Emmys FYC: The captivating narrative of secrets and trauma in ‘Yellowjackets’ deserves your attention
There are numerous intriguing and thought-provoking positions among television series eligible for an Outstanding Drama Series nomination at the 2022 Emmys. Looking at to our Emmy predictions, the following eight titles will land there: Better Call Saul (AMC), Severance (AppleTV+), Succession (HBO), Squid Game (Netflix), Stranger Things (Netflix), Ozark (Netflix), This Is Us (NBC), and Yellowjackets (Showtime). The latter, in particular, elicits a wide range of emotions and buzzing among social media members. Yellowjackets, the Showtime series created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s awards season, delivering out-of-this-world performances and a captivating narrative while sparking many post-viewing discussions. As a result, this memorable drama series deserves to be nominated for, and hopefully win, in the category of Outstanding Drama Series.
The series tells the story of the titular Yellowjackets, a girls’ soccer team from Whiskayok High School who are preparing to represent their school at the upcoming match. But their lives are completely altered after a horrible plane crash leaves them stranded in a no man’s land wilderness in the Pacific Northwest. Surrounded by unforgiving and unpredictable wildlife, the girls, including Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown), Misty (Samantha Hanratty), Natalie (Sophie Thatcher), Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), and Jackie (Ella Purnell), as well as their coach, Ben (Steven Krueger), and two other students — Travis (Kevin Alves) and Javi (Luciano Leroux), the group try to work with unforgiving nature and survive the stay in the wilderness. As they find shelter, the story showcases their persistence while touching the subjects of cannibalism, death, and trauma.
Yellowjackets’ well-crafted narrative has the power to instantly attract an audience as the creators allow us to look at both the past and the present, depicting the now-adult survivors who are continually struggling with the trauma and PTSD caused by their tragic history. When a new threat appears on the horizon, those who survived the wilderness — Shauna (Melanie Lynskey, who won a Critics’ Choice Award for her performance), Natalie (Juliette Lewis), Misty (Christina Ricci), and Taissa (Tawny Cypress) — must unite and cooperate again to figure out who is blackmailing them and threatening to expose their secrets from the accident and reveal what exactly happened when they were stranded for many months without contact with civilization.
The fascinating paradox of Yellowjackets and its unexpected but well-deserved success is that Lyle and Nickerson don’t really reveal what viewers desperately want to know in the first season: did the survivors have to resort to cannibalism? Even though the subject is heavily implied in several scenes and interactions between the leads, the audience doesn’t get a deeper exploration or final confirmation. On the contrary, Yellowjackets keeps the audience on their toes by inviting them to explore each character’s multidimensionality and gradually unfold more shocking twists. In effect, the show evolves into one of the most ambitious drama series in recent pop culture.
When you immerse yourself in the Yellowjackets universe, binge-watch the show, and join in the discussion within the social media, the success of the show becomes evident. With an all-star cast like this, it couldn’t possibly fail. The show goes above and beyond, portraying its characters as teenagers and adults, both before and after the plane crash. Lewis/Thatcher, Cypress/Brown, Ricci/Hanratty, and Lynskey/Nélisse as young and adult characters all appear to be a match made in heaven. Each character is consciously crafted with the intention to intrigue viewers and are researched and created with passion and commitment. The transitions between scenes, including past and present, are seamless and smooth, bestowing upon us elaborate psychological portraits of each lead character. During a recent Yellowjackets FYC discussion panel, the actresses revealed that they collaborated on composing each personality to correspond with their younger/older selves. Cypress and Brown even further expressed that what helped them was coincidentally living in the same apartment building.
Beyond all of the factors mentioned above that contribute to Yellowjackets’ success is the story itself, with its heart-wrenching narrative centered on the female cast. Each character is fully developed, and the audience gets to see the story almost entirely from the girls’ point of view. When discussing the “stranded on the mystery island/in the brutal wilderness” subject, it’s possibly one of the first series that doesn’t revolve around male characters. On the contrary, we see for example see how the soccer team handles the matter of menstruation and the lack of sanity products, which was never really addressed in Lost. The subject is largely ignored in film and television, making Yellowjackets a trailblazer among the series premiering in 2021/2022.
While Karyn Kusama’s impressive “Pilot” leaves one desperately wanting to find out what exactly occurred in the wilderness, Ariel Kleiman’s season finale episode, “Flight of the Bumblebee,” is a gratifying and horrifying closing that begs more questions. However, there is another that was submitted for consideration alongside Karyn Kusama’s opening — Jamie Travis’ second episode titled “F Sharp”. Next to the Outstanding Drama win prediction, let’s hope that the episodes submitted will appear among those that are chosen and nominated for the Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.
To fully prepare yourself for the ride and understand the captivating story of Yellowjackets, it’s best to dive into the show right after the reading. I hope that this love letter encourages doing so. What’s a better time to familiarize yourself with the show’s genius than during the Emmy voting? You’ll become as mesmerized by the cast and the plot as yours truly. By the time you’re attending the 25th year reunion of Whiskayok High School alongside the characters, you’ll know that there is no escape from the buzzing of the show.
Yellowjackets is Emmy eligible for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing and Writing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis and Tawny Cypress), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christina Ricci) and more.