TV REVIEW: Yellowjackets 1.01


In 1996 a plane crashes somewhere in the North American wilderness, isolating the survivors – a high school girls soccer team – for 19 months. In 2021 members of the team are now in their 40s, and it seems that whatever occurred out in the mountains is coming back to haunt. The mystery of what happened, who lived, and who died, forms the focus of Yellowjackets. Based on this excellently composed and paced first episode, it looks like it is going to be a hell of a thing. The first season has been streaming on Amazon Prime for some time, and is now available on Australian DVD. The second season is just around the corner, so now seems the appropriate time to catch up.

This pilot episode is split between events in 1996 and events in 2021. We learn very early on of the crash and the long period for which its survivors were left for themselves. We see glimpses of what occurred, which are frankly confronting in the manner of a survival horror picture. Those glimpses haunt the rest of the episode quite powerfully. We see the soccer team immediately prior to the crash, and we see a select few survivors as grown adults with jobs, marriages, and varying circumstances. There is a delicious and addictive tension in what unspoken terror lies in between.

The dual setting requires casting two women in each key role, and it is clear from the outset that the casting process has been massively successful. It is immediately clear which character is which between each timeline, and there is already a clear resemblance in looks and cadence between each version. The former is thanks to good casting directors. The latter points to a very talented cast. Both bode well for Yellowjackets’ fortunes.

The more mature side of the cast showcase several actors who have deserved some mainstream work and respect for some years. Melanie Lynskey, still most famous for 1990s roles in Heavenly Creatures and Ever After, plays stay-at-home mother Shauna – the protagonist of this first episode at least – while Juliette Lewis, Oscar-nominated for 1991’s Cape Fear, is the recovering drug addict Natalie. Most pleasing of all is Christina Ricci, forever a cult favourite thanks to her two-time turn as Wednesday Addams, playing the tightly wound and manipulative nurse Misty. In both her adult and teen (Sammi Hanratty) forms, she is unsettlingly weird.

For viewers of the early 2000s, this is all going to read an awful lot like Lost (2004-2010). Both series share a lot of creative similarities, notably the plane crash and the unexplained goings-on among the survivors. Where Yellowjackets is already setting itself apart is in the gender balance – predominantly women – and in the nature of its flashbacks. It seems there is something going on in Yellowjackets that is already more threatening, and certainly much more violent.

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