The “yellow vests” illustrate the regret that can come with age
Created by Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson, Showtime’s The Yellow Vests is not exactly a new story. It has elements of Lord of the Flies, The Savages, Lost, and Living (1993), among various other influences from pop culture. Likewise, it has a historic precedent in a number of disasters in which an unsuspecting group found themselves lost in the snowy woods, desperately struggling to survive, possibly even resorting to devouring human flesh to do so. The series makes no secret of it and even brushes aside the implicit devouring of a traveling companion in the first episode to let viewers know it will definitely be “one thing.”
Instead, the uniqueness of the story comes from the volatile interpersonal relationships that have developed over the decades and how they have changed or stayed the same. Harnessing a star-studded cast that delivers killer performances every step of the way under the direction of Karyn Kusama, the pilot gives a promising glimpse into what’s to come for the series by taking us back in time.
Ostensibly located in the present, Yellow jackets spends so much time in flashbacks that take us back to 1996 with a soundtrack to match. The premise of the series is that teenage football stars, the Yellowjackets, take a private plane to the state championship, at which point they crash into the wild and find themselves forced to resort to survivalism to get home. . Although they told the world that they were starving and praying to return to civilization, there was obviously something more to the story that was not told. These days we meet these women, all in their early 40s, as they struggle to keep the past hidden.
Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma) portrays a reporter trying to get to the bottom of it, showing up to ask suburban housewife Shauna (Sophie Nelisse / Melanie Lynskey) “What really happened there? Shauna absolutely doesn’t have it and demands that she leave with a definite threat in her voice. We see various other signs of her cruelty throughout the episode, including when she and her shovel come face to face with a very cute Garden Nibble Bunny. During her teenage years, she’s just as secretive and changeable, sometimes turning into outright aggression, and this draws a clear line from past to present. This establishes a major theme in which each character is largely their own worst enemy, and each character has plenty of reason to fear their closest friends.
The immediate cause and effect of the bad choices the characters make in their youth is evident from the time jump. Shauna’s husband is supposed to avoid her, and she personally considers that her teenage daughter isn’t staying home to have dinner with her on a Friday night. Teen rebellious Natalie (Sophie Thatcher / Juliette Lewis) struggles with lifelong addiction issues that start early, due to a deep sensibility that seems out of place in the group. Taissa (Jasmin Savoy Brown / Tawny Cypress) will do anything to win, which may mean cutting off her emotions and putting herself and others at risk, and then is later referred to as a âqueer Kamalaâ in her political career. Misty (Sammi Hanratty / Christina Ricci) is a wild card who goes from being a passionate superfan on the team to threatening an elderly woman in her day job. And Jackie, who worked to bring the team together and brought out the best in everyoneâ¦ well, Jackie doesn’t seem to have an older counterpart.
As far as the pilots go, this one is exceptional, with a willingness to push the central characters into difficult spaces from the start. Whether the series maintains that or not, it’s one hell of an opening, tapping into a beat that will bring to mind a number of instant classics in recent years, from Nine Perfect Strangers To Americans. Everyone has brought their A-game to this one, and watching these actors and their younger counterparts mirror each other is an unexpected delight.
Yet perhaps the show’s biggest success so far is how it illustrates the regret that can come with age, as the end results of the choices these characters made as teenagers have had the time to play before their eyes over the decades. Desperate to keep the past hidden in hopes of preserving the sparse peace of mind they’ve carved out for themselves, each of them looks helpless as everything comes undone at the seams, and that’s just the proof of the fragile foundation that they each built their lives on. With each character at a crossroads, their inner worlds unfold, and this is where Yellow jackets unquestionably succeeds.