Whatever you might say about how it ended, Lost cemented itself as one of the best TV series very early on. The mysteries were just so ominous and enticing, constantly adding new layers that maintained the show’s grip on the cultural zeitgeist.
Every season finale gave us something to theorise over, every twist and turn seemed deliberate, leading us towards what had to be some incredible reveals. Sadly, the answers weren’t exactly revelatory, and many viewers had switched off by the time the drama series finished anyway.
Lost showed what a well-constructed thriller series could achieve through emotive character work and careful pacing. Over a decade since the closing episode, Yellowjackets is following JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof’s footsteps, now able to avoid where they went wrong.
The horror series, created by Bart Nickerson and Ashley Lyle, has already drawn a healthy amount from Lost’s playbook. The pilot begins with a young woman running through snowy woodland, clearly being chased by something. She falls into a trap, and someone masked, who appears to be an assailant, finds her, a visually striking opening salvo not unlike Lost’s plane crash, if much quieter.
The Yellowjackets airplane incident comes a little later, after we’re introduced to the high school football team that’s making the trip. Teenage Shauna and Jackie are the main characters in the Yellowjackets cast, and they’re getting ready to compete in a national tournament. Then another jump happens, and we’re in present day, where Melanie Lynskey plays adult Shauna.
She’s being badgered by a journalist who’s poking around for details on something that happened when Shauna was younger. Turns out her team never made it to nationals, instead they were stuck in Canadian forests for 19 months after their flight went down. They survived, but not without a few casualties and a lot of trauma, creating the implication that some deeply troubling events occurred.
Just in that much alone, Yellowjackets outdoes Lost. We know they have a crash, most of them survive, and how long it takes to get rescued. No pontification over the length of time anyone’s deserted for or whether they’ll manage to escape their predicament – there are specific boundaries to the story.
At the end of the Yellowjackets pilot, it’s revealed those hunting the girl that gets killed are the school team, who seem to have become some sort of cannibalistic cult. So much intrigue! The season becomes a gradual dig through what happened, plunging the adults back into harrowing memories they’d all rather stay buried.
A recent death in the present sends ripples through each of them, spurring some reconnections. They’re all coping differently; Shauna’s now a married mother of one, Taissa’s a politician, and Misty’s a nurse in a care home. Natalie has struggled with addiction, though still hard as nails.
Watching them interact is as worthwhile as uncovering what’s going on, because they’re each so well-drawn. You can feel how the events of 1996 continue to mould their personalities, especially when they’re together. It echoes in their speech and lingers in their stares, the vulnerability, paranoia, and reliance on one another.
Such multitudinous history is another key facet of Lost. Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sawyer, John – who they were before and after their arrival on the island forms the tapestry of our engagement. But Yellowjackets finds better balance between the characters and backdrop.
We’re intrigued by Lottie’s cult and whatever Misty’s up to, but that’s part and parcel with how much we enjoy watching them. Lost’s characters are eventually subsumed by the endless riddles of the island.
Puzzles need answers, and Lost got stuck on constantly one-upping itself. You could say time travel is when it jumped the shark, but in retrospect, the TV series accomplished that as soon as the polar bear shows up in the middle of a tropical archipelago. Once season 5 rolled around the show was somersaulting over great whites.
Even now, in the first half of season 2, Yellowjackets has kept a steady drip of reveals. Things you think will last all season are solved within an episode, giving us worthwhile morsels without spoiling our appetite.
Each time one of these subplots is resolved, we get incremental information on the broader secrets. Our interest is renewed, piqued again by something we were unaware of. Resolutions beget greater resolutions, creating a feeling of security around where this all leads.
Lost became far too literal of its title, tangled up in concepts that were just too aloof and built on shock to rectify meaningfully. The series was ahead of its time, hindered by two-dozen episode seasons in a pre-Walking Dead landscape where genre storytelling wasn’t as welcome on prestige TV formatting.
But where Abrams and Lindelof were forced to stroll, Lyle and Nickerson can run, picking their signposts for impact and efficiency. The Yellowjackets characters make several hearty meals out of the bear they encounter, eating well from narrative fruit left before their time. May they pick the bones clean.
Yellowjackets is available on Paramount Plus in the UK and Showtime in the US. Have a look at our lists of the best Disney Plus shows and best Netflix series for more great small-screen entertainment.