Yellowjacket’s creators said they “get very irritated with shows that drag everything on forever and don’t give you any answers” but that’s exactly what they did with Showtime’s most recent hit series. Questions raised in a thrilling pilot go unaddressed for seven lackluster episodes until the final two installments finally begin to deliver the show’s promise to tell us how a team of high school soccer players turned to canabilism in the Canadian wilderness.
The pilot opens with an unidentified girl running through a snowy forest, clearly frightened for her life. We learn that’s for good reason when she falls a hidden pit lined with spikes. Later she’s hung upside down, bled out and eaten by a bunch of costumed weirdos. Okay sweet, we’re gonna get the payoff for that this season. Wrong! After its first 10-episode run we don’t know who fell in the hole and only have a hint toward who ate her.
Talk about irritating.
My first note during the pilot was “Something obviously happened to these girls beyond a plane crash. They mystery is what.” That’s easy enough to understand and watch for, but I spent most of the season wondering what they were exploring within that construct. I guess the story is how these four adult women cannot escape a horrible experience they all shared as girls. I get all of that, and it’s well done because of the excellent acting. But until we start to see the truly awful things they did to survive I can’t really buy into it.
Speaking of surviving, there’s precious little story devoted to how they manage to get by day-to-day. Like La Brea, Yellowjackets gives a cursory explanation for how they get food and that’s about it. Why not use the survival requirements of living in the woods to show us who these girls are? That would have been more compelling than using the Canadian wilderness as proxy for a high school, which is basically what we got. Other than a few references to “weeks” there’s no concrete sense of how much time is passing either. We give TV a pass for having stranded characters with great hair and clean shaves, but it needs to give us at least some sense of the passing time so we can understand how much ordeal the characters have been through.
There is a lot of good here though. Like I said the acting is strong. The casting of actors who look so much like their older and younger counterparts is downright eerie. We also get a few really solid spook moments that will make you question why you decided to watch this show alone in the dark.
There is apparently a five-season arc for this series, in direct violation of my YOBO principle. Yellowjackets is full of strong acting and that’s why I’ll be around for season two, but it needs to do better to earn those last three.
Some more annoyances:
The reporter shows up in episode one and I’m thinking great, that’s who they will use to mirror what the audience is thinking. Similar to how Hurley became the voice of the fans on Lost. Wrong! She spent most of season one chained up in Misty’s basement. Why? We don’t need that to know Misty is a psychopath. If this is part of the five-season plan that will flare up later when the adult survivors learn Taissa is the one who hired her then great. But parking her character in chains for the season was a complete waste.
After a werewolf bites Van’s face through to the bone, her friends throw her on a stack of wood and start her on fire WITHOUT CHECKING TO MAKE SURE SHE’S DEAD. It’s completely implausible to me that no one would say hey maybe check her pulse before we burn her corpse. I know we’re teenagers stranded in the woods here but come on. This is Showtime, not daytime.
In the same episode as they nearly burnt Van, adult Shauna and Taissa have a long talk about what they thought their futures would be. Shauna revealed she was going to Brown, Taissa laid out a plan that largely came true. Wait a minute. These girls were stranded together for 19 months and never once talked about this? I cannot buy it.
They cleared an entire runway with little axes. Please. How amazing that the only spot in this vast wilderness with zero trees happened to be straight ahead of this little prop plane.
I know 1996 was, like, eons of technology ago. But we seriously couldn’t track an airplane across Canada? I don’t believe that. The players ignored the pre-flight announcement about altering their flight plan to avoid bad weather but the writers clearly wanted us to hear it. This isn’t Oceanic 815 going astray over the open ocean.
And finally, my bombshell theory: The girls are still out there. The four adult survivors—Shauna, Taissa, Misty, Natalie—share more than a fanatical devotion to silence about their ordeal. They seemingly live in constant fear of people finding out what they did “out there.” But if everyone else is dead, what is there to fear? Society frowns on canibalism but I think will give them a pass here. No, I think they fear the girls who are still out there. Still in the woods. Still eating…still surviving.
That’s the kind of thing that would scare people this brave dead silent. And maybe make this show memorable.