The ladies of the wilderness are back. And by “ladies,” I mean the cannibalistic soccer team (and yes – after the end of this episode, we can confirm cannibalism) stuck in an isolated region of Ontario. Back in Yellowjackets Season 1, after Jackie (Ella Purnell) found out that her best friend, Shauna Shipman (Sophie Nélisse), slept with her boyfriend, Steve, Jackie made one of the worst decisions of her life – and wound up frozen beneath inches of snow because of it. Her fury was not enough to keep her warm throughout the night.
Fast forward to Yellowjackets Season 2, and the women of the show are back to cults, mystical dreams, domestic drama the likes of which we haven’t seen since ABC’s hit series Desperate Housewives. There’s also the absolute force that is adult Misty Quigley (Christina Ricci). And not to disparage younger Misty or Sammi Hanratty’s portrayal of the character, but Ricci cloaks adult Misty in an edge and nuance and mania that is far more compelling than her younger counterpart. We know who’s paying this series’ bills. Not only is Ricci’s performance in Yellowjackets Season 2 just as riveting as the first, it’s also deepened by the contours of Misty’s identity within the group of women. There’s a bleak desperation to her yearning for human connection in female friendship. Ricci plays this part up in Season 2 with a careful balance that never dips toward caricature.
That said, the start of the the second season is a little tepid when held up to what we’ve been promised since Yellowjackets‘ pilot. Adult Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is back on the set of Desperate Housewives. She has enlisted the help of her husband, Jeff (Warren Kole), to bury the evidence of the murder of her lover, Adam (Peter Gadiot), his name as dull as the man’s entire identity. Not only was Adam not the extortionist from last season, his death now embeds Shauna in a nonsensical murder investigation arc where we both know who the murderer is and hope she gets away with it. Shauna has done her time in Ontario’s wilderness. I’m hoping Lynskey gets material better than the subplot of a housewife having affairs in her dead lover’s art loft.
Far on the other end of the vast spectrum that is Yellowjackets, we have the mystic-yet-fear-inducing dreams of a young Taissa Turner (Jasmin Savoy Brown), which dreams have followed her into adulthood. Fresh off winning her election for state senator, adult Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is still haunted by the past. Yes, metaphor. That’s what her nightmares are all about. Tawny Cypress’ presence, though, does match that of her younger counterparts. Both Brown and Cypress seem in perfect sync with each other’s portrayal of Taissa.
While I remain invested in Taissa’s journey, it seems like Yellowjackets Season 2 is trying to tackle too much for its comparatively limited runtime. We only get nine episodes per season, followed by a year-long hiatus. That’s just not enough time to fully delve into Taissa’s emotional conflict, let alone that of an entire soccer team. Plus, as if the cults and murder cases weren’t enough, Yellowjackets has decided to acknowledge the existence of the other survivors of the crash. I’m not entirely opposed to meeting the rest of the team, but doing so means compressing an already-cramped timeframe by introducing even more characters to an already-crowded ensemble.
That said, cult leader adult Lottie (Simone Kessell) is a welcome addition to the new season. Young Lottie (Courtney Eaton) was already a scene-stealer for me; there’s nothing like visions of the future and the threat of evil spirits lurking behind those dark eyes to make a character shine. Adult Lottie only enhances those attributes and cloaks them in the false sense of security and charisma all potential cult leaders crave. It’s an MLM (Multi-Level Marketing), pyramid scheme kind of deceptive charm. After kidnapping and tying her to a bed inside Lottie’s compound, I’m looking forward to the present-day dynamic between Lottie and Natalie (Juliette Lewis).
Overall, I’m concerned. Not because of the cults, the cannibalism (I’m pretty intrigued by that), Shauna’s murder rap, or Taissa’s blackouts. No – I’m more worried about how all of these things happening simultaneously across just nine episodes might throw the series completely off-kilter. And in an unpleasant way, and not in a sexy and fun way. The bottom line? It seems that Yellowjackets has taken a significant bite. I’m afraid they won’t be able to digest it. Hopefully, I’m proven wrong. But, even if it I’m not, I’ll still be seated at the edge of my seat, waiting for the next Jackie body part to become a tasty dinner dish.