‘Yellowjackets’ is the best new TV show in a decade

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In the yellow jackets pilot, Shauna Sadecki – played by the singular Melanie Lynskey – masturbates to a photo of her teenage daughter’s boyfriend, in her daughter’s bed. Shauna, now in her 40s, yearns for a part of her youth that was taken away from her, that she can never get back. Then she is approached by Jessica Roberts, a private investigator disguised as a journalist who pushes Shauna to tell her true side of the story. That is, the story of how she survived in the Canadian wilderness for nineteen months, stranded with her high school football team after a plane crash in 1996. “I’m moved on,” Shauna tells Jessica. But it’s so clear she didn’t and never will.

There is an overwhelming amount of television at present. In the age of peak television, if you’re behind on something (especially if it’s on Netflix), there’s often no point in catching up because a few days late is already too late to have the common, modern equivalent of a conversation about a water cooler. With more options than ever, it’s kind of become even harder to find something as powerful, original, and as confident as yellow jackets. And even when you find something great, it can quickly become a fleeting memory. For example, I liked The Queen’s Bet, but can’t remember most of what happened there. My eyes have simply seen too much since the fall of 2020 to remember anything other than Thomas Brodie-Sangster in a cowboy hat. But like the best TV shows and movies, yellow jackets, the best new show in years, is etched in my brain forever.

From the very first scene in the pilot to the devastating but inevitable events of its season finale, yellow jackets is a confident first-season show that knows its themes, characters, and exactly what it’s about; there is no learning curve. The haunting first scene in the series shows a teenage girl being chased through the snowy woods with no shoes or winter clothes. She falls into a pit of spikes and is then bled and, apparently, eaten in a cannibalistic ritual conducted by masked figures we can’t quite make out yet. From there, it jumps to Shauna’s intro masturbation scene, which quickly establishes what this show is and always will be: bold, mysterious, violent, and irreverent. Shauna’s introduction establishes that yellow jackets is, above all, a show about trauma that explores how it manifests over decades with a diverse set of personalities and backgrounds. yellow jackets responds to a need for discussion and theorization, puts a necessary spotlight on Gen X women and the complicated bonds between women. Whether you’re stuck in the wild with your football team or not, anyone can identify a character, moment, or dynamic they can relate to on a deeply personal level.

yellow jackets is a survival show. Survival after the plane crash, survival in the woods, survival after the woods. Every character that came out of the woods still survives. Along with being haunted by the lost years of her youth, Shauna is haunted by visions of Jackie, her childhood best friend, and in the 1996 timeline, their friendship is seen to deteriorate. Natalie (Juliette Lewis), a drug addict who makes regular visits to rehab, is forever linked to Travis, a fellow survivor who, for better or worse, helped her through this ordeal. In the 1996 timeline, Natalie is one of the few rational thinkers essential to the group’s survival. Taissa Turner (Tawny Cypress) did everything she planned to do before the crash: she went to the right schools and followed the right career path. Her state senate race triggers a stress she hasn’t experienced since she got lost in the woods. She spent decades ignoring it, but it never really went away.

The ever-lovely but very terrifying Misty (Christina Ricci), on the other hand, seems to have enjoyed the experience in the woods because it was the first time she felt wanted, needed, and included. Yes yellow jackets never a “we have to go back” moment, Misty would be thrilled. Even though survivors want to disconnect, they are drawn to each other because no one else can or wants to understand what they’ve been through and what they feel about it. Through these separate and incredibly different representations of trauma from the same experience, yellow jackets sets itself apart from other shows by featuring multiple complex emotional arcs for women — and at that, women in their 40s. The show’s structure that follows the 1996 timeline and the 2021/present timeline shows how people can change and evolve while still remaining the same.

Although we as a society have long since moved away from it (or have we?), game of thrones has made us, for lack of a better word, thirsty for theories. The shocking twists and sudden, brutal deaths of unexpected characters created a new dynamic between the show and the audience comparable, but on a smaller scale, to shows like Lost and X files. The fascinating mysteries and hypotheses of yellow jackets are the most talked about elements of the series. The internet is flooded with questions such as: who is the man without eyes? Who is the man in the cabin? Why is Taissa eating dirt in the trees? And who do they eat?

Even after amplifying the supernatural elements towards the end of the first season, yellow jackets exists on a fine line between the real and the supernatural. Everything at this point could be explained realistically, like psychosis. But it could also be explained from a supernatural perspective, like the fact that the woods have a spirit and purpose of their own. While the big mysteries are hidden from the public to keep us on our toes, the mystifying nature of the show exists for more than that. They are kept out of the public eye because in response to trauma, main characters Shauna, Natalie, Taisssa, and Misty keep it to themselves. Alright, well, maybe not Misty.

Television quickly shifted from focusing on sad, broken and difficult white men in the 2000s like Tony Soprano and Don Draper to self-deprecating millennials like Hannah Horvath in the 2010s. especially his women, has been largely ignored in entertainment, the perpetual middle children that they are. Even in TV shows and movies depicting 1990s Generation X, the experiment was designed and written by adults trying to figure out the MTV generation. A shorter way of saying this is that Gen X had my so called life and party of five, but they did not get Girls or one Euphoria. yellow jackets is one of the first – if not the first and only – show to center Generation X from an authentic lens because it’s written and starred by them. Actors who were icons in the ’90s, including Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci and Melanie Lynskey, were intentionally cast to give the actors new on-screen life and to exaggerate and acknowledge the show’s intentions. While Juliette Lewis’ Natalie is exactly the type of character you’d expect from Lewis, Christina Ricci’s Misty is quite unexpected and Melanie Lynskey, who often plays supporting characters, is given a starring role. The characters do stereotypical ’90s teenage things like listening to moody girlish rock and wearing flannel, but their portrayal goes beyond consumerism and pop culture aesthetics and digs deeper. in the independent and discontented generation.

yellow jackets is the best new TV show in a decade, with one of the strongest pilots ever made (it’s Cheers and Friday night lights good pilot level), and one of the tightest and most consistent early seasons in modern television. Other prestigious fairs such as Succession, You better call Saul, Where Americans that have been created over the last ten years have proven to be some of the best ever made, but it took them a while to get there. In the era of television with endless options – we’ve gone from a new show every week to a new show every day – yellow jackets stands out as one of the boldest and most original shows in recent memory due to its solid premise, characters, and polished storytelling with its finger on the cultural pulse.

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