The second season of any TV series might have even more heavy lifting to do than the first. In the case of Showtime’s Yellowjackets, which hails from co-creators and EPs Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, the buzz around the show grew slowly and over time. More and more viewers were tuning in with each new episode until a series renewal became not only likely but inevitable — and Yellowjackets was confirmed to be returning for Season 2 only five episodes into its initial run. In fact, a third season was announced prior to Yellowjackets‘ return later this month, which means that we’re one step closer to the full realization of Lyle and Nickerson’s five-season plan for the series. In terms of where we’re set to return to this world, Yellowjackets Season 2 wastes no time in dropping us right back into its harrowing, survive-at-all-costs world. More than that, it’s a television show that still understands how to utilize episodic storytelling to its utmost potential — with all the twists, turns, and cliffhangers that make Yellowjackets mandatory appointment viewing. With a second season comes double the mysteries to uncover, but there’s still a bit of an imbalance when it comes to making the present timeline as interesting to follow as the past.
25 years ago, winter has arrived for our stranded soccer team, and in an already-unforgiving landscape like the Canadian wilderness, the stakes begin to rise even while the temperatures plummet. Having located a trapper’s cabin in the dwindling days of spring, the survivors — among them a very pregnant Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), group-appointed mystic Lottie (Courtney Eaton), and a glued-at-the-hip Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Van (Liv Hewson) — are forced into close quarters, where emotions run high more often than not and tensions simmer over whose turn it is to take care of the designated pee bucket. It’s no wonder, then, that Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) seeks any excuse she can to flee the space, trekking out into the snow with her rifle in search of game to bring back to the rest of the team, but her new boyfriend Travis (Kevin Alves) is more driven in the search for his missing brother Javi (Luciano Leroux) than he is at pitching in on hunting duty.
Naturally, the arrival of a second season means a bigger budget and therefore even more former background characters who get to have their own stories. Back at the cabin, Misty (Sammi Hanratty) has been banned from the cooking pot after Season 1’s descent into mushroom madness, but strikes up a new friendship with theater nerd Crystal (Nuja Jes Izman), who is more than happy to enable her fondness for musicals — much to the chagrin of everyone else. In terms of a setting change, the conceit of a brutal winter forcing the group together in an even smaller space this time around is a perfect one, especially on the heels of the Yellowjackets losing one of their own last season. While the show’s return doesn’t immediately provide a skewering mean-girl replacement for Jackie (Ella Purnell), it turns out that Shauna has her own somewhat twisted methods for coping with the death of her best friend, ones that reveal that Jackie can still loom large even from the afterlife.
In the present, some of the biggest questions have cropped up around the rise of a new wellness group, led by none other than a grown-up Lottie (Simone Kessell), whose devotees previously kidnapped Natalie (Juliette Lewis) in the Season 1 finale. When Natalie finally comes face-to-face with her fellow teammate after all these years, Lottie — who goes by Charlotte now — insists that she’d only had her people intervene in order to save Natalie’s life and that her purpose here now is only to help others find the best version of themselves. Based on what plays out in the wilderness between their younger selves, however, the first few episodes lend an even deeper complexity and competition to Natalie and Lottie’s relationship, from their shared attachment to Trevor to who has the more skill as a survivalist. More suspiciously, Lottie’s “wellness group,” which includes a striving follower in Supergirl‘s Nicole Maines, has no difficulty making use of the strange symbol we see carved into trees and drawn on frosted windows, whose origins still remain an enigma.
That said, if there’s anyone we know who can’t resist the temptation of solving a good mystery, it’s our favorite Citizen Detective Misty (Christina Ricci), who discovers the evidence of Natalie’s disappearance and appoints herself to the task of finding out what happened. Along the way, her path crosses with fellow amateur sleuth Walter (Elijah Wood) on a Reddit-style true-crime message board, and when the two manage to link up IRL, they’re more well-suited to each other’s energy than the inherently suspicious Misty would like to admit. It’s the first time Ricci and Wood have teamed up together on-screen since 1997’s The Ice Storm, and if it’s even possible, their ability to play off one another has only gotten better with time.
Misty isn’t the only former Yellowjacket who has friction in their lives — after the publicized disappearance of Adam Martin (Peter Gadiot) last season, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) and her husband Jeff (Warren Kole) aren’t only trying to stay one step ahead of the police, but also their increasingly suspicious daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins). The show, which has always thrived in showcasing intergenerational dynamics, finds some of its best beats when these comedically out-of-touch parents do their best to meet their disaffected Gen Z’er on her level. Meanwhile, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is having more and more trouble coming to grips with what she may be doing when she’s not fully conscious, which leads her to seek out a distant presence from her own past in Van (Lauren Ambrose — who proves that sometimes, the best internet fancasting is actually spot-on).
If this all sounds like a lot to juggle, that’s because it is, and Yellowjackets Season 2 pulls it off, to an extent. At the end of last season, I wrote about how Season 1’s late-stage Lottie twist finally succeeded in making the present timeline as compelling as the past — but in these newer episodes, six of which were given to critics for advance viewing, that hasn’t always been the case. What keeps the modern-day mysteries interesting are the strengths of the show’s cast — with Lynskey, in particular, getting even more of a well-deserved opportunity to sink her teeth into Shauna’s willingness to go dark — but they still pale in comparison to everything that still hangs over the wilderness. One early reveal is so stark, so unapologetic in its boldness that it seems difficult to imagine how it could be outdone, and then it is, in a fashion that could only be described as Yellowjackets at its most horrifying. Although the present has yet to fully measure up to the stomach-churning storytelling of the past, Season 2 is still packed to the brim with what made the series such a buzzworthy hit in the beginning: dark comedy blended with harrowing drama, and more than enough wild reasons to keep watching.
Yellowjackets Season 2 premieres on streaming March 24 and on air March 26 at 9 PM ET/PT.