I just want to note: 1) I haven’t read anything from anyone about the second season yet, although I do know it has been divisive and 2) this post contains no spoilers.
Crashed plane, lonely island, a bunch of scared folks just trying to survive; then a bunch of flash-forwards to the survivors that made it off the island, and how they’re living years later.
It’s not LOST, but wouldn’t blame ya if you thought I was describing that epic. It’s YELLOWJACKETS which — on the surface — looks a lot like LOST but replace the folks with the members of a tightly-knit, but very combative, girls soccer team.
Like LOST, YELLOWJACKETS occasionally suffers from issues attempting to straddle both character stories and lore and, like LOST, YELLOWJACKETS opts more for the former as opposed to the latter and I love it for that. I love these fierce misfits, even if more than a few of them are murderous or have severe issues.
These characters are ferocious, no matter the year. They are hardcore. They bite, they cut, and they aren’t afraid to bleed. These are not your normal TV female protagonists, and I love the show for leaning so hard into that. It’s not just the cannibalism; they’re all raw around the edges, and we need more depictions of that sort of thing.
Hand-wave the lore issues away. If you don’t care about the characters, there is no show; it’s just a set of puzzle pieces that you want to shoehorn together to fit you.
It is worth noting that YELLOWJACKETS lacks the velocity of LOST. It’s not pulling a rabbit out of its hat (or hatch) every week. It’s more grounded than that, but it is still propulsive.
However, like LOST, it has some fucking fantastic needle drops. As an old-school fan of riot grrl bands, this is catnip to me. If you grew up in the 90s, damn, strap yourself in because this show knows what you want, and knows when you want it. There’s an especially brilliant use of ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN’s ‘The Killing Moon’ in the second season finale. (While it’s technically not 90s, the show opening with SHARON VON ETTEN’s ’Seventeen’ is extremely inspired.)
I have to say: YELLOWJACKETS has one of the greatest modern title sequences. It absolutely perfectly lays out the conceit of the show, down to the division of time, drops a lot of visual hints, but also features a banger of an original backing track — no, not a riot grrl deep cut from the 90s! (although half of the act is comprised of 90s cult music staple THAT DOG) — that absolutely encapsulates the anger and frustration and confusion and trauma of the characters, while wrapping it in a worn VHS haze (and keenly switches from 4:3 to 16:9 at specific times). This is one of the few title sequences I blast as loud as I can when no one is around, and then I rewind and watch it again.
Lastly: S2 has a brief scene where one of the survivors is running a VHS rental store, and this is modern day. Don’t scoff: there’s one not too far from me! VHS will only die when the tape disintegrates. I’m burying the lede here though: there’s a scene that recreates a scene from THE WATERMELON WOMAN but the queer owner presses a VHS tape to the other queer woman regular customer, noting that she should watch THE WATERMELON WOMAN and my face lit the fuck up. Few mainstream shows would even think of writing that, much less take the time to shoot that scene. (The chef kiss would be if they’d brought in Cheryl Dunye to direct that episode but, sadly, no.)
“You can do fucking anything.”
I’ll note: I’m ride-or-die with this show. It just cuts too close to the quick for me; it hits every single one of my quadrants, despite the fact that 1) I was never a teenage girl; 2) never was part of a heralded sports team; 3) have never crash-landed on an isolated island 4) have not consumed human flesh. Nonetheless, I cannot be objective about it as I’m almost always able to look past its flaws and feel too hard while I’m watching it.
“Half of your wardrobe is Sleater-Kinney tour shirts!”
“It’s just that … everyone in here? Has been been dumped in one way or another. […] I joined up after I dissolved a subscription horsemeat service that started with my brother-in-law.”
(That is one hell of an amazing way to summarize a character.)
This is a show that absolutely knows what it wants to do, knows what it’s capable of, and doesn’t give any fucks about its audience and I unabashedly love it. I cannot wait for the third season.
“It’s you and me against the whole world.”
I’ll note that the high school I attended? The sports teams weren’t called Yellowjackets, but it is quite adjacent: they were named the Hornets.