‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 finale recap: It was just us

A season of intrigue concludes with a new antler queen, a tragic death and yes, some impeccable ’90s needle drops

Well! The Yellowjackets writers obviously heard we wanted death, cannibalism, big feelings and answers. And as the series concludes its intriguing, sometimes meandering second season, we all knew it had to go out with a bang. 

The exact nature of that bang—a truly unexpected death in the present, a momentum shifting-location change in the ’90s storyline and someone taking a big ol’ bite out of a raw human heart—falls in line with what fans have come to expect from the show. And while some moments in this overstuffed finale felt expected, rushed or even contrived, you can’t argue that it wasn’t a rush to watch. 

Executive producer Karyn Kusama (of Jennifer’s Body fame) is back as director for the first time since the show’s truly perfect pilot, and I’ll admit that my expectations were high.

Here, Kusama takes on a much more challenging task. Where the pilot was all style and intrigue, setting up the show’s premise, this finale is tasked with wrapping up a pile of storylines, setting up for future seasons, and giving us at least a few answers. The resulting hour is admittedly bloated with plot and some heavy-handed editing choices, but ultimately satisfies as a finale for this jam-packed season.

We open with the repercussions of Javi’s death, set to the Cranberries’ “Zombie,” as Nat breaks the news to Travis and he cries over his brother’s frozen corpse. Misty, who’s still caring for Lottie upstairs, has positioned herself as messenger and firmly relays to the other girl that they will be eating Javi. Despite Lottie’s regret that things have gone this far, Misty tells the group that Lottie fully endorses the whole “eat Javi” thing, so they proceed. 

Shauna is tasked with the butchering, which is shown as a prolonged and complex—though ultimately private—process that Coach Ben accidentally observes. He confides in Nat, suggesting that the two escape to Javi’s secret tree hideaway, since they aren’t like the others, but she can’t bring herself to agree.

Shauna apparently has become the team’s go-to butcher when things get messy.

Credit: Kimberley French/SHOWTIME

Inside, Van posits the most rational pro-cannibalism take in conversation with Travis, as he asks if she’s ashamed to be embracing it. “I’m not ashamed,” she says. “I’m glad I’m alive, just like you are.

“Let your brother save you, Travis … after everything he went through out here, don’t you owe him at least that.”

And sure enough, as Shauna brings in the first bloody tray of meat, it’s Travis who steps forward, grabs his brother’s raw heart and takes a feral bite before tossing it into the frying pan and setting off a feeding frenzy in the cabin.

 

Later in the episode, Lottie descends as Van is telling the group a story, and announces that they need a new leader, not her. Her vote? Nat, since “the wilderness chose who fed us, it’s already chosen who should lead us.” The other girl reluctantly, silently, steps up and one by one, the cabin members bow to their new queen. 

In the present timeline, we pick up with Lottie’s offer to, as Taissa describes it, “play Russian roulette with poisoned fucking oolong.” But it’s Shauna who offers up a different solution for the survivors to select a sacrifice: a hunt with cards and masks and weapons, like they used to.

When Lottie leaves the room, Shauna suggests it’s not an actual hunt, but a set-up in order to get Lottie recommitted—or possibly kill her. And so they prepare. Shauna sharpens knives, Nat pulls the cards, and Taissa and Van engage in a little mask-making craft time as Lottie clears the camp of her acolytes. Misty, meanwhile, enters full on-citizen detective mode, searching for Lottie’s doctor’s contact info and running right into Walter, who as it turns out, did not rat her out to the cops, but rather has come to help. 

Also arriving are Jeff and Callie (looking for Shauna) with officers Saracusa and Kevyn Tan in tow. The gang’s all here! 

And for a show so focused, rightfully so, on its complex female leads, we hilariously get a spotlight on the men as Walter, Jeff and Kevyn come together in the camp’s kitchen. Walter and Kevyn strike up a conversation full of juicy details about Jessica Roberts over hot cocoa, while Jeff attempts to nobly turn himself in for Adam’s death—that is, until Kevyn drops to the floor dead from apparently poisoned cocoa. 

I’ll admit the exact details of the elaborate “Walter and Jeff frame Kevyn Tan via Saracusa for the deaths of both Jessica Roberts and Adam Martin” plan sort of flew in one ear and out the other for me, and needless to say, the result is a maybe too-tidy sorting of both loose threads. Tan is left dead in a trunk full of gunshots from a gun Saracusa is holding, the threat of blackmail lingers and both Roberts and Martin seem to be no longer a problem for the Sadecki clan or any of their allies. 

While the boys are having their fun, the adult survivors gather in the woods around a bonfire, deck of cards in hand. And we know what comes next, after watching the ritual play out in the last episode: one by one, cards are drawn until the queen signals who will be the subject of the hunt.

After one round and half of another, Shauna draws the queen, and reader, I gasped. Not Melanie Lynskey! They wouldn’t! They couldn’t! But the group looks on solemnly as they grasp their weapons, and Lynskey’s face perfectly captures Shauna’s realization that this is real. Taissa didn’t call the doctors. They aren’t stalling for someone to come get Lottie. The hunt is happening. 

After Lottie offers her the option to “submit” in order to give “it” what it wants, the pair exchange one of my favourite bits of dialogue from this entire second season.

Shauna: “You know there’s no ‘it,’ right? It was just us!”

Lottie: “… is there a difference?”

Yes! Yes! That’s the thesis of the show. And if you’ve been reading these recaps on the regular you’ll know that all I want is for the “it” to just be them! So what a treat it was to see the show spell it out in this key moment. 

The next sacrifice to the wilderness in the present day comes as a big surprise.

Credit: Colin Bentley/SHOWTIME

But before the hunt can descend on Shauna, Callie shows up and just straight-up shoots Lottie, and Simone Kessell effortlessly pivots from blood-hungry huntress to weirdly possessive second mom as she remarks that Callie is “so powerful”—certainly a callback or link to her connection with Shauna’s wilderness baby. 

But we’re not done with the people busting in! Because Lisa (remember her?) arrives with a gun and a mission to rescue Nat. Misty acts, pulling a hidden syringe (apparently her hunt weapon of choice?) and lunging at Lisa. But Nat steps in and Misty hits her instead with what we quickly realize from Misty’s horrified and shocked reaction is a fatal dose of something.

Already from initial social media reaction, the ensuing scene has become a divisive flashpoint—particularly compared to a similar moment from the Season 1 finale—and I’ll admit it’s a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. If you’ll recall, the end of Season 1 saw teen Shauna discovering that Jackie had frozen to death outside, in a remarkably still and emotional scene, as Shauna wept over her best friend’s frigid corpse.

Here, as Nat falls to the ground in Misty’s arms, we get a cut to a dreamlike sequence on the plane, with an adult Nat met by teen versions of Javi, Lottie and herself. “Natalie, it’s not evil, just hungry. Like us. Just let it in,” teen Lottie tells her, as she goes toward the light. While I love an opportunity to get the teen and adult actresses of a character together in one place, the cuts are rapid, there are a lot of flashing transitions and it’s a bit cluttered and messy for me. 

It reminded me a bit of my ongoing pet peeve of the season: those occasional flashbacks from Ben cut with jarring (and both unnecessary and inconsistent) VHS transitions. Now that we’ve reached the end of the season, with no evidence for them serving a story purpose, they can’t help but read like a fun stylistic choice made by the production team just to try it out. It feels like the same thing here, as Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci try to fight through all of the editing noise and convey the deep emotional impact of Natalie dying in Misty’s arms. 

All to say, I’m hopeful in the future seasons of this show that we get a lot more of that Season 1 finale (quiet, devastating, simple) and a lot less of this messiness.

Fans have long clamored for more scenes with the adult and teen versions of characters together–but maybe not like this.

Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

But yes, Natalie dies, and it is heartbreaking, particularly paired with her fight for life as a teen in the previous episode, and her overall arc of recovery. And much like the hunt that ended with an accidental new victim in Javi in the previous episode, so too this one ends as Nat takes Shauna’s place.

And so our present timeline wraps up with Lottie sent back to an institution (ominously suggesting things will calm down and claiming “it is pleased with us”). Misty is mourning Nat and Shauna, Taissa and Van are still adrift and unclear of what to do, even if the Adam Martin and Jessica Roberts situations are seemingly wrapped up (thanks, boys!). But with three more seasons of the show planned, I sense it won’t stay pleased for long. 

Back in the ’90s, we get another visit to Shauna’s journals (how many pages did the girl bring with her on this soccer trip?!) as she writes through her feelings about not being chosen as the antler queen. And it’s giving petty vengeance next season, and I’m here for it. But since she’s up late spilling the tea through pen and paper, she’s also the first to notice smoke as the cabin mysteriously bursts into flames—likely thanks to a little bit of petty arson from Coach Ben, who was lurking around the woodpile and matches earlier during Nat’s crowning. 

The remaining team scrambles outside, grabbing what they can (Shauna notably grabs Jackie’s green dress from “Doomcoming”) as the cabin bursts into flames. And so the table is set for a very cold third season for the remaining survivors, and a possible villain arc for Coach Ben in his little tree cave, since the only other person who seemed to know where it was, was just everyone’s dinner.

The showrunners have claimed they want five seasons of Yellowjackets. And if that happens, we’re not even halfway through the ride. Zooming out, Season 2 was a bit shaggier and lacking in the laser-sharp focus of the series’ breakout debut, a struggle faced by many sophomore outings of surprise hits. As we look ahead to Season 3, I’m hopeful that with all of this plot out of the way (seriously, the past two episodes are bursting at the seams with plot) that we can go back to the interpersonal relationships between these girls in the past and women in the present. Much like in the show, it’s inside them: that’s where the magic is. 

But still, I leave Season 2 satisfied and hungry for more. Just how you should be after a good ol’ feast. 

Other thoughts from the hive: 

🐝 As we wound down the episode, my partner immediately theorized a time-jump in the present for our next season. And with everyone hitting a certain moment of status quo in the wake of Nat’s death, it does make sense—zoom past the mourning and get right back into what happens when the wilderness comes calling again.

 🐝“We didn’t even kill him … exactly.” Misty always with the technicalities, even back in the ’90s.

🐝“There’s practically a coven of them, all up to no good.” I laughed out loud at Walter’s description of the adult survivor girl gang to Kevyn Tan.

🐝 Also, much attention to Nat’s death, obviously, but R.I.P. also to Kevyn Tan, her one-time goth crush.

🐝 Lottie giving huge “passive-aggressive sister” energy as she talks to Nat about the wilderness: “You were always its favourite.”

🐝 The Mazzy Star Nonstop Banger Award: After a pitch-perfect musical season (and much thanks to the music supervisors for bringing Tori Amos to a whole new generation), the last one goes out to Buffy Sainte-Marie, an absolute legend, with “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot” that perfectly scores the preparation for the hunt. Honourable mentions to the Cranberries and St. Vincent, though. 

🐝Unresolved threads in the present I hope we get some answers for: Will Van’s cancer be a major plot point in Season 3? Who is looking after Taissa’s son? Can Walter really afford a house that nice from his lawsuit? Will book club return? Did Misty just steal all of these drugs from the care home? 

🐝 Unresolved threads in the past I hope we get some answers for: What was Javi eating in the cave, and can Ben eat it too? Do any of these girlies know how to build a shelter? Did the Javi meat burn alongside the cabin? Is Nat still wearing the Jackie necklace? WHY THE BEN FLASHBACKS? And of course: WHO IS PIT GIRL?

🐝 Thanks for following along with Xtra’s first bite into Yellowjackets. Whenever Season 3 takes flight, you know we’ll be there to keep up along with you. Until then, keep your friends close, and your tasty friends even closer: you never know when you’re going to need them.

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

Read More About:
Culture, TV & Film, Yellowjackets

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