Yellowjackets S2 review: Multi-generational cannibal drama returns with swagger

Natalie (Juliette Lewis) in Yellowjackets (Paramount+)
Natalie (Juliette Lewis) in Yellowjackets. (Paramount+)

With seven Emmy nominations in its opening season, Yellowjackets makes a ravenous return to Paramount+ from 24 March, as this sophomore effort delivers second helpings of teenage angst and ritual sacrifice.

Headlined by Melanie Lynskey (The Last of Us), Tawny Cypress (The Equalizer), Christina Ricci (Wednesday), and Juliette Lewis (Welcome to Chippendales), this multi-generational melodrama made serious waves back in 2021, opening on a panicked teen as she stumbled through snow covered woodland pursued by forces unknown.

Read more: Everything that happened in Yellowjackets S1

Creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson — who also spearhead season 2 — slowly unpacked a tale of unflinching survival horror in the Canadian Rockies circa 1996, as some high school soccer stars crash landed miles from civilisation.

Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) in Yellowjackets (Paramount+)
Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) in Yellowjackets (Paramount+)

With teenage actors Sophie Neliesse (Shauna), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Taissa), Samantha Hanratty (Misty), and Sophie Thatcher (Natalie), mirroring their adult co-stars, this contemporary thriller tapped into psychological trauma whilst channelling Julie Ducournau’s Raw.

Through a combination of perfect casting, some savvy flashback sequences, and more than a modicum of gore, Yellowjackets also gained itself some serious kudos alongside a devoted fanbase.

Read more: Yellowjackets is the best show on TV right now

Jump ahead to the opening episode of season two, and things are far from plain sailing. With the sadistic Misty (Christina Ricci) playing at private eye in between nursing old people, while Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is still missing in action, Shauna has bigger problems at hand.

With Adam (Peter Gadiot) off the reservation and people getting suspicious, her cheating husband Jeff (Warren Kole) concocts a plan to save them both.

Elsewhere, Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is banned from seeing her son Sammy (Aiden Stoxx) by her partner Simone (Rukiya Bernard), following the discovery of a sacrificial altar in their basement.

Christina Ricci as Misty in Yellowjackets (Paramount+)
Christina Ricci as Misty in Yellowjackets (Paramount+)

Back in the woods circa 1996 with their football coach (Steven Krueger) minus one leg, a decomposing Jackie (Ella Purnell) still propped in the woodshed, and Natalie and Travis (Kevin Alves) embracing their hunter gather roles – a clear hierarchy is starting to emerge headed by Lottie Matthews (Courtney Eaton).

With Shauna expecting, Misty still mooning over the crippled coach, and food permanently in short supply – how these teens go from major league soccer stars to shameless cannibals remains under wraps.

Instead early episodes focus on back stories for Ben, as well as the emergence of Lottie’s adult alter-ego in Simone Kessell (Andor): she's a wellness mentor, who has re-invented herself by taking the persona she mastered as a teen and morphing it into big business.

Read more: Yellowjackets bosses say show is on track for 5-season plan (Entertainment Weekly, 2 min read)

Similar in structure to that first season, Yellowjackets mark 2 uses a clever combination of flashbacks to tell its story across generations. Tying together strands which all link back in some way to the trauma of that plane crash.

Stand outs include Samantha Hanratty as the teenage Misty, bringing together equal amounts of kooky and off-kilter crazy, complementing Christina Ricci’s wide-eyed adult in the present day.

(L-R): Nuha Jes Izman as Teen Crystal, Samantha Hanratty as Teen Misty, Alexa Barajas as Teen Mari, Sophie Nélisse as Teen Shauna, Courtney Eaton as Teen Lottie, Nia Sondaya as Teen Akilah, Sophie Thatcher as Teen Natalie, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa, Steven Krueger as Ben Scott and Liv Hewson as Teen Van in Yellowjackets (Showtime)
The teenage cast of Yellowjackets. (Showtime)

Elsewhere, Emmy-nominee Melanie Lynskey continues to impress as Shauna, while her daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins) gets more screen time, as well as more leverage over her parents. As the subterfuge behind Adam’s death gets closer to home, Shauna’s relationship with her husband and Callie also becomes increasingly complex, as does everything else for those involved.

However, beyond the inherent mind games going on between those isolated teenagers and their adult counterparts, Yellowjackets remains compelling entertainment because of some eloquent story telling. Those cannibalistic elements which initially drew in audiences, might remain a tantalising temptation, but only make up a small proportion of its consistent appeal.

That comes down to the cast who are universally excellent throughout, illustrating the harrowing effect of their prolonged isolation from society, and continuing to explore that time in detail as more and more puzzle pieces fall into place. Beyond those performances though, when the all-important moment of true revelation comes, Yellowjackets makes sure to combine the reveal with a dramatically serrated edge.

What other critics think of Yellowjackets S2

Variety: Yellowjackets returns bolder and bloodier in intense second season (5 min read)

Daily Beast: Yellowjackets S2 is even darker and bloodier (7 min read)

The Hollywood Reporter: Season 2 of Showtime sensation is alternately terrific and tedious (7 min read)

In that moment season 2 changes forever, as these wayward teens start drifting into denial, pointing fingers, and getting a taste for human flesh. This makes way for some unpleasant repercussions ensuring that Yellowjackets continues to deliver right through to the final frame. A fact which is compounded as this sophomore effort smacks of confidence, leads with the front foot, and never shies away from taking risks.

With the likes of Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Simone Kessell on formidable form, there is no denying that come awards season Yellowjackets best be prepared for another swathe of nominations.

As for audience adulation surely that’s a foregone conclusion, given that viewers already have a taste for it.

Season two of Yellowjackets will debut exclusively on Paramount+ on 24 March, with new episodes weekly.

This review was based on episodes 1-2 of Yellowjackets