It’s easy to want a show like Yellowjackets to get a move on and solve some of its mysteries. Who is wearing the antlers and veil? What happened to Jackie? What is Adam hiding? But strangely, it’s the slowest sequences of this week’s episode, “No Compass,” that prove the best.
We start with a particularly devastating one. Taissa awakens in the tree with a bleeding bite in her hand, a mouth full of dirt, and no memory of how she got there. It’s a sad and lonely walk to the bathroom, to wordlessly wash the the dirt between her teeth and wrap a bandage around her hand, clouded in confusion and holding back tears. It’s a stunning bit of performance from Tawny Cypress The earlier half of the season held back so much about Taissa, giving her endless one-note scenes about the political campaign going badly, that it makes it all the more exciting to have opened up this whole new dimension, and Cypress seems more than up to the challenge.
Having scrubbed away the shame, Taissa has to meet up with Shauna and Nat to drop off the money with the blackmailer. Things take a turn for the lighter where Shauna is disappointed in the size of $50,000 in bills as it renders the bag she has brought way too big and makes it harder to conceal the tracker she got off Amazon. It is made all the funnier that the bag Shauna chose was a father’s day gift from Callie. The gentle mocking and banter between Nat, Shauna, and Taissa feels very natural and real; the actors have an easy chemistry that makes the characters long shared history ring true. And even though the blackmailer gets away with the cash after a frantic chase through the warehouse, the most engrossing moments are the ones where the women are sat talking in the car.
There is an intense conversation between Taissa and Shauna about Nat’s addiction, with Shauna taking a far less sympathetic position. It is a raw and complicated moment that speaks to the toxicity around childless women. Taissa says they have families and support networks and asks, “Did we do something to deserve that? It’s just fate that gave us that. Who does Natalie have?” As much as that purports to be sympathy, it comes with a large pinch of superiority which seems particularly rich from a woman with an open bite wound in her hand. Later, when Nat confronts them and yells, “You guys are just as fucked up as I am, you are just better at lying to yourselves!,” she’s not wrong. Actually, when contrasted with killing bunnies to feed to your family and eating dirt and terrorizing your child from a tree, Nat is probably the most tethered to reality even with the generous helpings of booze. She crawls into bed with the extremely heavy sleeping Detective Kevin, and for a moment it seems she might have it kinda figured out.
Unfortunately, that hope is short-lived. Upon waking, Kevin notices his gun has been tampered with. In trying not to incriminate herself and her friends, Natt blows up her budding romance in spectacular fashion. Juliette Lewis really sells the viciousness, the way the cracks in Nat’s hard shell quickly seal up. But it’s still significantly less fucked up than the end of Shauna’s evening. Yellowjackets has had so much fun with Shauna being a heightened take of the dissatisfied suburban housewife, so having sex with her young lover in her marital bed seems like the next step down this narrative path. When Adam narrowly escapes detection by Jeff, the writers acknowledge the corniness of the of plot-line by having him remark “I’ve never been in a French farce before.”
Meanwhile Misty, continuing to be one of the best cast roles on television, is embracing her inner sociopath, and Ricci plays it with just the right level of camp. Her back and forth with Jessica (Rekha Sharma, coming into her own) is deliciously Machiavellian, with both women trying to get the upper hand. One of the best moments of Yellowjackets so far involves Misty cooly injecting chocolates with fentanyl to send to Jessica’s elderly father, a phenomenally dark threat that you never doubt Misty is capable of executing.
But best of all is the plot-line in the wilderness, where young Taissa assembles a crew to attempt to find civilization. Taissa, with an extremely chic cropped haircut, gets a couple of young Yellowjackets on board with her plan to head south. Van decides to come with her and Liv Hewson delivers a stunning monologue about how her one trip to New York City involved the musical Cats instead of the soft pretzel and carriage ride she hoped for. She wants to join Taissa because, despite the danger, she feels she must do everything in her power to take her for a soft pretzel and a carriage ride in a speech that is heartbreakingly beautiful in its understatement. That moment again, where the show slows down and reminds us of the very human stakes, proves one of its strongest.
When the wolves attack the rescue mission and Taissa, who was supposed to be standing guard, finds herself coming to up a tree with no recollection of how she got there, it is as brutal a moment as the show has ever had. She scrambles down to find three wolves being held off with sticks, while another is sinking its fangs into the girl she adores. Taissa sinks the axe into the wolf again and again and again. Clearly wanting to be sinking its blade into herself for not heeding Lottie’s warning and letting down her friends. It is almost unbearable to see when she flips Van over and sees her, seemingly dead, with a chunk taken out of the side of her face, exposing teeth, sinew and bone. It is also a welcome reminder of the show’s horror credentials and willingness to delve into the unrelenting brutality.
- Jackie finds out Shauna is pregnant and makes it about her. Speaks true to the toxic dynamic so many teenage girls find themselves in where one is allocated the role of sidekick.
- Nat convincing Travis to not go on the rescue mission proves utterly adorable.
- They are hinting so hard at Travis’ younger brother being Adam that I no longer believe it. Having him do art is way too on the nose.
- One of the best bits of comedy the show has done is the Coach’s barely concealed delight at Misty going on the rescue mission.
- I have never felt more seen than when Van felt the most entertaining way to spend the evening was to dissect the batshittery of the 1995 romantic comedy While You Were Sleeping. If Van exists in 2021, I hope she is a prominent film critic.