Sometimes it seems like there have been just as many words written about Twin Peaks: The Return as there have been on the fact that it’s impossible to write about Twin Peaks: The Return. We’ve been trying to wrestle this particular essay (and boy, do we ever use that term loosely here), into submission, if not coherence for the better part of ten days now, which leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the latter point is at least partially true. This is not recap TV. And with this last episode, the show’s creators seem to be saying that it’s not even reviewable in the conventional sense as a television show. The gist of it all: David Lynch followed up one of the most coherent, linear, and narratively clear episodes of the reboot with one of the most surreal hours of television ever produced. In retrospect, the five minutes spent on sweeping while “Green Onions” played at the end of Chapter 7 should’ve clued us into the idea that Chapter 8 was about to slip the bonds of sense and the gravity of narrative.
And yet, even with all the strangeness; the jaw-dropping sights and sounds, the horror and wonder, the obscure imagery and unexplained events, it’s hard for us to shake the sense that this all … mostly makes sense. Sort of. We know we can’t or shouldn’t attempt to predict the outcome of this series, and we also know that huge chunks of it will likely remain deliciously unexplained or turn out to be red herrings or entertaining side stories (which is something TP has always done and something we try to be mindful of when we start going down rabbit holes), but at the core of everything going on, there is a tale being told of a great evil; a darkness spread out over the whole of the United States, rather than just one small town in the upper left corner of it. We know that Laura Palmer, whatever else she may have been/still is, was created as a response to a specific form of evil being unleashed when the very fabric of the universe was briefly torn by man. We know that DoppelLelandPalmer told Cooper to “Find Laura.” We know that a being in the form of Laura removed her face to show a shining light within (which would appear to tie back to her creation as a literal ball of light) before being violently ripped out of the Lodge.
We know that DoppelCooper/Bob has been not only wreaking havoc in his quarter century outside the Lodge/Leland (including the extremely disturbing implication that he raped Audrey and Diane, two women who were very important to Coop), but has made contingency plans to ensure he/they’ll never have to go back to it. We know that DougieCooper is creeping ever closer to an understanding of who he is. We also know that both the FBI and the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department are independently and simultaneously coming to the same conclusion: that no one has seen the real Dale Cooper since he went into the lodge 25 years ago and someone else has been wearing his face ever since. We know that everything in the story so far would lead anyone to reasonably conclude that all of it is leading toward some sort of confrontation representing that most primal of conflicts: absolute good vs. absolute evil, in which Cooper, Bob, DoppelCooper and possibly even some version of Laura Palmer will play a part.
Stepping outside the story, we note that Lynch is utilizing fairly basic narrative techniques such as visual foreshadowing (the huge black and white mushroom cloud photo behind Cole’s desk) and the use of surprisingly on-point Greek Choruses. TP:TR has had scenes that were almost hilariously exposition-heavy (anything with Sheriff Truman and Hawk is sure to sound like a Wikipedia summary of the original series), and maybe we’re reading too much into certain connections, but in a purely Lynchian manner, drugs and music tend to lead to the saying of truths.
Just as DougieCooper is dealing with police inquiries regarding his car and relying on his wife to cover for his addle-pated repetition of whatever anyone else says to him, Jerry Horne samples his best product, peers deep into the mystic woods surrounding Twin Peaks and whispers: “Someone stole my car. Didn’t I tell you?” Then: “You say the same thing!”
Later, in the same episode in which we see the birth of evil, the laying and hatching of orbs and eggs, the weird, stomach-churning sort of Annunciation/impregnation of a young girl and the reveal that another (doomed) girl was sent to earth as a force for good, “The” Nine Inch Nails show up at the Roadhouse (whose booking manager needs a serious raise) and sings “She’s gone away” and “I can’t remember what she came here for” and “I was watching on the day she died” which all come off like references to Laura, and “Spread the infection where you spill your seed,” which evokes the mother-figure vomiting up Bob and the eggs. There’s even (if you’re willing to go there) commentary on DougieCooper (“I can’t remember much of anything anymore“) the brain tree formerly known as The arm (“a little mouth opened up inside“) and even the mysterious Burnt Woodsmen (“We keep licking while the skin turns black“). Is this deliberate? Does it even matter? Isn’t it more important that “When the twilight is gone/you come into my heart” turns from romantic to horrifying when an abomination crawls out of the dark and nests inside a young girl’s body? Whether Lynch and Frost intended these lyrics and snippets to evoke story points isn’t as important as the fact that they do, quite strongly. Adding both to the sense that there’s something universal going on here and also to the idea that drugs or music are ways of accessing the truth of it, which really is very much of a piece with the general Twin Peaks outlook.
We also note how simple and basic much of the conceptual stuff is here. Laura really is the angel she was always obsessed with finding, with an origin story practically indistinguishable from Superman’s (sent to earth to save it) and Athena’s (birthed from the brow of Zeus), rendering her not just angelic, but a goddess/hero. Bob is an evil unleashed from hell by the atom bomb. Cooper is the ultimate righteous lawman who can literally sense lies and injustice. These three characters in particular have been deliberately turned into archetypal, uncomplicated figures. That, more than anything, is what’s making this story, such as it is, relatively easy to follow. It’s both a smart choice from a storytelling perspective and an indication of just how much larger this reboot is compared to the original series. Instead of the story of a beauty queen’s murder and the mystical undertones surrounding it, we are literally in the middle of a story about the clash between ultimate good and evil. Angels vs. Devils.
But as we make our case that this is all fairly straightforward, we can’t lose sight of the fact that most of episode 8 left us mouth agape; not just as it was happening, but for several hours afterward. There is simply no describing the feeling watching that stunning mushroom cloud footage (a highly disturbing phrase that tells you just how dark this got) as “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” played. Our verbatim notes, cleaned up only slightly, as we watched a second time, because they do a much better job of depicting the kind of braingasm the sequence was designed to set off:
“Wavelengths of sight and sounds, images like landscapes covered in bugs, swirling gnats of light, crashing flames, tunnels of explosions, the natural world literally being torn asunder,something being unleashed, the complete destruction of systems and structures. Dresden. Hypnotic and horrifying. Fire walk with me HOLY SHIT. FIRE WALK WITH ME. IT WAS ALWAYS LITERAL.”
It was simply the most amazing sequence of mainstream television ever broadcast, as far as we’re concerned. The marriage of sight and sound was like nothing we expected.
Similarly, there’s no way to accurately describe the weirdness/obscurity/revulsion of the Burnt Men with their deep-woods dancing, country road killing, and bone-chilling soliloquies about waters and wells and darkness. Nor is it easy to describe watching that horrifying winged frog crawl inside that girl’s mouth. On the flipside, we’re pretty sure the looks of pure, gleeful wonder on our faces throughout the LauraGlobe birth sequence, with the Giant and Senorita Dido (dressed like a 1930s sci-fi serial space queen to our clapping delight), would serve as much better descriptors of what it felt like watching that sequence. Alas, we were too dazzled to record ourselves.
As an aside, we have to give a special shoutout to Laura Dern, who came in and tore the whole place the hell up. “What did you say your name was again?” “Tammy.” “Fuck off, Tammy.” We cannot overstate how much we love her in this role. She of the amazingly coordinated manicure, eye-popping wardrobe, and bakelite bangles and gigolo lovers. But aside from the fun costume design and biting dialogue, there was some simply stunning acting in her scene with Kyle MacLachlan and then later, in her scene with Lynch in the parking lot, when she hits that Laura Dern sweet spot: A woman literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown. “You. And. I. Will. Have. A. Talk.” She does an amazing thing in these scenes: she sells, through the power of her reaction to him, the sheer evil emanating from DoppelCooper.
So, who’s the girl in the 1950s flashback? Everyone has theories and perhaps unsurprisingly (given the multitude of mother and birth images in this episode), most of them revolve around her giving birth, either to Laura or to Cooper or to practically anyone who can be shoved into the timeline and work. We suppose we’ll have to see, because that’s not something we’re feeling the need to theorize about without learning more about it.
Although wouldn’t it be kind of hilarious if Lynch never explained it or referenced it again?
More half-baked thoughts and questions:
What if the final showdown (or whatever) isn’t between DougieCooper and DoppelCooper? What if it’s between Bob and Laura? Is there a version of Laura Palmer wandering the world as brain-damaged as DougieCooper, having been violently ejected from the lodge much like he was? Did the Burnt Men remove the BobGlobe from DoppelCooper? And if so, what does that mean for them both? Why have Major Briggs’ fingerprints been showing up at apparent crime scenes (why else would they dust for prints?) and what was he doing in all those years between his disappearance and his body showing up? What do the Burnt Men have to do with it, since they keep showing up in the background of scenes in Buckhorn. What did Cole mean when he was talking about “yrev” and the “spiritual finger?” “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.” DUDE, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT?
Style File: Katy Perry is Tastefully On Point at Couture Week Next Post:
Alexis Mabille Fall 2017 Couture Collection
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