Returning to the cold brutality of the wilderness for Season 2, Yellowjackets instantly reminds us that our lost protagonists are still, in fact, teenagers, with one perfectly chosen song.
Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer, the first episode takes you right back to the woods, with the season’s opening shots soaring over the bleak, wild landscape and creeping back into the cabin of Camp Yellowjackets. And with this return comes Sharon Van Etten’s steady, soaring, anthem for late teenhood and the discomfort of rapid change, “Seventeen.”
‘Yellowjackets’ Season 2 Episode 1 kicks off with our first bite — and an equally big clue
The track, taken from Van Etten’s 2019 banger of an album, Remind Me Tomorrow, builds as the series re-introduces the team members one by one, sleeping in their makeshift beds, still lost in the woods with no rescue on the horizon. They’re not all slumbering, however, as Travis and Natalie gear up to hunt game and search for a missing Javi. No, these are not regular activities for suburban teen soccer players.
Credit: Kailey Schwerman/SHOWTIME.
Next, “Seventeen” follows the Yellowjackets out of the wilderness to scenes of their rescue, scoring Lottie’s experience of being committed to a psychiatric institution and electroconvulsive therapy by her parents. In the first scenes of Yellowjackets Season 2, we’re firmly reminded of the characters’ youth, and the brutality of unexpected change — or rather, lost time.
Van Etten co-wrote “Seventeen” with songwriter Kate Davis about living in New York, reflecting on the disillusionment that comes with revisiting a neighbourhood you spent cherished time in during your youth, and seeing not only how it’s changed but how it’s populated by shiny new teens: “I used to be free/I used to be seventeen/Follow my shadow/Around your corner/I used to be seventeen/Now you’re just like me.” Speaking to the song’s producer John Congleton, on podcast Song Exploder(Opens in a new tab), Van Etten reflected on the pivotal shift in the song when she screams, “I know what you’re gonna be.”
“In that explosive moment, who were you picturing you were singing to?” asks Congleton.
“Me. Like young me in New York that thought I knew everything. But I also envision my mom just singing that to me too, you know. The more that I lived with it and worked on it, it felt like a multi kind of generational song. I wish that I had listened to her when she would give me advice or say that I could be open with her. And I just, I was so closed off and I did not accept like her help or guidance, and I thought I knew better.
“For some reason, whenever a parent gives you advice or says that they know or they understand, like as a kid you just don’t believe them, that they ever were a human being, you know. The older I get, and now especially I have a son, I’m more and more like my mother than I ever realized. You know, I think as you get older and you have more and more hindsight, hopefully, you can forgive who you were, you can forgive yourself. You can have more of an understanding of where you were coming from and also where your parents were coming from. It’s definitely a message to her, to myself. It’s an apology, but it’s also forgiveness. You know, I feel like it’s giving me a little bit of closure on my past and acknowledging the weaknesses but also embracing them.”
To me, the song’s most powerful use in a TV series lies in Netflix’s Sex Education, in the most moving episode of the series. Based on writer Laurie Nunn’s personal experience, Season 2, episode 7 centres on Aimee Gibbs’ (Aimée Lou Wood) sexual assault. At the very end of the episode, after Aimee has confided in her fellow female classmates that she’s unable to get back on the bus where the assault happened, there’s a beautiful moment of solidarity when they share their own experiences of assault and harassment. Later, in one of the most powerful scenes I’ve watched on TV, Aimee’s friends turn up at the bus stop to support her, as Van Etten’s “Seventeen” builds.
Despite being specifically linked to her New York experience and her frustrations at neighborhoods, venues, and places from her youth becoming unfamiliar, Van Etten’s “Seventeen” has a broader thematic power when deployed in TV representations of teen girls. The song effectively encapsulates the discomfort of rapid change for characters in both Yellowjackets and Sex Education, and the weird feeling of present nostalgia, of growing up faster than you should have to. A perfect music choice.
Yellowjackets Season 2 premieres March 24 on Showtime’s website and app, with new episodes released weekly on Fridays(opens in a new tab). Episodes also air every Sunday on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET, starting March 26.