The inaugural season of “Yellowjackets” ended with winter’s arrival for the wilderness survivors in 1996 and a slew of unsettling developments for the present. The wait between seasons may finally be over but don’t expect the same when it comes to answers. “Yellowjackets” Season 2 begins with a deeply satisfying premiere, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” that hurdles the 1996 storyline further toward catastrophe while deepening the tangled web for the adult survivors.
The premiere skips ahead two months into winter for the teens trapped in the wild. Nat (Sophie Thatcher) and Travis (Kevin Alves) head out daily in search of food, while Travis also desperately searches for his missing younger brother. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) has taken to conversing with Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) frozen solid corpsicle in the shed as a means of working through her guilt and denial, though not well; everyone except Lottie (Courtney Eaton) seems unsettled and concerned by this development. Lottie’s seamlessly stepped into a mystical leadership role. However, she’s unaware that Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) grows more violent in her sleep state, putting Van (Liv Hewson) in danger each night they sequester themselves away from the group.
At present, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) begins to realize that her violent night terrors as a teen are bleeding over into her waking life, wreaking havoc on those around her. Nat (Juliette Lewis) finds herself kidnapped by cult leader Lottie (Simone Kessell), with Misty (Christina Ricci) determined to find her while attempting to aid Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) in her bid to hide her murder tracks.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” juggles all storylines remarkably well while getting viewers reacquainted with the spiraling insanity. Much like season one, the devil’s in the details. Or rather, clues to the overarching mysteries lay within the subtle moments and visual cues. Those details become most noticeable in the 1996 timeline, making it the more exciting storyline when combined with its survival urgency. Despite Nat and Travis’ best efforts, game isn’t readily available in deep winter, and hunger leaves the flock of teens on edge.
It’s that unspoken fear of starvation that makes this group so fascinating. Lottie blesses her hunters each day with ash before they head into the woods and places her hand on Travis’s chest to soothe his panic attack. Yet the episode breaks form by introducing a 1998 scene to perpetuate the question as to whether Lottie’s abilities are genuine or a byproduct of her mental health. The sequence might focus on Lottie, but it gives a clearer sense of time in the larger picture. That detail becomes even more critical when Shauna’s grief over Jackie results in the first step toward cannibalism. If things are dire now, how insane will it get when these teens are stuck for two years?
While the present-day developments establish what’s at stake for each character heading into Season 2, it’s not nearly as exciting as the 1996 plotline just yet. So far, that’s because many of the characters are still stuck in the past. Taissa’s spiraling feels like a more extreme mirroring of her younger years, while the friction between Lottie and Nat over mysticism and pragmatism feels unchanged over the decades. Granted, that’s by design, though it’s too early to tell where these ideas are headed.
But the tremendous cast and the deepening mysteries ensure a compelling journey I can’t wait to unpack.
The “Yellowjackets” Season 2 premiere is available to stream now for Showtime subscribers and the episode will make its on-air debut on Sunday, March 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.