Has the “Yellowjackets” buzz cooled? Showtime’s prized drama about a high-school soccer team turned cannibals after a catastrophic plane crash is halfway through its second season, boasting a passionate fanbase, impressive numbers, and positive reviews — but that’s not the whole story.
Season 2 episodes debut in tandem with “Succession” and “Barry,” two weekly HBO juggernauts in their final, exceptional seasons, and within days of “Ted Lasso” — its natural antithesis. There’s a delay between streaming and cable premieres for “Yellowjackets,” and it is no longer the shiny, new kid on the block.
“Yellowjackets” still has plenty of fans. During April, Parrot Analytics found Twitter demand for “Yellowjackets” was 43 times higher than for the average TV show, in the 99th percentile of shows on the market, with a 58.3 percent increase over 30 days. Per Showtime, the Season 2 premiere was up 65 percent in streaming viewership, with five times the social media conversation, over the Season 1 premiere. The network’s stats are vague — which social media, and which demographics? — but not fabricated.
It has a thriving Reddit with more than 86,000 “citizen detectives,” which places it in the top 5 percent of the site’s communities. A quick scan of r/yellowjackets shows a heavily invested fan base, but are these fans being fed as heartily as the Yellowjackets after Jackie’s (Ella Purnell) cremation?
Season 1 debuted in November 2021, against “The Wheel of Time,” “Hawkeye,” “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” and Showtime’s own “Dexter New Blood.” (IndieWire was the most excited about “Yellowjackets”) Critics remain enthusiastic — Metacritic scores for Season 1 and Season 2 are identical at 78, while Rotten Tomatoes places them at 100% and 96%, respectively.
Even so, “Yellowjackets” S2 faces a much harder road. Despite the ongoing critical approval on Rotten Tomatoes, user reviews are less enthusiastic: Where S1 saw an 80 percent audience score, S2 dropped to 68 percent. The discrepancy might come from critics having the opportunity to watch Episodes 1-6 quickly and consecutively, while the rest of the audience must wait week-to-week for storylines that certainly seem to be dragging.
Not only does “Yellowjackets” now face the deluge of spring TV, but it’s harder for any buzz to gain traction. Showtime changed the show’s premiere strategy to incentivize streaming subscriptions; new episodes stream Thursday night on the app (or any streamer with a Showtime extension), and on Sunday for premium cable subscribers — as it happens, at the exact same time as “Succession.” After Season 2, Episode 5, the series is skipping a week, spreading its nine-episode season across 10 weeks.
That two-day delay could create confusion among viewers not just about when to watch, but about when to speak freely or post about the show. Spoilers abound as soon as the new episode premieres, and those waiting for a critical mass before binging Season 2 might avoid it altogether for the time being.
Elsewhere, new viewers intrigued by Season 2 marketing could be catching up on Season 1 before they dive in. With Twitter’s curated “For You” timeline and user exodus affecting everyone’s feeds, the social media app is in a far more precarious position than it was in the winter of 2021/2022.
And then there’s the show itself. This is a season that maintains quality, but moves slow. The cast and writing are still sharp, but five episodes in we haven’t made much progress on Taissa’s (Jasmin Savoy Brown/Tawny Cypress) sleepwalking, Lottie (Simone Kessell) and the “purple people,” or where Shauna (Melanie Lynskey) stands in a murder investigation. New addition Walter (Elijah Wood) is an enigma, while Crystal (Nuha Jes Izman) has, um… dropped off.
Season 1 of “Yellowjackets” enjoyed a significant viewership boost during the back half, when new users signed up for Showtime to catch up in time for the finale. That could repeat with Season 2; the show could enjoy a wave of late-spring binge viewers after the Episode 9 finale — which airs against the “Succession” series finale, on the same night that “Barry” concludes, and in the same week that audiences say goodbye to “Ted Lasso” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Twitter remains mired in uncertainty, TikTok could be on the verge of being banned, and Instagram is still an eclectic mix of promotional reels and friends’ vacation photos. The seemingly disparate response to “Yellowjackets” Season 2 is less a reflection of the show’s popularity, and more aptly a reflection of the shifting ways that audiences and algorithms interplay in the streaming era. The buzz is there, but like the show itself, it’s deeper than what appears on the surface.
New episodes of “Yellowjackets” premiere Fridays on streaming and Sundays on-air.