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Yellowjackets Tinges Its Love Stories With Horror, as Only It Can

Shauna's act of cannibalism and Van's bloody declaration make for a beautifully horrific Season 2 premiere.
  • Sophie Nélisse and Jasmin Savoy Brown in Showtime's Yellowjackets Season 2 premiere. (Photo: Showtime)
    Sophie Nélisse and Jasmin Savoy Brown in Showtime's Yellowjackets Season 2 premiere. (Photo: Showtime)

    [Editor’s Note: This post contains spoilers for Yellowjackets Season 2, Episode 1, “Friends, Romans, Countryman.”]

    Don’t let the purple-clad cult members or mystical anxiety treatments fool you: The Yellowjackets Season 2 premiere, “Friends, Romans, Countryman,” is a tale of two love stories.

    While the present-day timeline raises new questions about Lottie (Simone Kessell as an adult and Courtney Eaton as a teen) and follows Shauna (Melanie Lynskey, here, and Sophie Nélisse in flashbacks) as she covers her tracks after murdering her paramour Adam (Peter Gadiot), the 1990s-set scenes deepen the emotional relationships between the teenage girls stranded in the Canadian wilderness. Two months after the events of the Season 1 finale, the Yellowjackets find themselves in the middle of winter, and things are looking bleak. They’re nearly out of food, Javi (Luciano Leroux) remains missing after fleeing during “Doomcoming,” and, most concerningly, Shauna has started talking to Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) corpse.

    Jackie’s death was largely the result of her lack of survival skills — if she had contributed to the group in any way, she would have known how to make a fire and stave off hypothermia — but Shauna still feels responsible. It was Shauna who suggested Jackie leave the cabin after their fight, during which she exposed Jackie’s insecurities and flaws for all to see. In the months since, Shauna’s grief and regret have overwhelmed her, and she copes by spending hours every day with her dead best friend, pretending everything is exactly as it was before Jackie called her a “sad little sidekick.”

    When Jackie bullies Shauna into telling the truth about sleeping with Jeff (Jack DePew in flashbacks and Warren Kole in the present), she reluctantly agrees. Shauna initially lays out a sympathetic version of events, claiming they got together after Jackie and Jeff’s “millionth fight,” but Jackie, who’s now an extension of Shauna’s psyche, pushes her to acknowledge what she’s so desperate to forget: The golden couple was fighting because of Jackie’s hesitancy to have sex. Even more damning, Shauna was the one to make the first move, not Jeff. She claims not to know why she kissed him, but it’s apparent that this is a lie — she did it both to spite Jackie and to be close to her. The reality check sends Shauna spiraling, and she shoves Jackie’s corpse to the ground, ripping her ear off in the process.

    Like it or not, it’s only through Jackie that Shauna is able to understand herself and carve out a path forward. Jackie says as much, telling Shauna, “You’re like, holding onto me, or whatever. That’s like Haunting 101.” Theirs isn’t explicitly a romantic love story (though there were queer undertones to Jackie and Shauna’s relationship in Season 1), but it’s undoubtedly a passionate one. It’s no accident that it’s impossible to tell where Shauna ends and Jackie begins in these scenes: Jackie may be dead, but the two are still entwined, locked in a power struggle that secretly sustains them.

    With this in mind, Shauna’s act of cannibalism in the final seconds of the premiere comes as no surprise. Back in the cabin, Shauna pulls Jackie’s detached ear out of her pocket and takes a big bite. The moment is like a twisted version of Communion: Overcome with grief for someone she both loved and hated, Shauna eats Jackie’s ear in hopes of keeping their connection, and her sense of self, alive. It’s horrific, but it’s also deeply vulnerable, a combination that has proven to be Yellowjackets’ secret sauce.

    That same ethos can be found in Van (Liv Hewson) and Taissa’s (Jasmin Savoy Brown) bloody declaration of love. The girls have been sleeping with their wrists bound together to prevent Taissa from sleep walking, but one night, she wakes up possessed and bites Van’s lip, drawing blood. When she comes to, Taissa is (rightfully) concerned, but Van dismisses her worries. “This isn’t you. It’s just something that’s happening to you — happening to us,” she says. “Besides, you killed a wolf for me, which is about the most romantic thing imaginable.”

    Realizing that she hasn’t yet allayed Taissa’s doubts, Van uses the blood from her mouth to write a message on Taissa’s arm: I love you. For Van, this is the ultimate romantic gesture, an expression of openness and honesty so pure it takes Taissa aback. “This is how you’re choosing to say ‘I love you’ for the first time?” she asks, before finally giving Van the response she wants.

    On another teen drama, this may be too gruesome to achieve the desired effect, but it’s so perfectly Yellowjackets, which generates moments of extreme emotion out of the most terrifying of situations. Nothing encapsulates the show’s strengths more than the suggestion that Van and Taissa are quite literally wearing their hearts on their sleeves, an idea that’s equal parts heartwarming and disturbing.

    There’s a reason why Yellowjackets places these two love stories in the 1990s-set timeline, rather than in the present day. Even if it’s tinged with horror, the teens are open to love in a way that their adult selves, who have been hardened by their trauma and the expectations placed upon them by the world, are not. The real question is, as the girls’ time in the wilderness wears on, how long will they remain that way?

    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.

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: Yellowjackets, Showtime, Ella Purnell, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Liv Hewson, Melanie Lynskey, Sophie Nélisse