This Is the Worst Scene in ‘Yellowjackets’ History
Yellowjackets has been on a downward spiral since the Season 2 premiere—an unfortunate truth for those of us initially mesmerized by the cultish survival drama. If you, like me, have already been forcing yourself to trudge through the season in the hopes of Yellowjackets making good on its initial promise of twists and turns, I have news for you: You are officially allowed to give up.
There is a scene more than halfway through Episode 7, which dropped on streaming last Friday, that led me straight to my group chats to grouse in all-caps. It’s a Twin Peaks-aping scene with no art, substance, internal logic, humor, or plot importance. (Even Showtime, which produced the marvelous Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017, noted Yellowjackets’ obvious nod to the classic show.) It is, in brief, a “jump-the-shark” moment for a show whose grip on me is already tenuous.
Episode 7 features all the Adults—my least-favorite version of these characters—hanging out at Lottie’s (Simone Kessell) peak-white nonsense wellness center. Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is already attached to the group’s mission of sacrificing income, contact with the outside world, and the right to wear any color but purple. (I think that’s what they’re going for, but I can’t be sure.) But in order to ingratiate themselves with the members of this totally-not-a-cult, Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Misty (Christina Ricci), Taissa (Tawny Cypress), and Van (Lauren Ambrose) must do some onboarding. That involves them doing a task, each related to the group’s ideals, although the work’s actual relevance to the goals is deeply unclear.
Shauna, for instance, must ferry around a baby goat. Taissa is painting a random building. But Misty’s assignment is the most appalling, inexplicable, and pointless. She must take a time-out in a sensory deprivation tank to tap into her own thoughts, without distractions. I guess? It’s not very clear, and she doesn’t want to do it as much as I don’t want to see it. What happens when Misty takes her black-out nap validates my skepticism almost immediately, because it is absolutely absurd.
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A close-up of Misty’s head and shoulders is set against a red velvet curtain (that’s the Twin Peaks part), bopping along to an original showtune. Dancing around on-screen are Walter (Elijah Wood), her true crime-loving online friend, wearing a top hat and tuxedo; and a life-size version of her parrot, Caligula.
😂😂😂 y’all saw that too right??? We aren’t just all mass-hallucinating? #Yellowjackets pic.twitter.com/eTZydipwQl
— Petty Pumpkins 🎃☕️ (@PettyPumpkins) May 12, 2023
Reader, if this sounds funny or Lynchian to you, don’t be fooled: This scene is neither. It is endless, mindless, anti-revelatory, and seems to exist purely because the writers rewatched Twin Peaks recently and didn’t have any better ideas—and it was probably that show’s similarly terrible Season 2, at that!
A trip inside Misty’s mind should be thrilling. Teen Misty, for instance, remains one of the show’s most interesting characters; she is saddled with the knowledge that she’s the reason why everyone remains stranded in the Canadian wilderness, due to her insecure desire to use this as a chance to bond with her teammates. Her one friend just died after the pair got into a fight over what Misty did. Everyone else thinks Misty is wacky and maybe even a murderer, and they still don’t forgive her for poisoning them all with shrooms back in Season 1. In Episode 7, in fact, Teen Misty has a beautifully vulnerable breakdown, after trying to talk her former crush, the now-suicidal Coach Ben, down from a ledge.
All of this surely led to some severe trauma, but Adult Misty is great at hiding her scars. Her stint in a sensory deprivation tank sounds like the perfect opportunity for us to view the horrors that surely plague her—all the misgivings, the hatred, the self-loathing—on a constant basis.
Instead, it turns out that Misty’s darkest secret is that she has nothing going on in that curly-haired head of hers whatsoever. Left to her own devices, she creates a little Broadway show and has a chat with her pet bird. “Let your troubles melt away,” the human-sized “Caligula” sings. “You’ll be sitting pretty in the moonlight gaze.” Her subconscious lyricism, not to mention choreography, leaves much to be desired; Walter’s dance moves are limited to fist pumps and half-hearted shimmies, because the show tune doesn’t give much else to work with. Even Ricci looks bored halfway through.
Worse, she takes a trip backstage, where we discover that the actor in the Caligula suit is none other than John Cameron Mitchell, with a black-painted nose. I personally think the director of Hedwig and the Angry Inch deserves better than this!
At least Caligula has a brief chat with Misty to reassure her that she’s not, in fact, a bad person. “Take it from a bird named after a Roman emperor who was also unjustly accused of heinous acts,” Caligula tells her, in a line that did make me laugh; I’ll give them that. “You are not a murderer, Misty! You’re a closer!”
This is the kind of reassurance that Misty, who does in fact have a few deaths to be held accountable for, needs right now, especially as we watch Teen Misty reckon with the death of her best friend, Crystal, as well as that of Shauna’s baby. But this comes from a respected director/actor dressed in a cheap bird costume, which renders the power of this character development into just another joke.
Still, Adult Misty comes away from this experience with a renewed sense of self-respect—but not the kind that suggests she’s gained new insight into her own behavior. Instead, she now thinks it’s a good time to tell her gal pals that Walter, who she lashed out at the last time they saw each other, is basically her new boyfriend. (All that cane-twirling in her mind, plus a weird imaginary phone call that involved shrill dial tones meant to be construed as love notes, really convinced Misty that he’s still into her.) Healthy!
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The scene’s garish visuals perhaps are a perfect complement for its flimsy purpose, in that they are equally insipid and uninspired. Misty is a character who warrants much consideration, especially because her storyline is so tumultuous in the 1990s. She’s in the pilot’s first scene, after all, running from a group of masked teens trying to hunt her down! There’s much more to Misty’s story than we’ve gotten a peak into thus far, and while Yellowjackets might have some rewarding long game planned for her, I think I may be too exhausted to keep waiting around for the payoff.
If nothing else, I’ll never forgive this show for forcing me to watch a man dressed as a raggedy parrot twirl in circles.
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