreshadowed descent into cannibalism this show has been teasing. As the lyrics go, in perfect thematic harmony with what we’re shown, “This is not really/This, this, this is not really happening/You bet your life it is.”

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

In present day, this moment — along with everything else we’ll see her experience during the 19-months trapped in the wilderness as pieced out during the run of this series — haunts Shauna in every aspect of her life. Mother to her teenage daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins) and wife to her husband Jeff (Warren Kole) — the very Jeff she stole from Jackie — she practices looming interrogation strategy in Misty’s (Christina Ricci) basement, knowing that it won’t be long before Adam’s death gets traced back to her.

Using a voice modulator, Misty takes on the role of a cop grilling her about the “missing” Hoboken artist, diverting into jokes on his sexual prowess. When Shauna breaks from the scenario, she’s admonished for being “a disaster,” and reminded that the only thing she should ever say to the police is “I want my lawyer.”

“That’s why I put it on the cookie,” Misty says, pointing to a huge cookie on the table decorated with those very words in sugary icing.

Having exceeded her tolerance for Quigley time, Shauna heads out to cover her tracks further, but before she can get out the door, Misty pushes a Hawaiian Five-O Punch kit on her, because of course she prepared concessions for this. Clear of The Caligula Inn, Shauna gets to work gathering and burning Adam’s belongings and removing

After struggling with their sex life in Season 1, Jeff and Shauna seem painfully but, again, hotly ignited by the aftermath of her infidelity and cold-blooded murder.

evidence from his art studio. While in the process, she pauses to have hot sex with her husband, an accomplice, while staring at a portrait her dead lover painted of her. 

After struggling with their sex life in Season 1, Jeff and Shauna seem painfully but, again, hotly ignited by the aftermath of her infidelity and cold-blooded murder.

“The thought of you with someone else always scared me,” Shauna tells her husband, just prior to being bent over Adam’s studio table. “But it also turned me on.”

Going along with this Sadecki family version of foreplay, Jeff responds to her saying this used to make her feel like some kind of pervert by asking how it makes her feel now, and she says she likes the way she is. Problematic, sure. But better than furniture store roleplaying.   

Christina Ricci as Misty (Kimberley French/SHOWTIME)

Even after making herself useful by providing her first aid skills to everyone in the wilderness for 19-months, Misty is still isolated from the group. Charming as I think she is, they have good reason for keeping a safe distance as she’s likely a serial killer, having killed Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress) “fixer,” the fake reporter Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) in Season 1, and being the mastermind (or so it seems) of a lot of the show’s up in the air mysteries. Is she somehow involved in Lottie’s (Simone Kessell) cult? Did she have something to do with Travis’ (Kevin Alves) death? Did she organize Natalie’s kidnapping just so she could be the one to save her? All probable. But here, alone in the basement of her home, we see her pull out her phone to access a call history showing only a number of outgoings to Natalie, one to Tai, and one to a place called Hello Birdie Pets. For all her efforts, she’s still alone, but at least she’s got the hunt for Natalie to keep her busy.

Shackled to a bed within Lottie’s wooded cult/wellness clinic, or whatever this ends up being, Natalie should presently feel in danger, but she doesn’t seem too worried about it. Quickly overcoming cult-helper Lisa, played by new cast member Nicole Maines, she bolts across the property — dodging roaming chickens as she makes her way — in a short pursuit by members of the compound until she comes face to face with the adult Antler Queen herself, who avoids getting bashed in the head with the stick that Natalie is wielding by telling her she has a message from Travis, who died by apparent suicide in Season 1. 

In Natalie’s ’90s timeline, she’s helping Travis come to terms with the fact that Javi (Luciano Leroux) is likely dead. Leroux has been posting a ton of promo to his socials, which would lead one to believe we’ll see his character this season, but it could also be that Leroux/Purnell’s social strategies were intentional to throw us off here. This show has proven to be masterful with their informational forthcomings and withholdings in that way. But as they hunt for sustenance, they keep an eye out for Javi, dead or alive, and are gifted with blessings from Lottie to see them back safely.

Rubbing a pinch of ashes (OMG, whose ashes are these??) into their palms, waving around a stick of sage, and giving them sips of tea containing her own blood, Lottie is high on her own supply. 

“It’s not like this Wicca bulls**t is doing us any good,” Natalie says, one of the only remaining out of the survivors to not have gone full cabin woo-woo or boo-hoo.

“You keep coming back alive, don’t you?” Lottie shoots back.

In flashbacks, including one that flashes into a third timeline in 1998 — post rescue from the wilderness — we learn more about Lottie and the powers she has, or leads people to believe she has. After a scene showing the girls being bombarded by press, boarding another flight that, this time, takes them safely to their final destinations —home — we jump even a bit further. Lottie’s parents tell a doctor that she hasn’t spoken since she’s gotten home and asks them to “fix her.” Shock therapy is administered and, while convulsing from it, she has a vision we’d previously seen in Season 1 of her dressed all in white in a room filled with candles. Flashing further yet, she’s dressed in a purple cardigan, seeming to have been somewhat “fixed.” Comforting the woman who’s sharing her room by telling her “they” can make her better, the same way they helped her, her bounce-back feels like an origin story within an origin story.

The members of Lottie’s cult, as we meet them in the present day timeline as Natalie’s trying to escape, all wear purple, the same as young Lottie wears in the scene I just described. Is the cult she ends up leading affiliated with the same facility that healed her post rescue? Seems like it.

Courtney Eaton as Teen Lottie and Kevin Alves as Teen Travis (Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME)

One of the Yellowjackets survivors badly in need of healing who is no where near receiving it in the present timeline is Taissa. Newly elected as New Jersey Senator, she’s completely detached from the darkness within her, and unaware of how it manifests when she goes into these sleepwalking fugue states like the one she was in when she decapitated her family dog, Biscuit, in Season 1. 

Checked out and pre-occupied on her phone, she picks a random dog named Steve (poor Steve) from a shelter and drives it over to her kid’s elementary school as a surprise. Seeing him walk from the school, she maniacally holds it up in the air, and then drives back home with it, rejected, when her terrified wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) runs up to pull Sammy away from the car.

Later, Steve will get a glimpse of his fate (or likely fate) when he runs up on Tai crying in front of Biscuit’s head, still squishy on the at-home altar she seems to have had no knowledge of making.

“This was a mistake,” she says to Steve, as he’s held over her shoulder, staring at RIP Biscuit. “I’m gonna do better with you.”

Click here for what Shauna would have to say to that.


  • “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your . . . ears.” Took me awhile to get that one.
  • The director of this episode is Daisy von Scherler Mayer, whose directing debut was the 1995 film “Party Girl” starring Parker Posey. The scene where Natalie kicks at the chickens as she’s trying to escape Lottie’s compound is very reminiscent of this hilarious ’90s classic which, if you haven’t seen it, is a must watch.
  • In the flash to 1998 when the girls are headed home, an agent is heard saying “The investigation into the cause of the accident remains preliminary. The crash site was over 600 miles north of their designated flight pattern.” I felt like this was important to write down.
  • The intro for Season 2 is similar to the first season, with key re-vampings. One bit I took notice of is a flash of a piece of paper over a deck of cards that reads “I am grateful for my friends.” Shudder.
  • “We are the ones making ourselves sick,” adult Lottie tells her followers at the compound. “The rest of it doesn’t matter because it isn’t real.” Let’s put a pin in this.
  • After Shauna flees her house, Misty avoids phoning Natalie again by logging into her Citizen Detective message board. Here we get, not a glimpse, but a sound bite from Walter (Elijah Wood) as his voice is heard in Misty’s mind while she reads a post from him pertaining to Adam. Walter’s screen name in the message board is PuttingTheSickInForensics. Love that.

Read more

about this topic


Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar