Twin Peaks: The Return, Part Eight

“It may be the key to what this is all about.”

Don’t worry, everybody. I’m a trained professional and I absolutely know what’s going on.

Okay, that’s a lie. I have no idea what to make of this episode. Thomas, the other Twin Peaks reviewer, described this episode as “Cooper gets shot, then comes back to life. Oh, and a boy kisses a girl who swallows a bug.” It’s tempting to leave it there.

After all, this is an episode with very little dialogue. It uses an intuitive, visual (and aural) storytelling style to communicate what might be deep truths, might be the “key to what this is all about,” or might be an auteur’s attempt to return to his art-school roots.

While I thought parts of this episode were affecting, I thought other parts were affected. I’m in the minority: Sam Adams, writing for Slate, argued that "Just as he did in 1990, David Lynch is giving the television medium a firm, loving shove in the direction of capital-A art, but this time he’s starting much farther down the track.”

The New York Times' Noel Murray felt equal appreciation for Lynch’s avant-garde, almost deconstructive style: “as something to see and hear, and to react to on a primal level — this hour was phenomenal.” (Murray also broke the episode's narrative into five parts. His article is worth a read, and I'm not going to replicate his labor here.)

Joanna Robinson, writing for Vanity Fair, went a step further and put together a list of callbacks and references in this episode, including the convenience store from Fire Walk with Me, which may be the same as the gas station around with the Woodmen emerge. (Various comments boards also noted that the Woodsmen might be linked to the creepy guy from Lost Highway, a movie that Lynch definitely evoked in the shots of night highways lit by headlights.)

Robinson’s observations line up with my own in many respects, especially in terms of what Murray described as this episode’s “origin story.” As Robinson explains, “the Manhattan Project isn’t responsible for the creation of the Black and White Lodges—their mythologies both significantly pre-date 1945—but that first bomb may have ripped open some kind of barrier between this world and another.”

That is an important distinction. The Secret History of Twin Peaks strongly suggests that a malevolent entity lived in Owl Cave, which was blocked off by the Nez Pierce. In one of the most darkly comical scenes in the book, a miner named Bob removed the blockade (while wondering why the “Injuns” would do something so stupid); he disappears and is never seen again. After reading that passage, I assumed I had just read Bob’s origin story, since I could absolutely buy Frank Silva’s portrayal of Bob as drawing on the scraggly-haired aesthetic of an 1800s miner.

But, in light of this episode and Robinson’s interpretation, I’ve changed my mind. Now I think we’re seeing a confluence of events: the mystical and the modern, the message and the medium. That would explain why The Secret History links the spiritual to the science-fictional to create the category of “extradimensional.” We are meant to consider how something like the Black Lodge might fit with atom bombs and UFOs. Or how--and why--some secret organization in Part One built a complex box with intense security protocols to, I assume, trap a mystical force.

That’s an important step in understanding Lynch’s overall oeuvre. Lynch often emphasizes power lines and telephone poles—we’ve seen that already in this season, in Harry Dean Stanton’s scenes (which echoed his scenes from Fire Walk with Me). That emphasis on the quotidian, near-invisible connective infrastructure of the modern world contrasts with the personal, ontological, and mystical elements in Lynch’s work. Lynch may be suggesting that malevolence has always been around, but it is pragmatic about, or even enthused by, the possibilities of technology.

That is what the Woodsman does. He uses radio to broadcast his evil lullaby: “This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.” Darkly rhythmic, which just enough biblical undertones to strike dread into anyone’s heart, the passage is as opaque as the Woodsman’s origins. And equally creepy.

I’m going to leave this episode unrated until we find out—in two weeks!—if this is what the rest of the season is going to be like. If it sucks, we’ll look back at this as the sign we should have understood. If it’s awesome, we can pat ourselves on the back for being so artsy and open-minded.

And in the meantime, we can shudder in horror when we think about the Woodsmen.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

10 comments:

TheShadowKnows said...

My interpretation was that the atomic bomb had indeed ripped open some sort of hole between dimensions, allowing what I call the "Space Hoboes" (although I like "Woodsmen" as well) to get through. Also it appeared that a demon resembling the one that appeared in the box in the first episode came across. The demon was seemingly vomiting eggs, and I believe the idea was that the frog-bug that hatched and was swallowed by the girl came from one of those eggs. So at this point I'm going to assume the frog-bug was a possessing spirit (like "Bob") and that the "Hobo" knocked people in the town out so they could become hosts for similar frog-bugs/possessing spirits.

Or something along those lines.

Josie Kafka said...

I wanted to call them "Vagrants of Death" and was sad to realize they were credited as Woodsmen.

I agree that the eggs are significant, but it's not clear how. The young boy and girl don't seem to be the Palmers, for instance. So what is the significance of the girl's possession? Is it an illustrative vignette and nothing more, or part of a mythology that will affect future episodes?

Mark Greig said...

I am looking forward to and absolutely dreading this episode with equal measure.

TheShadowKnows said...

"I am looking forward to and absolutely dreading this episode with equal measure."

I hope you're not prone to seizures.

(Seriously, there should have been a warning at the beginning of the episode.)

Mark Greig said...

Okay, so I've finally seen it and it was not nearly as confusing as I thought it would be. I don't claim to understand all of it, but I think I have a pretty good idea at what Lynch and Frost were getting at. At least I think I do.

What I still don't get is how a small town bar like the Roadhouse manages to get bands like the Nine Inch Nails to perform?

Josie Kafka said...

The Roadhouse has the same booking manager as The Bronze.

Mark Greig said...

Does it also have those flower shaped things made from onions?

Josie Kafka said...

Yes, because Spike and Andrew work as fry cooks in the back.

TheShadowKnows said...

My wife and her best friend were big fans of the original run of the show when they were in high school. After this episode, her friend sent her an email that said, "Maybe I don't really like David Lynch. Maybe I just thought I did when I was fifteen."

Bet she keeps watching anyway.

Docnaz said...

I already know how the rest of the season is going be. Awesome. For me, the measure of a good movie or television episode is how much I think about it after watching it. This episode affected me deeply. I can't begin to understand it all. I never read the Mark Frost book. But this is a show that is not so much for entertaining as it is for experiencing. It is abstraction versus realism. Twin Peaks is the same now as it was then. It is like nothing else on television. Today, there are many shows like the original Twin Peaks. At the time it came out, there was nothing like it. Going into this, I thought I wanted the old Twin Peaks. Now, I know I am getting exactly what I wanted.