When the first episode of Showtime’s Yellowjackets premiered late last year, no one imagined that the series would become the most buzzed about show of the year. When the finale episode dropped on Crave, the Yellowjackets hive lost their minds, and reasonably so. The series is a deliciously dark survivalist drama that captures grief, gore and girlhood in a way fit for pure escapism.
The 10-episode series follows two timelines and somehow manages to even keep viewers invested amid the complications when timelines merge. The first half of the series takes place in 1996, after a tragic plane crash leaves a New Jersey high-school soccer team stranded in the Canadian wilderness for 19 months.
Taissa is the blunt leader (Jasmin Savoy Brown) who brutally attacked a player on her team for being weak and slowing down the team. Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) is always following in the footsteps of her best friend Jackie but has some secrets of her own. Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), the loner, lashes out at those around her and won’t let anyone get close. Then there’s quirky Misty (Samantha Hanratty), the team’s equipment manager, who is constantly laughed at by the entire squad.
While the 1996 events continue to unfold, the story cuts to present day 2021 and the now adult survivors who have families and lives of their own. Each are trying to navigate the trauma of the crash as well as the grief of what they had to do to survive—a horrifying mystery that forms the crux of the series.
In the present timeline, Natalie (Juliette Lewis) is fresh out of rehab but still just as self-destructive; overachiever Taissa (Tawny Cypress) is running for state senate; Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) is a disaffected housewife and mother, and Misty (Christina Ricci) is still as menacing, working as a nurse and tormenting her charges.
The first episode teases viewers with the possibility that the girls may have dabbled in cannibalism when stranded and that idea haunt the entire run of the show. A murder and a blackmail threat in the present-day traumatizes the surviving women and they start to worry that their long-held secrets are about to be exposed.
Yellowjackets has a lot of things going for it. It has a well-written script that hooks you from the very first episode and it brilliantly manages the tricky job of matching the young counterpart actors to the adult ones. Each talented performer is rewarded with a well fleshed-out storyline, allowing for them all to bring their special something to the table. Juliette Lewis is at her very best here, solidly capturing Natalie’s deadpan humour and sharp wits, while clearly delighting in the opportunity to play a messy but brutally honest character. Then there’s Cypress’ devious crack of a smile, delivered at a pivotal moment—a moment of pure performance perfection.
Ricci too, in an astounding blond wig, shows a range of deviousness—sometimes manipulative and calculating and at other times, the unexpected hero. She bites into her character with relish, turning out a truly twisted version of Misty—a character who can be disturbingly chipper even while standing over a bloody corpse. In fact, we’re never truly sure if we should root for her or be terrified of her, or perhaps both in equal measure.
That said, the real stand out of the series is Melanie Lynsky. She is perfect as the wife and mother desperately trying to find some sense of normalcy, just as she casually and coldly culls the rabbits in her backyard. She is hilarious when you least expect her to be and her performance truly anchors the entire series.
This meaty drama really does cut closer to the bone (pun intended) with each episode, unraveling new details about what happened during those mysterious 19 months. Let’s just say that by the finale, which answers some questions while offering new ones, you’ll be dying for a second season.