Save the best for last is a rule that seems to apply to this year’s TV rollout. As we approach the end of 2021, Showtime has launched one of the best new shows of the year with Yellowjackets. The new horror-thriller is still just warming up and is already blowing critics and audiences away.
Read on for some of the reasons we think you should give Yellowjackets on Showtime a try, if you haven’t already. You can stream episodes to get caught up and watch new episodes live every Sunday at 10pm ET/PT.
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1. The premise of Yellowjackets is wonderfully creepy
Survival stories are always a great start. In Yellowjackets, a high school girl’s soccer team is stranded in the wilderness in 1996 when their plane crashes on the way to a national tournament.
We’re already in great territory here. 1993’s Alive saw a rugby team having to survive the harsh cold of the Andes mountains when their plane crashes. The survivors resorting to cannibalism is one major parallel between the two stories, although Yellowjackets is a very different story.
Through jumps in time, we learn that the girls eventually descend into some kind of Lord of the Flies-esque group madness. Within the first episode, we get glimpses of ritual killings and cannibalism months after the crash.
In the present day, we catch up with survivors going about their daily lives. As they work to put the past behind them, reminders of the woods creep into their lives, bringing them back together.
2. Yellowjackets is about more than it seems
There’s a lot going on in Yellowjackets, with the basic premise already thrilling on its own. The past coming back to haunt women, who (likely) did unspeakable things while surviving a horrific crash, is certainly engaging.
But Yellowjackets goes further, building mysteries on top of mysteries. It also, importantly, builds some incredible human drama.
One survivor is a bored housewife suspecting her husband of cheating, all while developing a flirtation of her own with a mysterious stranger. Another is running for office as her opponent hones in on her past, and her son starts having disturbingly familiar visions. Two more have teamed up to find clues as to who’s messing with everyone as a pair of dysfunctional buddy amateur sleuths. We even get hints of some kind of supernatural forces at play.
There’s no shortage of intrigue, stellar writing, and knock-out performances to keep you glued to the screen.
3. Killer 90s tracks
The 90s setting of half the series means any nostalgic music fans will get lots of great earworms in every episode. This includes pop, alt-rock, and hip-hop tracks from the 80s and 90s, along with some contemporary songs.
Yellojackets offers a welcome throwback to the music of the 1990s.
The official Yellowjackets Twitter account has even started posting tracklists for each episode, recognizing the obvious appeal. Some standout needle drops so far have included the following:
- “Today” by the Smashing Pumpkins
- “Shoop” by Salt-N-Peppa
- “Let Me Find Out” by Pos Neg
- “Supernova” by Liz Phair
- “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
- “Miss World” by Hole
- “Down by the Water” by PJ Harvey
- “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips
- “Kick It” by Peaches
- “Glory” by Portishead
- “Dreams” by The Cranberries
- “Vienna” by Ultravox
4. Jennifer’s Body director Karyn Kusama sets a hell of a tone
Director Karyn Kusama is an executive producer on Yellowjackets. She also directed the pilot, giving the show its signature tone. While the show is created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, with a team of writers, Kusama’s creative voice looms large.
Karyn Kusama shows why she’s one of the best directors working today.
“When you direct the pilot, you get a lot more time to prep it and to really dig into the casting — all of those crucial roles, all of those crucial decisions about the look and the feel and the energy of the show, get established in that first episode,” Kusama told The Ringer. “For me, what was really fun was to come into the project, and have a bit of a blank canvas in front of me, and be able to say, ‘Here’s how I see it.’”
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Kusama’s talents are incredibly well-suited to the project. The most obvious reference point is her 2009 cult classic film Jennifer’s Body, about a teen girl possessed by a demon. But Kusama has an impressive body of work in horror and suspense generally. Her 2015 follow-up to Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation, was one of the best films of the 2010s, and in 2019, she directed an episode of HBO’s excellent The Outsider, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name.
Jennifer’s Body and Kusama’s 2018 film Destroyer jump through different timelines like Yellowjackets, and you can see similar themes surrounding female rage and hunger in these titles.
An artist of great talent, Karyn Kusama continues her streak of groundbreaking film and TV in Yellowjackets.
5. A who’s who of 90s talent shines in Yellowjackets
The dual timeline structure of Yellowjackets gives us two versions of the main characters. That means the creators got to have fun with casting, bringing on actresses who were young stars in 1996 — when the survival portions of the show take place — as the middle-aged counterparts of the teen athletes.
Among them, we get amazing performances from 90s rising stars Melanie Lynskey, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis. The trio imbue their roles with all the star power they carried as younger performers.
None of these actors have exactly faded from the spotlight, but their roles here still feel like major comebacks. That’s in part thanks to the subject matter, which immediately evokes their early careers.
They’re joined by other terrific performers Tawny Cypress and the younger cast, including Sophie Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Ella Purnell, Sophie Thatcher, Sammi Hanratty, Liv Hewson, and more — all major rising stars in their own right.
As we approach the end of the year, Yellowjackets is sure to make it on many best-of lists for 2021. It’s a major standout in a year with plenty of great new shows. Now’s a perfect time to get caught up and follow along weekly on Showtime.