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‘Yellowjackets’ S2E9 review: Is it better to fade out than to go out in a blaze of glory?

“Storytelling” deals with finality and a torch pass, but the questions of decision made are starting to take up a lot of room.

Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME

Spoilers for Yellowjackets episode nine, “Storytelling,” are ahead. Please don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Even as we exit a dark and emotionally dense Yellowjackets season two finale, the show still wants to keep its “is there a supernatural presence” cards to the chest. There is still so much to uncover regarding the 1996 timeline, but we can all agree that this group's realities are shattered beyond belief. (it might be damn near impossible for them to find a center). From the things, we’ve seen in seasons one and two, who could blame them for being so messed up? When you survive an immensely traumatic experience like a plane crash, see friends die, and have to engage in unspeakable calamities to stay alive; it will leave a mark.

As we see throughout this story, what the survivors are going through leaves a blast radius that affects everyone around them – friends, lovers, and children alike. One of the things this show does well is play with the concepts of fate and purpose. As young Van said, that’s what she sought – “Why am I still here?” Unfortunately, something more insidious can take hold when there’s a void in that mode of questioning, a la how cults happen. Within the first minutes of “Storytelling,” this is what we see.

The survivors have strung up Javi like an animal to carry him back to the cabin, young Natalie has lost the fight against this ideology, and Travis mourns the death of his brother almost on a clock. Usage of The Cranberry's “Zombie” is applicable, not because Javi would return from the dead, but because the surviving group sans Ben are moving in ritual like zombies. Just look at Shauna and how she precedes to prep Javi’s body. At first, she covers her face, but then it’s just getting to the business. The same goes for young Van and Travis’s conversation at the cabin. She admonishes him and then claims cannibalizing his brother is something Travis owes him (sick stuff!)

Kimberley French/SHOWTIME

There’s a similar turn in Van once we get into the present day. While most of the group agrees Lottie is having an episode and should get help, Van plays the sympathy card to Taissa to get her to call the health professionals off. Now, this is most likely because she believes the ritual the adults engage in will help cure her cancer – that in itself is a 180. After all, in previous discussions with Tai, it felt like Van was resolved to accept her fate. It’s one of three significant changes in character motivations – the other reserved for young Lottie in the cabin.

Lottie decided to give up her antler queen placement because she saw how detrimental the group’s line of thinking was. (in my opinion) When she enters the cabin's living room, everybody looks at her like a deity – entirely buying into the mantra of hearing and moving with the wilderness. However, in her discussion with Misty in the attic, Lottie knows people have gone too far in justifying the absurd things they do to stay alive. That’s why it’s so jarring to hear young Misty bully Lottie, claiming she started this.

We know what happens in religion when there’s one message, and people interpret it differently. Is Javi dying the wilderness's choice or because the survivors just let him drown? Given the wide-open interpretations Yellowjackets still has to explain, I believe this is just an excuse to justify the survivors feeding their hunger. Young Lottie explains that the wilderness listens and gives them what they want. Then in “Storytelling,” she rebuts current Shauna when she says, “There’s no it. It was just us” with “Is there a difference?” It’s more than possible that the “thing” they brought back with them was the savagery and darkness they engaged in on the island. You then feel sad for Lottie and who she is today.

Taissa mentions Lottie is sick and that they can reach her. However, she again has given herself to this shared phenomenon – a position the survivors first placed upon her in the cabin. It’s no wonder she’s in charge of a “wellness compound,” Lottie has been searching for that same thing since they got rescued. In her speech towards the end of the episode, young Lottie says she no longer hears the wilderness. But today, she claims they’ve given it what it wanted, and it’s pleased with them. There must be a filling of the blanks of this fight between Lottie when she’s given up the mantle.

Natalie – oh, Natalie. Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” plays during her death scene – a song so dark, lead singer Thom Yorke claims it saps the energy out of him. There is a lot to unpack with her character. Mainly because in the 1996 timeline, Lottie ordains her to be the new Antler Queen. She was one of the main holdouts regarding this ideology, and Javi’s death and guilt pushed her over the line. The same guilt would stick in her soul for the entirety of her life. At the show's beginning, young Natalie is an outcast with an abusive father who tells her she is nothing. Now, she is THE thing – but that comes with a price.

It’s not that I didn’t necessarily think Natalie’s death wasn’t sad. (it was). There is a massive cloud over what Natalie’s actual motivations were. Is it possible Natalie was faking buying into Lottie’s philosophies while at the compound? Yes. The hidden blade would indicate so. It could also be that Natalie feels devotion to Lottie because of what we saw in the flashback to 1996, with self-hatred being the driver. However, we don’t see much of Natalie after the skirmish with Lisa, and she starts to dawn the purple attire to get a clear picture.

This is a case where the show’s penchant for mystery hurt itself. When Natalie is dying, it seems like Lisa is gone – which is confusing because they formed a tight bond since they got over the incident. An easter egg exists when you call the hotline number and hear a frantic Lisa leaving a message right after what happened. It just would have been nice to see that on screen.

Kimberley French/SHOWTIME

Another aspect of this is that Natalie’s death is deemed to be due to an overdose which I didn’t feel was right. After her suicide attempt, Natalie made a feverish attempt to stay clean. When the purgatory scene happens in the plane, younger Natalie tells current Natalie that this is where they belong. I get what the scene tries to do (where is Travis?), but is the ultimate fate that the surviving Yellowjackets are resigned to live in darkness? Natalie was making a genuine attempt at getting out of it.

Then there’s Misty – now a murder of two best friends (albeit accidental). This one probably hurts more because she’s saved Natalie on numerous occasions. Misty has shown an uncanny ability not to internalize the devious acts she engages in. How will she reason with what she’s done in season three? This is one if there’s an intriguing threads to look out for.

Outside the drama, there was a lot of “let’s all get to the compound” concerning the cops, Jeff and Callie. I get it – the Adam storyline, in particular, was not season two’s strong suit. However, bringing Walter into the fold and the way he ties it all up is entertaining – much due to the incredible performance of Elijah Wood. Returning to what I mentioned regarding generational ties, Callie saves Shauna from being killed in the hunt. It’s a nice flip considering Shauna couldn't protect her first baby (not her fault). Callie looks bought into the little that she knows about the Yellowjackets and who her mother is – how will that manifest in season three, and what will Jeff do?

“Storytelling”s last image is of the cabin burning down. Ben has had enough, presumably living in the cave for now. I figured it had to go, but not this soon. What about the man/ghost who lived in the house? Are we still going to find out more about that?

There’s also a question about the ritual itself – Lottie eluded to a consequence of not taking the draw. Is that what happened to “pit girl?” The beginning of the split has started to rear its head. Young Shauna is pissed that she wasn’t picked to be the leader. She’s given her best friend, her baby, and was the butcher. There will be a revolt against Natalie at some point – however, with the death of current Natalie, will that have less of an impact? The shocking choice made in “Storytelling” will be a fork in the road for the show as we know it.