Yellowjackets: the deliciously unhinged TV series that everybody’s talking about right now

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Yellowjackets is the internet’s favourite show right now, and if you haven’t made time for Showtime’s breakout survival thriller, it’s time to fix that.

If you’ve been anywhere near Twitter recently, then you won’t have escaped the buzz around Showtime’s survivalist thriller series Yellowjackets.

Created by husband and wife team Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, the TV show explores the fate of a girls’ high school soccer team from New Jersey whose plane crashes in the Canadian forest in 1996. Through two distinct timelines, the series unravels the grisly lengths the team goes to survive in the barren wilderness, as well as the trauma and secrets that continue to haunt the adult Yellowjackets as they attempt to adjust to life 25 years later.

Yellowjackets: Ella Purnell as Jackie and Sophie Nélisse as Shauna

Since premiering on Showtime back in November, Yellowjackets has become an internet sensation, thrilling viewers with its tantalising mix of mystery, horror and adventure, and gaining a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For those still uninitiated, allow us to explain why the show is the best thing on TV right now.

There’s a pitch-perfect cast

Yellowjackets: Showtime's twisted survival drama has become an internet sensation
Before we even get into the twists and turns of the plot, we have to talk about the marvel of the casting. Because the series is split between two timelines, the teenage Yellowjackets also have an older counterpart – and those headline roles are filled by some prestige 90s actors including Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Juliette Lewis, and Christina Ricci.

What gives the show an extra level of intrigue is that many of these beloved actors were stars during the 90s; and watching these women evolve on screen while playing characters reflecting on their younger years only enhances the nostalgia. Ricci, in particular, has been praised highly for her performance as nerdy outsider Misty Quigley, the Yellowjackets equipment manager-turned-nurse with a sinister, sociopathic edge.

It goes without saying that the younger ensemble are equally brilliant. Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), Misty (Samantha Hanratty), Jackie (Ella Purnell) and Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) all keep you captivated with their delightfully unhinged behaviour, and are genuinely pitch-perfect matches to their adult counterparts.

The narrative feels truly original

Yellowjackets: The series follows a girls high school soccer team as they attempt to survive in the woods after a plane crash

One of the main reasons Yellowjackets is so compelling is because of its narrative ingenuity. The two timelines give viewers double the bang for their buck: not only do we get to see the delightfully horrifying things the team do in order to survive in the wilderness, but we also get an exploration of the disturbing ways the present day adults continue to deal with their trauma.

Of course, Yellowjackets can’t be neatly categorised as a horror or a survival drama. A key part of the allure is the element of mystery; the puzzle of what exactly happened during the 19 months that the team were stranded – why that takes a long time to unravel – builds an addictive sense of suspense as the show progresses. Even as the fates of a few of the original survivors come to light throughout the course of season one, there is plenty of intrigue that will carry across several seasons. In the final moments of the finale, for instance, it becomes clear that one further survivor is still alive in the present day.

There’s also the question of whether Yellowjackets has an element of the supernatural. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 5 podcast, Bart Nickerson said that it was all in the eye of the beholder.

“What does it mean for something to be supernatural or something to be ‘real’?” he told hosts Lesley Goldberg and Daniel Fienberg. 

“People have experiences that are beyond what we’d call normal reality. What exactly those experiences are is something you can debate… What exactly is happening is as much about the character and the audience’s belief system, however it may shift or change, as it is about what is actually happening.”

The second season is going to get even weirder

Yellowjackets: The Showtime drama has already been renewed for a second season

How do you go about bettering plane crash carnage, cult-like ceremonies, cannibalism and possible spiritual possessions? According to Yellowjackets’ showrunners, the solution is to simply get more intense when the show returns for its second season.

“When we first pitched the show, we said we wanted to make a show about the best and the worst that people are capable of,” showrunner Ashley Lyle told Deadline. “Ultimately, whenever you’re telling stories, you’re really trying to examine, and to some extent, interrogate yourself. I think that ideally this premise gives us a lot of room to really investigate that concept and to do it in a way that is hopefully really fun as opposed to kind of academic or overly intellectual.

“I think that we’re just so excited to keep playing in this world. There are a lot of opportunities where we’re going and where we’ve been planning to go get darker and get weirder. We’ll likely get a lot more of both of those things but hopefully we can keep it fun.”

The first season of Yellowjackets is available to stream in its entirety on Sky and NowTV.

Images: Sky/Showtime

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.