When Juliette Lewis pops up on the screen, you can almost be assured that it’s going to be a terrifying narrative with a strange, spiked plot. So it goes with her performance as Natalie Showtime’s Yellowjackets.
“Hello Misty … you crazy bitch,” Lewis’ Natalie says to Misty (played by Christina Ricci) while wielding a rifle in the preview.
The actress plays the adult Natalie in what was a raw, fierce, and disturbing season of Yellowjackets — a twin-timelined series that follows what Showtime describes as “wildly talented high school girls’ soccer players (who) descend into savage clans after their plane crashes in the remote northern wilderness. Twenty-five years later, they discover that what began in the wild is far from over.” Showtime confirmed Yellowjackets will be returning for season 2 in December. With season 1 complete as of January 16, let’s jump in to wrap up the action and see if we can see what to expect in season 2. (Spoilers ahead.)
From cannibalism to ritual sacrifice and séances to senate races, Showtime’s Yellowjackets was not messing around in season 1. After being stranded in the wilderness for 19 months after a 1996 plane crash, 25 years later the now adult women are struggling to cope with the chilling elements of their survival in the dark.
“The truth is: The plane crashed, a bunch of my friends died, and then the rest of us starved and scavenged and prayed until they finally found us,” the adult Shauna (played by Melanie Lynskey) says in the preview.
“I think we both know there’s more to it than that,” Jessica Roberts (played by Rekha Sharma) responds.
Roberts is a fake journalist investigating the group in 2021. The Yellowjackets timeline hops back and forth between the soccer team’s increasingly primal and hellish reality stranded in the woods and their adult present with each of the four surviving main characters coping with the trauma in her own way.
One thing that makes the series sing is the synchronous relationships between each of the paired actors that portray the characters. Stitching a ragged timeline together would not work if characters did not share similar emotional tears.
Actors Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown, for example, both exist in fearless yet thoughtless states as the adult and teenage Taissa, respectively — literally eating the Earth as their worlds crescendo and crash. Tai is a teen capable of at once breaking a teammate’s leg and protecting another’s biggest secret. The present-day Tai is a senator who navigates her way through New Jersey politics with a frozen mask that never looks back, just as the teenage Tai strides toward a certain choice in uncertain times.
Besides the dirt-eating, the audience still has to wonder if the still valiant-minded Tai is protecting a broken mind or being set up by the cult that’s sprung up around the events in the wilderness. Was Taissa conscious when she cut off her dog’s head in 2021? Did she do it to win the election? Or is she being set up by the same creeps who kidnap Natalie?
For their part, Lewis and Sophie Thatcher as her teen twin share Natalie’s same feral eyes and wild actions. Natalie was labeled a “burnout” in high school for her drug use and antisocial behavior, which only gets more pronounced as the surviving soccer players’ isolation sets in. In adulthood, Lewis exhibits the same recklessness as she drops rehab to set out on a mission of vengeance. Who kidnaps her and can she survive her own self-destruction?
Yellowjackets’ season finale also makes us privy to Van and Misty joining Lottie for a strange ritual as kids. Is Misty a double agent in the present storyline then? This is nerd-turned-nurse-sadist Misty, so anything is possible.
This reveal led to the finale’s biggest twist: Lottie is likely alive and leading a full-blown cult based on the events in the wilderness.
For all of its ritual gore, Yellowjackets does an incredible job of revealing the tough love and the fierce loyalty that make friends tolerant of flaws as well as the toxicity and heartbreak that can break friendships.
In interviews, creators and showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson have talked at length about the pitched drama as a five-season story, so we may not even get all the answers in season 2. What we are almost guaranteed to get, however, are more gruesome past events that twist these women trying to lead independent lives into a barbaric bloody knot. And we won’t be able to take our eyes away until that cord is cut, no matter how wrenching and horrific things may get.
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