Since day one this show has been promising cannibalism, and last week, Showtime’s Yellowjackets finally delivered. And in a big, no holds barred, we are through-the-looking-glass kind of way. At the end of Season 2, Episode 2, “Edible Complex,” the teens ravenously devoured Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) body, pulling the meat right off her bones with their fingers. Only Coach Ben (Steven Krueger) didn’t partake, and from his terrified expression, he’s realizing for the first time who he’s trapped in the wilderness with. Episode 3, “Digestif,” is all about the day after—the day after you eat your friend, and we pick up where we left off, with Ben.
The Ben part of the episode almost feels like a different show, and I love it. Starving and scared, he lapses into a fever dream, and with it, we get our first real flashbacks. This show can be wonky with time, but this is the first time we’ve gotten flashbacks to before the plane crash, and it’s a perfect way to give us a glimpse of what Ben’s life used to be, and how he wound up here. It plays almost like a romcom, but one without a happy ending, as Ben becomes too afraid of coming out to fully commit to his adorable, handsome boyfriend Paul (Francois Arnaud). He insists on staying in the New Jersey suburbs, staying in his job, and accompanying the team to nationals, instead of quitting and moving in with Paul in New York City.
The final flashback is not a flashback at all, but a fantasy of what might have been, if Ben had chosen to follow his heart and drive to Paul’s place instead of driving to the airport that fateful morning. While much of the series is sinister, this particular plotline is sad as we get the full scope of Ben’s regrets, that if he’d just been brave enough to live the life he wanted, he wouldn’t be stranded in the wilderness with no way out.
It’s such a strong bit of story, but I’m disappointed we don’t get to spend more time on it. Perhaps Yellowjackets’ biggest flaw is that it’s juggling too much. Too many characters, and too many timelines, that the episodes become a bit cumbersome. Even with this episode trying to give a few lines to some of the Yellowjackets we don’t spend much time with, it feels useless. The show doesn’t have the time or space to really devote to them as characters. And the divide between the 90s storyline and the present can feel disjointed. The character that defies these issues? Shauna. (Sophie Nélisse plays teen Shauna, and Melanie Lynskey plays adult Shauna)
I talked in last week’s episode review about how Shauna is crazier than we give her credit for, and we dive even deeper into that in this episode. The series has been telling us since Episode 1 when she kills that rabbit that beneath the boring old housewife demeanor, Shauna is lethal. And while she leads the charge on cannibalism in the past, her husband Jeff (Warren Kole) is realizing who she truly is in the present. When they get carjacked, Shauna wrestles the gun away from the thief before he even knows what’s happening, all in front of a shocked and horrified Jeff.
But the best part of the episode comes towards the end when Shauna takes an Uber to the chopshop to demand her car back. Of course, the guy running the place doesn’t take her seriously. He laughs at the way her hand shakes as she points the gun at him. He stops laughing as she tells him about what it’s like to skin a human being in graphic detail, and he literally quivers in fear as she explains that her hand isn’t shaking because she’s afraid, but because of how good the rush of violence feels. By the end, he’s practically begging her to take her car back. Shauna’s little “thank you” as she takes the keys off the hook, that switch back into housewife mode, proves why Lynskey is such a brilliant actor, and why she was nominated for an Emmy for the role.
A good portion of the episode pales in comparison to Shauna going full badass. When we’re following Natalie (Juliette Lewis) around the cult compound (she bafflingly doesn’t try to leave,) I’m bored and waiting for it to get interesting. Really, one would think a cult would be more fun to watch than this. When Taissa (Tawny Cypress) stands in her wife’s hospital room, fully mentally unraveling, I’m checking my watch.
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At least we get some juicy details about Taissa’s alternate personality in this episode. Apparently, it was Taissa’s (Jasmin Savoy Brown) sleepwalking self that helped eat Jackie’s body last episode, leaving a fully awake Tai absolutely horrified. When she sleepwalks again the next night, Van (Liv Hewson) actually converses with the alt-Tai, who claims to take orders from “the one with no eyes.” In the present, we get a spooky scene where alt-Tai grins at Taissa from the mirror, as if she’s a totally separate being. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, it’s weird to me that in all these years, Tai’s never figured out her sleepwalking issues.
I can’t quite decide how I feel about the Misty segments of the episode. In both timelines, she’s got a new friend to play with, which is really all Misty’s ever wanted. In the past, Misty (Samantha Hanratty) bonds with theater geek Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman), who convinces her to perform a scene from Steel Magnolias (1989) at the baby shower the girls throw for Shauna—because naturally, the thing to do after engaging in cannibalism is to throw yourself into the most aggressively normal thing possible. Hence, a baby shower in the wilderness. It causes a flare-up between our pro-and-anti-Lottie (Courtney Eaton) factions when Lottie gives Shauna a baby blanket stitched with the mysterious symbol.
In the present, Misty (Christina Ricci) teams up with fellow citizen detective Walter (Elijah Wood) to interrogate someone who may have witnessed Natalie’s kidnapping. While they successfully figure out where Natalie’s been taken, I want more from Misty’s scenes with Walter. Misty meeting her match should be a lot more thorny than this, but instead, she runs circles around him. As for Misty and Crystal? Please, we all know this isn’t a friendship destined to last, and Misty’s far more interesting when she’s desperate for attention.
Lastly, once again we’re reminded that the wilderness has a mind of its own. Aside from possessing Tai like a puppet, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) has a vision (at least I think it’s a vision?) of a white moose when she visits the site of the plane crash to deposit Jackie’s bones, and at the end of the episode, dozens of starlings drop dead around the cabin, and Lottie gives orders to collect them and thank the wilderness for this blessing. I think it’s time to ask what the wilderness wants, and the answer seems to be to keep the girls alive so that it can keep torturing them. With her early death, Jackie may actually be the lucky one.
Feature image courtesy of Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME
Yellowjackets 2x03 - 7/10