"What’s most compelling about Yellowjackets... amid all the gruesome mysteries, is the treatment of the cast’s younger iterations," says Madison Malone Kircher. "It’s not surprising in 2022 to see the elder versions of the soccer team as multi-dimensional, flawed humans. But it is still refreshing to see teenage girls depicted on screen in all their awful, hormonal glory—teenage girls as I remember them being back when I was one. Every summer growing up, I’d spend a month at a Girl Scout camp in the Adirondack mountains. It was on an island, and we slept in tents without electricity or running water. (That was nearby, though, my mother would want me to point out here.) It was rustic. It was fun. It was also an emotional roller coaster. Every summer I’d become part of this small community, isolated from the rest of the world without internet or cell phones, where suddenly a random assemblage of two dozen girls was my entire universe. This is not to say that my sweet summer camp was in any way the same as being stranded in the Canadian wilderness with an impending winter and no snow boots, but rather that I find myself watching Yellowjackets and feeling a strange, subtle familiarity." Kircher adds: "Yellowjackets makes plain the fears and desires so many of us held at that age. But instead of being presented as the kind of behavior that might make somebody’s mom say calm down, it’s not the end of the world, you’ll live, you get to see those feelings and respect them as real and serious. Perhaps because they are inarguably both of those things; most of these girls, in all likelihood—based on how things are going for them thus far this season—will not live. Inside this frame, their interpersonal relationships get to be taken seriously, something that other media too often fails to do. And even though the average teen won’t face those same circumstances, Yellowjackets understands that being a teenager sometimes feels like life or death, and it smartly (and brutally) plays on that sentiment. This is the rare show that puts teenage girls on screen as they truly are: Disgusting, sweaty, loving, smart, funny, resourceful, and feeling everything like they don’t have skin, just raw nerve endings. Literally."
Yellowjackets' brilliance lies in not pigeonholing its female characters: "It’s not just that this first season has featured a smartly paced, propulsive story; it’s not just that it’s one of the rare hourlong dramas to feature a large array of women who are very different from each other; it’s not just that it brought us a lot of delightfully wtf plot twists when we really needed distractions," says Maureen Ryan. "No, the most admirable thing about Yellowjackets is that it uses its narrative to fuel a nuanced, character-based story about how women, well beyond their teen years, keep trying on new identities and realizing that none of them quite fit. The world doesn’t know what to do with women who are angry, who are broken, who are the wrong kind of sad, who don’t fit into neat categories or tidy narratives about what trauma does to people—and the characters themselves often don’t know what to do with their own messiness, damage, and blunted dreams. Yet Yellowjackets is not remotely bleak, in part because it’s so often surprising, compassionate and wickedly funny. But mostly it’s because these characters find solace in friendship; the women don’t always agree with or even like each other, but they’re not pitted against each other in predictable ways. They see the real human beings behind the categories that lesser shows would have slotted them into: the nerd, the quiet one, the popular one, the overachiever, the manic pixie dream girl gone dark, the jock."
Yellowjackets embraces the generalized suspicions of the classic mystery story and the true-crime documentary: "Everyone is a suspect," says Megan Garber. "Anything could be responsible for what happens in the show’s frenetic timelines. But the series also leaves open the possibility that some of its events—the seemingly spontaneous combustion of Laura Lee’s teddy bear, say, or the compass that spins out of control when it’s next to a river that flows red—cannot, and will not, be fully explained. Yellowjackets entertains the prospect of magic. The unsteady terms of the show’s cosmology neatly serve one of its operating interests: Why do people believe what they believe? How do those beliefs impose themselves on other people’s lives? Survival is not a singular event but an ongoing act of endurance. And for characters battling to live, separated from home and in some sense abandoned by it, the lines between the 'normal' and the paranormal understandably become porous. It makes sense that reality might begin to feel, for them, like one option among many."
Melanie Lynskey came close to rejecting Yellowjackets: Lynskey says she was thrilled to be offered Yellowjackets "because I’m very bad" at auditioning. But when she was offered, she says, "I was doing Mrs. America, I had a newborn child, I was exhausted and I had to say to my agent, ‘I don’t want to work. I can’t. It’s too hard. I’m feeling like I’m going crazy.’ And she said, ‘Well, an offer just came in for a pilot. Just read it and I’ll respectfully pass.’ And then I read it and I was like, ‘Well, sh*t. Well, now I have to do it.’ And she was like, ‘Are you sure? You just told me you don’t want to do anything.’ And I said, ‘No, I am sure. Let me have a talk to them. If they sound like psychopaths then I’ll say no.’ But they were awesome."
Yellowjackets composers talk designing the show's 1990s sound: Craig Wedren of the band Shudder to Think and Anna Waronker of That Dog became a TV-scoring team working on shows ranging from Shrill to The Republic of Sarah. Yellowjackets allowed them to revisit their 1990s roots. "When we started, it was just the score, but we knew there were going to be end-credit needs," says Wedren. "End credits are always fun because oftentimes you can go off-grid from the score tone. If the score for a show is very traditional, you can get a little weirder for the end credits. In this case, it was the opposite, because the score was already pushing a lot of boundaries, so we were like, 'Oh, we can draw from our ‘90s, alternative, punk, art, whatever you want to call it, band roots — and really play.' And just based on the needle drops that they had in the show, the licensed songs, we’re like, 'Oh my God, we can indulge all of our instincts that we would never have let ourselves do in the ‘90s,' because we were both in very distinct, original bands. With Anna in That Dog and me in Shudder to Think — I never would have let myself do something that sounded like Nirvana or Liz Phair or whatever, because like we were Shudder to Think, and we needed to sound only like Shudder to think and not like Dinosaur Jr.! But now, who gives a shit? And it’s right for the show and we’re not kids anymore; we can do whatever we want. So we could be like, 'Turn up the PJ Harvey! Turn up the Pixies!'" Waronker adds: "We also get to play around like it’s our own band. I always say that each show we work on is like our side band’s album. And so we go into that headspace, especially when it’s like an end song. It’s short. It can be fun. Let’s just kind of like get it out really fast. And I think it’s such a great juxtaposition to the score, to have it be this like kind of like witchy, playful, poppy, bouncy thing that we were feeling and would want to perform."