From the first episode of Yellowjackets, there’s been a transition we’ve been waiting to see. How do our group of troubled teen girls in the wood morph into quasi-pagan cannibalistic monsters? Well, the answer is here and it is glorious.
In the present day, things are not going well for Shauna. We start the episode with her confronting Adam wearing a fetching yellow jacket, having concluded he’s the blackmailer who stole her journals. True to horny form, he at first assumes this is a sex game, but when Shauna doesn’t fall for his charms he starts to panic, unable to come up with a reasonable explanation as to why he has books about the Yellowjackets hidden in his studio. When she pulls a knife, it looks like she’s finally going to get some answers from the world’s most suspicious man, but the lines between past and present begin to blur and she plunges a knife into his heart. Adam is dead and theme music plays.
Shauna, still played with an intriguing numbness by Melanie Lynskey, doesn’t panic and instead goes back to her home only to find her journals have been returned to the safe. It turns out Jeff being great at that brunch was just to throw us off the scent—he’s just as terrible as he ever was and Warren Cole plays up the sniveling comedy of the character when confronted. Jeff took out loans from some very bad people in order to save his furniture business and was blackmailing Taissa and Nat to pay them back. He was never having an affair (does that mean he was really doing inventory?!) and he’s horrified that Shauna was not only cheating on him but murdered Adam. Hilariously, he seems most upset that there is no book club.
They resolve to make a plan, stop keeping secrets, and to frame Adam for blackmailing the Yellowjackets, which seems short-sighted to say the least. Shauna calls Taissa, who is spinning out on election day after sending Simone away, and Nat, who is smashing in vending machines that cheat her out of M&Ms, which is a cathartic sight to behold.
The women gather at Adam’s loft around his body, and Shauna sells them the spiel about how Adam was the blackmailer and she killed him when he attacked her. Shauna’s lies land differently when directed at Nat and Taissa. There is a subtlety in Lynskey’s performance, where she hints at the regret at betraying these two, something she never did when she was lying to Jeff or Callie. It’s also interesting how all three are slightly under-reacting to the sight of a murdered man—all very concerned about the potential ramifications this has for them, but barely bat an eyelid at the actual corpse in a pool of blood, reminding us just how much terrible stuff they’ve seen prior to this moment. There’s some great black comedy mined from this scene: Juliette Lewis lands a couple quips which make for a welcome break from Nat’s unrelenting drunken spiral in the past couple of episodes. There’s a beautifully underplayed moment where you still see the cogs turning in Nat’s mind and she knows what must be done. They need Misty.
Misty, who still has Jessica the PI chained up in her basement, is enjoying having company even if she is clearly trying to manipulate her. Jessica touches a raw nerve in Misty when she asks whether or not the other Yellowjackets kept in touch with her the way they did with one another. Excellent performance from Rekha Sharma aside, this scene highlights what is missing from Misty’s storyline in the past. Ever since her she destroyed the black box, it’s been hard to comprehend just what teen Misty is going through as she has no narrative sounding board. It’s unclear now whether she regrets destroying the black box, what she intended to get from poisoning Coach Ben, how any of this is truly affecting her, and what is a performance to curry favor with the team.
The assumption is that Misty must have a modicum of regret as the mood in the wilderness is dire. They’ve resorted to eating grubs (everyone but Jackie who is going on some sort of an emotional hunger strike) and Laura Lee’s death has left everyone feeling nihilistic. One resourceful young lady slightly lifts the mood by producing a large jar of berries in water which has fermented into booze. Now that alcohol is on the table, they decide to have a “Doomcoming” party on the full moon and, as Jackie deadpans, “We’ll drink rotten berries and celebrate our impending death.”
Ella Purnell does her season-best work in this episode by fully leaning into Jackie’s inner mean girl. She toys with Shauna about knowing that Jeff is the father of her baby with a twinkle in her eye and decides that, Nat’s feelings be damned, she’s going to lose her virginity to Travis.
The preparations for Doomcoming go reasonably well: Taissa makes Van and herself intricate matching masks so she won’t feel self-conscious. Coach Ben resentfully agrees to be Misty’s date since her invitation was so pitiful and they are probably going to die anyway. Misty isn’t taking any chances though and resolves to put ’shrooms in his drink. Unfortunately, when her back is turned the ’shrooms get put in the communal pot. It really would have been great for Misty to have a Jessica-like confidant in this moment to unpack what is going on. But she just goes with it, saying nothing to stop her teammates, a pregnant woman, and Javi the traumatized child from being drugged against their will.
Everyone starts to trip balls and Yellowjackets stays just the right side of surreal with its camerawork. It doesn’t resort to hallucinogenic clichés of rainbow hands and instead goes for muddy ground that bleeds when scratched. Jackie convinces Travis to have sex with her while outside a pack is formed. The use of music here is perfection, in sync with the performances that are getting increasingly primal. As the girls burst into the cabin to find post-coital Jackie and Travis, they have devolved into folk horror monsters with tangible adrenaline coursing through their veins. Despite the terrifying dilated pupils and bared teeth, it’s hard to not feel deep satisfaction at Lottie cutting Jackie down to size, turning to her and growling “Don’t you understand? You don’t matter anymore,” before locking her in the closet.
The girls gather around Travis and begin to all kiss and writhe against him (Van and Taissa decide against it and sneak out to have incredibly romantic sex bathed in the moonlight). But soon things take a turn, kisses turns to bites and the girls become increasingly monstrous, viewing Travis as a stag to hunt. Shauna grabs a knife and they chase him through the woods, virtually indistinguishable from a pack of wolves that hunted Van and they soon land their prey.
And the moment we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives. Lottie puts on the veil and antlers! She encourages Shauna to slit Travis’s throat, whispering “It’s ok, it wants us to.” Shauna begins to slice through flesh when Nat bursts in to save him at the moment. Thrilling stuff and thankfully, we know this won’t be the last time Lottie leads them in a hunt.