On paper, a story about a team of high school girls soccer players stranded in the wilderness after a plane crash feels like a CW Network fever dream (or a nightmare depending on how you feel about CW dramas). In actuality, Showtime’s Yellowjackets has turned out to be one of television’s most surprising and underrated new series, a fascinating mix of the best aspects of Lord of the Flies and Losttopped off with a banging 1990s soundtrack, a consistent sense of crushing dread, and a hint of cannibalism. Utterly fearless in almost every way, it’s honestly one of the best shows on any network anywhere right now.
Part traditional teen drama, part ‘90s-set horror movie, and part modern-day mystery, Yellowjackets is a deliciously clever and disturbingly entertaining survival thriller that doubles as a rather deft exploration of the complex inner lives of teenage girls. The end result is something completely unlike anything else on TV at the moment, which explains the slow and steady drumbeat of genuine buzz (pun intended) that’s been building around it since its November premiere. Maybe you haven’t heard about Yellowjackets yet for some reason, but if that’s the case, consider this a heartfelt plea to give it a try. (And when you do, please prepare to become the person that serves as an evangelist for the series to all your friends.)
Yellowjackets follows the story of the eponymous New Jersey state champion girls soccer team, whose chartered plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness where they are left stranded for 19 months. It also follows the story of a handful of survivors from that same crash 25 years later, as they find themselves facing both a blackmailer who claims to know their darkest secrets and a series of mysterious messages consisting of nothing but the same cryptic symbol that was drawn around their camp. This is all a lot of drama to keep track of, though the show does a rather phenomenal job of parceling out tidbits of information on all these fronts week to week. But what really makes the show work, in the end, is the cast of compelling women at its center.
Far too often, stories like this revolve around men. After all, pop culture constantly reminds us that teenage boys are generally bursting with barely contained violence. That men cheat on their partners because they can’t help themselves. It’s just their nature, after all. But while we’re very used to stories about the complex hierarchies that exist between young women and the cruelties they visit on one another in their names, few are willing to look too closely at the very real rage and menace that often powers those same girls. Yellowjackets is more than willing to do so – it was originally pitched as Lord of the Flies, but with female characters – and it’s why this show feels like such a breath of fresh air.