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Yellowjackets: Season One

"I always thought I was just trying to forget what happened out there. The things I saw, the things I did..."

This review covers the first season of Yellowjackets, and contains spoilers.

The title of this show was found through a quick Google search by the show’s creators. Yellowjacket wasps happen to be “very dependent on a queen and the dynamics of the hive and the structure of it...”. This description feels very fitting with the overall idea of this series’ debut season, which follows an all-girl high school soccer team stranded in the middle of nowhere. Teenage politics play a big role here, but so do survival and trauma; human beings are always grasping for scraps of civility and compassion, particularly in the midst of a traumatic experience.

Yellowjackets follows two distinct timelines. The first follows the Yellowjackets soccer team (along with the team coach's sons Travis and Javi, and assistant coach Ben), as their plane crash lands in the middle of nowhere leaving them stranded. The second follows four survivors of the crash in the present, mainly Shauna, Taissa, Natalie and Misty, as they navigate their adult lives. The truth of what really happened to them in the forest remains shrouded in mystery (because of course), but we’re given enough reveals throughout the first season to keep us invested in where this story might go next.

The central themes of this series not only play out in the 1990s, where we see the Yellowjackets grapple with survival and maintaining their sense of selves, but also in the present day. Their older selves, broken and forever changed by what happened 25 years prior, try to preserve the lives they’ve built for themselves while their past comes back to haunt them. It’s hard to say which timeline remains the most gripping, something that isn’t just down to both stories remaining well paced and full of exciting twists, but also the women themselves. The dichotomy of the people they were and the people they’ve become starting to slowly merge is a fascinating backdrop for the usual ingredients in a cable thriller. We can almost see how these dire circumstances pull out the hidden traits that might potentially turn them into the monsters we see in the pilot’s opening scene.

Throughout the season there are quite a few nods to what we see happen in the first few minutes of the pilot, which show a mystery girl running through snowy wilderness. Further scenes throughout the episode reveal her to have been trapped, killed and seemingly eaten by a group of masked people, led by someone wearing a very creepy antler crown. Ones of those nods is the necklace the victim is clearly seen wearing, which we initially see around team captain Jackie's neck, but the owner quickly changes, hinting that the victim really could be anyone. Then there's the identity of the "Antler Queen," with one particular scene not so subtly showing one teammate Lottie wearing it in a drugged up state. But like the necklace, I think most of what gets shown is meant to keep us guessing.

How long it actually takes for the series to get to the young womens' transformation into cannibals (if that’s even what we saw) is anyone’s guess, especially given each of them have reacted very differently to the bleak reality of their situation. Misty, played to macabre perfection by Christina Ricci and Samantha Hanratty, seems to show her feelings the most. The former equipment manager's need to be included has played out in very weird and disturbing ways in the flashbacks, like her wacky decision to destroy the plane’s black box, and dosing up the teams’ coach in order to get him to fall for her. Even present day Misty remains desperate to get her teammates approval, doing anything she can to protect them and their secrets. I don’t see her being the true catalyst for the darkness to come, but she’s definitely along for the ride, whatever shape that might take.

Shauna, the show’s de facto lead, is very different. In many ways she remains the biggest mystery of the group, with neither her younger or older self reacting to things in any expected way. It’s only in moments of extreme panic that her actions start to speak volumes about what she could truly be capable of. She has a strong stomach when it comes to gore (poor Mr. Rabbit), and was very quick to violence when it came to protecting herself and her secrets (poor Adam). Will she be the true “Antler Queen” we saw leading the sacrificial ceremony we witnessed, or is it really Lottie and her “visions” behind the creepy mask?

Lottie's schizophrenia provides the perfect backdrop for some creepy genre bending. Revealed through further flashbacks to her childhood, Lottie has always seemed to have some sort of intuition for impending disaster. As a kid what she saw gave her parents time to avoid a car accident, something that seemingly tore them apart given her mother believed that intuition came from "something more." With super-Christian Laura Lee egging her on in the wildnerness (until she bit the dust herself), it wasn't long before Lottie started to believe the same as her mother. That belief will likely only get stronger, given she still seems to be leading some sort of cult in the present day.

The season’s final twist might be more of a misdirect than we might think. Lottie cleaning out Travis’ bank account is damning evidence, as is her slow descent into "madness" in the flashbacks, but she wasn’t the only one at that snowy altar. Van’s injuries as a result of the wolf attack might have left more of a scar than what we’re seeing on the surface, and what we can actually see is pretty bad.

I wonder how Jackie would have fared further down the line if she hadn't died in the finale's closing moments. Of all the girls left stranded she seemed to be the one still tied to her teenage sensibilities. She balked at the idea of any manual labour or dirty work, she spent most of her time still clinging to the idea that she's better than those around her, particularly Shauna, and when she thought the world was ending the one thing she wanted more than anything was to one up Shauna and make sure she didn't die a virgin. It probably wouldn't have taken long for her to be pushed to the side naturally, especially given her teammates rolled their eyes at her most of the time. Her death even felt in character, thanks to her stubbornness to not be the first to apologise to Shauna. And yet, you still feel for Jackie in spite of her shortcomings, which is a testament to how well this season broke down her popular girl stereotype.

Of all the teammates I think Nat remains the least likely to have taken part in anything truly nefarious. She’s proven to be a lot more compassionate than her bravado would have you think. Both Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher have injected very different ingredients into the character, but a sharp sense of humanity is the one common thread between their performances. This season leaves her at an extreme low point, with her unexpected kidnapping cutting her suicide attempt short. Given her level of compassion, I think what happened while they were stranded affected her most of all, and it's shown in spades in her adult life. Hopefully the truth about Travis' death, supposedly at the hands of Lottie's followers, will give her a sense of purpose again.

Tai is a total wild card. On one hand she's shown an ability to be cutthroat, purposefully injuring a weak team member to keep her out of nationals. She's a politician, which in and of itself requires a certain sense of brutality. There's also the damning evidence that is her blackouts, and the creepy altar with her family's dead dog's head at its centre that Tai's wife found in the final moments of the season. Did Tai do that consciously? It all feels a bit heavy handed for it to reveal her to be the darkest of the group. She's a mother after all, and even in the flashbacks she's shown a sense of empathy, like choosing to help Shauna when she realises the secret she's been hiding. I just don't see a true villain in her, but time will tell.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

- One thing that struck me on re-watching that I never really paid attention to before was the inconsistent extras that seem to pop up and disappear depending on the episode. I had to consult Reddit to see just how many there are, and it seems like there's six of them floating around. Hopefully season two addresses this because it's a bit distracting, especially when the group are voting or making decisions together.

- Shauna is pregnant in the flashbacks. I really fear how dark this storyline will get since her only child isn't old enough to have been born in the 1990s.

- Another Shauna moment that makes me afraid of her – how easily she is able to manipulate her daughter Callie when she catches her mother out and about with her secret lover Adam. She seems to be (rightfully) suspicious of her mother when she finds out about Adam's death later on.

- Allie, the teammate who was (luckily) injured before the crash, was present at the 25 year reunion in the finale. Why was she there if she was a freshman back then? And why did she have an inexplicably strong NJ accent when she didn't before?

Ten episodes in and all of the central female characters remain incredibly dense and fascinating. The deterioration of their humanity in the flashbacks has been explored beautifully, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. With winter around the corner, and Jackie’s tragic death leaving the group without their old hierarchy, the Yellowjackets may find themselves falling in line behind a more brutal and sinister leader sooner than we might expect.

Nine out of ten antler queens.


  1. I tried to watch this show when it came out and had this weird "I love it but it's too intense for me" reaction. The girls/women are exactly my age, so it all felt extremely personal. I really ought to give it another try.

  2. It does get really uncomfortably dark. And I say that despite the fact that Lord of the Flies is my favorite book. Still really well done though.

  3. Great review. I can’t wait to see the new season.

  4. I just realized Elijah Wood is in this...


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