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It’s been over a year since we were last stranded in the Canadian wilderness with the teenagers of Showtime’s surprise hit Yellowjackets. In case you forgot, the series centered on the Yellowjackets high school girl’s soccer team that crash-landed in a forest and were forced to lean on their instincts to survive—including learning to forage and hunt and, as it’s suggested, ultimately turning to cannibalism. The series cuts between the girls’ experiences before the crash, where high school hierarchies reigned supreme; directly after the crash, as unlikely heroes rose to the top of the makeshift society; and 25 years in the future where those who made it back to civilization closely guarded the secrets of what exactly happened in the forest, even as they’re being extorted for the truth.
When Yellowjackets premiered, it was easy to compare the series to ABC’s seminal mystery box show Lost, right down to the idea of a location—like the wilderness or the island—somehow being its own conscious entity that is awakened by new inhabitants. Both are stories of survival and connection, and both have lore that unraveled slowly. Season 1 of Yellowjackets laid the groundwork but didn’t provide many answers, upping the ante of the girls’ trauma and the mysteries about what transpired before their rescue by hinting at supernatural forces and the eventual turn to flesh eating. But season 2, which returned on Sunday night, is deliciously committed to turning over all of the stones—or at least, starting to examine them with a closer eye.
The premiere immediately takes us back to the creepy cabin in the woods where the girls, their late coach’s son Travis (Kevin Alves), and handicapped assistant coach Ben (Steven Krueger) have set up house. Teen Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis resume their roles as the resident hunters after perfecting their shooting aim in season 1, but before setting out into the snowy abyss, Teen Lottie (Courtney Eaton) performs a ritual involving her blood. Mixing a drop from her finger prick, she hands the cup to a protesting Natalie. “You keep coming back alive, don’t you?” Teen Lottie persuades. The duo don’t have a rebuttal, so they take a sip and head out. Watching them leave, Lottie draws the mysterious symbol we’ve seen pop up in the present-day (that some have theorized depicts a hanged person) in the fog of the window.
Flashing forward to the media frenzy directly after they’re rescued, Lottie is unable to readjust to life in the real world. Her parents lament that she doesn’t speak, doesn’t engage, and ultimately ship her off to a mental hospital. She’s lobotomized and then seemingly spiritually awoken when her roommate suffers a breakdown, finally able to use her “gifts” to help someone in the real world. In the very next scene, we get our first glimpse at an Adult Lottie (Simone Kessell), preaching to a crowd about self-help and fashioned like a new-age cult leader.
We don’t get much insight into how exactly Lottie has built this empire or how she has stayed under the radar from her former teammates while also being a public figure, but we do know that her followers are beholden enough to her to kidnap Adult Natalie (Juliette Lewis) and chain her to a bed on the compound. But her disappearance doesn’t go unnoticed: Misty (Christina Ricci) is on the hunt for Natalie, tracing her last known location to the seedy motel she was hiding out in during the first season. After a little negotiation with the motel’s front desk receptionist (in the best scene of the first episode), he tips her off that Natalie left in the middle of the night, no questions asked. But Misty knows there’s more than meets the eye and investigates Natalie’s room, where she sees evidence of a forced entry and clocks an old surveillance camera outside the door.
In another dimly lit room, a handcuffed Adult Natalie is smart enough to convince one of Lottie’s loyal followers, who is on food duty, to unchain one of her hands and later attacks her and escapes to confront Adult Lottie. The cult members surround Natalie with animal masks that call back to the rituals that occurred in the forest before Lottie calls them off, referring to Natalie as “a friend.” Lottie digs her dagger deeper into Natalie by telling her she has a message from the now-deceased Travis.
In flashbacks, Natalie is disturbed by Travis’s undying belief that his little brother Javi (Luciano Leroux) is still alive despite disappearing mid-season 1—and she’s even more perturbed by Lottie’s insistence that she also feels Javi’s presence still with them. The triangle between these three will be one to watch, especially as Natalie and Travis’s present-day relationship had deteriorated prior to his death and it’s quite possible that Javi will return, even after all of the fan theories positing that he is really Adam, Shauna’s artist boyfriend, were debunked. Lottie feels like the key to many of the central mysteries, and her every move will need to be watched like a hawk.
Adult Taissa (Tawny Cypress) continues her freefall as the newly elected state Senator who is battling sleepwalking and murderous demons. At the end of season 1, her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) found her secret ritual chamber in their basement that housed their dog’s severed head, their son Sammy’s missing doll, and a heart from an unknown beast. Unsurprisingly, Simone officially deemed Taissa a threat to herself, Sammy, and the public at large, telling her she found the “thing” in the basement and pleading that Taissa step down from office and seek help. It’s too bad, because Taissa bought an adorable replacement puppy that she’ll somehow have to keep alive all on her own. By the episode’s end, Taissa lucidly discovers the secret room and, horrified by herself, tells the new dog that she’ll “be better”—and for his sake, we hope so.
In the wilderness, Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson) grow closer together and even confess their love for one another. There’s no word yet from Adult Van in the 2021 timeline, though we know that Lauren Ambrose officially joined the cast to portray her. The official season 2 trailer showed a tender reunion with her and Taissa, who no doubt needs to find solace in the arms of her first love.
Elsewhere in the episode, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) and her husband Jeff (Warren Kole) are dealing with the aftermath of artist Adam’s (Peter Gadiot) murder by Shauna’s own hands (and knife). When she finds a sketch of herself in his wallet, it dawns on her that his art studio may directly lead police to her doorstep. When the couple make their way over, they find that she is, indeed, correct: Adam had a slight obsession with his hook-up buddy, and her face and body cover the walls of the room. Jeff feels a bit uneasy at the discovery and Shauna, sensing that, turns the moment into a sexual fantasy and the two bang one out right there on Adam’s counter.
Later, they have a casual autumn backyard barbecue dinner to dispose of the final pieces of evidence, including Adam’s wallet and ID. But they don’t seem to realize that the primary detective suspecting them of foul play is living under their own roof; their daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins) sniffs around the barbecue and uncovers an unburnt portion of Adam’s ID—conveniently, his picture.
Shauna’s storylines are lined with guilt—not only in the present but also in the past, where she feels personally responsible for the death of her bestie Jackie (Ella Purnell) who froze to death during one of their tiffs at the end of season 1. Young Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) props up her cold body and tells her all of the things she wished she had said to her while she was alive, including how she and Jackie’s then-boyfriend and Shauna’s now-husband Jeff first hooked up. Then, her body slides off of the wall and rigor mortis rears its ugly head, and Jackie’s ear falls off, traumatizing Shauna. She pockets the severed ear and holds onto it for the episode’s entire run, unsure what to do with this unexpected talisman of her best friend. After much deliberation, the episode ends with Shauna making good on the Yellowjackets thesis by eating Jackie’s ear. We’re back!