Monday 20 March 2023

Yellowjackets – Let the darkness set us free.

 Yellowjackets: 1x10 Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

Ally, the girl who never made it on the plane yet has built an entire personality on her almost-miss, gives a definition of reunions at their high school 25th. They are meeting again after a period of distance – and that is also what has been happening between Misty, Natalie, Taissa and Shauna as they have investigated the blackmail and Travis’ death. We know that Taissa and Natalie have kept in touch, Taissa taking responsibility for Nat over and over again. We know that Shauna had a secret burner phone locked up in her safe with all the numbers saved, in case anything happened. They’ve worked together – in this episode, they clean a crime scene and cut up Adam’s body (Shauna calls her knife skills a “riding a really gross, fucked up bike” just before she starts the chainsaw). But they’ve also kept secrets from each other. The entire story about Adam that Shauna told them is made up to ensure their cooperation. Misty has been keeping Jessica Roberts locked up in her basement. Taissa has been sleep-walking again, and, as her wife finds out in this episode, built a gruesome altar behind a crawl space in the basement that includes their family dog’s head. Natalie’s secrets, if she has any, are about the depth of her despair after Travis’ death, a despair that almost leads her to suicide when she concludes that he might actually have killed himself (ironically, it’s Lottie’s disciples that interrupt her attempt – the very people likely responsible for his death). They rely on each other, but they don’t trust each other fully. However true the connection between Shauna and Taissa, for example, felt, it’s not close enough for Shauna to tell her about Jeff. However much fun Misty and Nat had on the road as fellow citizen detectives, Misty will always remain someone they all rely on, but never fully trust. 

The photo montage (over Enya!) of their Yellowjacket days at the reunion gives you a sense of how little of their trauma any of them have really processed, and how little other people appreciate what they have gone through, in spite of all their digging for the stories. There’s a little shrine in the high school corridor that includes pictures of Javi and Travis and their dad – so we know that Javi was lost out there, and he’s nowhere to be found after the horrors of doomcoming, when Travis looks for him. Travis seems reluctant to even admit that anything has happened to him, focusing on finally getting laid – his words – over what happened after, when Shauna held a knife to his throat and was ready to slaughter him. Natalie tries to get him to talk about it, but he can’t, because all of this is so beyond anything that a teenager can process. A similar thing is happening between Van and Taissa. Taissa realises that Van is falling under Lottie’s spell, that her repeated near-death experiences have opened her to Lottie’s ideas about the wilderness, and as the resident sceptic, she has a hard time even considering her point of view. They talk about it, and it feels like the kind of conversation that no teenage couple should be having – it’s issues way beyond their years, about spirituality and doubt, and whether they can accept each other in spite of it. For now, Taissa loves Van too much to fully say what she thinks, and she grudgingly allows Lottie to give a truly out there blessing when they share the bear she slaughtered (a bear that appeared to kneel down in front of her, as if it was ready for the sacrifice). Taissa thinks the rules of the world they’ve left behind still apply. Van tells her she can’t be sure about anything anymore, that there are no rational explanations for the things that are happening, so Lottie’s might as well be true. 

It is all working up to the deciding moment when things truly started to go wrong in the wilderness. It isn’t the initial death, the starvation, the lack of a rescue party arriving in time for winter. It’s not Laura Lee crashing her airplane in the sea, or Taissa’s excursion failing. It all breaks down over Shauna and Jackie’s friendship, the fact that these two never find their way back to each other after everything that has happened, the fact that Shauna has found herself resilient and strong out there, while Jackie is still the same person that got on the plane. Jackie is still furious because of Shauna’s betrayal, and airs her rage in front of everyone just as they’re about to dig into the bear meat. She talks about how Shauna has always been her sidekick, has never stood up for herself, but Shauna retaliates and tells everyone that Jackie is weak. Whatever transformation has happened, it has bypassed Jackie entirely. In the end, she is the one that leaves the cabin to sleep outside in front of a meagre fire. She dreams of the warmth of being welcomed back in and being told she is loved, but when Laura Lee appears to share the sentiment, she realises it isn’t reality. When everyone gets up the next morning, they find the first snow of winter has arrived, and Jackie has frozen to death. It wouldn’t have happened if Shauna had gone out there and asked her best friend to come back inside. 

And, in the end, we see Lottie at a tree stump altar, bringing the sacrifice of a bear heart, praying to her new dirt god, with Van and Misty right behind her. Some have been transformed more than others. 

Random notes: 

Misty is very, very prepared for this very situation. Like she has planned every detail, and really thought it all through, and has absolutely no moral misgivings about any of it. 

The queen entrance at the reunion is something to behold. 

Taissa, against all odds, won the election, but it happens at the exact same moment at which it becomes clear to Simone that she and her son are definitely no longer safe in her presence. 

Shauna’s daughter sees Adam’s face in a missing person report on TV, now the only person apart from Shauna’s accomplices able to potentially put those puzzle pieces together.

Misty is the one who really causes the drama between Jackie and Shauna to explode when she points out that Jackie isn’t joining in with Lottie’s blessing – and for her, it’s just a convenient way to defer attention after she admits that she tried to poison just Ben with the mushrooms, and everyone stops trusting her. It’s interesting to consider if Misty, all this time, has been one of Lottie’s disciples, or if the moment at the tree was just a way for her to try and fit in again. In any case, she pretends to set Jessica Roberts free, only to lace her cherished pack of cigarettes with fentanyl. 

The second season is only a few days away and I can't wait to see the great Lauren Ambrose as adult Van. 

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