This article contains tons of spoilers for Yellowjackets 2.2, “Edible Complex.” Read on only if you’ve seen the episode, or are just curious, or like having things spoiled.
Yellowjackets loves a good needledrop.
The Showtime series is back for a second season, and though they have a new music supervisor in tow — Euphoria‘s Jen Malone departed the series after Season 1 and has been replaced by Stranger Things‘ Nora Felder — the soccer team survival story is doubling-down on its ’90s music palette early in its return. This meant memorable moments soundtracked by Mazzy Star, Montell Jordan, The Offspring, Liz Phair, and Seal in Season 1, and already appearances from Garbage and Tori Amos tunes in the first episode of Season 2.
But while Yellowjackets 2.1 didn’t lack for great music, the scenes — except for the ear-eating final image of the episode — didn’t really provide standout moments to imbue new meaning on the music. Opening the episode with Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen” felt thematically on the nose and a little off-target with regards to the music’s general commitment to the time period, while Garbage’s “#1 Crush” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Drown” — also fantastic songs — are better known for appearing on the soundtracks of films. Tori Amos’ “Cornflake Girl” was the most successful, but until Shauna’s sudden chomping of Jackie’s severed ear, the visual didn’t really pop in the way an ideal sync should.
That’s not to be too hard on the music of the show this season. If anything felt a little lacking in the season premiere, episode 2.2 put any concerns to rest in its closing moments. It was a scene that all members of The Nest (the fan-army name we’re coining right now) had been waiting for.
In the episode, Shauna is still having trouble letting go of her fallen best friend Jackie, and the other members of the Yellowjackets team have had enough, demanding that the dead body be disposed of. The biggest issue is that it is the dead of winter and the ground is frozen solid. So, they do the only practical thing and burn Jackie’s dead body to a crisp. While cremation was the goal, everyone now knows that it’s not that easy to make a body disappear, especially when a mystical forest spirit(?) dumps a pile of snow onto the smoldering corpse.
This results in more of a slow-cook, with the steam from the snow allowing the team to smell the (presumably delicious) scent of barbecued Jackie. As the team steps out from the cabin and approaches the body, anyone deeply familiar with Radiohead’s 1997 all-timer OK Computer begins to hear the very familiar whistles and clicks that opens the deep-cut “Climbing Up The Walls.” For those who are not fans of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, those sounds easily blend into the sounds of the forest, giving the opening of the song a subtle and brilliant double use – believable ambiance and iconic needle drop.
From there, well, things get weird. As the hollow drums of the song kick in, the girls surround the smoking body, with Shauna rubbing her pregnant belly and telling the rest of the team that “she” — referring either to Jackie or Shauna’s unborn baby — “wants her to.” The real-life scene is juxtaposed with fantastical images of a ritualistic feast, where all are wearing white and sitting around a table filled with all the food they wished they had in that moment. And when they begin to eat the imagined strawberries and turkey, back in reality, Lottie, Misty, Natalie, and all but the disgusted coach begin digging into their first big cannibal moment. The team goes from tepid munching to straight devouring their former friend as the song increases its intensity, resulting in a visceral high point that, though anticipated, still hits particularly hard.
The choice of “Climbing Up The Walls” is particularly satisfying when considering it is one of the least heralded tunes from the album — an album generally considered to be one of the best from anyone, ever. On Spotify, the song ranks near the bottom of the collection in plays, though it does get a bit more love from Radiohead as a live choice. And with The Bear choosing to end their first season on “Let Down” from the same album, plus other OK Computer songs providing hugely memorable TV and film moments — the fire scene in Six Feet Under to “Lucky” and “Exit Music” closing out the Black Mirror episode “Shut Up And Dance” are a couple standouts — it felt only right that “Climbing Up The Walls” now has its own iconic, hugely memorably sync moment. (I’m not counting Peaky Blinders here, which uses a ton of music really well, but to the point that it all blends in as British rawk soundtrack.)
The combination of this water-cooler moment with a surprising, expertly curated tune from the era that the show takes place is everything that great music supervision should be. It shows the potential that a show like Yellowjackets, with its clearly defined aesthetic and period setting, should strive for and is capable of hitting. As this second season continues to unfold, let’s hope that there are more needle drops like this ahead.