Yellowjackets is an American thriller drama television series created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson. It stars an ensemble cast led by Sophie Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sophie Thatcher, Samantha Hanratty, Liv Hewson, and Courtney Eaton as a group of teenagers involved in a plane crash in 1996, with Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci, Lauren Ambrose, and Simone Kessell playing their adult counterparts in 2021. Ella Purnell, Steven Krueger, Warren Kole, and Kevin Alves also star.
The series premiered on Showtime on November 14, 2021. It has received critical acclaim, particularly for its story and the performances of the cast. Its accolades include seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series and acting nominations for Lynskey and Ricci. In December 2021, the series was renewed for a second season, which premiered on March 26, 2023. In December 2022, the series was renewed for a third season.
- Melanie Lynskey and Sophie Nélisse as the adult and teenage Shauna Shipman. In high school, Shauna is Jackie’s best friend but is having an affair with Jackie’s boyfriend, Jeff. She is accepted into Brown University prior to the plane crash. After the crash, she immediately adapts to life in the wilderness and forms a friendship with Taissa. She later discovers she became pregnant with Jeff’s child, forcing her to keep it a secret from Jackie. As an adult, she is married to Jeff and goes by Shauna Sadecki, but is unhappy with her life as a housewife and has a strained relationship with her daughter, Callie. She initiates an affair with Adam after they have an auto collision.
- Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown as the adult and teenage Taissa Turner. In high school, Taissa is determined to win the national championship by any means necessary. She injures teammate Allie during soccer practice, believing she is not good enough to play in the tournament. She is secretly dating Vanessa prior to the plane crash and their relationship continues during their time in the wilderness. After the plane crash, she begins sleepwalking which later develops into psychogenic fugue, causing her to wander around the woods in the middle of the night. As an adult, she is married to Simone and owns a pet dog named Biscuit. In the midst of her election campaign for the New Jersey Senate, she begins having problems with her son, Sammy, and the resurgence of her fugue states jeopardizes her marriage.
- Ella Purnell as Jackie Taylor (season 1; recurring season 2). In high school, Jackie is the captain of the Yellowjackets soccer team, Shauna’s best friend and Jeff’s girlfriend. She is accepted into Rutgers University prior to the plane crash. After the plane crash, she has the most difficulty adapting to life in the wilderness and adjusting to life without a high school social structure. Her relationship with her teammates steadily deteriorates and she begins to doubt her friendship with Shauna.
- Steven Krueger as Ben Scott, often called Coach or Coach Ben, the assistant coach of the Yellowjackets soccer team. After the plane crash, his right leg is mangled in the wreckage and Misty amputates it to save his life. While being nursed back to health by Misty, he has to simultaneously deal with his injury and the fact that he is the only adult who survived the crash. He is put off by Misty’s affections, both because she is underage and he is secretly gay.
- Warren Kole and Jack DePew (guest season 1) and Owen Gates (guest season 2) as the adult and teenage Jeff Sadecki. In high school, Jeff is Jackie’s boyfriend but is cheating on her with her best friend, Shauna. As an adult, he is married to Shauna, the father of Callie, and owns a furniture store.
- Christina Ricci and Samantha Hanratty as the adult and teenage Misty Quigley. In high school, Misty is the equipment manager of the Yellowjackets soccer team. She is frequently bullied and shunned by her teammates, who question her mental stability. After the plane crash, she demonstrates knowledge and skills useful for surviving in the wilderness and pursues her crush on Coach Ben. She later forms a friendship with Crystal over their shared love of musical theatre. As an adult, she works at a nursing home and continues to display manipulative and sadistic tendencies towards her patients. She owns a pet parrot named Caligula and is a member of an online crime solving club called the Citizen Detectives.
- Juliette Lewis (seasons 1–2) and Sophie Thatcher as the adult and teenage Natalie “Nat” Scatorccio. In high school, Natalie is frequently judged and harassed by her teammates due to her drug and alcohol abuse. She is best friends with Kevyn prior to the plane crash. After the plane crash, Natalie and Travis prove to be the most proficient with the hunting rifle and the two begin dating. As an adult, she maintains a destructive on-and-off-again relationship with Travis but later breaks up with him. She returns to New Jersey after finishing a rehab program paid for by Taissa, but struggles to maintain sobriety and begins contemplating suicide after Travis’s death.
- Simone Kessell (season 2) and Courtney Eaton (recurring season 1; main, season 2) as the adult and teenage Charlotte “Lottie” Matthews, a member of the Yellowjackets soccer team who has schizophrenia. Her wealthy parents are responsible for providing the private plane that ultimately crashes. After the plane crash, she runs out of medication and begins experiencing disturbing visions, prompting her to seek spiritual guidance from Laura Lee. Her superstitions are gradually adopted by the survivors during their time in the wilderness. After the survivors are rescued, she is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital in Switzerland. As an adult, she becomes a healer and runs a wellness commune called Camp Green Pine. Although she seems to have been cured, her visions unexpectedly return for the first time in decades.
- Lauren Ambrose (season 2) and Liv Hewson (recurring season 1; main, season 2) as the adult and teenage Vanessa “Van” Palmer. In high school, Vanessa is the goalkeeper of the Yellowjackets soccer team. She is secretly dating Taissa prior to the plane crash and their relationship continues during their time in the wilderness. After the plane crash, she is nearly burned alive in the wreckage but manages to escape. During an expedition, she is mauled by wolves which leaves permanent scarring on the left side of her face. Her belief in Lottie’s superstitions strains her relationship with the skeptical Taissa. As an adult, she owns a video store and has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
- Kevin Alves (recurring season 1; main, season 2) and Andres Soto (recurring season 1; guest season 2) as the teenage and adult Travis Martinez, Coach Martinez’s eldest son and Javi’s brother. After the plane crash, Travis and Natalie prove to be the most proficient with the hunting rifle and the two begin dating. He maintains a destructive on-and-off-again relationship with Natalie after the rescue, but when Natalie and Misty find him dead from an apparent suicide, Natalie suspects that he was actually murdered. Prior to his death, he was in contact with Lottie.
The idea for the series was largely influenced by the Donner Party (1846–1847) and the Andes flight disaster (1972), both true stories about people who resorted to cannibalism to survive. In August 2017, Warner Bros. Pictures announced an all-female film adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, a novel about a young group of boys stranded on an island. Ashley Lyle read the announcement and found that a lot of people were skeptical that young girls could descend into the same barbarism as young boys. With that thought in mind, she conceived the idea for the series with her husband Bart Nickerson as a “metaphor for teenage hierarchy” and placed a large part of the series in New Jersey, the state they both grew up in. The title, Yellowjackets, came up on a Google search for sports team names; Lyle said it was a “perfect fit thematically” as yellowjackets are “very dependent on a queen and the dynamics of the hive are very specific”. Lyle and Nickerson are also credited as showrunners alongside Jonathan Lisco, who was brought to the series by executive producer Karyn Kusama. Lyle added, “I just wanted to tell what felt like a very real story about teenage girls.”
Lyle and Nickerson pitched the series with a 35-minute presentation, which included talks about the first season’s ending and a five-season storyline. The series was originally going to take place in the 1970s and the 1990s, but both time periods were moved two decades forward to make the setting more familiar to viewers. Nickerson said the use of two timelines allowed for the studying of interpersonal dynamics and how trauma can affect one’s life. HBO was a contender to purchase the series but ultimately rejected it, in part due to its similarities with Euphoria, one of its own properties. Lyle says the smartest question she heard during the pre-production phase was from HBO’s Francesca Orsi and David Levine, who asked, “What are you trying to say with this show?” In his answer, Nickerson said the show was going to deconstruct the “organizing principles of a society”. Yellowjackets was eventually sold to The Mark Gordon Company, a production company owned by Entertainment One. The project was then pitched to Gary Levine, president of entertainment for Showtime Networks, who was immediately on board. On May 9, 2018, Showtime announced it had acquired the rights to the series.
When we were formulating and developing the idea we always saw this as a multi-season story and our goal in the first season is to very much answer certain questions, because I personally get very irritated with shows that drag everything on forever and don’t give you any answers. So, we wanted to answer some questions and ask some new ones, so that is hopefully what we accomplished over the course of this season. — Ashley Lyle
On December 16, 2021, after the first five episodes aired, the series was renewed for a second season. Levine said they had “not heard the pitch for season 2, the writers’ room has not even come together yet, they are going to come together in January. I’m sure Ashley, Bart, and Jonathan have some loose ideas but they hadn’t fleshed out their ideas and they certainly haven’t conveyed them to us.” On February 9, 2022, Levine said the creators had “always given us hints about things to come, but we haven’t done a long-range plan. We wanted to make the first season count. We’ve all buried ourselves in that first season and worked hard to make it the success it was. They [last week] went into the writer’s room and with Jonathan Lisco to start to unearth what can happen in season two. I love that they have some general idea of a five-year arc, but we take it one season at a time and get very granular about making it satisfying.” By May 2022, the writers were stated to be in the initial stage of writing the scripts. On December 15, 2022, three months ahead of the second-season premiere, Showtime renewed the series for a third season. Writing began on May 1, 2023, but halted the next day in accordance with the 2023 Writers Guild of America strike. In June 2023, series co-creator Ashley Lyle confirmed that a bonus episode would air between the second and third season.
March 26, 2023
- E01 – “Friends, Romans, Countrymen”
- E02 – “Edible Complex”
- E03 – “Digestif”
- E04 – “Old Wounds”
- E05 – “Two Truths and a Lie”
- E06 – “Qui”
- E07 – “Burial”
- E08 – “It Chooses”
- E09 – “Storytelling”
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