We open up on a stifling scene. Kurt Cobain’s wounded growl and the somber slink of the cello in “Something In The Way” drives that point right home quickly. The snow continues to fall at a strong, but steady pace. While the outdoors is virgin, calm, and alpine, the inside of the cabin is stained in a stasis of mourning.
Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) implores Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) to hydrate, but she ain’t complying. A break in the storm, thus, if even momentary, gives the bunch a much-needed injection of hope. Though Shauna takes a walk, her trek is not to be one of revitalization but of realization. She’s gone to give her child a stone burial, to be one with the forest.
At the wellness center, the crew relinquishes their belongings and hears Natalie (Juliette Lewis) out. She admits to nearly taking her own life and extols the magic of Lottie (Simone Kessell) and her community. She also extinguishes the notion that any of them had ever fully resolved the atrocities committed in the woods.
In these very woods Van (Liv Hewson) notices something gnawing at Taissa. She tries to comfort her by explaining that maybe succumbing to reality is the only way. Her doubts about the reason for her survival are weighing heavier. Her confidence in purpose is losing its grip, but Taissa knows that she owes her life to Van. They are inextricably linked, for better or worse.
In the present, the girls spearhead their chosen purpose. Van (Lauren Ambrose) tries to bolt, but is overruled by Taissa (Tawny Cypress) opting for “Renewal”. Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) relents to “Self Care”, leaving Van with “Forage” as Misty (Christina Ricci) weaponizes her past to dictate the future, granting her “Guidance”. Crafty. She knows out of all of them, her mind is most like a steel trap. Todd (Samer Salem) tasks Shauna with keeping watch over a kid for a day. She’s staunchly against caring for a life she assumes will be done in by her own hand at the end of the day. On the other hand, taking care of a baby goat sounds leagues better than mopping out the barn.
It’s midday in the cabin and despite the sun being out, things aren’t looking bright. Ben (Steven Kreuger) receives a surprise visit from Paul (François Arnaud), now in the cabin. Alas, the dropping by is temporary, as its logical conclusion is permanent. Paul’s come to say goodbye. Ben’s psyche is flushing denial out in preparation for the grim reality of it all. He’s lost his last bastion of hope.
At the commune, Misty’s more reticent than ready for her “Guidance” session with Lisa (Nicole Maines). She has a date with a deprivation tank but is no doubt reticent. As confident as she appears, the only convincing she has to do is to herself. She makes a break for it.
Akilah (Nia Sondaya) and Gen (Mya Lowe) continue to get themselves out of the snow they praise Misty’s (Sammi Hanratty) composure under pressure. Mari (Alexa Barajas), however, attributes this to her psychopathic predilections. Overhearing this, Misty makes a move to address the entire cabin, bringing forth an impassioned plea to form a search party for Crystal with Coach Ben co-signing. Gen thinks maybe there will be a tradeoff, but Lottie maintains that their environs simply listen to their needs.
Leading in the group chant, Lottie (Courtney Eaton) only galvanizes the team’s bond to the wilderness before they set out. Gen and Melissa (Jenna Burgess), however, rationalize that if they find a well-preserved teammate, not partaking would be spitting in the face of nature. Overhearing this, Misty finds she may have inadvertently planned the next banquet. Out in the woods, Lottie requests a word with Taissa, forcing Misty to forge on with Mari and Akilah. Lottie is banking on Tai’s powers of locating to find the missing, but a catch emerges. Taissa’s somnambulism has been dormant through group prayer. Lottie knows better.
In fact, at the commune, she informs Taissa that whatever resides in her isn’t fueled by harm but by a desire not to be suppressed.
Speaking of refusal of being tied down, Bruce the goat has now gnawed his way through the rope, so now she and an escaped Misty are going on their own search in the woods. Shauna’s worry about caring for something she may have to slaughter is only met with an offbeat joke from Misty, bringing up her stabby efficiency with Adam. She fires back not being like Misty, taking the macabre with a grain of salt. She resents that remark, but nobody standing in the woods is without sin, save for Bruce, who bleats out. Enough is enough.
Out in the snowy woods, Misty’s subterfuge works. She leads Mari and Akilah to a secluded area, puts on a tearful face, and excuses herself. Mari isn’t buying it, but Akilah is quicker to be empathetic. Misty will be damned if her bestie is next on the menu.
Elsewhere in the wilderness, a newly shorn Ben ambles through the snow before stumbling. His resolve keeps him going. It’s a shame Shauna’s mind isn’t quite there yet. She retreats to the meat shed, where her post-mortem gabs with Jackie were held. She needs some guidance, but when her illusion doesn’t materialize, the act of giving in and breaking down is the first step in rebuilding.
In the now, Shauna just wants some assistance with Bruce. Todd tells her the kid’s well-being is entwined with hers, giving her pause. She’ll be damned if it’s dying on her watch before the sacrifice. Taking it up with Lottie reveals that sacrifice was never in the cards. Broken, Shauna regrets keeping Callie at a distance for fear of her death, and by taking that path of self-preservation into motherhood, her brokenness won’t allow her to continue.
Meanwhile, Misty finally relents to a soak in the tank. It doesn’t take long for the lack of everything to expose an entry into her subconscious, red carpet rolled out and all. What ensues is a trippy yet snappy musical number sung by her African grey parrot. Walter (Elijah Wood) gets his best Fred Astaire on as Caligula’s self-affirming lyrics leave Misty besotted and tickled pink.
After, Misty sits down for a squawk with Caligula (John Cameron Mitchell), the fury under the feathers. He assures her of the integral position she’s held in the team and that killing without prejudice simply isn’t on her list of songs. The session ends with imagining Walter’s call, which isn’t so much a verbal exchange as it is his declaration of love through Morse code, leaving a refreshed Misty awakened, in more ways than one.
Out in the woods, a younger Misty isn’t winning. Without Crystal in sight, what she finds at the top of the cliff is even worse. Ben’s downright done with this life and in a world full of losses, he figures, what’s another tally mark? He actually believes Misty is his wish granter, assuming she has no qualms about an act of mercy. She’s more about saving his hind though, and even with the threat of posthumous blackmail and outing, Ben’s fine with dying by his own hand. At her wit’s end as a negotiator, Misty breaks. She’s mortified for failing to keep the baby alive, and simply cannot have another death on her hands. Part of me believes this while the other part can buy her secretly weeping for Crystal. It’s Misty, after all.
Night has fallen over the commune. After offering her wedding ring up to Mother Nature, Tai catches up with Van and her ‘foraged’ liquor. It isn’t long before mutual magnetism takes the wheel. It also isn’t long until they both break it off. Van’s amusement at Tai’s apology only belies the reason behind it: terminal cancer. No time to wallow in the weary, however, as Natalie calls for them.
At the therapist (Jennifer Lines), Lottie is convinced that the visions have guided her team back together. It’s something coursing through her, primal and beautiful. She welcomes it but is also scared shitless. The therapist encourages these feelings to stretch their legs. In spite of Lottie’s apprehension, the doctor further goads until she takes the form of what looks like funny farm-era Lottie, donning the net-covered antlers. Before the question is implanted, another one crash lands when we find out she’s been speaking to nobody… maybe the whole time?
Inside the main cabin at the commune, Natalie gathers the girls. She wants to know their stories. This is Natalie at her most vulnerable, no longer ossified. Judgment holds no sway in this sanctuary, even when Lottie wants to break up the party. It’s Nat’s own advice to Lottie of giving in, not giving up that sparks a boozy, carefree ‘break in the storm’.
Once the fires have died down, the embers of curiosity burn brightly in all of them. Misty gives a little away about Walter, and old high school gossip is brought up but before more tea can be spilled, Misty throws the wet blanket over it, bringing up their first summer in Hell. Natalie is right in bringing up the elephant in the room—how much does anybody truly retain from that time?
Everybody’s honest, even Shauna who claims to be alright with repressed feelings remaining in the dark. Lottie’s all for the organic release of them, but Van isn’t buying the holisticism of it all when her body contains a real-life self-destruct button. Before Taissa can offer some words, Van’s entranced with the opening chords of Live’s “Lightning Crashes” and soon the girls follow in inherent rhythm.
Shauna returns to the cabin from her death walk at night, only to find the girls in prayer with Misty humming. Upon being asked why she was singing that particular song, Misty is decked by Shauna. The same Shauna now presently dancing with the rest of them as adults grew violently accusatory of Misty killing and eating her firstborn. Fit to be tied, Shauna is offered the biggest outlet for grief: Lottie herself.
From Shauna pummeling Lottie to a barely recognizable pulp on the cabin floor, to drunkenly dancing and howling under the snowy moonlight, Shauna and Lottie have come a long way. The squad’s frivolity is brought to a crashing halt when a call comes in for Shauna. It is Jeff and it isn’t good.
The ostensible change in the opening credits and theme song (covered by the Great White North’s own Alanis Morrissette) let us know that the whistle is blown and in this second half, they’re playing for keeps. It’s a brilliant use of an opening using humanity’s aversion to change to instill an immediate uneasiness.
Van’s a good standout in this episode. Liv’s acting in this scene was certainly enough to earn her name on the Emmy ballot, and even more kudos to the actress herself for eschewing gender norms by rescinding her name from consideration for the Actor/Actress category. How much angst and fear fit into such a vulnerable performance astounded me. This goes equally for Lauren’s pained portrayal of a good friend living on borrowed time.
In this episode, the girls bonding with themselves is tantamount to bonding with one another. It’s been 25 years, and the more things are being dug up, the deeper the rabbit hole goes. Solid and stunning if not understated performances all around.
With two more episodes left, something tells me “a break in the storm” is just a force majeure’s way of saying “What ’til I come back even more powerful.”