“Yellowjackets”–“Lord of the Flies” meets Girls Club Soccer
Guest reviewer: Karinne Gordon, writer and creative writing teacher
Yellowjackets is a complex and fascinating peek into the future, following a group of teen girls who are survivors, flashing back and forth into their adult lives some 25 years later.
The basic premise of Yellowjackets is that an elite girls soccer team, along with their handsome young coach and young assistants, is stranded in the Ontario woods, after their plane crashes on the way to a tournament. The series progresses with cuts between the past and the survivors’ present lives 25 years later. (Um, how do they not make closer contact sooner? That’s a bit of a sticking point for me.)
At the same time, their current realities are compelling. Drug addiction, affairs, blackmail, running for political office, “arsenic and old lace” style mercy killing. PTSD in all its glorious manifestations. But how did they get here?
The flashbacks start to answer that question by playing with the psychology of the girls during their time stranded in the wilderness. Their imaginations run rampant with events and emotions that become way off-target or simply mundane, whereas true danger lies outside their wildest dreams.
However, the pacing needs to be more consistent. Especially in the flashbacks, it takes so long to arrive at a suspenseful event or “big reveal” only to have it resolved too quickly and tritely in order to move on to the next plot point. For example, the few survivors spend maybe half a day clearing a take-off strip in densely wooded forest and then the plane takes off with its teenage pilot only to blow up midair a few hundred feet into the flight—really? Frustratingly dissatisfying.
Despite this inconsistency in pacing, the nuanced performances by the four lead actors create such interesting, psychologically damaged people that they kept me coming back for more. I credit that to expert casting choices: Juliette Lewis as recovering addict Nat (=Natalie), Tawny Cypress as political candidate Taissa, Melanie Lynskey as housewife Shauna, and Christina Ricci as, well, “mad scientist” Misty. These actors render their characters sympathetically human, despite their psychopathology. The actors who play their teenage selves give solid—if not as compelling—performances, sometimes staying within the stereotypical teenage mean-girl tropes, but often venturing into more true-to-life territory.
At the end of the season, more questions have been raised than have been answered—again frustrating. Yet, intriguing new information comes to light in the last 30 seconds to set up for another season or more. Buckle up! The ride has just begun.
Availability: Showtime streaming