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Yellowjackets Lightens the Mood With a Musical Number and John Cameron Mitchell

The tonal departure is so bizarre, it works.
  • Christina Ricci and John Cameron Mitchell in Yellowjackets (Photo: Showtime)
    Christina Ricci and John Cameron Mitchell in Yellowjackets (Photo: Showtime)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Yellowjackets Episode 7, “Burial.”]

    Yellowjackets has always thrived on darkness, and Season 2 just keeps getting more and more bleak — that’s really saying something for a season that embraced cannibalism in Episode 2. The end of Season 2, Episode 7, “Burial,” features one of the most brutal displays of violence shown so far. So, it’s surprising to report that the exact same episode also includes one of the show’s most WTF moments, in the form of an upbeat, uncharacteristically optimistic musical number starring John Cameron Mitchell. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that it totally works.

    There’s been no shortage of hallucinations on Yellowjackets thus far, whether they be drug-induced, like in Season 1’s “Doomcoming”; hunger-induced, like this year’s Bacchanalian feast; death-induced, like Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) warm welcome back into the cabin; or caused by some unknown power, as seems to be the case with Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton in the past, Simone Kessell in the present day) visions. But none of these sequences were exactly feel-good, or at the very least, any uplifting moments were instantly quashed when the person caught up in the fantasy came crashing back to their grim reality. Misty’s (Christina Ricci) dream sequence in “Burial,” however, is amusing, lighthearted, and returns her to the real world with a sense of hope, perhaps even joy.

    While trying to embrace the amenities that Lottie’s not-a-cult wellness center has to offer, Misty takes a dip in a sensory deprivation tank. Throughout the episode, characters both in the past and present are questioning Misty’s bloodlust — does she delight in the deaths happening around her, both then and now? It gets to be so much that while in the tank, she begins to question herself. Only one person (er, bird) can provide her with answers: Caligula, of course, as played by Mitchell. He appears to her in what looks and feels like a fever dream, as a human in a giant parrot costume to sing — and dance, with help from a coattails-clad Walter (Elijah Wood) — some words of encouragement:

    “Let your troubles melt away / you’ll be sitting pretty in the moonlight gaze / tumble through the tulips and dance on the graves / of any motherf*cker who gets in your way!”

    It’s no real surprise that Misty’s brain works differently than everyone else’s — she’s the most consistent source of comedy throughout the series because she approaches even the most dour situations with an unnatural amount of perkiness. But that didn’t make this glimpse into her psyche any less jarring. Yellowjackets isn’t exactly known for its original songs or its choreography — there’s no precedent in the series so far for something quite like an entire musical number sung by an anthropomorphized African grey parrot played by a legend of stage and screen.

    Still, somehow, by the time Mitchell takes a final drag from a cigar (which can’t be good for a parrot) and the scene fades away, the entire thing feels right at home nestled about halfway into this exceptionally dark episode. For one, it’s a much-needed reprieve from the mounting tensions of Season 2 so far — nothing like a little song and dance to allow viewers to finally exhale while watching an episode of Yellowjackets. And beneath the surface, it still isn’t entirely feel-good. The number is so aggressively delightful and cheery that, considering the circumstances, it becomes maniacal.

    More than anything, this departure proves that Yellowjackets can do much more than the macabre. There’s no doubt that bleakness will continue to define the series, but that’s not all that the creators have up their sleeves. And that’s an especially good thing if the show continues for three more seasons as its creators initially intended. Here’s hoping for more Caligula-led kicklines in Yellowjackets’ future.

    New episodes of Yellowjackets stream Fridays and air Sundays at 9:00 PM ET on Showtime. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: Yellowjackets, Showtime, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, John Cameron Mitchell