The Latest ‘Yellowjackets’ Episode Is a Feast of Outstanding Performances

A present-day reunion and wilderness savagery deliver the season's best episode yet.
A group of teens and one adult in weathered, makeshift winter clothing, sitting and standing around inside a wooden cabin; still from "Yellowjackets"
Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Yellowjackets” Season 2 Episode 7, “Burial.”]

It should have been impossible, but the “Yellowjackets” vibes have gone from bad to worse.

Not the show itself — indeed, Episode 7 might be the best Season 2 episode to date — but the atmosphere in Unspecified Canadian Forest Hell grows bleaker by the day. The survivors are starving, exhausted, trapped in a blizzard with a corpse while another freezes outside, and moving forward has never been more difficult (for some more than others).

“Burial,” directed by Anya Adams and written by Rich Monahan & Liz Phang, picks up in the tragic aftermath of Shauna’s (Sophie Nélisse) fatal delivery, where she is resting but not speaking and refusing to even drink water. The show doesn’t sit in the immediate trauma, even though the characters have probably dwelled on it for hours; Nélisse gives a mostly wordless performance this episode, conveying Shauna’s loss through heavy silence, whispered confessions, agonizing sobs, and that brutal end scene. But at the top of the episode, the snow stops, and everyone around her reactivates survival mode.

Coach Ben (Steven Kreuger) prepares to go back to the happy place in his head, but this time it’s different. He’s in the cabin with minimal alterations — and those happen to crucially be on Paul’s (François Arnaud) side of the scene. There is now little else to distinguish this experience from Ben’s actual reality, but he’s not ready to leave. The dialogue between them is deliberately vague; Paul could easily be talking about a breakup, but there’s obviously more pointed meaning to “You had to have known you couldn’t stay here forever. This was never meant to be your hiding place.” Ben is rejecting his own coping mechanism (“You’re not welcome here anymore”), but he doesn’t known another way to keep going.

As they get back into their routine, a few Yellowjackets have a too-loud, too-convenient conversation about Misty (Samantha Hanratty) while she’s within earshot. They praise her for how she handled the delivery but also call her “psychotic,” suggesting that she hurt or even killed Crystal. They may be cleaning up snow, but Mari’s (Alexa Barajas) top priority is always stirring shit. This launches Misty — and Hanratty — into a truly convoluted tier of acting, in which she pretends to worry about Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman) and then to be so distraught that she can’t search for her. Hanratty is excellent as always, but it’s also fun watching Misty manifest her love of theatre in this most Misty-est of ways.

It might be fate that Misty of all people finds Ben about to jump off a cliff — too close to where and how Crystal died, the guilt and grief still fresh. Kreuger is nothing short of heartbreaking in this scene, quiet tears falling from his eyes between soft, anguished dialogue that plays perfectly off Hanratty’s chaotic energy. She takes Misty from sincere and reasonable to maniacal and malicious (“high-calorie butt meat!”) to total hysteria, shrieking and crying as she begs him not to jump. They need him, she says, she needs him, and he decides to stick around.

A teen girl in a cap and yellow and blue athletic jacket stands by a tree in the snowy wilderness, listening to others in the background; still from "Yellowjackets"
Samantha Hanratty in “Yellowjackets”Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

In the present, the adult Yellowjackets are all together at last. Van (Lauren Ambrose) is the first to try leaving — and also appeared to be the most frightened when she saw Lottie (Simone Kessell) in Episode 6 — but the others, particularly Natalie (Juliette Lewis) convince her. This behavior again raises the question of what soured over the years when Van was one of Lottie’s very first wilderness acolytes. Skeptical adult Van bears a much stronger resemblance to the dejected teen Van (Liv Hewson) in the previous scene, and for good reason: They’ve both lost hope, and adult Van revealing her cancer diagnosis proves this even further. Losing hope is also what brought Nat to Lottie in the first place (and some light kidnapping), and she’s now in full opposition to her teen self’s views on Lottie’s healing methods.

The newcomers to Lottie’s compound are tasked with “treatments,” which lead everyone except Van to some sort of epiphany. Most of this isn’t new for the audience; Tai (Tawny Cypress) is stifling her sleepwalking, but Lottie tells her that it means something, and Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) admits that she always distanced herself from her daughter because of what happened to her son. Side note: It seems wildly insensitive and patronizing to make Shauna take care of a baby goat in order for her to learn this, when she A) has another child with whom she got to do the whole “be responsible for something helpless” thing, and B) lost a baby and Lottie fully knows this. But Lynskey sells it, weaving the emotions from Episode 6’s interrogation scene in to this raw self-awareness, and there’s value in Shauna and Tai admitting these problems to themselves even when viewers already knew.

In a similar vein, it’s downright weird to watch the adults hang out, drink, and laugh together at the end of the day — but also heartwarming. The disconnect comes from knowing that while do share uniquely horrible life experience, they did not necessarily weather their trauma as a united front. Nat asks the key question: “How much do you guys remember?” It’s the first explicit acknowledgement of how much the Yellowjackets repress, or maybe didn’t commit to memory in the first place. It explains why Shauna and Lottie can cheerfully drink together in this scene like one of them didn’t previously beat the other to the brink of death.

Ah yes, the worst of vibes. In the cabin, Shauna hears Misty humming a song — Shauna’s lullaby, which makes her believe that the days she experienced with her baby were real, that the others killed and ate him and are gaslighting her. She punches Misty, bites Van, and then beats the living shit out of Lottie while everyone else stands and watches. There is more to this scene than visceral violence; the girls have finally abandoned all civility, its foundation weakened by the regular atrocities they withstand in the wilderness. At the same time, new laws — minacious laws — take root in their place. Shauna’s ferocity is not viewed as barbaric, but fair, and critical to her survival and the group’s at large.

Grade: A-

Food for Thought:

  • Another theme song cover! Fun but disquieting every time.
  • The episode description said that Coach “does his best Karl Havoc impression” which is basically a spoiler, and an INSANE deep cut.
  • In my notes I referred to the girls who want to eat Crystal as “the other two,” which made me giggle (IMDb informs me their names are “Melissa” and “Gen”)
  • We are obviously not overlooking Misty’s (Christina Ricci) time in the sensory deprivation tank: Stay tuned for IndieWire’s interview with John Cameron Mitchell a.k.a. Caligula!
  • “Take it from a bird named after a Roman emperor who was also accused of heinous acts” I mean
  • So many of the shots that stumped me in the credits came from this episode: Caligula smoking her cigar, Misty’s “Twin Peaks” headshot, the untethered baby goat. And to be fair, I could have guessed the truth of none of them.
  • Tai and Van make out for so long before Tai says “Shit, sorry” I had to laugh. No you’re not!
  • Halfway through the episode I paused for a break because I thought the title was going to be about Ben. He might not have jumped, but that doesn’t mean he magically feels fine.
  • Congrats to all the fans who noticed ongoing details that were off with Lottie’s therapist — this person doesn’t exist! Did they ever?!
  • The way Nat stresses “We’re all here”… I think this might be all of the survivors for real this time, as in no one else secretly alive and living off the grid.

“Yellowjackets” releases new episodes Fridays via streaming and Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

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