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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Girls bring gripping twist to age-old survival story

“Yellowjackets”… it doesn’t take long for the girls to go feral.

“Yellowjackets” makes for some gripping telly and puts an intriguing twist on the age-old survival tale, writes “Streaming” columnist NICK OVERALL.  

THERE’S a deep and morbid fascination with stories of surviving in the wild.

Nick Overall.

The allure feels almost primal, an obsession with what happens when the thin veneer of civilisation is stripped away and we’re returned to a place of atavism.

Out there, away from the gaze of society, how do humans behave? Are we as good as we would hope or do our survival instincts override the ethics we’ve tenuously built over centuries?

William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies” is perhaps the most famous story to ask these questions.

The book told the frightening tale of a group of schoolboys stranded on an island and their disastrous attempts to govern themselves.

While at first they try to create some form of civilisation, soon fear takes hold. The boys separate into opposing sides and wage one another in a battle for control of the island… poor Piggy.

Fiction? Of course, but Golding’s bleak meditations on human nature may not be so far from reality.

A google of “Robbers Cave” will show a real-life psychological experiment where young boys were put into a “survival-like” setting and quickly turned against one another in a battle for supremacy. The results were so disconcerting the experiment has become known as a “real-life Lord of the Flies”.

No surprise then that almost seven decades after Golding’s book was first published it continues to exert its influence over contemporary storytellers.

Enter “Yellowjackets”, this week streaming its second season on Paramount Plus. 

This gory psychological thriller is TV’s latest wilderness-survival story that’s become a major hit for the still relatively new platform.

It’s not the boys and their barbarism this show is about though. This time it’s the girls who are put under the microscope.

The eponymous “Yellowjackets” are a high-school team of female soccer players who become stranded in the Canadian wilderness after their plane crashes on its journey to a tournament.

How do the girls compare to the boys? Well viewers of “Yellowjackets” will know it doesn’t take long for them to go feral, either.

The first season of the show split its story into multiple timelines. After a particularly gory intro, the series takes its audience to 25 years after the girls’ fight for survival unfolded.

NZ Melanie Lynksey takes the spotlight as Shauna – a former star soccer player who was on the cusp of greatness before she plummeted into the wild with her teammates.

Now in her forties, she’s haunted by the events that unfolded in the forest, events we eerily don’t yet know about. She’s also terrified of what happened going public after a plucky journalist starts sniffing around for a story.

The supporting cast is recognisable from other streaming hits here and there. Christina Ricci from Netflix’s “Wednesday” and Sophie Thatcher from Disney Plus’ “The Book of Boba Fett” are to name a few.

They play the adult versions of the teens who crashed in the wild, whereas their younger counterparts are fittingly played by less well known stars.

An eerie absence of adult versions of some of these characters hints at a gruesome demise during their ordeal… or worse.

While this jumping between timelines did a great job in hooking the audience, the constant back and forth did eventually become jarring and slowed down the show’s thrilling pace.

Season two would benefit from focusing on the core story. It’s got more than enough to pad out its 10 new episodes.

Regardless, “Yellowjackets” makes for some gripping telly and puts an intriguing twist on the age-old survival tale.

A second season certainly justifies its existence by promising to answer questions and reveal secrets left hanging from the first set of episodes that scored seven Emmy nominations.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t get carried away with its success. I’d hate to see this one end up how “Lost” did.

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Ian Meikle, editor

Nick Overall

Nick Overall

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