Nothing brings a family closer together than covering up a crime. Or at least this proves to be the case for the Sadeckis in the second season of Yellowjackets. Thankfully, Callie (Sarah Desjardins) inherited her mother Shauna’s (Melanie Lynskey) survival skills—and not her parents’ sloppy attempt at cleaning up their various felonies.
Callie has, surprisingly, evolved from an annoying teen to a helpful accomplice across several episodes.
Considering how many adolescent characters there are in Yellowjackets, there was always going to be one who would take the title of most irritating. Unfortunately for Callie, she fulfills that role—joining a Hall of Fame (Shame?) of Insufferable Kids from other shows.
It is hardly a new archetype, as everything from The Sopranos to Homeland has suffered from lead character-offspring aggravation. Or, in the recent case of For All Mankind, the trope has stretched into adulthood. Desjardins is also starring in the new Netflix thriller The Night Agent, which sees her veering into Kim Bauer from 24 territory—though, thankfully, she averts this labeling by the finale.
Callie’s plight isn’t helped by being the only teenager in the Showtime series’ contemporary timeline. She is also an asshole to her mom, and her rebellion has been pretty standard fare so far. That is, until Shauna decided to bring Callie into the circle of trust, which she responded to with newfound respect for her mother instead of rejection—and, in doing so, won my heart.
While this many characters surviving in the wilderness for 19 months could be considered a miracle, from a storyline perspective, the real feat is how quickly I have gone from actively loathing Callie to being her biggest champion.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
From the start of Yellowjackets, Callie is the moody teen who doesn’t do things when her mom asks her (like defrosting the chuck for dinner) and purposefully disobeys Shauna’s instruction not to go into the city on Halloween.
But Callie is not the only one lying about her whereabouts, as her mom’s affair leads to her own sneaking around. When they run into each other, it doesn’t help that Callie is high on molly and her costume choice is the Yellowjackets uniform she thought was her mom’s—but is Jackie’s (Ella Purnell). Yep, she is wearing a dead girl’s clothes. It is a shitty thing to do, but disobeying your parents is a teen rite of passage, and Callie thought she was dressing as her mother.
When Shauna first sees Callie out at the Halloween party, she thinks it is Jackie she is following. Freud would have a field day with this pair and the role dead Jackie still plays in her BFF’s life. Callie sees who her mother has been hooking up with and, unsurprisingly, is angry and upset. Everyone has a moment growing up when they realize their parents are fallible, but, oh boy, is Callie’s version of this going to require so much therapy.
The consistent comedic undercurrent is one reason the Sadecki family drama remains so entertaining, even when Callie is at her brattiest. For all the reverberating pain, the tone in the scenes often leans toward a family sitcom set in suburbia, minus the laugh track. However, Callie can’t help but feel like she has stumbled into an episode of The Twilight Zone in the Season 1 finale when her parents go from barely speaking to quality sofa time, which is complicated further when the disappearance of her mother’s other man, Adam, is reported on the local news. Again, so much therapy.
Being Shauna’s daughter isn’t easy, and what Yellowjackets has done in its second season is give Callie a deeper understanding of her parents’ recent illegal activities. There is still a lot Callie is not privy to, and Shauna is cautious with how much she reveals regarding the failed blackmail plot Jeff (Warren Kole) and Randy (Jeff Holman) cooked up.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Callie occupies a space that echoes how Jackie used to talk to Shauna: with an air of superiority. For how much she might remind Shauna of her dead bestie, she is also very much her mother’s daughter. The similarities run the gamut from her frustrations at her nice (but clingy) boyfriend to Callie’s day-drinking to block out the mess at home. She is also a much better liar than her mother, as Shauna has zero clue she wasn’t spending all those nights at her friend Ilana’s—despite this being the oldest trick in the book.
Of all the many different pairings on the Showtime series, this mother and daughter going from combative to teaming up is one of the big shocks of the second season. A few weeks ago, Callie eavesdropped on her mother’s attempt to sell some B.S. to Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) about her relationship with Adam (Peter Gadiot). “So you lied to be feminist?!” Callie scoffs when Shauna gives her daughter a faux girlboss-leaning excuse. At this point, I started to warm to Callie, thanks partly to Desjardins’ perfect delivery, which underscored the hypocrisy unfolding.
So it was with the deepest of sighs that she went to a bar, ordered a Fireball, and started flirting with a hot guy next to her. This is textbook teen rebellion behavior, and it isn’t her fault that the hipster type sitting at the bar is actually a cop from out of town who is looking into Adam’s disappearance. Jay (John Reynolds) is the exact amount of denim-jacket-and-mustache-with-a-healthy-dollop-of-his-own-parental-drama to make him irresistible to Callie. Yes, he is making all of his problems up, but his “honesty” is attractive to someone who lives in a house of lies.
Even though Callie immediately gives up information about her mom’s affair, Jay (whose real name is Matt) is walking a dubious line in manipulating a teen girl. An already precarious situation becomes incredibly dangerous when Shauna tells Callie what happened to Adam. “I’m so fucking over secrets. Like, I can’t!” is Callie’s extremely relatable reaction. A teen-speak-infused ultimatum finally gives her the answers she has been waiting for.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Okay, there is a mild amount of teary eyes and confusion, but instead of freaking the fuck out (as I expected), Callie is receptive to this news and her mother’s motive. She doesn’t get the whole picture of what went down in the wilderness, but from Callie’s reaction to the rest of the story, I think she can handle a little cannibalism—though we don’t know everything at this point.
The twisted sitcom tone resumes when they return home, and, for once, Callie does want to help with dinner. Jeff’s bug-eyed reaction to his daughter knowing the truth adds to the heightened humorous mood. I would gladly watch a multi-cam comedy starring this trio as a family surviving the hijinks that come with murder, blackmail, and accidentally dating a cop.
Lynskey excels at switching her delivery on a dime, and Desjardins matches this kind of delivery while also showing how happy Callie is with her newfound role in the family. Pride is not something we have seen her exhibit before, which goes one step further when she discovers who she is dating.
“So I did fix it?” Callie positively beams in the family kitchen after another confession (and comedy) session. In the previous episode, Callie glosses over details regarding the “friend” she has been hanging out with and what she has shared with him. As soon as Callie discovers that Jay is a cop, this all changes, immediately coming clean about everything. This family is so wonderfully fucked up that rather than get mad at her, Shauna replies that “It’s actually not a terrible idea,” when Callie reveals the lie she has planted.
Yes, consistently deceiving her parents is handy when she tells Jay that Shauna has been banging her dad’s best friend, Randy. I also want to point out that when Callie mentions who she has been seeing, Jeff is more concerned about his age, and Shauna immediately latches onto him being “a fucking cop.”
This conversation is another Sadecki delight and another point in Callie’s favor. Once, the kitchen was the scene of angsty back-and-forths, but how quickly I forget my annoyance at this character now that she gets to play in the plotting sandbox. Of course, her parents are terrible criminals and squander the groundwork Callie laid with some poor execution.
Shauna is not off the hook, and Jay knows Callie lied to him. It isn’t the outcome they hoped for, but at least they are closer than ever. With so many loose threads, Callie’s evolution from angsty, bratty adolescent to co-conspirator is an unexpected win.
Yellowjackets deftly examines all sides of teenage girlhood, including the characters who push their parents (and our) buttons. Subverting the irritating adolescent archetype by bringing her into the conspiracy is a welcome move, ensuring Callie’s reign as TV’s most annoying teen is over.