You never forget your first fandom. I grew up in love with so many things, from The Wizard of Oz to Anne of Green Gables to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I expressed that in creative ways: homemade illustration books, collages, and journal entries. But I never really understood fandom until my freshman year of high school. That’s when I developed a passionate obsession with the television series Lost during its first season. The internet was in full swing, but I was unfamiliar with its many pathways. I was too young for the Buffy or X-Files message board days. Even my biggest obsession prior to Lost—Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy—was handled offline and among friends.
Discovering the intricate world of online fandom through Lost is something I still hold dear. It felt like an excavation. Like discovering something that had been waiting for me all along. It’s a feeling that’s fizzled away through the years, as online fandom grows more enormous and mainstream. But recently, a new show sparked that dormant feeling from my Lost years: Showtime’s Yellowjackets.
I consumed Yellowjackets‘ first season the day the finale aired thanks to positive word of mouth from friends. To the surprise of no one who knows me, I fell instantly in love. Not only is Yellowjackets aesthetically similar to my beloved Lost—plane crash survivors, duel timelines, mysteries that could either have logical explanations or be the machinations of something supernatural—but the vibes were similar.
What do I mean by that? There’s a frequency that Lost buzzes on that Yellowjackets does, too. It’s not just the premise or the mystery box elements, but how deeply both shows interrogate their characters and what that reveals to the audience. Character-driven series aren’t a rarity, but few shows really get in there with their character work. In the modern prestige TV era, it’s hip to have a bit of mystery around your leads. For as much as we see the Roys of Succession or the hotel guests of White Lotus in constant motion, we don’t know all that much about their backgrounds. Who were they as kids, what are all of their parents like, and how did their relationships come to be? We learn tidbits through dialogue or the arrival of new characters; however, it isn’t baked into the DNA of the show.
But Lost was different. Perhaps that explains my immediate obsession. The pilot opens on a beach, a commercial plane in flames, survivors running about, screaming and bleeding. We’re in the immediate aftermath of a crash, in a tropical and secluded location. It’s chaotic and loud. We the audience are confused and stressed just like the characters. The show wastes no time orienting us in their emotions.
And that only deepens as the episode progresses. We learn via a series of flashbacks who these people are and what they were doing the moment the plane crashed. By the second episode, the show introduced us to its format. Every episode centers around a single survivor and flashes back to a time before the flight. The flashbacks always have a thematic tie to the on-island events. In time, we’re intimately familiar with our main characters Jack, a spinal surgeon; Kate, a convict; Sawyer, a con man; Charlie, a faded rockstar; and so on.
In learning who these characters were before the flight, we form intense connections to them. We’re also introduced to the mysterious island they’ve landed on, where polar bears roam the jungle and a monstrous sound echoes through the night. We know they aren’t alone, but we don’t know what stalks them. Is it a supernatural entity? Are they in a science experiment? Are they dead and in purgatory? The mysteries are fun, but the real reason we invest so heavily is because we love the people entwined in them. We know that Jack’s father died, so when he sees his ghost on the beach, the pang of loss is as immense as our desire to know why he’s there. The hunger for answers is always character-driven: we want to know, but we want the survivors to know, too.
Yellowjackets is similar in that way. The show introduces us to our core characters across two timelines. In the ‘90s, they’re a girls soccer team from New Jersey on their way to nationals in Seattle. The pilot ends with their private flight crashing somewhere in the Canadian wilderness. In the present day, we meet four of the survivors: housewife Shauna, nurse Misty, politician Taissa, and recovering addict Natalie.
As the show continues, we spend equal time with both versions of these women, along with their fellow crash survivors in the past. We learn about Shauna’s toxic relationship with her best friend Jackie, Misty’s sociopathic tendencies and unhealthy hyper-fixations, Taissa’s god complex and vision-plagued young son, and Natalie’s addictions and depression over the loss of her boyfriend Travis, which tie back to her past experience with domestic abuse.
Also similar to Lost, Yellowjackets has a mystery box element. The girls find a mysterious cabin in the wilderness and see symbols in the woods—symbols that haunt them into their future. There’s also the possibility that the girls turned to cannibalism and occultism in the time before their rescue, a secret they guard fiercely—from their loved ones and from the audience.
It’s no surprise that the Yellowjackets fandom is so deeply reminiscent of the one around Lost back in the day. Just as I once scoured the message boards of The Fuselage, the official fan page for Lost, I now find myself on the Yellowjackets subreddit, where I’m constantly stunned by the show’s eagle-eyed fans. They find things in quick flashes of trailers that I’m sure I wouldn’t see with a magnifying glass, just like Lost fans once found DHARMA Initiative symbols on sharks before we ever knew what that meant.
Obviously this kind of modern internet speculation isn’t unique to Yellowjackets. All sorts of recent shows have massive Reddit communities, like Westworld, the MCU and Star Wars series, True Detective, and more. But again, it goes back to those vibes. While those other boards feel mystery- and Easter-egg-forward, the Yellowjackets sub feels invested in these characters first and foremost. And because it’s a little more niche, there’s a tenderness in the community that feels welcoming, not gatekeepy. I’m sure there are toxic corners, but they’re pretty quiet from what I’ve seen.
Lost felt that way, too. By season four, the casual folks who got tired of waiting for answers dropped out, and fandom spaces became more intimate. By the time the divisive finale aired, I had curated my own Livejournal and Tumblr feeds so much so that I didn’t see any of the negativity that made headlines. My fandom friends and I were so invested in our favorite characters that the finale felt like a tribute instead of a rug-pull. I’ll never forget how tender I felt in the weeks before and after the show wrapped up. It felt like I’d gone to a very nice celebration of life with my closest pals.
I worry for Yellowjackets that, in a time when we expect prestige and have a little less cultural space for messiness, audiences will care more about cannibalism and cult shenanigans than what becomes of these characters and if their motivations feel earned and human. Lost ushered in a certain type of TV watching, and I’m afraid we’ve mostly learned the wrong lessons from it. However, Yellowjackets isn’t a big primetime show. It’s a cable series with a smaller audience. Meaning it might fare better, even if the mysteries aren’t 100% satisfying.
And even if it doesn’t have the same reverence, I have no doubt the Reddit loyalists are in for a treat. We really know these girls after just one season. I can’t imagine how much closer we’ll feel to them by the end of season two and beyond. That’s not something you just forget. It’s a part of you forever.