With the ever increasing amount of content that comes out every day and the enormous amount of said content I attempt to consume, you’re bound to have a list of “need to watch at some point.” My list grows longer and longer by the day, with more and more people offering up recommendations and suggestions for things I should review and check out. Most if not all of them are on my ever expanding watchlist, and the hard truth is there is just too much content and not enough time to watch it all. As a critic, this is insanely frustrating especially when something like “Yellowjackets” falls through the cracks and you miss the hype train by quite a few months. I even wrote a piece about the show’s first trailer, back when we knew next to nothing about it or how great the show would turn out to be. But thanks to the extreme Southern California heat wave and a three day weekend, I decided to finally put all other assignments aside and dig scratch “Yellowjackets” off the list.
My god, did I choose the right series to binge over labor day weekend. “Yellowjackets” is must see television, packed with mystery and drama and violence that grips you tightly almost immediately and never lets go. It the definition of what we mean when we ask for original content. I’m as much of a fan of IP franchises as the next person, but “Yellowjackets” reminds us all that new ideas can have huge pay offs and take us on unfamiliar journeys whose conclusions leave you mesmerized and wanting more. There’s no way around it, this is everything everyone has said it is, and deserves all of its critical and audience acclaim. expert storytelling, a fully cooked script (which is surprisingly rare these days even from the best of television recently) incredible performances, and gorgeous cinematography all contribute to the show’s greatness, allowing it stand tall among its peers and remain one of the best shows available right now.
There’s a lot to unpack in “Yellowjackets,” much of which contributes to what makes it so damn watchable. Since I’m late to the party and critiques and predictions and fan theories have all been exhaustively examined, I’m going to try avoid the echo chamber and just dig a little deeper into the aforementioned factors that contribute to making this so good. The first is the storytelling. Creator duo Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson are in complete control of their ever sprawling story, one that unfolds multiple mysteries over two distinct timelines.
This tightly wound narrative with fleshed-out characters allow for the story to continue to press forward with relative ease, even as things begin to get somewhat overly complicated and more and more characters are developed and brought into the fold. The duo are also able to overcome the genre blending obstacle, brilliantly balancing the survival horror of the younger timeline with the consequential drama of the adult one. This is significantly harder than most give it credit for. Genre blending often fails hard or barely scraps by, so “Yellowjackets” keeping everything on an even keel is impressive and a credit to the creator’s time and care put into their series.
The series can be exhausting, constantly switching back and forth between the past and present. Were the series in less capable hands, “Yellowjackets” is one mistake away from unraveling completely. It masterfully rides that tight rope without falling, and both stories are as compelling on their own as they are a part. The performances are stellar, with both the young and adult cast having no weak links. The young cast of girls stranded in the wilderness feel authentic and defined, with every survivor defining themselves to be their own individual person instead of carbon copies of nameless high schoolers. The young cast could carry the show all on their own, and deliver some truly harrowing and nuanced performances and beautifully digging into the horror and violence and thrill of survival. Though largely unknown, they all feel like veterans which only enhances the performances of their adult counterparts.
Of course, with an adult cast comprised of Christina Ricci (having the time of her life as the desperately upbeat but probably serial killer Misty and who I will watch in literally anything because I adore her and her work) Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cyrpess, and Juliette Lewis, it’s hard to go wrong. These already accomplished women are firing on all cylinders, and manage to make the “adults coping with the traumas of the past” storyline just as compelling as “teenagers stranded in the wilderness that becomes increasingly more terrifying with every passing day.” I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to make both stories equally compelling, and to be able to capture both the traumatic (and grotesquely violent) experience and the long lasting trauma that is carried with the survivors in a kaleidoscope of ways and coping mechanisms. “Yellowjackets” brilliant framework and storytelling mastery is elevated by its stellar cast and powerful performances.
There really isn’t a misstep here. “Yellowjackets” is just simply damn good television that is almost impossible to stop once you start. It is gruesome, authentic, intriguing, complex, and unique despite blending genres and borrowing heavily from more familiar iterations like “Lord of the Flies,” “It,” and “LOST.” The series never once allows itself to be a carbon copy of anything before it, keeping the strengths of its influences to help strengthen the show’s baked in originality. “Yellowjackets” creates more questions than answers sometimes, and there are a few subplots that get a little lost in the shuffle in the latter half of the season. But it never truly falters in its overall execution and message, and while it wraps itself up in some ways we are blessed with the knowledge that there will be a season 2 to help answer some of the more open ended shockers that pepper the season finale.
Don’t do what I did and put “Yellowjackets” off any longer. I ignored countless pleas to check this out when it was in full swing, and I stupidly chose to wait months without this incredible show in my life. Season 2 can’t get here fast enough!
Trust me. You don’t just want “Yellowjackets” in your life. You NEED It.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
“Yellowjackets” season 1 is currently available to stream on Showtime. You can watch the trailer below.