The Yellowjackets have awakened my inner Lost fan again

For the past few weeks, my mind has been filled with questions that make little sense out of context. I have thought long and hard about why a high school girl would start eating dirt and what middle-aged man could be covered in glitter. I’ve considered the importance of everything from psychedelic mushrooms to a high school football coach’s pep talk to a missing bullet in a police officer’s gun. I’ve even re-watched the video to see if a goal that won the state championship was offside – and let me not get started on how much I’ve thought about cannibalism. What I am saying is: Yellowjackets has completely taken over my brain. I have not been so obsessed with theorizing about events in a TV show since the cast of Lost discovered the hatch.

On the surface, there are some very obvious connections between Lost and Yellowjackets. Both center on a plane crash where the survivors find themselves in the desert where a lot of weird shit starts to happen. Both jump around in time and explore not only the events of nature but also the lives of the actors before and after the tragedy. Most crucial is that both are completely crammed with secrets, making theorizing about what actually happens the probably funniest part of the experience.

It’s not like there have been no strange mysteries since Lost. I mean, I saw the ongoing Microsoft Surface ad known as Under the dome. But none of Lost‘s successors have gripped me in the same way Yellowjackets have. I actually got to the show a few weeks late and drowned out the first half on a single night before fitting Sunday night shows into my schedule. It did not last long at all; I’ve been hooked since the first five minutes.

It starts in the perfect way: clean what the hell? energy. A young girl, chased through a frozen forest, with disturbing whispers and screams in the background, ends up being impaled on spikes in a trap under the snow. Then there is a gruesome ritual that I would rather not think too much about. From there, things get a little healthier, and switch to the titular Yellowjackets, a high school football team from New Jersey that has just won the state championship and earned them a spot on the national team. (I’m still convinced that the game-winning goal was actually offside, but I need to see some better camera angles to be sure.)

There are many different kinds of dramas happening in Yellowjackets at the same time. There are the typical teenage things from before the crash, as the girls deal with parties and boyfriends and their dynamics on the court. There is Lord of the Flies-style collapse in the woods as the team – and a few other people who happened to be stuck in the plane, like the possessed and possessing equipment manager Misty – try to survive in the desert. And then we have the present, where the survivors struggle to hold it together after all they went through; one is about to come out of rehab while another unleashes on a reporter looking for juicy details about the crash. And all of this is set to a musical background of this one mixtape I made myself in 1995 by recording Smashing Pumpkins songs from the radio.

It is this combination of bizarre moments, intense drama and time-changing storytelling that makes Yellowjackets works so well – and makes it so ideal for theorizing. First, you will see something that is either shocking or confusing. It could be dark, like a ritual killing or a suspicious suicide, or a child carrying antlers like some kind of mysterious goddess. Or it could be something smaller, like a strange symbol that keeps popping up without any explanation. These moments raise all questions, and as the story shifts around in time, it rarely clears things up. Instead, it piles up on the mysteries and makes you wonder if the answer you are looking for might just exist in another time. A good example of this is the survivors; until someone shows up in the now or you see them die, you actually never know if anyone passed the ordeal in the desert.

yellow jackets

Photo: Showtime

Like anyone Lost fan will tell you this kind of structure can be frustrating, especially if it does not pay off. That show was a deluge of cool, weird ideas – a smoke monster! a hatch! also polar bears? – which in the end never went anywhere. But I still loved it. The mysteries were funny enough even without satisfactory answers, and besides, they were also an excuse to spend a lot of time with these characters. The crew of Yellowjackets is a pleasure and completely unpredictable, to the point that I would look for Riverdale-drama alone. (Seriously, Misty scares me, and that’s true in any age.)

Until now, Yellowjackets it evokes all the same feelings for me Lost did. Of course, I would love the finale to satisfy my lingering curiosity and to find out who is really behind the antlers. But the trip so far has already been a bang. It is the journey, as they say, not necessarily the destination. Only in this case, the journey involves teenagers eating each other and a session has gone wrong.

The last section of Yellowjackets‘first season airs on Showtime on January 16th.

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