*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Yellowjackets Season 2 Finale.*
Steven Krueger was ready to die in Yellowjackets Season 2; in Season 3, he might not have a choice.
As Coach Ben Taylor, the only adult in a cabin full of hungry, hormonal, and increasingly homicidal teenagers, Krueger came face to flesh with death numerous times in Season 2. After losing a leg in Season 1, he looked terrified as the girls he coached in high school soccer devoured one of their dead teammates. He was an inch away from hurling himself off a cliff to escape the madness. If the Season 2 finale proved anything, Coach Ben might become the terrifying teens' next meal. And he's ready for it.
"If that's how it has to go down, that's how it has to go down," he told Men's Health. "If you have to die, there's a great way to do it. And just make sure that it's a fun death because that's something people will remember."
In the last scene of Season 2, the teens are forced to evacuate the cabin after it mysteriously catches on fire and burns down. Every last one of them is now homeless...except for Coach Ben. The last we see of the world's unluckiest chaperone, he's nestled into the cavernous hideaway among the trees Javi stayed in to survive the winter. Coach Ben might've unwittingly sealed his Season 3 fate earlier in the Season 2 finale when he told Natalie he found Javi's hideout to appeal to the one person he thought was still uncorrupted by bloodlust (he was wrong!). These teens almost killed and ate Natalie in the penultimate episode because she drew the wrong card from the deck. Taking out a coach you stopped listening to months ago who surely doesn't want to share his shelter with them would be a no-brainer.
With Season 2 coming to a close, Krueger looks back on what Season 2's finale means for his character, how Coach Ben shaving his beard signaled he was ready to die, and what he expects to see in Season 3.
Men's Health: Season 2 ends with Coach Ben in Javi's secret hideout in the woods, the cabin on fire, and the girls now homeless in the middle of winter. How soon into Season 3 will these girls seek out Coach and his shelter?
Steven Krueger: That was the first question I had. Honestly, when I read the script for the finale, I thought, “Well, theoretically, Natalie knows where I went. So, I have to imagine they would be hot on my trail.” Does Natalie share with the group that she knows where I am? Does she keep that information to herself? Does she somehow use it to her advantage? I really wish that I knew. I do remember asking the writers after I got that script for the finale in Season 2, “Where is this going? Are they going to just to hunt me down and kill me immediately, or what?” To be honest, I'm not sure they entirely know what they're going to do with it, either.
In the season finale, he tries to bring Natalie to the hideout because he thinks she isn’t as bad as the other girls. Only to find out she believes she’s even worse because she left Javi to die. What was going through Coach’s head when she told him that?
One of the true joys I have on this show is working with Sophie Thatcher. She and I have such an incredible rapport when we're on camera together. I think we think about acting a lot in the same way. I really relish the times I get to be in a scene with her. We did that scene several times, and it felt slightly different every time. By the time we really got into the meat of the scene, it was so easy to play off of her face and see a shift in her eyes from anything I'd seen before. We've done a bunch of scenes together, and I think the show has done a great job of developing this camaraderie between Coach Ben and Natalie. She’s the only person he really has as an ally, as far as the girls go. When I saw that shift in her eyes, that told me she was not different. She is precisely the same and perhaps worse than all of these other girls. All of a sudden, it's like the bottom drops out. That’s maybe the first moment I truly realized and accepted that Coach Ben is alone. He is on his own as of right now. The one person he thought he could rely on even a little bit has just disappeared right before his eyes. And that's a tough thing to deal with.
The season starts with us seeing the kids returning from the wilderness on the tarmac. We’ve also only heard about students returning home for two seasons. Do you know Coach Ben's ultimate fate?
I do not. I genuinely do not. I don't know if the writers know at this point. I'm sure they have ideas, but the beauty of this show is that they can take so many different directions. That’s one of the great things the writers will do when they start sifting through Season 3. They will say, “Okay, where do we go with this character? Let's see what makes the most sense in the broader context of the show.”
Are you ready to be the next meal?
If that's how it has to go down, that's how it has to go down. I've certainly been the victim of several deaths in my roles on television before. I always say, “If you have to die, there's a great way to do it. And just make sure that it's a fun death because that's something people will remember. And it's, of course, always the most fun thing to act as well.
Throughout two seasons, Coach Ben progressively becomes less of an authoritative figure the girls respect. How did your portrayal of that character change over time because of this?
We’ve started to see it play out this season. In Season One, and even at the beginning of Season 2, Coach Ben's mantra was essentially, “Hey, I'm the only adult here. I'm responsible for these girls.” Something I've had in the back of my mind since we started filming the show is if ultimately we got rescued, all of the questions will go to the adults, right? All of the suspicions and wondering eyes will land on Coach Ben. People are going to ask, “Hey, what happened out there? You were responsible for these young girls; please tell us what happened. How did this all go down?” So, I think there was that drive to not just take care of these girls and try to protect them as much as possible, but also some selfish motives at work as well, knowing I was going to be the one to answer for all of this stuff. That dynamic has slowly started to evolve, especially once we get past the eating of Jackie in episode two, and all of a sudden, my motives become much more selfish. This becomes every man and every woman for themselves type of situation. At this point, I recognize they are not necessarily looking out for me. But I must do that if I want to survive this situation.
I’m taking it upon myself to figure out how to stay alive. I think we've seen the psychological effects of that as we've gone further into Season 2. I tend to isolate myself. I’m using these little hallucinations and fantasy sequences as a defense mechanism to preserve my sanity. Then we really see it in the finale, where I say, “I need to get out of here.” I will figure out how to survive on my own because chances are I'm not making it if I stick around these girls much longer.
Speaking of the infamous cannibalism scene from this season, I’ve always wondered, since there was no more food besides Jackie’s burned corpse, do you think Coach Ben might have eaten a piece of Jackie?
It's certainly possible. I don't think Coach Ben was judging the girls for what they did. At the end of the day, it's about survival. What was so terrifying about what went down at the end of the second episode was not the fact they ate Jackie. It's the way they went about it. In hindsight, if there had been some logical discussion amongst the group about whether they should eat their friend to survive, I don’t think Ben would've opposed that. He could have been talked into that. What really horrified him was this sort of animalistic instinct that took over these girls without a discussion. I think there's a chance he snuck off while the girls were sleeping to have a bite or two just to keep himself going.
In arguably your most emotional scene this season, Ben was ready to kill himself by jumping off a cliff even after Misty threatens to expose to the world his homosexuality, lie about him impregnating Shauna, and eat his dead body. He seemed at peace with that but didn’t jump after Misty tearfully said she couldn’t have another death on her conscience. So why didn’t he jump? What is life and living to Coach Ben at that moment?
That’s such an insightful question. The first part is really easy. His final hallucination with Paul is that they're essentially in the cabin. Paul disappears on him, and he realizes at that moment that that was all that he had. That's the last little bit of hope that I was clinging onto. Um, and even though I knew it wasn't real, that was kind of the way I chose to survive. You know, that was the way I chose to keep my sanity. And once that was gone, what else was there?
I think an underrated moment in that episode is Ben shaving off his beard. He put down the razor that survived a crash and let his beard grow out. I think his beard was really a way of letting himself hide. His shaving off his beard was a way of him exposing himself. He essentially wanted people to see him because he was so used to hiding himself in life that he wanted to make sure people saw the real him in death. So when he gets out there, it's a ledge. I think Misty tapped into that last little bit of responsibility he feels as an adult, that caretaker responsibility because he saw in Misty's eyes that she's still a child. She's done some terrible things. To kill himself in front of her is a selfish act. And that's just a bridge too far for him at that point.
Once he gets tips off to the fact Javi had this secret hiding place, he finds it and suddenly has a new lease on life. Now he sees past survival. It’s something I can do on my own, and now there's a new purpose for living. Until that moment, he didn't have much of a purpose for living anymore.
Before the season started, you said Season 2 balanced pushing the envelope and not jumping the shark. Which moment in Season 2 do you think ran the closest to going overboard?
I think the episode where Shauna gives birth to her baby, and you see us [eating it]. Ultimately you realize at the end of the episode this was just Shauna’s nightmare she was having. But when we filmed that episode, and we did the scene where we were all standing around, ostensibly eating the baby, that was one moment where I think all of us thought, “This is a lot (laughs).” We’re sitting there with bloody baby parts all over our faces and hands. It was a big point of controversy leading up to it where we know a lot of fans said, “We’re not going to watch this show anymore if they end up eating the baby.” I think we all knew that was a bridge too far. When we were filming that scene, a lot of us thought, “Oh my God, this is intense. I wonder if this is going to make the final cut."
Speaking of scenes not making the final cut. What were some scenes that got cut from Season 2?
There were so many. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to talk about that. But, in the episode where Shauna gives birth, there was a bigger storyline for Coach Ben. After his initial encounter with being unable to help the birthing process, he disappears into his room and goes into his dreamscape that we've gotten used to seeing him in throughout Season 2 with Paul. There was a second half to that scene where he snaps out of it and essentially realizes his purpose here is to do something. He may be unable to help with the birth itself, but he can do something, and he can't just sit back in his room and let these girls fend for themselves in this dire situation. He immediately goes to the door to go out into the main room to try to help the girls somehow, and Javi is standing at the door, very freaked out about what's going on with all the screaming and yelling. Then Ben’s purpose for the entire episode becomes taking care of Javi. He was making sure he was okay and protecting this young child.
In the future, what do you think happens to Coach Ben in Season 3?
In the finale and last couple of episodes of Season 2, we saw a world where Coach Ben starts to break bad. You begin to see Coach Ben realize if he's going to survive this, he has to, at a certain point, abandon any feelings of responsibility for taking care of these girls. If he's stuck to those feelings, those girls will quickly turn on him. There's a cool element to explore where Coach starts looking out for himself more than anybody else. That may end up pitting him against some of these girls. The consequences may be catastrophic.
This interview has been condensed for content and clarity.
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