Welcome to our Yellowjackets Sting Meter. We’ll measure the erratic, unexplainable behavior of the show’s main lineup, ranking them according to how dangerous, deadly, and certifiably insane they appear in each episode. Who’s a whacky worker bee, and who gets crowned Mad Queen of episode nine’s “Storytelling”? Let’s find out.
In Yellowjackets’ season two finale, a frustrated Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), finding herself on the wrong end of the group’s ritualistic hunt, screams that the wilderness was never out there, it was in them all along. It’s the kind of self-reflection all the adult survivors have needed to display more of this season. But, instead of slowing the chase or stopping these knife-wielding women in homemade masks from killing their friend, Lottie pauses long enough to question, “Does it really matter?”
Does it matter whether the darkness was its own entity or something these girls-turned-women invented to survive the terrible choices they elected to make deep in those woods? Either way, it was there with them then, and it’s here now, warping their relationships and twisting their minds until they can’t function as normal members of society. When you’ve lived like an animal, civilization will always feel like a cage.
In “Storytelling,” both the girls in the past and the women in the present confront the narratives they’ve created. To excuse their behavior. To distance themself from shame. To survive, to move forward, to make life worth living again. They don’t all succeed, and the pace of this episode is both confusing and frustrating, especially in how it treats its adult cast. But by the end of things, it feels like we’re getting somewhere in the larger arc of this show.
Queen Bee – Misty
Yes, we know the wilderness first chose Lottie, then Natalie to be its spiritual conduit but what does a sentient, unseen deity that turns teen girls into its own murderous avatars know anyway, right? The real Antler Queen has been Misty Quigley all along. She capitalized on the team’s tragic accident in season one to fuel her own sense of self-worth and she orchestrated a ritualistic hunt this season to not only save Lottie but also protect the group’s carefully crafted ecosystem that granted her a position of power. She committed morally-gray acts along the way, but never truly learned from the fallout they caused. Sam Hanratty said of Misty, “She never views herself as the villain in this story” which means she never questions her often deadly method of problem-solving. Will Nat’s death change that? Who knows.
A deranged Queen Bee needs a psychotic short king with the power to disassociate on her level and Walter Tattersaw is nothing if not that. We had so much fun watching him whistle show tunes and brew barbiturate-laced hot cocoa we almost forgot he killed a man and framed another to help out his crush – all without her even having to ask. Men, what’s preventing you from being Walter Tattersaw?
Poor Charlotte Matthews went from running the kind of intentional community Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop team might praise as a sanctuary for the affluent-looking to connect with nature and embrace good vibes to the deranged patient of yet another mental institution in the span of a few episodes. Sure, Lottie may have lost it when she proposed a game of Russian Roulette with poisoned oolong tea – or maybe the “it” was lost before then, when she scheduled therapy sessions with an imaginary psychologist. But really, after witnessing Lottie’s horror at learning what the girls did to Javi in the past, and seeing how quickly she relinquished her title when it became clear the girls viewed violence as the answer to all their problems, can we place the blame for that whole cannibalism business solely on her shoulders?
Van, like so many of the girls in the past, has had a crisis of faith that’s pushed her to new lows and actress Liv Hewson seems to be having a hell of a time tapping into her dark side. Young Van is menacing and remorseless in a way that feels shocking considering the sense of hope and optimism she started this season with. Her cancer diagnosis has clearly colored how she views Lottie’s mental breakdown in the show’s season finale – although perhaps the sacrifice of Natalie has taken care of that problem too. In any case, we have a sneaking suspicion Van’s only going to dive further into the deep end before this story ends.
As shocking as Natalie’s death was in the present timeline, it feels achingly poetic that she would be crowned Antler Queen and sacrificed to the wilderness all in the same episode. Her survival instincts and aptitude with a gun make her an obvious leadership choice amongst a group of girls that might be dining solely on a diet of belt soup otherwise, but there’s a grit and determination in Nat that she can wield (for good and evil) and we’ve only scratched its surface. As sad as we are to see Juliette Lewis leave the show, her arc this season was disappointing, to say the least. On the brighter side of things, the lack of a tie to the present might free up Sophie Thatcher to go full boar on the floor next season.
Coach Ben goes full Frankenstein in this episode, choosing to destroy his creation – Natalie, but to an extent, the entire team – rather than see it breed destruction. He can’t stomach the killing and cannibalism and views the girls as too far gone to save, but there’s a purely selfish motivation to his act of arson as well. If the girls found out about his cave or got a whiff of judgment on their choice to eat Javi, you can bet he’d be next on the butcher’s block.
Travis goes from cradling his brother’s frozen corpse to munching on his heart before tossing it into the frying pan and watching it sizzle like a slab of bacon – all in the span of a few minutes. So yes, Yellowjackets has taken “hangry” to a whole new level this season.
Tai’s sleepwalking episodes seem to have slowed in the past – are they hunger-related? – but she’s got plenty to keep her worried in the present. Van’s teetering between viewing Lottie as clinically insane and suggesting her wilderness theories might not be too far off. Shauna and the rest of the girls are planning a faux human hunting session to trick their woo-woo witch doctor into being committed. She’s a newly-elected senator found in the middle of a crime scene at a cult compound deep in the woods. Honestly, we can’t wait to see how her PR team’s going to spin all this.
Shauna Shipman has suffered too much this season so it was nice to see that, despite drawing the Queen’s card and having her friends turn on her for no damn reason, she wasn’t sacrificed to some made-up tree god. In fact, the hunt ends up working in her favor, stalling the police and giving Walter time to set up a fall guy and a clever cover-up for her lover’s murder. But none of that makes witnessing a scared and broken teenager have to cover her eyes in order to bleed a boy dry because none of her other friends can stomach the mess. Shauna might feel invisible to her teammates, but they wouldn’t survive a day without her and we hope she wields that truth to her benefit next season.
We apologize for everything terrible thought we’ve ever directed Callie’s way because she became a low-key hero in this episode. She saved her mom from a pack of rabid, middle-aged women in animal masks. She stood down a cop who tried to intimidate her and turn her against her family. And she didn’t lose it when she discovered her mom’s friends were into cannibalism and ceremonial knife play. But how will all this death and bloodshed affect her going forward? If the look Melanie Lynskey gives her in that final scene is any indication, it’s not going to be good.
“The American family is crumbling, you try making a living in sectionals.” Never change, Jeff Sadecki.