‘Yellowjackets’ rave reviews: ‘Chilling and ferocious’ Melanie Lynskey leads ‘wild and weird’ Season 2

It’s been over a year since “Yellowjackets” wrapped its Emmy-nominated first season and revealed the Antler Queen’s identity. In the ‘96 timeline, winter is starting to deplete the forest’s supply of hunting game. Subsequent fear breeds mystical thought and empowers Lottie (Courtney Eaton) to assume control of the group. Meanwhile, Travis (Kevin Alves) is searching for his younger brother, Javi (Luciano Leroux), who disappeared the night everyone unwittingly consumed psychedelic mushrooms. 

In the present, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) has been kidnapped by members of a sect sporting the hooked-girl symbol, presumably at the behest of an adult Lottie (Simone Kessell), a cult figure we have yet to meet. Taissa (Tawny Cypress) pulls off an upset victory for a state senate seat, but her wife (Rukiya Bernard) discovers in the form of their missing dog’s severed head that Tai’s ritualistic tendencies in the face of uncertainty didn’t subside when she left the wilderness. After killing her lover (Peter Gadiot) in a fit of paranoia, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) must evade Detective Kevyn Tang (Alex Wyndham) and keep her friends from discovering that the mastermind behind Season 1’s extortion attempt is her kindly and indebted furniture-salesman husband, Jeff (Warren Kole).

SEE ‘Yellowjackets’ eyes Emmy record with 3 Best Drama Actress nominees

The show’s amalgamation of a high-stakes survival narrative, suburban soap opera, and coming-of-age melodrama predictably gave it broad demographic appeal. Starting its sophomore run on Showtime March 26, “Yellowjackets” has a sizable fanbase to please for the first time. The initial wave of reviews suggests showrunners Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson have mostly succeeded. While disclaiming that the second season, which currently holds a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 82% on Metacritic, “doesn’t exactly fall as hard as, say, the second season of Stranger Things,” Coleman Spilde (The Daily Beast) writes, “It does take a few stumbles on snow-covered black ice while it tries to find its footing.” Carly Lane (Collider) praises the season overall but concedes, “There’s still a bit of an imbalance when it comes to making the present timeline as interesting to follow as the past.” Nevertheless, while “the present has yet to fully measure up to the stomach-churning storytelling of the past,” Lane concludes, “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.”

Ben Travers (IndieWire) criticizes the storytelling’s pace, writing, “Through six episodes, Season 2 appears to be approaching aptly complex quandaries for its core cast members, but the path to their confrontation is padded in too much snow.” Marya E. Gates (The Playlist), however, applauds Lyle and Nickerson’s willingness to play the long game, writing that they do “an excellent job of keeping up the momentum while also keeping the show as wild and weird as possible. The six episodes provided to critics from Season 2 answer just enough questions to be satisfying while raising a whole bevy of surreal new ones.”

SEE ‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 trailer: warns things ‘are going to get worse out here’ [Watch]

Continuing to receive unanimous appreciation are performances from the actors portraying our favorite marooned regional soccer champs in both timelines. Unsurprisingly, critics are singling Lynskey out for praise and highlighting a scene in the season’s third hour that Spilde predicts is “destined to be as pervasive in Lynskey’s Emmy reel as it will be on Twitter.” Gates references the same moment and writes, “In episode three, Lynskey delivers a chilling and ferocious monologue that should place Shauna very high in the pantheon of the greatest television anti-heroes of all time.” The actress was nominated for an Emmy in 2022 but lost to Zendaya (“Euphoria”), whom she is not contending with this cycle. Lynskey, the only eligible performer from 2022’s shortlist, is currently leading our combined Best Drama Actress odds. Sophie Nélisse, who plays Shauna in ‘96, is also garnering positive notices for her committed exploration of the character’s less-than-healthy process of grieving Jackie (Ella Purnell), the Yellowjackets captain who froze to death in the first season’s finale. 

Lauren Ambrose and Simone Kessell join the cast as adult versions of Van and Lottie, respectively, while Elijah Wood reunites with Christina Ricci, his co-star from 1997’s “The Ice Storm,” as a new character whom Misty meets on a Reddit board while investigating Nat’s disappearance. Spilde says Kessell is “damn good at commanding the camera with a latent nefariousness,” and Gates feels she “fully picks up the ethereal quality that Eaton brings to the younger Lottie, while also adding intricate layers of both charisma and self-doubt.” Ambrose, best known for M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV+ series, “Servant,” “loses much of the playfulness of Liv Hewson’s younger version, instead imbuing the character with a rigidity laced with melancholy,” Gates writes. 

“Yellowjackets” is ranked seventh in our odds for Best Drama Series and has four Emmy Experts in its corner. 

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