Yellowjackets is a fantastic, entertaining show but it is also a flawed one. Following an all-girl soccer team who are stranded after a plane crash, the TV show explores the years following the tragedy, and the trauma each woman has to deal with. Guilty secrets and bubbling tensions quickly make this a heart-pounding watch, as audiences witness how even those who have their lives together find themselves caught in a cycle of repeating teenage dysfunction and terror.
First, there is Shauna (Melanie Lynsky), who is trapped in a loveless marriage with her ex best friend’s boyfriend. Tai (Tawny Cypress) is struggling to stay afloat running an ever-failing political campaign. Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is a recovering alcoholic who goes straight from rehab to bar. Misty (Christina Ricci) is manipulative to the extreme: “you don’t want to come back to mine because you don’t think I’m pretty,” she tells her dates, crying until they agree to accompany her home. Yellowjackets presents thoughtful character studies of these girls’ lives, and not all of them are the nice people. Trauma is used to create distance between them as their attempts to connect with ‘normal people’ are continuously sabotaged by their inability to escape their horrendous collective past.
It finds its standout character in Misty Quigley, the human embodiment of ‘girlboss, gaslight’. After being bullied throughout high school, Misty relishes the opportunity to define her worth in the wilderness. She’s medically trained, so the girls depend on her. In her adult life, her job as a palliative nurse enables her to indulge in a love of abusing any power she’s given. There’s a balance struck between her pastiche of sickly sweet pastels, kitsch sweaters, high-pitched voice, and her objective brutality. At her core, Misty is tragic – perhaps she wouldn’t be like this if she had ever had a friend that wasn’t bribed or forced into being around her. Or perhaps it would make her worse.
Constant allusions to cannibalism are made but never directly confirmed. Shauna is terrified that someone may find her diary from the time, Tai’s political opponent launches a campaign calling her a cannibal, and Natalie is taunted with “but you never told us what you did,” in her rehab confessional circles. It is the drive of the show, the narrative hook – what did these seemingly innocent girls do to survive in the wintery wilderness?
However, Yellowjackets also includes some poorly executed psychological horror elements. Trapped in the wilderness, a survivor begins to have visions predicting a series of escalating threats. As their situation grows increasingly dire, it’s implied that this girl’s visions could have led her to control the group. This would rob Yellowjackets of its depth by suggesting a supernatural element behind their depravity as opposed to just their will to survive. Furthermore, a final twist that sees a long lost threat return feels unnecessarily mysterious and largely reductive of their struggles. Not everything requires a massive twist; the series shines when it’s focusing on how the girls are unable to adapt to regular life.
Despite these choices, Yellowjackets is more than worthwhile and is extremely watchable. Overall, it’s excellent in its character development and how it unravels the girls’ stories. It’s really worth watching just to see their progression or, arguably, their lack of progression – roll on season two!