Showtime’s YELLOWJACKETS is a startlingly good drama about a girls’ high school soccer team whose plane goes down in a remote wilderness, resulting in a struggle for survival that never ends even after they are rescued. One might easily describe it as LORD OF THE FLIES with a hint of LOST, but they shouldn’t dismiss it for that, as it achieves its own striking identity. Overall, this one was right up my alley and I loved it.
In the first season, we’re introduced to several of the girls in basically two timelines. In one, their team wins the state championship, which will send them to the finals on a private plane that will crash and force them into an 18-month-long struggle to survive culminating in grisly acts. In the other, it’s the present day long after they’re rescued, where they are forty-something women struggling with the malaise of middle age and the very long shadow of what they did in the past to survive.
The timelines are deftly handled with excellent tension and pacing, and as a bonus they aren’t confusing, though it took me a bit to sort out who in the past was who in the present. Speaking of the who, the cast is absolutely terrific, from the high school girls (none of whom I’d seen before in other productions) to the grownup veteran stalwart team of Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, and Melanie Lynskey. Lynskey is completely solid, Lewis brings it but is a bit underutilized, and Ricci, oh man, she gets to play what may be one of the most intriguing characters I’ve seen in quite a while–a needy, lonely, irritatingly cheerful woman who also happens to be an utter psychopath.
What happened in the wilderness is what draws us to the show, and it’s a pleasure to see the girls slowly evolve with numerous horror elements into what we glimpse them eventually becoming in the pilot episode. That being said, the present isn’t a placeholder showing its effects but has a strong story to tell in itself, notably in how these women are living normal lives but carry the past with them at all times, including the quiet empowerment of incredible amoral agency to do whatever it takes when the occasion calls for it.
The only downsides for me were a few “TV logic moments” such as gasoline powering an engine after what was probably a decade sitting there, a little CPR easily reviving a drowned girl, perfect good or bad timing, the little cliffhanger at the end, and the like. For me, these were quibbles in an utterly engaging and emotionally affecting tale.
While I thought the show could have been tighter and brought it all to a close in a single season as a limited series, the show runners thought there was more story to tell, and so YELLOWJACKETS is getting a season two, which apparently started filming in August and will come out in 2023. I, for one, can’t wait.