A brief note from your reviewer:
Hi there, Yellowjackets Hive! How are we feeling? Having fun? Everything good? Well, get ready to have your mood brought way down because we’re past the midway point of the season and I have CONCERNS. Since this episode’s been hyped up since before the season even began, I think it’s a good opportunity to take stock of each storyline and pull apart what’s working and what’s not working now that we’ve hit this sort of initial climax. So, strap in for this special episode of this week’s Horror Obsessive Yellowjackets coverage: Hater’s Edition. Apologies.
Previously on Yellowjackets
A bunch of stuff happened that I thought might be leading somewhere interesting, but now I’m not so sure.
Yellowjackets S2E6: “Qui” was directed by Liz Garbus and written by Ameni Rosza and Karen Joseph Adcock
This episode led us to two major narrative milestones, the first being the birth of Shauna’s baby. We begin with a flashback to Health Class, which is taught by Coach Ben. This little gimmick doesn’t do much except to show us that Misty seems to be the only one paying attention to what they’re learning about birth and pregnancy, but it’s a fun moment regardless.
In the wilderness, Shauna’s in active labor while everyone around her tries to figure out what to do. Tai is naturally her main source of emotional support, while Misty takes the lead on the actual delivery. Lottie tries to help in the only way she knows how (spooky-ooky bullsh*t), Travis and Van help Lottie, Mari is insane, Akilah is competent, Nat is trying to keep everything together, and Coach Ben continues to be the clueless adult figure he’s turned into this season.
When Shauna starts hemorrhaging, Misty sees flashbacks of her little bestie manslaughter moment and freaks out, forcing Akilah to take on a leading role in the delivery process. As Misty flees the room, Lottie follows and ends up comforting her in an interaction that is…confusing and underwhelming. More on this later. Ben has a little flashback of his own, which seemed entirely unnecessary and out of place.
Despite Akilah’s best efforts, the birth is not going well. The placenta emerges first, which does not bode well for either Shauna or the baby. In an interesting move, Travis is first to turn to religion here, pulling a skull off the wall and slicing his palm open over it. Led by Lottie, most of the rest of the girls follow suit, offering blood and gifts to the skull and chanting, “we hear the wilderness and it hears us.” Tai, holding a fading Shauna’s hand, joins in. Only Shauna and Nat, sitting on Shauna’s other side, abstain. Shauna passes out.
When she comes to, she’s presented with her healthy newborn. However, shifts in lighting and the strange way that Shauna and her child are shot in near-complete isolation from the other characters already pretty blatantly points to this being a dream sequence. This is further emphasized as we see Shauna navigating strange, nightmarish scenarios where the baby continuously goes missing, Lottie attempts to breastfeed it and — in a moment I hoped they had guts enough to make real — Shauna finds the rest of the girls devouring the infant, guilt smeared like the blood all over their faces.
Of course, none of this really happens. Shauna wakes to find the rest of the team already in active grief. They present her with the stillborn infant (notably hidden from the audience) and Shauna collapses in despair.
What’s Working (1996)
Before I air my grievances, let’s look at what’s still working in this storyline.
- (Most of) the acting: Luckily for the viewers, the 1996 storyline continues to be bolstered by standout performances by exceptionally talented young actors making bold, interesting choices. Sophie Nélisse, Courtney Eaton, and Jasmin Savoy Brown tend to be the three who I’m most consistently impressed by, but I’ve realized that I sometimes overlook the phenomenal work Sophie Thatcher is doing because of how subtle and understated her choices tend to be. Liv Hewson, Kevin Alves, and Alexa Barajas also make meals out of the little they’ve been given to work with this season. Samantha Hanratty is a similarly talented performer, though I have some questions about choices she’s making this season.
- The cult stuff: Unlike in certain other storylines, the development of Lottie’s (for lack of a better word) cult is really working for me this season. The way it’s grown and spread throughout the group feels extremely realistic and grounded in character work. I’m particularly enjoying how Lottie’s building doubt about her role in the group is put in fascinating contrast to the increasingly fervent faith that the others have in her and her abilities.
- Design details and photography: I mean, I just feel like everything about the way this part of the show is shot and designed is very beautiful and smart. Love the small details about how the group functions in the day to day.
- Relationships (mostly): While I feel like the 2021 storyline is fumbling this a little, the relationships in the 1996 storyline remain a strong point. This season’s really succeeded in building on the groundwork that last season laid out and I’m loving every minute of it. Nat and Travis’s thing continues to get nastier and nastier and I’m loving the addition of Lottie as a sort of spiritual mistress figure. Tai and Shauna’s relationship continues to deepen in genuinely touching ways, while Tai and Van’s relationship has become increasingly complex and worrisome. Lottie’s role in everyone else’s lives has also become thornier and thornier in ways that I truly didn’t expect.
What’s Not Working (1996)
Alright, let’s get into it.
- The pacing: This is something I’m struggling with in both storylines. Throughout the season, I’ve been baffled by the way that the show seems to spend so much of its time just spinning its wheels. Because I have trust in the writers after last season, I’ve been looking out for details or clues that might help me understand why we’ve spent so much time on long, drawn-out scenes that don’t seem to be adding any new character notes. However, it often seems as though these scenes are simply set-up for a later plot point. Now, that’s not a problem in and of itself, but the way these scenes are written feels very means-to-an-end. Season 1 built tension in quite a few different way, but Season 2 seems to rely on very explicitly teasing something and then making viewers aimlessly wait for it.
- The tone: The tone is off this season. One of the things I loved so much about the first season was how the story was genuinely touching and emotionally affecting without ever dipping into sentimentality. Similarly, the moments of levity felt earned and well-placed. No matter how wild the story got, the tone was almost always grounded and rooted in the emotional truth of the characters. In contrast, this season has really leaned into big feelings painted with broad strokes. As a lover of melodrama, I wouldn’t expect this to be something I take issue with, but it’s falling flat for me. The characters are morphing into fan fantasies of themselves, becoming precious little cinnamon rolls when they used to feel like real teenagers. While Misty’s uncharacteristic meltdown this episode was the nail in the coffin (like, what was going on there?) on this issue, I think it was the f*cking mouse that really broke me on this one.
- Over-explaining the characters: Backstories can be good. Backstories can be great, even. For instance, learning more about Lottie’s history with mental illness last season painted her ascendance to this guru-like figure in a completely different light than it might have otherwise. However, nothing bogs down a show like over-explaining a character’s every trait, habit, mindset, preference, and emotional reaction. And we’re starting to encroach on that territory this season. While I would love, for instance, to know more about Van, Tai, and Shauna’s home lives and families, I don’t need yet another flashback of Coach Ben and his boyfriend to know that Ben is reckoning with how his own passivity has contributed to his current situation. I don’t need to hear that Akilah has a baby nephew at home to be sad when she is probably killed at some point this season. And I certainly don’t need to have an entire character invented for the sole purpose of explaining why Misty struggles with friendship and loves musicals. Particularly as the former is already abundantly clear. Which brings us to…
- Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy: I would genuinely like to hear from other fans of the show to see if they feel the same way, but this season seems a little hastily thrown together in a way that truly worries me. The second-string soccer gals are the most glaring example. How many are there? How many were there supposed to be originally? Why is Akilah’s character so notably different from last season even after accounting for the change in actor? Why doesn’t Crystal’s character make a lick of sense? To that point, why was Crystal’s character so abruptly introduced this season? It’s giving “we needed to give TeenMisty something to do this season.” It’s giving “everyone loves Misty because she’s so quirky and wacky so let’s give her a quirky, wacky friend to inspire more fan art.” It’s giving “we didn’t have a plan for Season 2 while we were working on Season 1.”
Now, like I said, I’m feeling like a hater today, but that doesn’t mean I actually hate the show or feel that it’s beyond redemption. However, this episode made it clear that so much of the work they’re doing this season is simply stage-setting for big narrative moments that they can sell the sh*it out of when promoting the show. If it were a Netflix series, I’d understand this weird, marketing-centered approach a little more, but this is Showtime. Like, the network that somehow kept The L Word: Generation Q going for three seasons. I feel like they can pretty safely continue the thoughtful work they started with last season without fear of being cancelled.
The second big narrative moment that this season built towards was the reunion of the remaining adult Yellowjackets (that we know of.) First, though, Shauna and Callie have to deal with the cops. And I’m already tempted to go into why I feel like this storyline completely squandered what little potential it had but I’ll save that for later. Suffice it to say, Shauna has a weird meltdown about how much she loves Callie in front of Copstache, Callie cannily implicates Copstache in a lil sex crime (great work, kid), and Jeff conveniently decides it’s time for Shauna to skip town. But where to? Well…
While Tai and Van are engaging in the world’s most realistic lesbian ex fight/flirtation known to man, Misty gives Tai a call to let her know that she’s at Lottie’s compound with Nat. Tai decides to go and drags a reluctant Van along with her. Well, perhaps not so reluctant. We learn a lot more about Van this episode. In particular, it’s interesting to see how cut off she is from…everything. It’s something that, in the hands of a lesser actress and lesser writers (I know I’m giving them a hard time this week but I do think they overall do great work), could’ve come off as dreadfully cliché. You know, the whole gruff townie hard-drinking at the dive bar trying to escape memories of a painful past sort of thing. Instead, Van is just numb. Just fine. She’s not concerned with her bills. She doesn’t want to date. She doesn’t seem to have any passions, goals, ambitions, or wants. Even though we know how connected she was to Lottie back in the woods, she agrees to go to her compound as if it’s nothing, as if it’s just some weird thing that she’s doing for someone she cares about. I read somewhere that adult Van was originally supposed to have killed herself in the first season and that makes a lot of sense for the direction they’re taking her character now (though I hope it doesn’t play out in the same way.) Though Nat’s the one who put a gun to her mouth last season, Van seems intensely and privately suicidal in a way that sets her apart from the other adult characters.
Anyways, Taissa lets Shauna know about Lottie, which sends Shauna off in that direction as well. In the meantime, Lottie is back with her replacement psychiatrist. Now, I gave this character some slack in earlier episodes given how terrible psychiatrists can be irl, but this scene really stretched believability. Lottie — a diagnosed schizophrenic mind you — literally describes textbook delusions of grandeur and the shrink is like, “wow, so interesting, let’s talk more about that” instead of giving her the heavy-duty Saroquel dose she so desperately wants and needs.
While all this is going on, Misty makes friends at the cult by telling fun Nat stories and Nat…spends more bonding time with Fork Girl. I’m so sorry but I’m never learning this character’s name because nothing about her inclusion in this season is working for me in the slightest. She’s the adult timeline counterpart to Crystal, but it’s even more egregious because, while Crystal was at least a short-lived means to an end with TeenMisty, there’s no reason that they need to give Nat a character like this to play off of.
So, anyways, they all end up at Lottie’s compound where they all hug? it? out??? Including characters who textually can’t stand each other? Like, okay, I understand that people think it’s really fun and special when the SNL actors break character mid-scene but I do not need that from my scripted dramas.
The only one who doesn’t join in on the cuddle-puddle is Van, who stares in horror at where Lottie stands a ways away from the rest of them. Lottie turns to look back at her and mirror’s Van’s expression. As Lottie slowly walks towards the rest of the group, the camera pans out to reveal that Lottie’s compound is structured in the shape of the symbol.
What’s Working (2021)
- The performances: I mean… what else is there to say? The casting directors earn every ounce of praise they get for this show.
- Costuming and set design: Fun, great, interesting. I love it. Genuinely, I wish I could live in Van’s apartment (just not in Ohio.)
- Learning more about the relationships between Tai/Van and Lottie/Nat: Listen, I know that this seems like an overly specific point but, unfortunately, the adult storyline is dragging for me this season. However, I do think that this season has deepened our understanding of these four characters and has ultimately been successful at introducing the adult versions of Van and Lottie.
What’s Not Working (2021)
I want to preface this section by acknowledging that hating on the 2021 storyline is a popular stance and one that I’ve historically disagreed with. I think the adult storyline is crucial to the show and truly don’t understand how people think the story could be the same without it. That being said, they are fumbling the bag this season. This storyline could be the absolute best part of the show and I hope they can get it to live up to its potential.
- Dropped threads and wheel-spinning: What’s the deal with Other Tai? Why did she lead Tai back to Van? What’s Taissa been doing in her new political office? What’s going on with Sammi? Will Shauna and Jeff get caught out for leaving their DNA all over Adam’s apartment? Was there any point to the car-jacking storyline? Will there be any follow-up regarding Jessica Roberts? Are we done with the cop storyline? What happened to Travis? What is Lottie’s cult all about anyways? Does Shauna miss eating people? How much did Jeff learn from reading Shauna’s journals? Why is Nat still at Lottie’s cult? What’s going to happen with Walter? So many questions, so many new characters, so many new subplots, all leading to…what? The gang getting back together again? Up until this episode, I was sure that all of these story threads were going to add up to something more. I thought we’d learn more about Other Tai, particularly when it came to Other Tai’s relationship with Van. I thought we’d get deeper into Tai and Shauna’s relationships with motherhood and with their children. I thought we’d learn more about how Shauna’s trauma has affected Callie. I thought something substantial would come from Lottie’s cult. Or, at the very least, that we’d grow to understand more about her and Nat’s relationship. I had no idea what they were trying to do with Walter or with Fork Girl or with Copstache, but had faith that all of these storylines were going…somewhere. Now, I’m not so sure. After this episode, I’m increasingly concerned that we’ve spent six entire episodes getting to know new characters, getting invested in new storylines, all for the sole purpose of getting all the characters together in the same place. The cop storyline did little to deepen my understanding of Shauna, Callie, or their relationship. I have no f*cking clue what the point of Fork Girl is other than to give Juliette Lewis something to do and to give Nat a reason to stay at the compound. Walter seemed like a potentially interesting character, but now it seems like he was a plot device to bring Misty back to Lottie and to give her a reason to “join” the cult. And I truly thought we’d be getting deeper into the Other Tai stuff, but again it seems like this was largely used as a narrative device to bring her to Van and then to bring her and Van to Lottie. As the plot continues to move forward towards the writers’ clear narrative goal, I’m finding myself missing the careful, complex character work that was such a highlight in the first season.
- The cult: The show can’t seem to figure out what Lottie’s cult it, how it works, and if it’s sinister or bullshit or some combination of the two. Every time we have a cult scene, I’m completely taken out of the show because nothing seems to come together in the way it’s supposed to.
- Too cute by half: I love a dramedy, but I never really thought of Yellowjackets as one. The writing could be funny and sharp and satirical on a dialogue level, but the overall thrust of the story was dramatic. This season, it’s turning more into a Orange is the New Black type show, which I don’t mean as a compliment. I could really do with fewer zany scenes that highlight the quirkiness of the characters. It’s fine in small doses, but that’s not how we’re getting it this season. And I truly believe that this sort of “wacky,” lighthearted tone goes hand and hand with some of the cheap sentimentality that has been weighing down the show this season.
- Pulling punches: Honestly, this goes for both storylines. Where is Season 1’s mean streak? I miss it so, so much. Give me the gore, give me the cruelty, give me the genuinely shocking character facets. “Support women’s wrongs” and all, but are they really wrongs when every bad move or small cruelty is sympathetically explained away? Actually, one strength of the adult storyline is how hard Christina Ricci is working to continue to portray Misty as canny and dangerous, when both the writing and Samantha Hanratty’s performance are working to humanize her in a way that ultimately undermines her character’s complexity. Similarly, Shauna crying over Callie at the police station felt like an insult to the viewer’s intelligence. Do we really have to give her this uncharacteristically on-the-nose emotional scene to have it spelled out for us that Shauna has an intense, compex relationship to motherhood? Do we really have to be told that she loves her child despite her need to keep herself at a distance? I feel like the showrunners suddenly became concerned with ensuring all of their characters are ultimately loveable, if not likeable, which feels like a sharp departure from Season 1.
Season Superlatives So Far
Alright, I’m done complaining now. Now that we’ve hit Shauna’s birth and the adult Yellowjackets reunion, I hope the show takes us somewhere interesting and unexpected for the rest of the season. And who knows, I could absolutely be off-base about so many plotlines seemingly leading nowhere. As someone who had deep doubts about where they were taking Jackie’s character is Season 1, I’ve been proven wrong before and I hope I’m proven wrong again! In the meantime, let’s take a look at some season highlights:
Best hero arc: I think this one has to go to Callie because it’s so satisfying to watch her (hopefully) ruin Copstache’s life. Nat and Tai also seem to be headed in a heroic direction.
Best villains: I love a villainous Shauna and Misty and hope this season stays true to both of the characters’ core coldness/nastiness. Obviously, a Lottie villain arc is likely, though I can’t see her as an out-and-out antagonist at this time. I’m also hoping we get a solid heel turn from Travis and/or Coach Ben. And I can’t forget Mari, who has iconically remained the world’s most unpleasant person.
Best MILF energy: Let’s be real: it’s all of them. Even if everything else in the show falls apart, at least we’ll always have this.
Acting MVP(s): Frankly, everyone’s been doing a remarkable job, but I want to give a special shout out to Sophie Thatcher, Courtney Eaton, and Tawny Cypress who have all built on their Season 1 performances in impressive ways. I am also so pleased at how well Simone Kessell and Lauren Ambrose embody the adult versions of established characters.
Best overall storylines: So far this season, I’ve been most compelled by Tai, Van, and Lottie in both 1996 and 2021.
Worst overall storylines: In addition to 90% of anything to do with the new characters, I would be so happy to never get another Coach Ben flashback.
Best new characters: Adult Van and adult Lottie by a country mile.
Worst new characters (in order from least to most egregious):
- New background soccer girls who were supposed to pretend have been there the whole time
- New-Akilah (probably would’ve been least egregious if not for the f*cking mouse)
- Fork Girl
- Jackie Feast
- The moose charging Nat
- Tai’s increasingly intense fugue states
- Lottie’s hypothermia vision
Hopes and dreams for the rest of the season:
- They eat the baby (I know they won’t but I wish they would. See: pulling punches.)
- TeenMisty goes back to being scary.
- Whatever they’re doing with Lottie and her cult comes together.
- We learn more about Van’s relationship with Lottie and with Other Tai.
- Adult Shauna kills again. Callie, perhaps? Jeff?
- Walter’s inclusion in the season pays off.
- Kevyn and Copstache die horribly.
- More capital H Horror.
- More supernatural stuff. Or, at least, bolder choices around the whole “is it supernatural or is it all in their heads?” situation.
- Coach Ben heel turn. Give me Villain Ben!
- Alliance shifts in the 1996 storyline.
- Adult Van lives, but perhaps another major character dies. I don’t want to see any of the adult characters go, but it’d potentially be a helpfully disorienting move.
- We get into the intentional cannibalism stuff before the next season.
Anyways, that’s it for Yellowjackets S2E6: “Qui”/ my half-baked rant. Let me know your own grievences in the comments! Or, if you think I’ve got it all wrong, tell me why!
3 CommentsLeave a Reply
When they made the sacrifices during Shanna’s labour I legit scream laughed as someone put down a button. The ultimate sacrifice!
How did I not catch that incredible little detail. I’m dead lol
Really enjoyed reading this commentary! I definitely agree with your criticisms.