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[The following story contains spoilers from the ninth episode of Dickinson‘s third season, “Grief is a Mouse.”]
Shortly after Taylor Swift released her second album of 2020, Evermore, fans began speculating that one of the work’s influences was Emily Dickinson and that the song “Ivy” in particular was about Dickinson’s love affair with Sue Gilbert, which is depicted in the Apple TV+ series about the famous poet.
Dickinson gave fans further support for that theory by ending its most recent episode with “Ivy” playing over the credits after a steamy sex scene between Hailee Steinfeld’s Emily and Ella Hunt’s Sue.
In addition to Evermore being released on Dec. 10, Dickinson’s birthday, Swift said in an interview that the cover art was partially inspired by a “girl sleepwalking through the forest in a nightgown in 1830,” which is the year Dickinson was born.
Dickinson also ends one of her poems addressed to Gilbert with “forevermore.”
“Ivy” in particular seems to be from the perspective of a woman married to a man, much like Sue is married to Emily’s brother Austin (Adrian Blake Enscoe), but having an affair with someone else.
Dickinson showrunner Alena Smith tells The Hollywood Reporter that it was the “mythology” around the track fans developed that contributed to her wanting it for the episode.
“I really wanted to use that song — I mean I love that song and also the fans have sort of developed a mythology around it as being a song that relates to Emily and Sue on some emotional level,” Smith said. “And Devoe Yates, our music supervisor, went out and saw if he could get it and we were lucky that Taylor said yes.”
Smith explained that the Dickinson team initially planned to have the song score the scene but discovered in post that a “pared back score” worked better for the scene with the extra “hit of joy” from the song over the credits.
“Originally when we shot that scene, we thought that a song was going to be playing while the scene was happening as it was during the volcano sequence [in season one] where we had that great Mitski song ‘Your Best American Girl,’ and when I got the director’s cut of the episode with that song, I actually felt like I wanted to strip the song away,” Smith explained.
“I called Hailee and I called our composers Drum & Lace and Ian Hultquist and I said, ‘I want to pare this back and make it almost like a holy experience of just this simple bed of pulsing rhythm of a hint of a sonic presence and breath and really feel there’s an act of lovemaking that’s going on, but there’s also an act of poetry writing that’s going on and those are connected.’
So we ended up really developing a lot of it in post, with Hailee doing an ADR session, because there was no recording on set of anyone breathing, it was all the music playing at the time, so it was after the fact that we found that breathing and that extremely pared back score. Then when the Taylor Swift song pops on in the end credits it just increases the hit of joy that you get from it.”
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