Warning: SPOILERS about Spiderhead ahead.
Netflix’s hit sci-fi thriller Spiderhead features a slew of classic yacht rock songs on its soundtrack, and each of them cues up one of the movie’s huge surprises before they’re revealed. Like the George Saunders short story it is based on, Netflix’s dark satire Spiderhead is filled with killer twists. Initially, the simple story of a sketchy pharmaceutical researcher experimenting on prisoners with drugs, Spiderhead Gradually proves darker, weirder, and more inventive than that synopsis implies.
Spiderhead director Joseph Kosinski’s escapist hit Top Gun: Maverick was critically lauded for being a straightforward, effective action movie, while the helmer’s Netflix sci-fi flick is an altogether stranger beast. Spiderhead‘s heroes eventually prove – when their backstories are revealed – to be more morally ambiguous than they initially seem, while the movie’s villain has a surprisingly understandable logic and sympathetic motives that make him easier to empathize with than he appears at first. That said, not all of these revelations are impossible to guess, depending on the details of Spiderhead that viewers pay attention to.
For audience members who listen closely to Spiderhead‘s soundtrack, the movie’s twists will become a lot easier to guess. Spiderhead is full of classic rock needle-drops, and most of them foreshadow a huge surprise. Almost every major reveal, from the nature of Spiderhead‘s drug B-6 to the backstory of its villain, is subtly hinted at in the movie’s memorable soundtrack choices. These songs provide a handy road map for savvy audience members who want to stay one step ahead of the twisty narrative – or for anyone rewatching Spiderhead to marvel at its clever construction.
Steve’s Introduction Song Foreshadows His Backstory
Like Pink Floyd’s equally iconic “Another Brick In The Wall,” Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” is a screed aimed at how traditional education curricula are designed to quash critical thinking and creative expression. Both songs draw attention to how many educational models focus on compliance and obedience above all else to ensure the production of a reliable, efficient, unquestioning workforce. However, in the context of Spiderhead‘s soundtrack of songs, Steve being introduced with a song about being “sent away to teach me how to be sensible“and”clinical, intellectual, cynical“is a pretty clear warning that Hemsworth’s character had a formative experience of being sent away that started his dark path to becoming a scientist gone mad with power.
Sure enough, it later turns out his father abandoned him to foster care at a young age. Steve never understood why he did this, and the eventual revelation that he is attempting to create a drug that will produce compliance in human subjects stems from this formative betrayal and his conviction that there is a “logicUndergirding seemingly random human cruelty. This idea was later reaffirmed when Steve angrily claims that characters like Heather did not accidentally end up incarcerated in Spiderhead, skirting close to spotting the eugenicist idea that certain people should not be granted free will (a theme that The Boys season 3’s Stormfront / Homelander storyline also subjected to the sci-fi satire treatment).
Spiderhead’s Funniest Song Is Secretly Seriously Dark
When it becomes clear that Steve intends to make Jeff have sex with an elderly inmate via the attraction drug, Steve plays Thomas Dolby’s one-hit-wonder track “She Blinded Me With Science.” It’s a joke, with Steve gleefully laughing about the fact that he is about to override Jeff’s natural disinclination toward the act by “blinding”His emotions with the“science”Of Steve’s effective drugs.
However, Jeff later realizes that none of the individual emotional manipulation drugs were the real point of Steve’s endless experiments. Instead, the whole project was specifically designed to gain the trust of the inmates, get them accustomed to regular doses of drugs, and then develop another drug that the patients never knew they were receiving. This secret drug, as Spiderhead‘s twist ending explains, is supposed to make the inmates willing to experiment on each other. Thus, Steve did, by letting Jeff in on one half of the trial, but not the part that he was truly being used for, blinding the movie’s naive hero with science.
Steve’s Dance Break Gives Away His Motives (& Fate)
Steve dances merrily to Roxy Music’s “More Than This” as he doses himself with Luvactin, the drug that mimics the effects of passionate attraction. As he does, the lyrics of the track give away two major twists. Steve is doing more than he lets on. He is not just using the emotional manipulation drugs on the patients. He is also attempting to strip away their free will with B-6, the secret drug, meaning there is literally more than this drug to Spiderhead‘s mysterious plot. Spiderhead‘s real-life influenced plot also hints at another later twist via the surprisingly dark pop song’s lyrics. The song repeatedly tells the listener that there is nothing “more than this“- something Steve learns when he discovers that, while his drugs like Luvactin can make people feel plenty of artificial emotions, even his prized secret invention, B-6, can not override love and human will.
Jeff’s Romantic Dance Hides A Tragic Second Meaning
Early on Spiderhead, a flashback shows Jeff dancing with his girlfriend, Emma, at a party while “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers plays in the background. It is a sweet scene that soon turns tragic when it is revealed that a drunken Jeff left the party to give his friend a ride, resulting in a crash that killed the friend. However, Spiderhead has another big twist up its sleeve that this scene secretly reveals. Jeff is dancing with Emma as the song says “I’ll take you there”Hinting that he also gave her a ride that fateful night.
Not only that, but the lyrics of the Staple Singers hit have the singer claim they will take the listener to a place where nobody is worried and nobody is crying. That is exactly what a devastated Jeff believes he did when he accidentally caused the death of Emma in the same car wreck, a huge twist that is not explicitly stated until the final act of Spiderheadbut that can be guessed by viewers who know that the Netflix movie’s soundtrack features a surprising number of subtle nods to its later story revelations.
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