Misty from ‘Yellowjackets’ is the most sinister character on TV

Photo: Paul Sarkis / SHOWTIME

When we think of the most creepy teen-movie archetype, most of us imagine a cruel, spoiled hottie. Regina George’s quick wit; Megan Fox’s dark hair and bloody teeth Jennifer’s crop; Heathers’ synchronized joke. It is often the evil, popular thugs who carry the most power, and the outcasts who rise up to defeat them are the righteous heroines, though their methods are questionable.

Follows a high school girls soccer team stranded in the Canadian desert and plunges into cannibalism, Showtime’s cannibal drama Yellowjackets imagine how scary teenage girls could become if left alone à la Lord of the Flies. From 1996 to now with two strong ensemble crews, all of these women are strong competitors for the title of “scariest character”: Natalie, played by Sophie Thatcher in the 90s and Juliette Lewis in the present, is an archetypal slutty bad girl with a harsh home life and knowledge to carry a gun. In the moment, the signs of her trauma run through her adult self. Lottie, played by Courtney Eaton, experiences visions and premonitions that regret the group and make her unreliable. Taissa, played by Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown, seems to still have night terrors that make her a danger. However, it is Misty who is the clear winner.

Played by Sammi Hanratty in ’96 and Christina Ricci in the present, Misty is a mouse with a serial killer temperament lurking under blonde curls. With big 90s glasses even in the present and a small five foot frame, she does not seem to be able to hurt very much. That’s where her real power lies. In the group, she is an outsider, mocked for being a nerd. But in the woods, the same things that make her a weirdo make her necessary. She knows how to navigate, how to heal wounds, how to get food. A first sign that she may not be quite right comes when she chops off someone else’s leg and burns the wound closed without smoking, even though they are screaming. She must save a life and she will do everything.

She has skills – many of them – and when she overhears her teammates admitting that they could not do without her, she does what everyone would do and takes action to ensure they can not be found. She wants to stay out there forever, the consequences (and there are many of them) being damned.

“I think what she wants is to return to a time when she was valued, accepted and had a certain social currency,” Ricci said of her character in a recent interview. “Because in our culture, a woman like this really does not have anyone! When they were stranded, I think it was probably the biggest time of her life. So she’s just waiting for something like this to happen to her again.” The desperation to be needed again runs like a raw electric wire through adult Misty.

At the moment, Misty seems to have it all together – when she works as a nurse, the only thing she lacks is the friendship and the respect she longs for. Her loneliness is dangerous, and when she gets the chance to team up with the other survivors and find out who has blackmailed them, she jumps in not only to help, but also to monitor her “friends”. If Misty is so scary in 1996, with only knowledge available in books at hand, it’s scary to think about how much power she has in 2021 with the full force of the internet. We see some of that power: drugs, body disposal, stalking. When Natalie asks for help with something very illegal and tells her, “You’re just really good at things,” Misty is unable to say no. She seems to resent the Yellowjackets for never fully accepting her while knowing she would go to any end to get close to them.

Of course, none of the Yellowjackets are squeaky, and in both 1996 and the present, they maintain an aura of uncertainty that carries the show as we work to understand who is “to blame” for certain aspects of the tour’s demise and their survival – what it took to live and what the crash took from them. It would be so boring if any of them were an easy victim, without a tainted track record in both past and present.

Everyone has a role to play in making everything go as deep, dark south as it did. But Misty, and Ricci’s portrayal of her, is uniquely relaxing. Ricci dominated the 90s with a dry, brutal wit and darkness, as exemplified in a more PG way by her trip as Wednesday Addams. As an adult actress, she attracted darker, more difficult characters like those in Buffalo ’66, Prozac Nation, and Black Snake Styn. Yellowjackets, then it seems built to the intersection of her skills, upgrading her to an expressive, terrifying performance that defies light tropics. Misty’s fear factor and Ricci’s ability to play such a complicated person are part of what makes the show so compelling.

Also tell me, I love Misty a bit. We all just want to be loved – so what if she goes a little different way about it?

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