Where to stream it? Showtime or the Paramount+ w/ Showtime bundle
Starring: Sophia Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sophie Thatcher, Courtney Eaton, Liv Hewson, Samantha Hanratty, Steven Krueger, Kevin Alves, Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, Juliette Lewis, Simone Kessel, Lauren Ambrose, Warren Kole, Ellan Purnell, Nia Sondaya, Alexa Barajas, Nuha Jes Izman, Sarah Desjardins
Directed by: Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Written by: Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson
Intro: Yellowjackets Season 2 Premiere Review
Currently streaming via Paramount+ and Showtime, the psychological horror drama series, Yellowjackets, returns with a second season of macabre thrills and uncertain mysteries to be solved with its eponymous New Jersey high school girls’ soccer team.
The premiere episode ups the ante with new characters entering the fray, allowing for a much wider scope of the overall story to be told compared to its first season. Showtime granted me the opportunity to view the season’s first six episodes, and without giving away too much, let’s just say there's darker narrative elements headed our way.
The series’ second season premiere is titled, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”.
Minor spoilers ahead for those who have not seen Yellowjackets Season 1.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” is an excellent episode to begin the new season. Much like how the series’ pilot functioned as the tip of the first season’s iceberg, Yellowjackets’s second season premiere conveys sufficient detail to tease what is to come in the near-future of the series. In addition to that, what is unique about this specific episode is the contrasting display of events not just in the winter of 1996 to 1997 and the fall of 2021, but also a brief glimpse into 1998. Through a brisk montage, the series’ allows for a peek into the immediate aftermath of the 18-month long survival in the wilderness through one particular character’s eyes.
On the one hand, it does feel awkward for the writers to introduce a few new Yellowjackets members to the roster of plane crash survivors. Out of the three soccer players to join the series in the winter portion, only one of them has much to do in the season thus far. The other two characters, by contrast, are relegated to smaller roles. This does raise some questions, such as, “What are they doing here anyway?” On the other hand, there are other new characters introduced in this season whose stories are developed despite not being a part of the main cast. There is a strong build-up in this episode, yet viewers will have to stay tuned to see where that leads.
Ross’s editing in this episode is pristine, helping exhibit the quick cuts and shots of the prologue’s montage and providing a smooth transition from one scene to another. Shasta Spahn’s cinematography adds even more weight to the narrative.
Aesthetics and Audio
The set pieces are interesting for this episode. Compared to later episodes in the season, (Production Designer) Margot Ready’s work gives just a small sample of what's to come. The snow setting in the wilderness appears to be quite a challenge, although it is admirable how Visual Effects Artists Kent O’Connor, Lynne M. Whitlock, and Alyse Kollerbohm manage to keep the atmosphere looking realistic. Mark Lane’s set decorations also give that little taste of what we can expect, first showing us a whole range of paintings inspired by adult Shauna Sadecki née Shipman (Lynskey).
Craig Wedren and Anna Waronker’s continue to compose a neat soundtrack for the series, including an upbeat tune as the viewer watches adult Natalie “Nat” Scatorccio (Juliette Lewis) navigate through Charlotte “Lottie” Matthews’s (Kessell) compound. Nora Felder’s music supervision is lovely work as well, reminding us that–after all–these adult characters were once young people living the end of their teen years in a rough atmosphere. Tracks include Sharon Van Etten’s Seventeen, the Smashing Pumpkins’s Drown, and Tori Amos’s Cornflake Girl. A part of the song selections not only lend to the womens’ stories as both teenagers and adults, but there are a couple of songs this season that contribute to Jeff’s old-fashioned personality too.
Performances and Character Developments
Teen Natalie's search for Travis is an intriguing subplot as it further toys with their dynamic with one another. It does seem reminiscent of the search for Sophia in AMC’s The Walking Dead Season 2, but in this series’ season, the search leads to a different outcome. Natalie’s relationship with Travis is one that is well-established in the first season, although viewers were not quite given much screentime with the two characters together as adults. That shows up later in the season–the result of the risky decisions they made as teenagers in the past.
Teen Shauna’s development continues on from the previous season and transitions to her next story arc–the imminent arrival of her firstborn child. As you can tell with the present day Shauna and Jeff, the Sadecki household only has one child, a teenager in high school. This season lends viewers insight into what exactly happened to this first child and how that affects Shauna’s sentiments on life in the wilderness.
Nuha Jes Izman has a medium-sized role to play as “Crystal,” a character who serves as a foil to teen Misty. As a guest star, we see Crystal becoming a friend to Misty, a rare sight due to the latter being somewhat of an outcast in the Yellowjackets team. This specific dynamic is one that requires more attention as it leads to a friendship unlike any other in the cabin in the middle of the snowy wilderness. It is not a permanent friendship, but instead one that Misty must learn to live with as she progresses into adulthood.
Lewis performs well as adult Natalie, who is placed into a new environment, one run by Kessell’s Lottie. Natalie has a noteworthy dynamic with a young woman named Lisa (Maines), although viewers might not make much of it in this first episode. They have a relationship based on trust and similar milieus, but as we will learn throughout the next fews episodes, they do not get to that point without some suspenseful scenes.
Adult Misty’s investigation of Natalie’s disappearance is a great one. It further demonstrates how much she is capable of in terms of contributions to the team, and therefore, confirms that she is not a woman to be trifled with. This search for hints and clues leads her to an eventual meeting with one Walter Tattersall (Wood). At the same time, Ricci’s performance as the character reminds us that the actor and her character were both once young persons with actual feelings.
The Yellowjackets and Their Families
Adult Shauna’s relationship with her family–both Callie and Jeff–is one that she seeks to repair and make amends for in this current season. While there is not much of Desjardins’s Callie seen in Season 1, the character serves a larger purpose in her parents’ external conflict with having to cover up the murder of Adam Martin (uncredited, Peter Gadiot). Desjardins has a good performance when acting next to Lynskey and Kole, and I am curious as to how she fares in the second half of the season. Kole has tremendous development as Jeff, a father and husband figure who is yearning to do right by his household. The man’s dealing with Shauna’s affair is one that affects his role in the family triad of parent-parent-child. Stay tuned for a mighty fine performance from Kole in the fourth episode of the season.
Alongside the other actors playing members of the soccer team, Lynskey continues to solidify her role as Shauna. There is something about her that becomes iconic–e.g. a couple lines of dialogue in one scene about how much she regrets her affair and the acting with Kole in the narrative beat that follows. Meanwhile, Nélisse showcases Shauna’s traumatic experiences vividly throughout this season. Her coping with loss plays a big role that shapes whom she becomes in the future (our “present”) and leads to strong deliveries from both actors in the near-future.
Adult Taissa’s relationship with her family members continues from the first season. It shows the consequences of her being elected as a Senator and what she does about it in this season. Nothing can be said about where this heads in the near-future. However, I will say that next weekend’s episode points to a Shyamalan-esque subplot, as is with another character’s subplot later in the season.
Final Thoughts: Yellowjackets Season 2 Premiere Review
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” continues to depict the best and the harshest facets of Yellowjackets, proving just why it was much-lauded during its first season. It develops even its lesser characters, such as Jeff as a man with dad jokes up his sleeve, and balances glimmers and sprinkles of optimism with dashes of darkness.
Seriously, this is not a television series to miss out on. The writers’ room have some excellent teleplays coming to small screens this spring, and it should be argued that there are some performances here to match that of other drama television programs, such as HBO’s The Last of Us and Succession.