Yellowjackets Season 2 Finale Review: "Let Your Brother Save You"
Showtime's Yellowjackets produced a season two finale that may be divisive for some but spectacular for others. We agree with both points.
Showtime's Yellowjackets has left us with a shocking season two finale, "Storytelling," that can be easy to dismiss as a fan full of grief and heartache. However, I've got some thoughts that dive beyond the initial grief and into some fantastic creative choices that may have been hindered by a rushed finale. A lot happened in this episode, so MAJOR SPOILERS will be plentiful…you've been warned… buzz-buzz.
This feels like an insane episode to dissect or discuss without going into multiple theories and avenues of explanation. There are layers to this finale, and it's not one I will be treating like previous reviews. I've arrived at a different point than where I started when I finished the episode. At first, there was a level of pure anger, but it quickly passed. Next was a mixture of that anger with the apparent grief that follows this type of character's death. Following the initial flow of reactions from subscribers and fans online, there was a mixture between understanding and gut-wrenching disgust for the writing.
My review is not going to be pleasing to fans or even the creative team behind the series. I'm a fan, and besides some flaws, I find myself willing to follow still what creative avenues are in store for those left in the wake of grief and destruction on Yellowjackets. I won't be going too detail-heavy on examining the episode in this review compared to the sectioned ones in my past. Instead, this will be a review where I step into my role as a fan and a critic. It's incredibly easy to feel targeted by deaths in the series. I'm not going to go into every little detail of the season two finale of Yellowjackets, that would be more of a recap, and it'd take away from the truly powerful moments in the episode. Instead, I'll go through some of the more significant moments (happy and sad) of the episode.
Before we discuss those bigger moments that took place toward the end of the episode, we must dive into some truly poetic and heartwrenching levels of talent showcased on-screen. People might look at the other girls accepting teen Misty's (Samantha Hanratty) statements on what Lottie (Courtney Eaton) wishes for as unrealistic and bad writing. However, there's a huge lack of awareness of the struggle they have growing between survival and morals. They need something to hold onto that allows their minds to accept something so depraved if it means living another day. My heart broke, and my stomach felt sick in these moments because even if I felt disgusted by these character decisions, it didn't negate the necessary means of survival.
While it's easy to look at Misty's character, both in the wilderness and modern day (Christina Ricci), as someone quick to arrive at a decision, it doesn't mean what has been said is necessarily incorrect. Don't get me wrong, she has some insane qualities that can become deeply concerning. But her desire for Lottie to eat and heal, concern for Natalie's well-being in the modern day, and a lot more of her actions end up making some sense. A lot comes to light when finishing this season, but it's not stuff you'd arrive at immediately. Misty, as an adult, obviously still has a level of reverence for Natalie ever since her "crowning" as the Antler Queen. So her actions and desire to be close to Natalie once she's back in town in season one are more clear. Misty wants community and a leading figure from someone barely coping with life as it is. This was the big change in leadership in the Wilderness, and we have yet to see if that ever truly changed hands as time went on.
Yellowjackets does an excellent job in this episode at signaling to the audience who to watch out for. While at times it can be confusing, similar to whether we could trust Walter (Elijah Wood) or not, it signals multiple times some odd behavior from both teen and adult Van (Live Hewson, Lauren Ambrose). This is a character that has slowly shifted towards believing and investing their minds in what the Wilderness may or may not provide. Season three definitely needs clarity on the validity of supernatural elements in season three. Based on how Lottie addressed Van after the events on the compound, the future of that cancer diagnosis may be affected.
I've loved the series' direction so far, but reading statements from interviews that disregard the legitimate supernatural elements from directors like Kusama (who I've loved since Jennifer's Body), does concern me. While I'm glad there wasn't a clear burying of the gays, my focus has now shifted toward the potential gaslighting of the Yellowjackets audience. One of the most powerful lines came from Lottie before the short-lived hunt ensued about there even being a force in the wilderness with them or whether it was just them all along. It's understandable not to reveal too much about what has been discussed at the writing table. But there can be success found in this show, even if it dabbles in the supernatural. There's a thin line between a season having an emotional rollercoaster and truly confusing its audience. I may have thoughts in the future, resulting in some articles expanding upon theories while we wait for a lengthy amount of time before season three.
Yellowjackets was successful in this episode for the majority of the time, but the pacing did feel rushed. It's a shame that a bunch of big conclusions felt packed tightly into the finale. Even with a jam-packed episode, the writing was mostly a phenomenal piece of art in itself and was made spectacular by the acting involved. Jeff (Warren Kole) has a buddy-comedy moment with Walter, Callie (Sarah Desjardins) has a run-in with Saracusa (John Reynolds), Natalie's (Juliette Lewis) moment with Lisa (Nicole Maines), and more added significant levels of humor or depth to the episode.
The handling of the moments of horrific grief, like Travis (Kevin Alves) holding his lifeless brother or Misty holding Natalie as she crossed into some version of an afterlife, was soul-stirring. Yellowjackets may have fallen victim to a condensed finale, but Lewis did know of her character's arc since the beginning of the season. She has even said about her character in an interview, "There's a lot of heaviness to her. I didn't want to play her like a light and cool girl, even though there are aspects to her that could be like that. I wanted to unearth the humanity: a person who is struggling with wanting to live or not." We were seeing less and less adult Natalie as the episodes progressed this season. While death has its sting, that doesn't mean it wasn't a powerful creative choice. Even so, I do agree with the opinion that her death could have been handled differently. It felt oddly random and quick for someone who has gone back and forth between the embrace of death and the fear of it.
There's a level of interesting escapism in this dramatic (and, at times, supernatural) tale of survival. But it's not, and truly shouldn't be, an easy story to digest. There's a pain in trauma, especially the kind that adult Natalie kept inside as she rode the rollercoaster of enlightening and, at times, harmful self-reflection. In an interview, Kusama, who directed the pilot and the season two finale, said, "The tension was always that we understood that people like to watch those characters, but the reality is that they literally or figuratively self-destruct" about Natalie's fate at Lottie's (Simone Kessell) compound.
In one of my classes back in college, which focused on the screenwriting and the storytelling (oddly enough) process, my professor made a lot of good points about characters. One point that stood out to me was how we treat our characters when we write or develop their choices. We are allowed to care about the characters we create, but we can't shelter them or depict them as flawless and unable to be harmed by themselves or the world around them. Yellowjackets showed an obvious love and dedication to the writing of Natalie as an adult. That didn't mean she'd be protected by the writing; no character truly should have those special privileges, especially in a series like this one.
The Yellowjackets season two finale was overall a stunning depiction of grief, survival, and the ultimate tolls of trauma. The Wilderness and the writers will have a lot to answer for once back to developing season three. Supernatural questions deserve answers, and pacing needs to be carefully examined going forward. However, no other series will convict your soul as much as this one can. And even in heartbreak, cabin fires, and questionable morals, there are beautiful and expansive stories for women on television. Yellowjackets proved that with its series and its finale.