David Fincher called and he highly recommends this.

The first thing you need to know about Yellowjackets is that all the critics and entertainment writers around can’t seem to get enough of it.

Depending on which side of the table you sit at, that ought to be an important point to note. About a month ago, when I was first nudged by a filmmaker and a senior critic in India to watch Yellowjackets, I bought the subscription to Voot just to stream this. It isn’t much, at 299 bucks a year it’s probably worth an investment just to stream the series if nothing more; but I held out until 9 episodes were released, just so I could binge and get it done together. The plan was to stream 4 each day and build it up to watch the finale on the day of its release, nearly 10 days ago.

For all the planning and masterstroke, it fizzled a bit when I started streaming it. Yellowjackets gives Lost (2004–2010) fans another chance to get in on the universe they created — fighting to survive after a plane crash — but that is not all. Yellowjackets takes the liberty to focus extensively on the survival strategies that it builds the series on for 10 episodes.

This isn’t for casual viewing or easy weekend binge-watching. It is deeply unsettling to binge more than two episodes at a stretch. This is especially for the audience that craves smart television and doesn’t mind a bit of gore that comes along. Showtime’s Yellowjackets cannot be placed in a singular genre definition.

A plane full of high school soccer team players from Seattle finds themselves stuck in the wilderness of Ontario after a plane crash. The screenplay is non-linear, going in and out of their lives; in 1996- the year of the crash- and 25 years later in 2021 showing their present-day lives. Each survivor harbours the collective secret of their 19 months in the wilderness together, while their present lives are plagued by the horrors of the past. Admittedly, the screenplay is wicked. The crescendo of suspense builds on while we move ahead with the series learning more about their lives in the wilderness involving orgies, cannibalism, ritual killing, in-fighting, and more that is yet to be uncovered. Easily, it holds your curiosity until the very end.

My grouse with the series limits to the attempts to do too much all at once. We go into the lives of Shauna (Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse, adult and young respectively), the fastest soccer player from the high school team called Yellowjackets, with her husband Jeff (Warren Kole and Jack Depew) who was the high school boyfriend of her best friend Jackie (Ella Purnell), also the captain of the team. The past in the series leads up to highlight Jeff cheating on his girlfriend Jackie with Shauna and in the present, they’re going through couple’s counselling when they’re married for over 16 years with a daughter Callie (Sarah Desjardins). Lack of communication and effort has caused a strain on their marriage for Shauna to suspect and eventually discover her husband’s infidelity and for her to make transgressions of her own with a mysterious stranger Adam (Peter Gadiot).

This doesn’t even cover half of the screenplay. This is probably 1/5th of the show.

This is exactly what I mean by a lot is happening, all parallelly interspersed between 1996 and 2021 and many lives of soccer players then and now. As a writing exercise, and as a reading of the series, this is as fine as it gets. To involve these many elements in a show and make it work well with one another takes a lot of talent and the writers, as well as the creator, needs to be credited with it. Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson bring out coming of age story with elements of horror and dark psychological drama all at once and do not stumble while presenting either element. The cast delivers, there’s no doubt that its half screenplay and half performance that brings the magic on the screen that makes you really dig deep in the series.

It’s important to convey that despite the seriousness, the series isn’t bereft of dark humour. The equation between Misty (Christina Ricci and Sammi Hanratty) and the rest of the crew on and off the island is spectacular, as is the whole portion involving elements of Catechism by Lottie (Courtney Eaton) for the girls and the remaining crew when they’re stuck after the crash. Even Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown) go-getter approach has been tackled with sensitivity as opposed to making an exaggerated attempt at explaining her character. It reveals itself more with each episode bringing in her past and present together to explain her character’s ruthlessness. Similar sensitivity is shown for Nat (Juliette Lewis and Sophie Thatcher), who’s constantly belittled as a burnout as she maneuvers close to poor decisions almost every time.

The score and the opening theme deserve a special mention for the effect it creates to convey a sense of doom amidst pleasure. David Fincher’s Se7en (1995) walked so Showtime’s Yellowjackets could run; with the amount of work they have put in curating this opening title credits, the influence is visible.

As a casual viewer or someone who wants a “light” weekend of comfort binging, I wouldn’t recommend this. The series is riddled with shots that can make you squeamish and it does not hesitate at showing gory sights. This is a series for those who want to voluntarily take on the trauma of those stuck without resources after a plane crash and find that stimulating when they watch any attempt at survival of the fittest. Yellowjackets is strictly for those who are starved for detail-oriented fine drama that breaks the genre identification and goes as far as the imagination of the viewer.

The gaze of the creator on the girls and the others is what sets the series, it does not exploit as mere voyeurism into some psychological drama and neither does it limit itself as a half-assed attempt at building bone-chilling suspense. It rests easy. When someone tells you this is one of the most memorable television series that came out of 2021, they are probably not lying. It’s just, I don’t see this replacing anyone’s comfort binge-watching of Too Hot Too Handle on a day when work seems too hard to comprehend and life a bigger mess than ever.

The series is available for streaming on Voot in India.

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Anisha Saigal

Purveyor of OTT Originals// custodian of cringe// entertainment and culture writer