Trend > Culture > Yellowjackets Reinvents The ‘Puzzle Box’ Show By Throwing Away The Usual Playbook – /Film
Yellowjackets Reinvents The ‘Puzzle Box’ Show By Throwing Away The Usual Playbook – /Film
Yellowjackets Reinvents The 'Puzzle Box' Show By Throwing Away The Usual Playbook - /Film,Yellowjackets doesn't force the audience to choose between spirituality or skepticism.

Yellowjackets Reinvents The ‘Puzzle Box’ Show By Throwing Away The Usual Playbook – /Film

This post contains spoilers for the first episode of “Yellowjackets” season 2.

Comparisons between “Yellowjackets” and “Lost” were always going to be inevitable. Even before “Yellowjackets” proved itself a character-driven thriller capable of doling out mysteries and WTF moments at an impressive pace, the two clearly shared significant narrative DNA. With multiple timelines, a plane crash, and a possibly sentient setting that’s at once magical and spooky, “Yellowjackets” is a fantastic heir apparent to the hit 2004 series — one that arrived about a decade after everyone quit looking for its successor.

In its season premiere, though, “Yellowjackets” sets itself apart from “Lost” and most other mystery box shows like it in an intriguing, major way. The contrast comes in the episode’s cold open, a tremendous montage set to Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen.” The scene gets viewers up to speed after a time jump, showing us what the stranded teammates’ typical winter mornings look like inside the abandoned cabin they now call home.

The premiere introduces a strange morning ritual

Showtime

As the snow falls, the girls sleep by a well-tended fireplace, bundled in their thickest clothes. They’ve clearly developed some efficient systems since we last saw them; Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown) sleeps tied to Van (Liv Hewson) to prevent sleepwalking, the team catches drops of water in a bucket for later use, and when Travis (Kevin Alves) and Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) bundle up to go search for help (and Javi) they cram papers into the lining of their clothes for added warmth. This group is clearly clever and capable. But the explorers also do something else before they head out: stop to receive a blessing from Lottie (Courtney Eaton), the possibly prophetic or possibly mentally ill girl who managed to inexplicably kill a bear in the first season finale.

Lottie greets the pair with a complex ritual, involving putting ashes on their palms, waving a smokey branch in their faces, and having them drink from a mug of water that includes a drop of her blood. She also draws the mysterious symbol we’ve seen before on the window after they leave. “It’s not like this wicca bulls**t is doing us any good,” Natalie says, but she takes the mug anyway. Lottie isn’t phased by the comment. “Well, you keep coming back alive, don’t you?” she points out.

Mystery shows love a good faith-science dichotomy

Showtime

The opening sequence sets up a unique dichotomy between the explainable and the inexplicable, one that sets “Yellowjackets” apart from other mystery-driven shows of the past two decades. While series like “Lost,” “Dark,” “Under the Dome,” “From,” “Manifest,” and so many others hinge their central plots on questions about whether a phenomenon is scientific or supernatural, the “Yellowjackets” premiere finds a surprising middle ground. It’s an unexpected albeit enjoyable change-up for the series, which ended its first season by positioning Lottie’s occult-like practices as sinister but powerful. Now, they’ve become a part of everyday life, a superstition equivalent to not stepping on a crack or throwing salt over your shoulder. Unlike its genre contemporaries, there’s no need for a big explanation involving a chalkboard or an upside-down game board here.

There’s something refreshing about the show’s embrace of its spookier elements, especially when they’re utilized in conjunction with practical measures and, in the case of some members of the group, a healthy dose of skepticism. Mystery box shows are rife with characters who love to loudly deny whatever is going on around them, whether it’s Jack Shepherd (Matthew Fox) refusing to give in to Locke’s (Terry O’Quinn) island-based spirituality in “Lost,” Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson) rolling her eyes at countless inexplicable situations in “The X-Files,” or Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) crying his way through a world that makes no sense in “The Leftovers.” While some mystery box shows end up with a clear-cut “answer” to their own central question about faith and science, others are ultimately able to reckon with the two options and land in a beautiful place of ambiguity. Very few, though, go the “Yellowjackets” route, interweaving both the impossible and the explainable into the fabric of the series.

In Yellowackets, practicality and superstition coexist

Showtime

Despite the relative lack of precedent for a show like this, it feels right for Lottie’s woo-woo nonsense to coexist with the girls’ practical, everyday activities. After all, “Yellowjackets” is a story about girlhood and womanhood in a way that few of the aforementioned mysteries are, and women have long since been associated with earth-based magic across cultures. History books are full of references to women witches, healers, goddesses, and mystics. When civilizations build in spaces for the mysteries of the world to flourish, they are, in many cases, women’s spaces. 

The survivors’ casual incorporation of Lottie’s magic will likely be viewed as a non-twist in an episode that has plenty of other elements worth talking about (that ear!), but it deserves to be highlighted as a particularly clever writing choice in a show that’s always been smart about its character dynamics. By side-stepping, the fraught, prolonged conversations about what is and isn’t possible, and allowing Lottie skeptics and Lottie believers to live together under one roof, “Yellowjackets” poses a much more interesting question than “What part of this is actually real?” Instead, the show asks us to think about what it takes to survive; not just strength and smarts, but also intuition and openness. What’s more, it asks us to consider the power and necessity of finding something to believe in when enduring the unbelievable.

New episodes of “Yellowjackets” air Sundays on Showtime. The season premiere is available on the Showtime app now.