Why 'Yellowjackets' is the best show on TV right now

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Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)
Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)

It’s the word of mouth hit the whole country is going crazy about, but what is it that makes Sky Atlantic series Yellowjackets the best new show on television right now?

The thriller series has been an instant hit on UK screens with audiences flocking to the story of a New Jersey girls’ soccer team — nicknamed the Yellowjackets — involved in a hellish plane crash ordeal back in 1996. Present day scenes show how the now grown women are coping with the traumatic fall out.

Starring Christina Ricci, Melanie Lynskey and Juliette Lewis, the series — produced by US cable network Showtime — has been quickly renewed for a second season amid rave reviews and social media buzz.

Read more: Everything you need to know about Yellowjackets S2

As the first series comes to a thrilling finale this week, what is it that made it such a massive hit?

Spoilers ahead!

A hint of nostalgia

Sammi Hanratty as the teenage Misty in Yellowjackets (Kailey Schwerman/Showtime/Sky)
Sammi Hanratty as the teenage Misty in Yellowjackets (Kailey Schwerman/Showtime/Sky)

From Derry Girls to Captain Marvel, 90s retro culture is still booming as that decade’s generation comes of middle age and the split timeline allows audiences of a certain vintage to look back to the days of tamagotchis, mix tapes and grunge music.

But cleverly, first episode apart, most of the 90s action takes place in the wilderness so younger viewers don’t have time to be bored by ironic Saved by the Bell in-jokes they have no reference for.

Dream casting

Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)
Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)

While the young team includes English-born actor Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children) and Sophie Thatcher (seen this week in The Book of Boba Fett), casting proper 90s teen stars in the roles of the now early 40s adults is genius meta HR work.

Read more: Yellowjackets is Desperate Housewives with feral youths and cannibalism

Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear), Christina Ricci (The Addams Family) and especially the incomparable Melanie Lynskey (Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures) provide a great all-grown-up-now look for the 2021 version of the troubled characters.

Mystery

Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)
Melanie Lynskey in Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)

The flashbacks play like a mix of Lost and Heathers, while the modern story is somewhere between Only Murders in the Building and Big Little Lies. In each era, answers beget more and more questions and deepening mysteries – supernatural and psychological.

The modern day action follows the women’s desperate bid to protect the secrets of the crash. But what are those secrets, and how dark did things get?

Fun

Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)
Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)

There is gruesome death and injury throughout — not just from ruthless on field tackles — but there’s also a constant sense of dark comedy and gallows humour that keeps both timelines popping despite the grim subject matter.

Body count

Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)
Yellowjackets (Showtime/Sky)

The twin timelines provide one massive question: Who lives and who dies? The modern day action centres around four survivors. But at least a dozen made it out of the wreckage after the plane crash.

How many perished in the woods, and by who or what’s hand or claws, and who will be introduced from the wreckage into season two and hopefully beyond? Each episode has teased more and more info about who might have made it to the Yellowjackets’ 25 year anniversary party set for the finale.

Considering the whole series launched with a cold open featuring a Lord of the Flies-style feral tribe, the body count is almost guaranteed to grow.

Yellowjackets season one finale will air at 9pm, Thursday 20 January, on Sky Atlantic.

Watch: Meet the Yellowjackets team

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