Anyone looking for further proof that the Rotten Tomatoes critic score is broken should look no further than YELLOWJACKETS at 100% fresh. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good, not great first season that has a slew of Netflix sag (I’ll get into that definition in a bit). When the show works, it really works. See the plane crash, the Doomcoming, and the over-the-top violence. But when it doesn’t, it completely misses the mark. I’m looking at you, present-day Taissa (Tawny Cypress). All this to say, this should not be 100% on RT. It’s more an 83%.
I can see why the buzz is there for YELLOWJACKETS. It has two of our favorite 90’s actresses (Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci), a vast mystery to get “lost” in (minus the polar bears), and it’s a mash-up of too many genres to list out. Yet, what keeps the buzz from truly taking off is the “Netflix sag.” It’s tough to sustain ten episodes of mystery for audiences without repeating themes. When Netflix changed the game to shorter TV series all released at once, most of their shows went on too long. This includes – HOUSE OF CARDS, DAREDEVIL, and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. And just like these classic series, YELLOWJACKETS suffers from being about three episodes too much. If the creators shortened the first season to a crisp seven episodes, it would deserve the 100% RT score. But as repeating themes start to emerge that include teenage love affairs, double/triple crossing, and prolonged reveals, it’s just a lot of “Netflix sag.”
With that out of the way, the season MVP is easily Shauna (Melanie Lynskey). It’s wonderful to see this TOGETHERNESS star shine so bright in a campy role that plants her in the protagonist role amongst a slew of lead actors.
When watching a mystery show, it’s all about paying off enough of the audience’s narrative debt, and YELLOWJACKETS nearly lands the plane here. Again, if the first season were seven episodes, the minimal payoff would’ve worked. But after ten episodes of intrigue, it needed more. This was nowhere near the disaster of LOST missing the end mark, but also not on point with the brilliance of WATCHMEN’s final payoff.
YELLOWJACKETS has enough of a sting that I’ll gladly be back for a season two. With an all-star cast and some real intrigue, it’s hard not to fall in love with this series. So here’s to a season two with a little less campy talk and a lot more action/reveals.
YELLOWJACKETS S1 is available on Showtime.