Yellowjackets series premiere recap: What happened in the woods?

Juliette Lewis as Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME.
Juliette Lewis as Natalie in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME. /

Showtime Sundays are about to become amazing with back-to-back new episodes of Dexter: New Blood and the new series Yellowjackets, an excellent survival thriller that’s part coming-of-age drama and part psychological horror.

The premium cable network was kind enough to release the premiere of Yellowjackets an entire week early, as the show doesn’t officially premiere until next Sunday, November 14. But we couldn’t resist diving into the series given the excellent buzz it’s getting, and it did not disappoint.

Divided across three timelines, Yellowjackets revolves around a successful all-girls soccer team in high school who are headed to nationals. But their plane ride out of state is interrupted when the plane crashes, stranding them in the northern wilderness for 19 months where all kinds of horrific things happen.

(L-R): Pearl Amanda Dickson as Teen Allie and Jasmin Savoy Brown as Teen Taissa in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME. /

Yellowjackets series premiere recap: A plane crash strands a soccer team for 19 months

The opening of the Yellowjackets pilot starts with a young girl running through snow-covered terrain (drawing kinda funny parallels with Dexter: New Blood despite the different context) and then plummeting to her death in a hidden trap designed to impale whatever unlucky victim lands on all the carefully sharpened wooden stakes sticking upright.

By the end of the episode, it’s implied that the survivors in the dwelling are eating the victim. So yes, plane crash, teen angst, and cannibalism all in one neat package! Even more mysterious is that we don’t actually know who the killers are in this flashback since everyone is wearing creepy cult-like masks in these flashbacks. It’s so exciting to see a brutal thriller series where girls are the ones who become savages and killers.

This story will likely draw comparisons to Amazon Prime’s The Wilds but dives deeper into the horror than the sci-fi/conspiracy of that series. Both are great, but Yellowjackets feels more like a genuinely terrifying look at how women would fare in a Lord of the Flies situation, and anyone who thinks they might bring a softer touch appears to be seriously misguided. It’s also exciting because the talented Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, The Invitation) is directing the series.

Ella Purnell as Teen Jackie in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME. /

But first, let’s take it back to 1996 and meet our main characters as teenagers. The Yellowjackets are the state soccer champs at the Wiskayok High School in New Jersey, and we meet them just before they take off for nationals in Seattle.

As teens, we meet the team captain Jackie (Ella Purnell) and her best friend Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), who may or may not be in love with Jackie but is also having sex with Jackie’s boyfriend. Then there is Taissa “Ty” (Jasmin Savoy Brown), who is intent on doing whatever it takes to win nationals and the local stoner/burnout Natalie (Sophie Thatcher).

On the outskirts of this group is the creepy outcast Misty (Sammi Hanratty), who is part of the team but mostly relegated to servile roles. During one of her first scenes, she’s seen watching a rat drown in a pool without lifting a finger to help, perhaps even placing it there herself to watch it die. Yeah, a serial killer in the making?

Most of the 1996 segments are spent setting up the dynamics of these girls, with most of the time spent on Jackie and Shauna’s relationship. Then there’s Ty or may have intentionally injured a girl (so bad her shin bone is seen sticking out of her skin!) she felt wasn’t pulling her weight to ensure she wouldn’t risk their win at nationals. At the end of the episode, Yellowjackets shows us their final moments on the plane as it starts to crash.

(L-R): Ella Purnell as Teen Jackie and Sophie Nélisse as Teen Shauna in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME. /

We don’t see much of the wilderness content yet in the Yellowjackets premiere, but the few hints we do get are downright chilling. It looks like Misty might become some kind of ritualistic cult leader.

I’m assuming as we move forward, the show will mostly alternate between just two storylines, perhaps with an occasional flashback. We’ll see what happened during those 19 months in the woods and then jump ahead to the future, 2021, where some of the survivors scramble to keep anyone from finding out about their secret.

Yellowjackets series premiere recap: What secrets are the girls keeping as adults?

In 2021, Taissa (Tawny Cypress), Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Misty (Christina Ricci) and Natalie (Juliette Lewis) are still alive and built new lives that hinge on avoiding the press and any speculation. But everything they’ve built threatens to crumble when a reporter starts sniffing around.

Christina Ricci as Misty in YELLOWJACKETS, “Pilot”. Photo credit: Paul Sarkis/SHOWTIME. /

Shauna has a daughter now and appears to have married Jackie’s boyfriend from high school, although she fantasizes about her daughter’s current boyfriend, ick. Ty is a politician in what appears to be a loving relationship with another woman. They even have a son! But as Shauna points out, they all agreed to stay low-key and out of the public eye, which is the opposite of what Ty is doing nowadays, what with the photoshoots and magazine covers.

As for Misty, she’s now a nurse who isn’t afraid to get all Dolores Claiborne on her patients if they act out, including denying one of her patients, Gloria, her morphine. And Natalie has been in and out of rehab ever since returning from the excursion.

It’s too early to tell what happened to the rest of the team, namely Jackie. The implication appears to be that Jackie is dead, but there could be a twist later on. For now, Ty, Misty, Shauna, and Natalie will be forced to reconnect if they want to keep all of their ugly secrets permanently buried.

Next. Yellowjackets episode 2 recap: What does that symbol mean?. dark

The Yellowjackets premiere is available now wherever you get Showtime, and it’s available to watch for free right now. New episodes air Sunday nights on Showtime, officially starting next week on November 14.