How do you follow something as hugely successful as the first season of “Yellowjackets”? It’s a problem every show dreams of having – and few ever get the chance to worry. When “Yellowjackets” premiered in late 2021, it immediately captivated America with its rich mythology and thrilling story about the lifelong effects of a women’s soccer team stranded in the woods.
The wait for more episodes was excruciating for fans, and the second season of ‘Yellowjackets’ quickly became one of the most anticipated events of the spring 2023 television season. But the cast and crew of Showtime’s hit series quickly learned that staying on top of the television landscape is as difficult as achieving it.
At IndieWire’s Consider This Event in Los Angeles on Saturday, “Yellowjackets” star Christina Ricci, executive producer and director Karyn Kusama, and music supervisor Nora Felder sat down for a panel moderated by IndieWire editor-in-chief Dana Harris- Bridson. The conversation quickly turned to Natalie’s (Juliette Lewis) shocking death in the present, when Misty (Ricci) accidentally stabbed her with a hypodermic needle filled with a fast-acting, deadly venom. How was this moment born?
“Misty accidentally killing Natalie is the emotional climax of the whole episode,” said Kusama. “We had two nights to shoot everything in the woods, including the original card-passing ritual. We were pressed for time and I think, to keep in mind, was just how physically and emotionally demanding it was for them.
“It was the last day of shooting, so everyone was in a really festive mood, except for the two actors who had to sob and die,” Ricci said. “One of the most defining things for me about playing Misty is her immaturity and her inability to deal with any real emotion. The most emotional moment we saw her in season one was when she was about to lose Caligula, and she throws a tantrum. Someone who avoids emotions also avoids much awareness of how she is feeling.
As for the song that accompanies Natalie’s death, Radiohead’s “Street Spirit,” Felder had planned to use it earlier in the season, when another Radiohead song eventually accompanied the Yellowjackets’ first experience with cannibalism.
“For Natalie’s death, we had a whole supply of song ideas to try,” Felder said. “I recommended it because we used Radiohead’s ‘Climbing Up the Walls’ in the second episode during the party, and I had originally thought of ‘Street Spirit’ for that back then. It felt like the emotionality and heartbreaking quality of that song worked, lyrically as well. Some of it is kismet, you can’t quantify why it works. I’m not an actor, but I think it’s like an actor finding something from within that takes you on a journey, though it might be hard to know exactly why.
The panel included many other insights – Ricci’s initial reading about Misty from the pilot episode not being a funny character was particularly interesting – and finally landed on Kusama’s reading about Natalie’s mindspace in the run-up to her death . Her present day death, after all, was presented in tandem with the horrific revelation that she is the “queen of the horns”: the leader of the Yellowjackets during their darkest phase.
“Because she rejected the past so much, it seemed like Natalie held herself more morally above the fray than the other girls,” said Kusama. “But finding out that she was actually the leader who probably led them down even darker paths — to be explored in Season 3 — made so much sense that it would fuel her guilt and her addiction issues in the present.”