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Twin Peaks: Masked Ball

“It is said that, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”

Twin Peaks likes nothing more than to mess with the viewers, and the opening sequence of this episode is no exception. Talk about delay! After that long, drowsy credits sequence, we get even more nothingness with James riding his motorcycle—a total of 3 minutes and 13 seconds of waiting for the story to start, all before the days of the DVR. And then, a Q&A session with Major Briggs’s wife that leaves us with more Qs than As.

But Coop is definitely thinking about that Major’s disappearance and what it means. As he says, “powerful forces live in those woods.” In the previous episode, Coop and the boys had a serious discussion about what Bob is, and—by implication—what the nature of reality is. Coop continues to think about those questions, and that’s one of the things I love about this show: the characters work through their puzzlement, and they take their time doing so.

Coop uses the metaphor of a game to describe how he sees the universe in the wake of beginning to understand Bob’s nature: “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve stared to focus out beyond the edge of the board. A bigger game...What we fear in the dark, and what lies beyond the darkness…I’m talking about seeing beyond fear…about looking at the world with love.”

Cooper is definitely drawing on what Major Briggs said in the previous episode, but he’s also using the game-metaphor that he apparently inherited from his as-yet unseen partner Wyndham Earle, who contacts Cooper with a chess move this week. What’s the link between games, Earle, and this emerging structure of the universe?

Hawk tells Cooper a bit about this “local legend” that goes, according to Harry, way back: “There are other worlds…My people believe that the White Lodge is a place where the spirits that rule man and nature reside…There is also a legend of a place called the Black Lodge, the shadow-self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it the Dweller on the Threshold. But it is said that, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”

So: a White Lodge, like the white house that the Major described—a heaven stand-in. To get there, you must meet your shadow-self within the Black Lodge, which is itself the shadow-self of the White Lodge. Basically, your Inner One-Armed Man must meet your Inner Bob. If you do so with “imperfect courage,” you’ll go All Bob, No Soul. Shudder.

That’s a pretty epic explanation, and one that I 100% love. It’ll be interesting to see how that all plays out, what—if anything—it has to do with Wyndham Earle, and how Cooper will explore this world “beyond the edges of the board.”

I assume it has nothing to do with one of this episode’s most memorable moments: David Duchovny as Denise the DEA Agent. David Duchovny in drag. It’s amazing how Twin Peaks plays this with a decent amount of sensitivity, given that this dates to 1991. Denise, neĆ© Dennis, found happiness and “relaxation” in wearing women’s clothing. Coop is interested but not horrified or shocked. Sure, there’s an element of playing it for laughs—especially for those of us who have followed Duchovny’s career since this early role—but it’s a lovely, personal portrait of people thinking through the idea of trans identity before that was a big part of the cultural conversation. Nice work, Twin Peaks.

Clues, Questions, and Answers:

• I’m tempted to see some significance in the fact that David Lynch’s Gordon Cole just phones in his role rather than appearing in person. Rumor has it that Lynch was less involved in the middle part of this season, and it shows.

• FBI Internal Affairs Agent Roger Hardy is played by Clarence William III, who was in Mod Squad with Peggy Lipton.

Other Things that are Still Happening:

• Nadine goes to high school and develops a dangerous crush on Mike.

• James meets a wealthy abused woman straight off Raymond Chandler’s cutting-room floor. (Note: I will have almost nothing to say about this plot for as long as it continues.)

• Andy and Dick Tremaine are struggling to misuse a little boy’s affection to please Lucy.

• That little boy might be evil. Or just very naughty.

• Josie is forced into servitude by Katherine to atone for her sins, even though her alleged biggest sin—killing Andrew—we now know never happened. He’s still alive.

• The mayor and his brother are still disputing over nothing.

I’m having a hard time rating these episodes, since there are a few great moments—like learning about the Black Lodge—interspersed with scenes of Nadine’s superstrength. So…

Two out of four weddings.

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

1 comment:

  1. Nice review, Josie! I liked this episode better than the previous one, even though there weren't any supernatural or surrealistic events. There was some Lodge info, as you point out. It seems to me there are two alternatives to explain the Lodges:

    1. Religious: analogous to heaven/hell in the Christian afterlife.

    2. Shamanistic: the Lodges are 'places of power', and people go there to obtain power (or reside permanently). The Black Lodge gives 'dark side' power and is the residence for evil entities, and the White Lodge gives 'positive power' and is the residence for good entities. At some level the Lodges represent a yin-yang balance of power.

    I have a lot of issues with #1. Clearly, people can be there without dying (Cooper), which is my main concern with #1. "...pass through on the way to perfection" doesn't necessarily mean going to heaven, and I don't get the sense that everyone is destined to pass through the Lodges, which is the case for a religious afterlife.

    #2 seems more likely to me. The catch is that to achieve mystical power you have to go through the ordeal of facing your 'weaknesses' (shadow self) in order to achieve that power.

    Also, we are told that the White Lodge is the place where "the spirits that rule man and nature reside." This seems more shamanistic than religious, since there is only one God in Christian theology. Of course, we have to somehow deal with Leland's dying statement that he sees Laura and she is welcoming him. That seems to be heaven-like scenario. But it really complicates things to have both a Christian afterlife and shamanistic Lodges in play.

    Well, enough of that speculation. The Nadine arc is silly--but I'd rather it be silly without a super-power involved. Is the new James arc necessary--or is it just an excuse to add a vamp to the show? Josie is still not telling the whole truth. The big reveal is Andrew Packard being alive--which means Josie may not be as guilty as she thinks she is, even though she apparently conspired to kill him.

    The Denise bit was bold for 1991. Not that cross-dressing had never been done on TV before--Flip Wilson played Geraldine in the 70's to great comic effect. However, the idea of a cross-dressing DEA agent was something new. I agree that it was nicely done by F&L.

    One thing I've realized is that the parts of the show I dislike the most are the ones that are the most like a soap opera. I like Donna and James as characters, but I don't like their soap opera relationship: one minute he's giving her a ring, and the next he's walking away from her for an unexplained reason. The mill/Josie/Catherine/Ben arc is very much like a soap opera. The parts of the show that are least like a soap opera are the Laura Palmer murder mystery (Cooper) and the supernatural arc--which is why I like them the most.


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