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Review: ‘Yellowjackets’ Returns with a Chilling, Horror-Tinged Second Season

Review: ‘Yellowjackets’ Returns with a Chilling, Horror-Tinged Second Season

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In 2021, Showtime debuted what would become their second-most streamed series, which also nabbed multiple Emmy nominations. Now two years later, creators and executive producers Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (Narcos) and co-showrunner Jonathan Lisco (Halt and Catch Fire) deliver another season of the hit mystery thriller, and it does not disappoint. Plus, it’s already been renewed for a third season ahead of the Season 2 premiere.

Warning: Spoilers for Season 1.

Season one of Yellowjackets introduced us to the titular high school girls’ soccer team and their present-day adult counterparts. The core characters, Shauna Shipman (Melanie Lynskey/Sophie Nélisse), Taissa Turner (Tawny Cypress/Jasmin Savoy Brown), Misty Quigley (Christina Ricci/Sammi Hanratty), and Natalie “Nat” Scatorccio (Juliette Lewis/Sophie Thatcher), have rather messy adult lives. However, after surviving a plane crash in 1996 and fighting for their lives in the wilderness for nearly two years, some lasting individual and shared trauma are to be expected. 

The last time we saw the teen survivors and Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) in the 1996 timeline, Shauna had just found her best friend Jackie Taylor (Ella Purnell) frozen to death outside the cabin, and Lottie was simultaneously coming into her mysterious witchy wilderness powers. Season 2 begins two months later; Shauna’s belly has grown, Taissa’s disturbing sleepwalking problem persists, and Nat and Teen Travis (​​Kevin Alves) search for his brother Javi (Luciano Leroux). Food and resources are scarce, hangriness is at its peak, and arguments among the group continue. They become divided as more start follow Lottie “Antler Queen” Matthews (Courtney Eaton) while the skeptics roll their eyes. 

At the end of season one’s present-day timeline, adult Taissa just won the senate seat but lost her wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard), who stumbled upon a gruesome altar in their basement and hightailed it out of there with their son Sammy (Aiden Stoxx). After her affair with Adam the artist (Peter Gadiot) and his subsequent murder, Shauna and Jeff (Warren Kole) try to reconnect. Covering up a murder together will do that, but naturally, they still have their marital issues, which lead to several hilarious moments between the couple. 

When we catch up with Nat, who was kidnapped from her motel room, we also meet adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) and her commune of purple-clad followers. She has an ethereal presence and an enviable wardrobe thanks to costume designer Amy Parris (Stranger Things). The cult leader (because yes, it’s a cult) only wears flowing dresses, gorgeous sweaters, and kimonos. It’s a look and it works. 

Bespectacled outcast Misty found her purpose in the wilderness 25 years before and became an invaluable member of the adult Yellowjackets as they commit various crimes (murder, blackmail, etc.). But Taissa, Shauna, and Nat have their own awful things to deal with, so Misty is iced out by her “friends.” She ends up sleuthing around with a fellow citizen detective named Walter (Elijah Wood), who shares her relentless curiosity and concerning amount of criminal knowledge. 

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Joining Kessell and Wood as a Season 2 addition is Lauren Ambrose as the adult version of Vanessa “Van” Palmer (Liv Hewson). We see more of Van and Taissa’s blossoming relationship in the wilderness, how they support one another, and their occasional spat. I won’t share any details of their adult storyline but I’ll just say that Ambrose was an excellent choice for the role. 

Yellowjackets is a series with one mystery after another and Season 1 left many unanswered questions. Where’s Shauna’s baby? What’s going on with Taissa’s tree-climbing, dog-killing sleep disorder? Is Lottie a witch, and did she kill Travis? Well, there aren’t answers for everything in the first few episodes and even when some mysteries are solved, others ones pop up. Of course, the main question on everyone’s mind is what horrible thing(s) happened out there that they’re so ashamed of? It’s heavily implied that the starving survivors resorted to cannibalism. The horrific details stay under wraps throughout the first season but as seen in the wonderfully chaotic trailer, Season 2 dives into their cannibalistic winter. 

One of the most appealing elements of the genre-bending series is its ability to balance horror and humor while adding bits of the supernatural and surrealism. It seems like this season is even more horror-tinged with many bizarre sequences and like the characters, we’re not sure what’s real most of the time. The VHS aesthetic of the main titles extends to some of the episodes as well, maintaining that edgy, experimental feel. 

The killer score in the series heightens the inescapable dread with haunting, breathy vocals that transition to chanting/yelling as the drumming builds. The addictive song “No Return,” written by series composers Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker (Shrill), still plays over the main titles, which include new, witchier, and more manic images. 

Season 2 of Yellowjackets packs a punch with even more darkness, surrealism, and intense female friendships. The series blends multiple genres — psychological thriller, murder mystery, coming-of-age drama, and survival horror. And while the unreliable narratives at the center of the deeply unsettling story may frustrate some viewers, it’s this otherworldly tone that makes Yellowjackets a fascinating stand-out among a sea of endless content. 

Season 2 of Yellowjackets premieres on March 24, 2023, on Showtime on demand and streaming, before making its on-air debut on March 26. 


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