It’s been a little over a year now Yellow jackets took our TVs by storm with a juicy Loststyle mystery that took us all back to our days of fiery speculation. Showtime’s psychological thriller about a high school girls’ soccer team stranded in the wilderness in the mid-90s, and what became of the survivors had it all: multiple timelines, psychological horror, suburban comedy and, of course, the terrible knowledge that many of the girls who survived to this day probably had a dark cultish splurge involving cannibalism.
Now the show is finally back. After a Season 1 finale that left us wanting more (both good and less), the most remarkable thing about the Season 2 premiere is that it feels like… the next episode in the first season. This is not necessarily bad – Yellow jackets is a pretty stuffed show, and it’s a solid approach to getting back to things so viewers can remind themselves of everything that’s going on before jumping into new dilemmas. It just feels a bit sluggish given all the anticipation – maybe enough for fan theorists to chew on, but others want more.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” as the premiere is titled, moves as fast as it can in its introduction to the many records Yellow jackets has been spinning in the air since last year. Today, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) has a murder to cover up with the help of her husband Jeff (Warren Kole), Tai (Tawny Cypress) celebrates her success in local politics while simultaneously losing her family due to an ailment that causes her to do unsettling things. doing it in her sleep, and Nat (Juliette Lewis) was kidnapped by a cult.
Nat’s kidnapping is where the real forward momentum happens in ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen’, as many fans’ suspicions are confirmed: the cult is led by Lottie (Simone Kessell), who seems frustratingly good-natured, even though everything about her cult (and everything we know about teen Lottie) leans kind of sinister.
The ’90s cast usually gets some good character work as Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) death leaves the group shaken and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) struggles to cope. And then there is one new layer added: a brief flash a little further into the lives of the Yellowjackets immediately after the rescue, focusing mainly on Lottie and her struggles to get back to normal life.
As an episode of television, “Friends, Romans, and Countrymen” is fine. As a conversation starter? It’s quite excellent. The introduction of the current Lottie will no doubt rekindle speculation if she really is the Antler Queen, but at the same time Yellow jackets writers seem to impose it a bit at fat for the answer. (Kessell poses himself that she plays a character who genuinely wants to help heal today’s survivors. But that could mean a lot of things.) There’s plenty of tension around the rest of the current cast, with Tai’s aforementioned issues and Shauna’s new side gig in murder, where they have to evade the authorities. And her curious teenage daughter. Also that flashback after the rescue? a Awesome idea. Let’s hope there’s more.
But again, the most poignant part of Yellow jackets is, well, the survival story of the Yellowjackets, and watching them slowly break, reset, or wash off. For all the plot threads the series juggles, the show’s writers don’t seem to have lost their iron grip on this one. And they keep the girls struggling in some… delicious ways.