Yellowjackets – Season 1


“There’s nothing wrong with a little self reliance.”

Main Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Sophie Nelisse

Creators: Ashley Lyle, Bart Nickerson

Oh, Lord of the Flies, you do love to come visit us often in some form or another. Sometimes the setting hides the influence, other times it’s right on the nose. It’s always interesting to see what new wrinkles contemporary creators can bring to the story of stranded children forming a society.


In Yellowjackets, the children are teenage girls stuck in the Canadian Rockies after a plane crash. The girls were headed from their home in New Jersey to the national soccer championship after a stellar season. Joining them are an assistant coach and the head coach with his two sons.

There’s tension within the team long before they get on the plane. When it crashes, it seems like those tensions will drop away and the girls will work together. We all know that’s temporary.

As the team copes with the lives lost in the crash and the harsh reality of their situation, we begin to meet some of their adult counterparts 25 years down the line. We know from the first episode that some of the group makes it out of the wilderness alive. But at what cost? That’s the question season one of Yellowjackets asks and begins to answer.

Each episode of Yellowjackets has scenes of both the teenagers and the adults. We get to know them in their two incarnations simultaneously. What could be confusing becomes fascinating as we see how the characters carry the trauma of their time in the remote wilds with them into their adult lives.

The audience is transported between dirty teens scavenging for food and shelter and adults battling their consciences and their PTSD. What really happened out there? The short answer: a whole lot. The real answer: I’m not telling.

Script and Setting

Yellowjackets is a series about survival and trauma as much as it is about human nature and a soccer team creating their own little civilization. The premise is very much Lord of the Flies, the outcome decidedly less so.

Three things sell Yellowjackets, making it truly compelling. The scripts, the settings, and the performances.

The scripts for both groups feel real, even in unreal situations. The teenagers sound like teenagers and the adults like adults. Each major plot point is carefully orchestrated for maximum impact.

The crash setting is out of this world beautiful. The remote mountain surrounded by nothing but trees as far as the eye can see is at ground level both sublime and filled with horrors.

25 years later, the world is jarringly average. Regular people doing regular things in completely regular places, unadorned by any of that mystical mountain power. The dichotomy is stark and makes the transitions between time periods easy to follow.


The performances are uniformly excellent. Standouts include Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nelisse (you’ll recognize her from The Book Thief) as adult and teen Shauna. Though the cast is an ensemble, Shauna is the main player. These two actors make her complex, conflicted, and deeply scarred.

Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher play adult and teen Natalie. Nat was not as tight with the team as the rest of the girls, spending her free time partying with the tougher crowd at school. This girl and woman are a force.

Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown play adult and teen Taissa. Taissa is driven and determined, we see that in both versions. She’s a natural leader but not without secrets of her own.

One of my favorite characters, and certainly one of the oddest, is Misty, played as an adult by Christina Ricci and as a teen by Samantha Hanratty. An outsider before the crash, Misty has some survival skills. She also has an intense desire to be included, needed, and liked. A very intense desire.

Overall, Yellowjackets is one of the best series I’ve come across in a long time. It’s a new take on an old premise that delivers on every level. It has a great dramatic mystery arc in both timelines with finely executed horror in the wilderness. This first season was nominated for seven Emmys, every one richly deserved.

You can find Yellowjackets streaming on Showtime or buy episodes on Amazon. There is a second season already with a third coming.

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