The first teen cannibal takes a bite in the twisted premiere of Yellowjackets season 2
Showtime’s buzzworthy survival thriller Yellowjackets has returned with its highly anticipated second season – and the premiere officially puts cannibalism on the menu.
This recap contains spoilers for the first episode of Yellowjackets season 2.
It was the winter of 2021 when a new Showtime drama about a stranded soccer team of teenage girls crash-landed into the world. Given the endless churn (and cancellation) of TV shows, the odds of a Lord of the Flies meets Lost mystery-box series keeping its head above water were decidedly slim. After all, did anyone really want yet another brutal survival thriller at a time when reality was already so bleak?
But woe betide anyone who underestimated the power of Yellowjackets. Alternating between 1996 and the present day as it unravelled the terrible things the teenage champs did to survive in the Canadian wilderness, and the terrible things their adult selves did to keep secrets 25 years later, the show became a word-of-mouth phenomenon, startling everyone with its propulsive narrative, seamless performances and spectacular then-and-now characterisation (take a bow, casting directors). Sure enough, the Emmy nominations came calling, alongside multi-season renewals and an ardent fandom that sent Reddit into overdrive. Trauma, it turned out, was one hell of a drug.
Now, the wait is over, and quite honestly, I’ve rarely looked forward to a second helping of a TV show as much as this, which is saying something considering I rarely ever make it through the first season of anything. How I’ve missed Juliette Lewis snarling WHAT THE FUCK at every opportunity, Christina Ricci adjusting her specs, and Melanie Lynskey drily telling a former high school student that she’ll “gut him like a pig” before taking a tequila shot, which remains one of my favourite lines of 2022. And after showrunner Jonathan Lisco casually teased that cannibalism is merely the “tip of the iceberg” in the second run, it’s time to head back to the wilderness to find out who eats whom, who survived what, and what exactly went on out in the woods 25 years ago. Let’s tuck in to the season premiere, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen.”
We kick things off with our resident Antler Queen, Lottie (Courtney Eaton), who we last saw in the season one finale offering up a bear’s heart to the wilderness and declaring, “Let the darkness set us free.” In the opening scene, she’s returned to civilisation in the aftermath of the girls’ rescue in 1998 and is scaring the hell out of her parents by refusing to eat, drink or utter a single damn word. If you had any concerns whatsoever about how the show would maintain momentum in season two, fear not: within the first couple of minutes, Lottie’s been subjected to a brutal course of electroconvulsive therapy, before we time travel to the present day, where we find newcomer Simone Kessell as adult Lottie, who’s reinvented herself as a new-age cult leader. Standing before a picture-perfect lakeside compound, she preaches to a crowd of purple-clad lost souls that they’re a) responsible for their own suffering, and b) need to unleash their ‘primal elemental self’. Now, where have we heard that before?
Yellowjackets, as any viewer will know, is all about foreshadowing; and Lottie’s personal evolution has been perfectly plotted as we drift back to the wilderness to discover more about her rise as the team’s mystic Queen Bee. Back in the wilderness, it’s two months since Jackie died and full-blown winter has arrived at the creepy cabin. As Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis (Kevin Alves) prepare to head out on an early morning hunt, jackets stuffed with old porn magazines for extra warmth, Lottie performs a ritual with her own blood. An incredulous Natalie is predictably frustrated with the “wicca bullshit”, but Travis, still clinging on to hope that Javi (Luciano Leroux) is alive, is fully signed up to whatever the hell Lottie is selling – and it’s looking likely that the trio will only become further entwined in weeks to come.
Meanwhile, Shauna, our chief slicer and dicer, has taken to hanging out in the meat shed. Not only is she cutting down the last rations of grizzly bear, but our mum-to-be is also having confessionals with her best friend’s frozen body. In one hallucinatory sequence, a game of M*A*S*H goes awry when Jackie accuses Shauna of making the first move on Jeff, prompting a maddened Shauna to shove the corpse. Not only does our dearly departed’s ear then break off, but Shauna stashes it in her pocket for safe keeping; a grisly talisman that she clings to for the entire episode’s run.
Although the rest of the team are, quite rightly, freaked out by Shauna’s behaviour, there are two people having a jolly gay time of things: Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson), who are young, in love, and tied at the wrists at night in a bid to stop Taissa’s sleepwalking. One night while she’s asleep, Tai violently bites Van’s lip and draws blood. Luckily for her, when she wakes up, her girlfriend proclaims that she isn’t scared of her, and even writes “I [heart] u” in blood on her forearm. Young love, eh?
Back in the present day, there’s business to attend to. We find grown-up Misty (Christina Ricci) helping Shauna cover up the murder of her ex-lover Adam (Peter Gadiot), who, lest we forget, found himself on the end on the wrong end of a sharpened knife after she incorrectly assumed that he was blackmailing the surviving Yellowjackets. The pair practise a police interview, and beady-eyed Misty, armed with a voice changer, really wants to delve deep into the relationship. Was the sex mindblowing? Did Adam fail to “get it up”? Nat and Taissa are also supposed to be there too for the frolics; only unbeknownst to Misty and Shauna, Nat has been tossed into a van by purple-suited hench people, and Taissa is… well, who knows. Eating dirt? Crouched up a tree? Tending to her sacrificial dog altar?
Taissa’s problems aren’t ostensibly as grave as being kidnapped, but she’s still definitely faring worse than her chirpy teen self. Now single and living without her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) or son Sammy, she’s endeavouring to get things back on track since beheading Biscuit by paying a trip to the local dog shelter, and adopting what can only be described as a ‘yappy’ dog called Steve. But after Taissa rocks up to the school gates to introduce Sammy to the new pup, Simone emerges channelling her inner Hades, and delivers an ultimatum: step down from office and seek help, or she’ll never see their child again. It’s all very upsetting, as is Tai’s discovery of the bloody basement altar later on, where she promises Steve that killing Biscuit was simply a mistake and that she’s “going to do better”. Famous last words!
Family time isn’t going great with Shauna’s crew either. Sarah Desjardins is on deliciously spiky form as Callie, who knows her Mum is covering up Adam’s disappearance but hasn’t yet copped on to the full extend of her shadow side. “You could start by not pretending like everything’s normal!” she yells at her mother across the kitchen cabinets, but Shauna has bigger problems to worry about. While looking through Adam’s possessions in her safe – i.e, stone-cold incriminating evidence – she has a horrifying realisation: not that she’s committed a murder, but rather that Adam has an art studio somewhere, as evidenced by splattered paint on one of the keys. Instead of calling the Yellowjackets, though – who are, let’s be honest, the only ones capable of covering up a murder – she ropes Jeff into the mix once more. At the studio, they discover the entire place is filled with paintings of Shauna in suggestive poses; and for what it’s worth, they’re gorgeous. Shauna isn’t moved by her ex-lover’s devotion, though, and instead decides to tell Jeff that the idea of her husband being unfaithful always turned her on. Before we know it, they’re going at it in front of the paintings, which they then proceed to deface with turpentine. And back at home, they burn Adam’s driver’s licence on the barbecue, and grill Frankfurters for dinner.
While Shauna is committing crimes, Misty is playing citizen detective, unable to accept that her bestie would just abandon her. Heading to Natalie’s dingy motel, she sweetly threatens the manager, who tells her that Natalie took off in the middle of the night. Unsatisfied, Misty breaks into Natalie’s hotel room and spots splinters on the floor when the door was forced open, leading her back on the trail.
For Natalie, waking up chained to a bed in a room with bars on the room is far from an ideal scenario, as is discovering that you’re in a cult compound where everyone’s wearing pendants with the ominous symbol from the woods. Despite being literally bedbound, Natalie does a great job at psyching out her youthful captor, and manages to escape by seizing the opportunity to stab her with a dirty fork. After being chased through the forest by more of the purple people, she comes to a clearing where she finds a frightening scene reminiscent, possibly, of what went down in the wilderness: people wearing animal masks, beating drums, and preparing to bury a naked man in a ditch. That’s when Lottie appears in sweeping white robes, prompting Natalie to emerge from her hiding spot and prepare to beat the living daylights out of her with a heavy piece of wood. But Lottie isn’t perturbed by Natalie’s sudden appearance. “I have a message for you,” she says breathily. “From Travis.”
It’s the final montage of the premiere, though, that really delivers the WTF energy we all know Yellowjackets is capable of. While Natalie and Travis appear to find evidence that Javi might still be alive, and Callie, in the present day, discovers the charred remains of Adam’s driver’s licence, teen Shauna takes Jackie’s ear out of her pocket and scoffs it like a pringle. Sound the klaxon, we’ve officially got our first taste of human flesh.
Are we any closer to solving the show’s central mysteries come the end of the episode? No. But the addition of post-rescue flashbacks is a brilliant addition, the present-day timelines are gaining traction, and even if we now have more questions than answers about what creepy sh*t went down in the wilderness, Yellowjackets is at last shaping up to be the cannibalism drama we all hoped it would become.
Yellowjackets season 2 episode 1 is available to stream now on Showtime and Paramount+.