‘Yellowjackets’ Episode 2 Hits a Point of No Return

Hunger, worry, and skepticism persist.
Three teen girls in winter outerwear standing outside a snowy cabin and looking down solemnly.
Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

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

Female friendships are complicated.

On ‘Yellowjackets,” Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) loves, envies, and resents best friend Jackie (Ella Purnell) right until her untimely death while stranded in the Canadian Rockies. She goes on to marry Jackie’s boyfriend, hold on to her old soccer uniform, and during a moment of hunger, fascination, and overwhelming guilt during the Season 2 premiere — why not all three? — ate Jackie’s ear.

Unfortunately, things only get murkier.

In Episode 2, “Edible Complex,” written by showrunner Jonathan Lisco and Elise Brown and directed by Ben Semanoff, the hallucinated Dead Jackie bit starts to grow stale (no pun intended). That’s not an indictment of the storyline but a testament to its efficacy; in the show timeline, this has been going on for TWO MONTHS — two months of Shauna rearranging her dead friend’s limbs, writing her fake journal, and getting into arguments with her because she will never untangle the knots of this relationship that ended before it could mature. Adult Shauna carries the psychological toll not only of Jackie’s death, but of this perverse coda to her life.

But Shauna isn’t the only one struggling, as Taissa’s (Jasmin Savoy Brown) sleepwalking has escalated to fully untying her bonds, climbing down the attic ladder, and wandering into the woods at night — but is it just wandering? A glimpse of Tai’s POV shows her seemingly following the “man with no eyes” from a Season 1 flashback (featured prominently in the Season 2 title sequence).

This may or may not have crossed adult Tai’s mind, who is simply trying to never sleep again. This is obviously not sustainable and a frankly juvenile response to her problem — quite notably the kind of fix that even teen Taissa didn’t attempt. She starts hallucinating, spending a full day with her son until it turns out he was never there, and causing wife Simone (Rukiya Bernard) to once again reiterate that Tai immediately seek help. The look on Tai’s face at this point can only be described as menacing, and it might be a hint of “the bad one” before another car crashes into them.

A teenage girl bundled up for winter, crouching before a frozen corpse and holding its dismembered ear in horror; still from "Yellowjackets"
This was a low point!Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

The growing distance between Tai and Simone once again opposes the increased intimacy between Tai and Van (Liv Hewson) in the past, where it also contrasts the disconnect between Nat (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis (Kevin Alves) — two couples where one person is starting to see the appeal of Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton) connection to wilderness, and one person vehemently opposes it. In this episode, Nat fakes evidence of Javi’s death (Luciano Leroux), which might not even be the most disturbing thing to happen between her and Travis — but hold that thought.

Lottie is quietly edging into their relationship against the will of all parties. She offers hope and comfort for Travis, as well as a reminder — in his own words — that he and the others don’t know everything about the woods, survival, and life in general (they’re just kids!). It’s not Lottie’s fault that he or anyone else finds this appealing, but Travis’ faith in her gives Nat a direction to focus her own worries; that Travis is pulling away from her and that Javi’s presumed death will break him beyond repair.

That conflict never goes away, or at least resurfaces for adult Nat (Juliette Lewis), now reunited with Lottie (Simone Kessell) at her compound as they revisit the circumstances of Travis’ death (Andres Soto). It’s a dense recap, but what Nat latches onto first and foremost is that in a time of need, Travis didn’t call her, but Lottie — and that Lottie kept it to herself until now. When adult Lottie puts her hand on Travis’ chest in a flashback, it mirrors the panic attack scene in Episode 1 but with strategically ambiguous physicality. It’s hard to tell as adults if these two shared a physical or emotional relationship, or if Travis continued to see her as the Messiah of the woods. When Travis and Nat have sex in the past, he has visions of Lottie, which has huge implications about their adult relationship and the rest of their time in the woods.

Other than Shauna’s connection to Jackie, “Yellowjackets” hasn’t dived with detail into how the other survivors processed specific deaths from the wilderness — until now, depicting how strongly Laura Lee’s (Jane Widdop) affected Lottie. Laura Lee is the one who baptized Lottie in the lake, who told her she had a gift and believed in her back when even Lottie thought she was going crazy (before the crash, she took antipsychotic medication). When Travis dies, that guilt rockets to the surface, taking her right back to being a teenager who let her teammate fly a rusty old plane that combusted and killed her. Lottie didn’t trust or know how to interpret her vision of Laura Lee and the halo of flame until it was too late; with Travis dead before her, all those feelings are back (along with a Laura Lee hallucination sure to inspire nightmares).

There is a theme emerging that Lottie Matthews appeals to people when they are at their most vulnerable or isolated — whether it’s Travis over the years or Misty (Samantha Hanratty) and her perpetual need to belong, or teen Shauna when she’s accosted by Tai and the others for how she spends her time with Jackie. It might not be calculated or even conscious — it may in fact be part of her overarching desire “to help people”which leads to surrounding herself with “broken toys,” as Nat puts it, in the present.

An adult woman wearing a tank top and jeans, sitting on a checkered couch and looking horrified; still from "Yellowjackets"
Simone Kessell in “Yellowjackets”Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

Against her will but in the interest of her overall well-being, Shauna agrees to cremate Jackie. She offers a brief but appropriate goodbye (“I don’t even know where you end and I begin. I’m sorry and I love you”) and lights the pyre, to which Travis adds Javi’s bloodstained clothes. The rest of the survivors head inside until Shauna is left with Lottie and Taissa, framed almost like a devil and angel at her shoulders after their previous disagreement — but which is which?

The flames of Jackie’s cremation go out, framed through the POV of a gust of wind — or something more. What wakes the Yellowjackets up in the middle of the night isn’t any ethereal force in their surroundings, but the smell — a masterful and genuinely unsettling detail. Both Coach Scott (Steven Kreuger) and Van appear to sniff the air, with Van uttering a desirous “What is that?” When Shauna approaches the half-burned body, she puts a hand to her stomach — not her belly, her womb, but the rumbling organ responding to the sight and smell of cooked meat.

The Yellowjackets tear into their teammate in a hyperedited sequence; most shots are not of the actual cannibalism, but of an ornate feast with the characters dressed up and enjoying a variety of dishes, including some main meat course that doesn’t have to be human because no one saw where it came from. But the intercut shots of that feral nighttime meal are unquestionably of a group of teens eating what’s left of their friend. The feast imagery is meant to mitigate cannibalism discomfort, but the rapid cuts and aggressive editing inspire a different sort of unrest which mirrors that nighttime fugue state many of the characters are in. It’s a little too stylized and erratic, even with noble intent.

Significantly, the episode’s final moments focus on Coach Scott. He not only forgoes the taste of Jackie but backs away from the scene in abject horror, retreating to the cabin to process or forget what he just saw. Kreuger expresses a whole range of emotions — revulsion, fear, realization — all roiling together. There’s teen drama, and then there’s whatever he’s been dealing with since the crash, and whatever fresh hell this midnight snack may have unleashed.

Food for Thought

  • In Episode 1 Shauna accuses the Yellowjackets of stealing bear meat, and in Episode 2 someone poops in the pee bucket (yikes!). Between this and eating their captain I’d say the rules of this faux society are crumbling — and that does not bode well.
  • Not sure we knew the timeline of Shauna’s pregnancy until now but here it is: Seven months. That baby is coming!
  • I have to assume that Travis and Natalie’s feet are wet the whole time they’re trekking through the snow, and this saddens me more than most aspects of the winter wilderness timeline.
  • A moment of appreciation for teen Travis, who has changed so much since we first met him. He’s grieving and traumatized like the rest of them, but he’s also been forced to check a lot of toxic teen masculinity in present company, and his opening up to Lottie’s ideas further illustrates that.
  • It’s not purple, it’s heliotrope.
  • It is not now nor has it ever been too early to start Nélisse’s Emmy campaign. The look on her face when Tai tells everyone what’s been going on in the meat shed is utterly heartbreaking and just an astounding performance.
  • Coach’s “holy Christ” when he finds out what’s been going on in the meat shed is SO funny even though nothing about the situation is. It really encompasses the absurdity and offers a much needed nervous laugh in that moment.
  • Misty zeroing in on Walter’s (Elijah Wood) “muscular calves”…no notes!
  • Mari (Alexa Barajas) saying “Now you’re her protector? Too little too late” to Shauna about Jackie is so out of line! I bet Mari pooped in the pee bucket.
  • Happy John Reynolds day to all who celebrate! Did not have him on my Season 2 bingo but always a welcome surprise.
  • Yes, I too thought it was “J” for Javi and am grateful to the writers for immediately dispelling that.
  • Tai’s hair at the feast is stunning!!

Grade: B

New episodes of “Yellowjackets” premiere Fridays on streaming and Sundays on-air.

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