Twin Peaks: Arbitrary Law

“That gum you like is going to come back in style.”

David Lynch and Mark Frost give us more than one answer in this episode, which finally clues Cooper into what the audience has known for a while, brings a villain to justice, and ruminates on the nature of truth, knowledge, and responsibility over coffee. Of course.

After the drawn-out format of the last few hours, it’s a relief to get an episode that is almost exclusively focused on the question of who killed Laura Palmer and what that means. Sure, the first 30 minutes touch on a few smallish plots: James and Donna get engaged and then seem to break up. Norma’s mom is difficult. Catherine, Ben, the Mill. Lucy struggles with her maybe-baby daddies, but that plot exists mostly to provide a really wet death-scene for Leland:

What really matters is Laura. It’s appropriate that Laura’s diary description of the dream she shared with Cooper brings this sixteen-episode arc to a close. Her version of Cooper’s dream is the key to everything. It's not just that they share the dream. It’s also that Laura wonders if the “old man” is Mike (that is, the being who can fight Bob). That old man is really Cooper: can he fight Bob? Is that the implication? Does he do that successfully here?

Doing so—fighting Bob, and trying to win—requires some patented David Lynch surreality. Lynch relies on his trademark flashing lights to indicate a reality shift in the Roadhouse scene. Cooper’s process of realization was shot in a fascinating way: whereas the previous episode showed Cooper and the Giant interacting while surrounded by people frozen in time, this episode showed each man in the Roadhouse in freeze-frame, lit by lightening.

Those shots of the same moment of realization are provoked by, “for a lack of a better word, ‘magic,’” as Cooper explains. It’s magic that brings Major Briggs (hooray!) and the world’s oldest bellboy to the Roadhouse. It’s magic that returns Cooper’s ring. It’s magic that makes Leland reveal Bob’s true nature with a simple aside about gum that helps Cooper remember what Laura whispered to him so many days before. (About 20, by my reckoning.)

Or is it?

Lynch and Frost leave the door a little bit open on that topic. In his deathbed confession, Leland describes meeting Bob: “I was just a boy. I saw him in my dream…He opened me, and I invited him, and he came inside me. When he was inside, I didn’t know. And when he was gone, I couldn’t remember.” This could easily be a description of child abuse, which would make Bob, Mike, and the Red Room nothing more than metaphors for otherwise inexplicable and unportrayable horror.

Harry Truman and Cooper discuss that possibility. Harry says, “This is way off the map. I’m having a hard time…believing.” Cooper responds, “Harry, is it easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?” And no, it’s not. It’s almost easier to believe in a metaphorical and ultimately fictional evil being that possesses random people and has something to do with owls. (To recall my occasional discussions of the metaness of this show, the same way it’s easier to watch a show about horrible things than it is to consider their existence, or undergo them, in the real world.)

Albert wonders if “Maybe that’s all Bob is—the evil that men do.” Major Briggs seems to agree: “Does it matter what the cause?” Cooper says yes: because we have to stop evil. His job is to “see[k] simple answers to difficult questions” and, in doing so, win one for the good guys. Otherworldly-owl evil or garden-variety sexual abuse—it’s all one and the same to Special Agent Dale Cooper, who will use every method available to him (including Bureau guidelines, deductive technique, Tibetan method, instinct, and luck) in order to fight it. You can do it, Coop. You've got the power-walk to prove it:

Clues, Questions, and Answers

• Harry asked the million-dollar follow-up question: “If he was here, and he got away, where’s Bob now?” Where, indeed? That’s a question we’ll ponder for a while.

• Albert tells Cooper to “stand alone and do your dance.” He’s referring to Coop’s idiosyncratic investigative methods, but given the emphasis on dancing at the end of the episode, could this be some sort of weird foreshadowing?

• Andy repeated Harold’s repetition of Creepy Grandson’s “je suis un homme solitaire,” thus making things happen and revealing the Creepy Grandson isn’t real. In this reality, at least.

Four out of four stylish gums.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

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