‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 Premiere Recap: Best Friends Forever
Season 2, Episode 1: “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”
In a 1994 interview with The Baltimore Sun about her album Under the Pink, Tori Amos explained, “A part of this record is about the betrayal of women by women.” She continued, “The woman’s story was very lonely, and if you think we should support and understand each other, that makes sense to me.”
“But the concept of a sorority,” she continued, “isn’t 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 modern-day counterparts. (Amos’ song “Cornflake Girl,” which appears in “Under the Pink,” plays the final moments of the episode.) And boy, is that quote true for the show? In its sensational first season, Yellowjackets shattered notions that young women in a Lord of the Flies-esque situation were friendlier or less screwed up than their male counterparts. Based on the premiere, season 2 attempts to double that.
The Amos track is an appropriate choice to frame some of the show’s predominant themes and to demarcate between the boring and downtrodden “cornflake girls” and the more exciting “raisin girls” who are freethinkers. (Amos describes herself as a “raisin girl.”) We hear Amos’ snappy piano and incredible range while Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) listens in on Jackie (Ella Purnell), her best friend who froze to death in the Season 1 finale eats after being banished from the warmth of the other girls’ cabin in a fight.
We can say that Shauna (Melanie Lynskey when she grows up) is not a “cornflake girl”. Not in the past timeline, where she found solace in talking to Jackie’s frozen body while carrying Jackie’s boyfriend’s baby. And not in the present, when she’s still trying to cover up the murder of the artist she was having an affair with. Her husband, Jeff (Warren Kole), as you will recall, is Jackie’s aforementioned former boyfriend. (Messy!) Shauna’s idea of marital rehabilitation? Having sex with Jeff in the dead artist’s studio while they stare at portraits said artist made of Shauna. Raisin girl, definitely.
And she’s not the only one. Team Yellowjackets is full of raisin girls, who we’ll be introduced to again throughout this premiere. A lot of threads got stuck at the end of the season one finale, and the premiere spends most of its time catching up with its audience.
Two months have passed in the ’90s timeline, and everything has remained mostly static. Jackie is still dead, her body left in the meat shed for Shauna to visit. Jackie is now a manifestation of Shauna’s guilt and the two frequently “talk” — chilling quotes are necessary — a fact that justifiably drives their teammates insane. Travis (Kevin Alves) continues to search 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 to keep Taissa’s sleepwalking and sleepbiting under control. Misty (Samantha Hanratty) remains an outcast for unintentionally drugging everyone. And then there’s Lottie (Courtney Eaton), who has made herself the group’s healer, offering blessings to those who hunt and curing panic attacks.
The riddle “Who the [expletive] is Lottie Matthews?”, as Natalie’s former sponsor articulated last season, was the most enticing the show’s showrunners — Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson, and Jonathan Lisco — dangled, and now they’re only giving us half an answer. Lottie refused to speak after her rescue in 1998 and was placed in a mental institution, where she was treated with electric shocks. Emerging from this trauma with a mission to help others, she now leads a commune where her followers wear purple and participate in rituals that use animal masks and bury her members alive. Her group kidnaps Natalie (Juliette Lewis), but they seem more handyman than evil, at least at this point.
Simone Kessell makes an impressive debut as the older Lottie, the newest member of today’s roster, turning the kind of shamanic qualities Eaton bestows on the younger version into something steelier, maybe a little more calculated. The past lottie may be magical; the current Lottie seems to have lost or suppressed that because she is based on capitalism rather than mysticism.
It remains to be seen how she will fit into the dynamic of the Yellowjackets survivors, all of whom are on their miniplots in modern times. Elected state senator, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is trying to make things right with her son, even getting a new dog to replace the one she slaughtered while in a hypnotic state. (Pray for Steve, an adorable little Yorkie who doesn’t deserve what might come his way.) Meanwhile, Misty (Christina Ricci) feels neglected again. Shauna doesn’t really want her legal advice – written on a biscuit cake – and Natalie is gone.
Which brings me back to Tori Amos. By the end of season one, there was some unity among the adult characters as they came together to deal with Shauna’s not-so-minor accidental murder. Now they have all been thrown to the wind, confronting their own problems and refusing the help of their so-called sisters.
Yellowjackets likes to remind us that their female solidarity is transactional – it’s more about survival than support. I think about the last picture of Shauna putting Jackie’s ear in her mouth. She’s certainly hungry, but she also seems to want to take in her friend to keep her in her soul for as long as possible. Eating Jackie’s ear is a source of sustenance, but it’s also Shauna’s penance and comfort. She needs Jackie with her, even if it means consuming a thawed rag.
More to chew
Outside of 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 strongly invokes teenage longing. Also, Jeff has an incredible auto geek on Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” that is sure to have the internet going wild. What a perfect portrayal of mind-boggling Gen-X angst.
I was wondering if Purnell would be back in any capacity despite Jackie’s early freezing. Sure enough, there she is as Jackie’s Ghost — or Shauna’s inner monologue as Jackie’s Ghost. Happy to see her still in the mix hitting that queen bee tenor.
Do you think Javi is still alive? Honestly I think maybe. Maybe I’m just one of Lottie’s little servants.
I’m intrigued by the addition of new girls to the 1996 timeline, particularly Nuha Jes Izman as Crystal, a musical theater lover who cares for the exiled Misty. Izman sings “The Glory of Love” in a way that makes it absolutely clear that Crystal has seen “Beaches” a million times.
It’s really exciting to hear the voice of Elijah Wood as one of Misty’s fellow online “citizen detectives”.