Despite some undeniable highlights, Yelllowjackets Season 2 came close to losing the thread in its entirety by the last episode. Suffering in part due to the significantly stronger storylines with the teenage versions of the characters and hampered further by present-day stories that divided the leads for too long, the second season of the Showtime series struggled to maintain all of the moving parts. Said struggle was buried for the majority of the season, especially as we watched the wavering mental fortitudes of the teenagers, as they succumbed to some of their most depraved urges. But the last three episodes destabilized the series with frustrating character developments, unearned comradery from the adult surviving team, and a critical death that, even if understandable, is so poorly written and directed it removes all emotional impact.
Yellowjackets Season 2, as was the case in the first season, divides its time between the remaining survivors of the teenage Yellowjackets team in the depths of winter in the wilderness, and the adult counterparts in the present day.
Melanie Lynskey’s Shauna continues to deal with the fallout of murdering Adam in season one, something that is glossed over by everyone other than Christina Ricci’s Misty and her immediate family. Ricci, meanwhile, gets to reunite with Elijah Wood, playing her would-be suitor and fellow citizen detective. Tawny Cypress does the absolute best she can as adult Tai, separated from the main storyline for half the season, a storyline that is subsequently abandoned in the back half.
Lynskey is such a formidable actress, imbuing Shauna with a steely, calculated disposition, one that refuses to waver in the face of threat and instead, thrives in it. Lynskey’s incomparable talent— alongside Cypress, Ricci, and Lauren Ambrose as adult Van — only manages to highlight some of the lesser performances of the season. Juliette Lewis has always made greater sense as adult Natalie in theory, rather than in practice. Despite all of the reasons as to why she’d possess such an apathetic, dry tone, she lacks a level of warmth her younger counterpart possesses. Played by the empathetic Sophie Thatcher, teen Natalie is a heartbreaking character, someone who has tried her best to her own physical and mental detriment, to do what’s best for her team while staving off the uglier sides of survival.
Lewis’s take on the character would make more sense if there was greater commitment behind the performance, which is too muted to elicit any strong emotions. Still, at the very least her casting in season one made a level of sense. Meanwhile, Simone Kessell’s performance as adult Lottie couldn’t seem further from the character we’ve come to know. Resorting to physical exaggerations such as widened eyes and gritted teeth, Kessell’s performance fails to capture any essence of Courtney Eaton’s. It makes sense that these characters would change, having hardened themselves in their youth and then thrust back into a society where they were scrutinized, balancing public, terrible survivor’s guilt while in private knowing that the truth was so much worse. That said, part of the magic of the show is seeing peaks of who these characters were through the present-day interpretations, and Kessell simply doesn’t manage it.
Despite some contrived narrative choices that prove only to rush storylines along rather than allow for any introspection, Yellowjackets Season 2 has its enjoyable, engaging, and horrific moments. From their first, cannibalistic feast, to Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) giving birth and losing her baby which delivered the best performance of the season with Nélisse’s devastating portrayal, to Ben (Steven Krueger) torching their camp, there’s been plenty that captivates.
There will also always be something so endlessly compelling about the series too due to the spotlight it gives a group of women. With a predominantly female cast, the series and its delight in the horrors it displays, Yellowjackets is a phenomenon of a series, a miracle in a sense as half of its focus is on women in their mid to late 40s, something Hollywood doesn’t often want to greenlight. That these characters are capable of such tremendous brutality, with cruel instincts and pervasive needs to survive by any means necessary, while simultaneously being shown to be naive, and protective of one another, is beautiful writing. They’re messy, deeply flawed, and dangerous. The characters themselves, when the writing is at its very best, are reason enough to continue watching.
Beyond that, the direction and soundtrack continue to heighten the mood and atmosphere. By leaning into more surrealistic imagery in season two, Yellowjackets continues to carve itself a place in television in an age where every show is competing to be the talked about series in an oversaturated media landscape.
Yellowjackets Season 2 got off to a strong start and would’ve exceeded expectations had it not been for the clumsily written final few episodes. Regardless, with the first victims of the team’s cannibalistic turn behind us and their means of shelter no longer available, season three has been set up so that the teen characters are facing even more dire circumstances. Here’s hoping the adult versions are given just as great of stakes while remembering that they’re at their very best together, rather than apart.
Yellowjackets Season 2 is available to watch on Showtime.
Yellowjackets Season 2
Yellowjackets Season 2 got off to a strong start and would’ve exceeded expectations had it not been for the clumsily written final few episodes.