Yellowjackets: A Buzzing Teenage Thriller


Photo courtesty of Showtime

Emma Christiansen, Media Critic

“No return, no return, no reason.”

These are the lyrics to the opening credits song that describe the essence of Yellowjackets perfectly. Since its first premiere on Showtime on Nov. 14th, 2021, the show has made its mark as one of the most critically-acclaimed female-centric television shows of the decade. It was created by the married screenwriters/producers Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, both of whom have experience from episodes of critically acclaimed television dramas such as The Originals and Nacros. It’s a survival epic, psychological horror story, and coming-of-age drama all rolled into one.

Yellowjackets takes place in 1996, where a New Jersey high school girls’ soccer team survived a devastating plane crash in the wilderness of Canada while traveling to Seattle for a national tournament. It was reported early on that they were left stranded for 19 miserable months, with the team members driven to cannibalism as an attempt to stay alive. The show also focuses on some of the survivors 25 years later, in 2021, living seemingly normal lives. While the first season centers the team at the beginning of their survival in the wilderness after the plane crash, the second season resumes with them struggling to make it through the bitter winter.

Evidently, there might be people asking, “so, is this just Lord of the Flies but with girls?” Yes, and no. As a matter of fact, the idea for the series was largely influenced by the Donner Party that ran from 1846 to 1847, and the Andes flight disaster in 1972. During both circumstances, people had unfortunately resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Back in 2017, it was announced by Warner Bros. Pictures that there will be an all-female film adaptation of William Golding’s most famous debut novel. After reading the announcement, Ashley Kyle heard a lot of skepticism from the general public on how young girls could descend into the same barbarism as young boys. In fairness, Lord of the Flies is famous for exploring the dark side of humanity and the savagery that underlies even the most civilized human beings. Golding, in particular, wanted to write a novel about boys on an island to show how they’d really behave as boys and not saints like they usually were in previous children’s books. With that in mind, she and Nickerson conceived the idea for the series to be a “metaphor for teenage hierarchy.” Even the name of the sports team Yellowjackets was perfectly fit for the theme, as this particular insect is described as being very dependent on their queen and are known for having very specific dynamics of the hive.

Ever since its first premiere, Yellowjackets received critical acclaim, particularly for its story and the performances of the cast. Speaking of which, the show stars an ensemble cast of multi-talented actors, many of which play the Yellowjackets themselves. The cast of teenage victims include: Sophie Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Ella Purnell, Samantha Hanratty, Sophie Thatcher, Courtney Eaton, and Liv Hewson, among others. As mentioned earlier, the show also takes place in 2021, 25 years after the plane crash, focusing on the lives of the short number of the survivors. Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis star as the adult survivors. Season 2 then introduces Simone Kessell and Lauren Ambrose as (by far) the rest of them, and Elijah Wood as a citizen detective working on solving a case with Ricci’s character—the first time the highly prolific actors worked together since the 1997 drama film The Ice Storm.

Available on Showtime, Yellowjackets is most definitely worth watching. Its first season alone earned seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series and acting nominations for Lynskey and Ricci. Lynskey, in particular, won Best Actress at the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, Gracie Awards, and the Hollywood Critics Association Awards. Additionally, since the show primarily focuses on trauma and survival, mental health experts and psychiatrists agree that the portrayals of PTSD among the characters are especially well done. Of course, this isn’t the only show that expertly portrays mental illness in recent years (Euphoria, Arcane: League of Legends, or Bojack Horseman, amongst many examples), it’s astounding that we have another one to thank for the respectful but truthful representation. The show also excels in its LGBTQ+ representation— particularly with Brown/Cypress’s character— subtle usage of 90s nostalgia without heavily relying on it, complications of young female friendships, and above all, its clever writing in the psychological genre that instantly grabs your attention. Though the second season will be airing its finale on June 4th, it’d be amusing to catch up before the third season begins development. So, prepare yourselves for a thriller binge watch.