Yellowjackets – Pilot Review

Everybody knows about soccer, but do you really know the positions in a unit they play? Most are aware of the Goalie, but there are the Backs that are always the last line of defense before a ball can even come close to the goal, the Midfielders that play double duty and to me have the hardest of jobs, and the Offense, which must have precise aim and speed to score. In the new series Yellowjackets (Showtime), we’ll learn that though no position is more important than the next, sometimes teamwork makes the dream… a nightmare.

We open up on a barefooted girl, darting through wintry woods. With eyes carved into trees, there are eyes watching. Bestial shrieks abound, so why wouldn’t she take a knee? This is not a coach commanding it. This is the team requesting it. She muscles on before finding her new bed- a set of spikes with her little heart necklace dangling in the wake. GOAL!

A fur cloaked figure observes the fresh kill from on high. This is called a victory.

An annoying reporter queries others… as if they were there for the goddamned event. Those that happen to answer don’t know a fucking thing about them, save for a woman in assisted claiming they forgot about Trigonometry. I was never good with math, but the only way a ball hooks around is to split the defenders and get that point. It was always an addiction of mine before I was told I was to be a Sweeper. To kick the ball away. To put the ball into the other fielder’s side. Basically, I was called to protect if others couldn’t in a moment of crisis. I was happy doing that. I was good at it.

Welcome to 1996, where a team orchestrates their damnedest game, not because they want to, but rather because it’s in their blood. The soccer ball is one with you being nearly magnetic. This one is sadly dropped due to teammate Allie (Pearl Amanda Dickson), whose lack of fight or flight on the green is a threat to the team’s survival. Through the speed and determination of a core group, the adrenaline sends the victors into a primal chant of “Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!” These are your Yellowjackets.

Backed by the ever so familiar Smashing Pumpkins which I’d played on the guitar so much as a teen, we’re greeted by scores of Jersey shore scenes until we check in with team Captain Jackie (Ella Purnell), in the midst of being intimate with her beau Jeff (Jack DePew). After brushing her teeth for ‘spotless’ reasons, she takes a good hard look in the mirror fidgeting with that fucking necklace. I always hated team captains.

Waiting is teammate Shauna (Sophie Nélisse) in the car. Spotting Jeff making a surreptitious escape from the palatial estate, Jackie emerges, donning a shit-eating grin. Did I say I hated team captains?

Shauna admits to having seen her boy to jet, she admonishes her friend about an unspoken rule of distractions before a huge game.

You don’t fuck, you don’t jack or jill off. That shit is verboten because you want to keep that energy pure and pristine.

Jackie decides that showing up to college virginal is a mistake, redirecting the conversation about their dorm at Rutgers next year. Still, they bask in the moment of glory as State Champions. This is a golden moment, not to be fucked up by anyone.

Welcome to 2021, where a grown-up Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) fucks herself with pictures of her daughter’s boyfriend before hazily going about her day. On her way out, she notices plants in the yard are being eaten by rabbits before a woman introduces herself as Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) from The Star-Ledger.

She’s contacted her before, but now Shauna can tell her in the flesh to fuck off, even with idiots espousing her story. All she can offer are main deets: plane crash, two teams of girls to hunt and scavenge for nineteen months until ultimate rescue. Blah, fucking blah. Though Jessica promises advance as co-writer, this survivor isn’t on board. Trauma is a bitch and I wouldn’t for all the tea in China drink it.

Elsewhere, a woman is in meditation overlooking a beach. Ohh, how sometimes in movies this looks so good but I’ll be a few years out if my liquor well runs dry. This is Natalie (Juliette Lewis), clearly at a rehab. As she approaches, flashes of dragging the bloodied body along the lily-white snow enter her mind, stringing her up on a tree like a deer as another, face clad in a fur pelt observes. Blood lets. Life lives.

In the session, Natalie sits serenely as another grouses about the episode that landed her in jail. We all know that anger can be helpful and Nat cosigns to that, chiming in about “keeping the tiger in the cage.”

As it is her last day at the resort, her imparting words of wisdom ring eerily calm, as one is to find purpose. Her time spent out in the wilderness led to a life of continued vice when the true cause was being lost after being found. I can relate, save the bloodletting.

Younger (Sophie Thatcher) in 1996, she’s punked out, chugging cheap swill with friends a day before her leaving for Nationals. I’ve done that before because I hated school. My only outlet of aggression was sport. When a car pulls up calling for her to flash, her friend concedes, causing them to peel out with Natalie putting an exclamation point on it, chucking the bottle of hooch right at their back window, causing them to jet. Oh, she’s a fighter on the field.

As the girls amp themselves up in the locker room, Jackie calms Allie, the only freshman on Varsity down. This is an honor, but the only one she’s concerned about is being asked to a prom. The girls are worried about her on-field performance, but Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) assures that will not happen.

Before the pep rally, in Coach Martinez’s (Carlos Sanz) office, Jackie is given a little pep talk of her own about being a leader bringing the team together, being her only true asset to the team as other players are clearly more skilled. Trust me, being called into any office, much less your coaches can’t spell anything good.

At the rally, the red carpet in yellow in blue is rolled out, including Equipment Manager Misty (Sammi Hanratty) leading the cheer as she gets to take care of them. Let’s give it up for the eqp man, as they do the dirty work. They are one above scorekeeper.

In 2021, Shauna nearly shits herself as Taissa’s (Tawny Cypress) ad for state senator flashes across the screen. She slide tackled her but good mentally.

In that Turner household, Taissa and wife with son pose for a profile in Jersey Monthly. The photographer reminds Taissa of her trauma, calling her an inspiration. In any sport, we call that a yellow card…

…1996. Taissa confers with Shauna, Natalie, and Lottie (Courtney Eaton) about freezing Allie out (i.e. she can’t lose what she can’t touch.) The other three don’t feel kosher about the plan, but an omerta is entered. Though not a cool play, it happens in games.

Misty sets the field up, grinning ear to ear before it’s off to the races with drills. Oh, they are grueling, but to be the best of the best, repetition leads to reputation. Before Coach Scott (Steven Krueger) brings it in to orchestrate a scrimmage between JV and Varsity, Laura Lee (Jane Widdop) insists on prayer. It’s not as if they are warriors on the battlefield, right?….

Once Allie starts fucking up, Taissa chooses to switch sides (to toughen Allie up). The tension builds to a single, solitary slide tackle to the virgin, compliments of Taissa. Let’s just say the sound effect was just as fucking gruesome as the aftermath.

In the locker room, the morale is as down as their fresh meat. Jackie seizes the moment to inject some soothing words falling on cloth ears.

Adrenaline is running, but you know who’s not? Allie.

In the present, we’re introduced to Shauna’s daughter, Callie (Sarah Desjardins), dripping with as much sarcasm as her mother when she was her age. She asks her daughter if Ms. Mendez will let her retake the Trig test (call back). Her daughter finds their commonality banal, citing what the reporter mentioned earlier about her mother “taking a good hard look at her life.”

On the eve of the team leaving, Shauna’s getting prepped for a party she would rather not attend. Jackie does mention that a troglodyte named Randy will be at the party, and against her initial protestations, Shauna shows up to the woods party (a staple of Jerseyans) in the red dress Jackie gave her to get laid in.

Outside of the rehab center, a weathered Natalie enjoys the last of a cigarette before being picked up by a cab. She requests LAX.

Back at the party, a lonely teenaged Shauna looks longingly as Jackie seduces a very in love Jeff. After Randy (Riley Baron) dedicates a beer bong hit to her, a liquid couraged Shauna approaches Taissa at the watering hole, wanting her to fess up to a hitjob. Before the girls can knuckle up, Jackie commands all to follow her.

In their powwow, Jackie has each of the girls say something “nice AND true” about each other, and though it starts out as disingenuous, it grows into something more sincere. They need their heads fucking right before heading into a potentially life-defining game.

While Jeff drives Jackie and Shauna home, Natalie stays and trips out on acid, with it taking effect to the backdrop of PJ Harvey. Through a roaring fire, she can see Misty observing and then disappearing. Intercut with is presumed the council carving and roasting their fresh win, we catch a glimpse of who is at the high seat, set with a headpiece of antlers.

On the ride home, Jackie asks Jeff to drop her off first. The teammates exchange seats and hugs, before Shauna’s on her way before demanding Jeff pulls off to the side. She’s not going to vomit, but rather get something else out of her system.

Jeff has a new look and it’s not what he wants. Her requests not to impregnate but rather to profess love, however false don’t seem to help any narrative…at least to him.

In the present day, Shauna’s daughter is now gone for the night. The matriarch decides to eradicate the precious bunny eating away her shot at normalcy the only way she knows how- violence. After washing the blood away, Shauna takes the card Jessica left, leading her to the safe, passing pictures of her family, including hubby Jeff. Oh, ya think she would be in position if she went to Brown?

With safe opened, she extracts a few old notebooks before taking out a burner, and with taking one glance at the card, she dials.

As the embers wane, the girls get ready. Jackie packs her bags, Natalie takes one last drag, Laura Lee prays, Lottie takes her morning antipsychotic, Van (Liv Hewson) slaps her drunken mother awake, Misty watches a drowning mouse, Taissa kisses her parents goodbye, Coach Martinez packs in his boys and Shauna packs away her early admittance to Brown before heading out. Families or lack thereof, am I right?

Both Varsity and JV pile into the private charter that Lottie’s dad funded. It’s overheard that they are traveling to Seattle from Jersey from a flight plan that will have to head a bit farther north to elude the storm system, thus flying over the Canadian Rockies, but Jackie soothes Shauna’s anxiety with valium in addition to arming her with her necklace so “nothing can touch her.” Aww. Friendship. Loyalty.

In the diner (a Jersey staple) sits Shauna. She flashes back to entering a haze as the trip commences until her approaching party snaps her out of it. It’s Tiassa. Shauna slides her the card, claiming that upon research, there are no legitimate credentials. This doesn’t mean much to the incumbent, but to Shauna, it means the world. Tiassa broke the pact to say as few things as possible whilst staying out of the public eye. If there’s digging to be had on her as a politician, everyone is fucked.

Natalie cracks open her storage unit housing a beautiful small Porche housing a big beautiful rifle. According to the manager of the facilities, she might as well have been a ghost coming to haunt it. She thinks being back in the good ole’ Garden State will be good for her, what with catching up with some good ole’ friends.

Cut to the council of seven in the ivory woods.

As the eighth brings a wooden tray of the prepared long-pig, the leader allows the rest to take a hunk of sustenance.

In this day and age, there’s an orderly. This is Misty (Christina Ricci). Delivering her patient a daily dose, she’s only met with silence and disdain. After her bedridden act of insolence, the former Equip Man revokes the morphine privileges for the night. Do not fuck with her. Misty knows pain. Or rather enjoys it.

Misty exiting is spied on by Natalie in her 911.

We spy with our wicked eye to past, others back out into the hunt whilst the fur-masked servant lifts up her disguise to reveal a face to put on those blooded-stained glasses. As maws tear into their earned meal, Misty flashes a glint of a grin before joining in on the hunt, panning over a vast and lush mountain range of possibilities of where to live and where to dine.

This episode spoke volumes to me. It was tart as the cranberries Jersey is known for (not our Tomatoes), snarky as any teenage-rage piece, and a work that anyone might’ve read in high school. The music fit the fictional setting of Wiskayok, NJ. As a former soccer player, I’m reminded of a similar event when I put someone in school out of it for a year with a simple slide tackle. I felt horrible as Taissa. The only difference is, I had to sit in front of my victim next year in math class.

Things can nosedive in a brutal way from here, but I guess this is why they call this a Pilot.

Robert Kijowski
Robert J. Kijowski is a screenwriter who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He enjoys the company of strangers in a theatre but adores the camaraderie of friends watching Netflix. He also loves to talk- a lot. This can be read through his recaps and reviews on the Workprint or heard through his weekly movie podcast, After the Credits. His presence can be felt through Facebook, Spotify or Ouija. Don’t use the latter though- he almost always ghosts people.

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