Camille Preaker, the damaged protagonist of HBO’s Sharp Objects, is obsessed with Led Zeppelin. This week’s episode, “Fix,” finally explains why: In a series of flashbacks, we learn that prior to her return to Wind Gap, Missouri, Camille (Amy Adams) checked into a rehab center and became roommates with Alice (Sydney Sweeney), a fellow cutter whose favorite escape from reality is plugging in her iPhone earbuds and listening to Led Zeppelin. The band is important to Camille because Alice introduced her to it, but the band is also important for deeper reasons, too.
Before episode’s end, it’s revealed that Alice killed herself in rehab and Camille discovered her body. Suddenly, Camille’s fixation on the ‘70s rock gods makes even more narrative sense: Hearing their songs allows Camille to feel connected to Alice and, most likely, her half-sister Marian (Lulu Wilson), another girl to whom she felt bonded and who died far too young. It’s also a way for Camille to revisit her pain by, sonically speaking, pressing into a raw, open wound. Listening to Led Zeppelin over and over is the musical equivalent of cutting into her skin, again and again.
But why Led Zeppelin as opposed to any other band? There are no references to Zeppelin in the Gillian Flynn novel that inspired the series, and their music pre-dates the time period in which Camille would have grown up in Wind Gap. On first listen, hard classic rock from a bunch of old British men seems like an odd choice for a show principally about women from Southern Missouri. But after considering the band’s history and the qualities of the specific tracks that play in the show, it’s clear that, tonally and thematically, Led Zeppelin is perfect for Sharp Objects.
Led Zeppelin is not only one of the greatest rock bands of all time, but a band well-known for engaging in excessive behavior. In a 2003 Vanity Fair piece, veteran music writer Lisa Robinson recounted her experiences on the road with Led Zeppelin in the 1970s, a time when their U.S. tours became famous for their debauchery. “Just when big music and big money came together,” Robinson writes, “Led Zeppelin gave new meaning to ‘sex and drugs and rock ’n’ roll.’ Everything was offered to them. They turned nothing down.”