This post will contain SPOILERS throughout.
Wow BOB woW. This week’s Twin Peaks took us to places television rarely wanders. Lynch – operating with the kind of expansive creative freedom that he’s rarely been so fully afforded in his career before and especially not with regards to Twin Peaks – opened up the boundaries of what we can expect from him, from the show and from television as a medium. Yet there are precedents for a lot of what is experienced and inferred here, connections to be made. Part 8 was many, many things, all of them riveting. I barely blinked. I spent much of the day suspended in its mood; a kind of precarious entropy and sense of unbridled exploration. The ambition here is one thing, the execution another.
What am I talking about? If you’re reading this then hopefully you’ve seen it and you know. And if you’ve seen it, I hope you can appreciate the intention of this hour particularly, and how breaking it down as I’m about to almost flies in the face of the purpose of what Lynch is gifting us; an experience. Season 3 of Twin Peaks is feeling more and more like an art piece and career summation encircling one another. Lynch himself sits in the eye of this perfect storm, simply creating, unspooling the images that twinkle iridescent in his mind’s eye like pin-pricks of light reflected on the surface of a lake.
How to go forward? I think by describing, thoroughly, the ‘events’ of this hour and then mining them for insights. What follows, then, is a basic deconstruction of what is seen and heard on screen:
Evil Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Ray Monroe (George Griffith) drive away from the prison. Coop throws the warden’s tracking systems off of their scent and directs Monroe onto a dirt road which they follow for a short while (these shots themselves could have happily continued for minutes more, such hypnotic signatures of Lynch). Ray tries to extort Cooper for information that he is withholding. Cooper tries to kill Ray for this, but Ray shoots Cooper twice in the torso. Having done so, myriad darkly clad spectral figures appear and team around the fallen Cooper as lights flash. They smear his blood over his face. Ray flees in horror and calls Phillip Jeffries.
At the Roadhouse, Nine Inch Nails play “She’s Gone Away” for about five minutes. This is Part 8‘s only scene in the town of Twin Peaks. Evil Cooper, revitalised by his visitors, sits upright, seemingly healed. Cut to black. The remainder of this part is near wordless.
Fade in, black and white, to a desert scene. A title card informs us this is “July 16, 1945. White Sands, New Mexico”. A nuclear test takes place, mushroom cloud blooming. Lynch takes us inside of it, pushing his camera forever inward. Inside the cloud we see experimental effects; ink in water, dancing particles, flashes of light and more. Multi-coloured flame clouds burst before us, filled with streams of debris as we seemingly travel within the explosion.
We return to black and white and fade in on a convenience store at night. A mixture of stop motion and time-lapse chronicles smoke stuttering, billowing from the door. Lights flash inside. Concealed by the smoke, the interior of the convenience store is burned. Then the darkly clad figures appear, milling around the storefront and petrol pumps. The sound cut up with their jumping movements. The convenience store takes on the appearance of a small two-dimensional prop and the camera jumps in and out of focus. The figures are silhouetted inside the store.
A figure is suspended in darkness. It has the appearance of the monster from the Glass Box (see Part 1). It vomits a cloud of ovoid shapes, connected in a stream. One of these shapes has the face of BOB.
Cut to fire. We’re back inside the explosion. A golden blob moves toward us and then we’re hurtling through red space. And then, we’re back in the endless oceans of the Purple Realm, last seen in Part 3. The camera floats over the surface until it reaches a tall tower. This is not the same tower Good Coop landed on. We push in through a window. Inside, in black and white, a woman (Joy Nash) listens to old jazz music. The decor has the timeless industrial feel of Eraserhead. There is a large bell-like structure. An alarm goes off and Carel Struycken (who formerly played The Giant but who is here credited as ???????) appears. He switches off the alarm and climbs a set of stairs.
In a large empty theatre space he approaches a screen. On the screen he views the nuclear test, the convenience store and the monster vomiting. The image pauses at the creation of BOB. Struycken floats up in the air and the woman comes to watch. Badalamenti’s previously atonal score becomes lush. Light flickers. Struckyen, suspended in mid-air, generates a golden cloud of particles as the screen shows space. From the golden cloud grows an orb with the face of Laura Palmer. The Laura Palmer orb floats down to the woman who kisses it and offers it to a golden instrument which transfers it through the screen. The Laura Palmer orb descends toward Earth. Fade to black.
Fade in to another desert scene. The title card this time advises us “1956, August 5, New Mexico Desert”. An egg lies in the sand. It cracks open and a simian creature with insect wings emerges. It crawls away. Clouds obscure the moon. At another convenience store a young couple walk together (Lynch’s 50’s idealism revisited). The girl finds a good-luck penny. In the gloom a number of dark figures descend from the sky. One of them, The Lumberjack (Robert Broski), approaches a car. He has a cigarette and asks for a light. The mood is ominous and lights flash. The couple in the car drive on, worried. The boy walks the girl home and asks for a kiss which she grants. The Lumberjack climbs a rise and approaches a radio station.
Inside the radio station he asks a woman for a light, then grabs and crushes her head. Blood pours from her scalp. The radio is listened to by a man fixing a car, a woman working in a diner and the girl. The Lumberjack asks the disc jockey for a light, grabs his head and then addresses the mic. He intones, “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, the dark within” over and over. The man and the woman both collapse but the girl listens intently and closes her eyes. The simian insect flies in through the girl’s bedroom window and climbs inside her sleeping mouth. The disco jockey dies, his head also crushed. The Lumberjack walks into the dark of the desert. Horses are heard. Credits.
Well. There is A LOT going on here.
Firstly the opening, which, considering the rest of this part, feels like an adendum to Part 7, as if Lynch maybe wanted that part to end with Nine Inch Nails and then Part 8 would be its own thing. This in itself leads me to wonder if our journey into the dark is over (we’ll find out in two weeks). Like Dougie, Evil Coop clearly also has guardians, presented here in the form of the darkly clad men who heal him. These darkly clad individuals appear to be the same ones seen in and around the convenience store. The convenience store has long been referred to and briefly visited in Fire Walk With Me. It is one of the places known to house the strange beings that have haunted Twin Peaks; the otherworldly entities that include the likes of The Arm and The Giant. The remainder of Part 8 is most obviously read as a sort of origin story for these darkly clad figures, themselves symbols of the evil of man.
We can assume from the petroglyphs in Owl Cave that the mysterious forces that dwell in and around Twin Peaks date back to long before 1945, but the nuclear test that occurs here triggers the alarm seen in the Purple Realm. Though I initially suspected that the explosion created the Purple Realm, I now feel more comfortably that this event triggered the intervention of these spectres in the world of man. The scale of evil in the creation of the nuclear detonation gave rise to the existence of BOB, birthed by the monster (who, I think, is credited at the end as ‘The Experiment’ [?]). BOB is drawn to Earth and the evils of men as a place he can inhabit and continue to corrupt.
The actions, then, inside the Purple Realm, suggest an attempt to redress the balance with the creation of the golden orb that contains Laura Palmer. As we know, BOB corrupted and finally killed Laura through the vehicle of Leland Palmer, and BOB now inhabits Evil Cooper. But is the creation of the golden orb about balance at all? As seems to be a continuing theme of season 3, it appears as though Lynch is discussing divine intervention existing in all of our lives, but only a precious few of us having the awareness to tap into that. It could also be a metaphor for inspiration, the very notion of where ideas come from. Lynch has in interviews talked about ideas as things that float down and, if you’re lucky, you catch them. These intoxicating images conjure that description of his. The beauty of Part 8 is how open to interpretation it is.
So what I’m saying is this is not THE ANSWER, just the things that came to mind as I experienced this mesmerising hour of television (boy I’d love to see it in a cinema). Continuing, then, the Purple Realm – which sits apart from the Black Lodge – could be seen as a sort of God chamber (perhaps the reason Lynch is hesitant to name Carel Struycken’s character here). If so, it’s interesting and telling that God would exist in a theatre space and interact with us via a cinema screen. Here Lynch infers the importance of the arts in reaching a place of spirituality and cultural exaltation.
On to 1956, 11 years later, and one might assume that the egg which hatches is either the BOB orb or the Laura orb (but, of course, it might be neither). If it is one, then its oral trespass on the girl – which has connotations of rape – would suggest BOB over Laura, but who knows at this point? Maybe the boy and girl are meant to be the young romancing Palmers? I doubt it, however.
The dark men appearing from the sky recall Mark Frost’s preoccupation with alien encounters from both the latter half of season two and his recent book The Secret History Of Twin Peaks, which detoured into Roswell conspiracy theories quite significantly. If that has been absorbed into the new series then Lynch seems to have repurposed Frost’s ‘aliens’ as purveyors of evil walking the Earth. Part 8 seems very much to be about the origins of evil, offering up options, suggestions, ideas. Lynch is dreaming at us.
The one we concentrate on is The Lumberjack, though his appearance isn’t explicit to this occupation. This greatly infers that he is a 50’s incarnation of the character seen in the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me played by Jurgen Prochnov (see comparative images below):
His skull crushing ability and emotionless face when doing so is about as horrific as Twin Peaks has been this side of the Glass Box murders, Lynch once again flexing his ability to show whatever he damn well pleases on Showtime. The words that The Lumberjack speaks – “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, the dark within” – act like an incantation. The water is his evil, the well perhaps the radio waves filled with his voice. The listeners drink from the well and descend. It suggests to me the idea of evil as a communicable disease; an airborne parasite let loose by the nuclear test.
The mention of horses is interesting if oblique. The show’s most significant other appearance of horses would be the pale horse seen by Mrs Palmer the night that Leland killed Maddie, seen also when he drugged her in Fire Walk With Me so as to climb in Laura’s window. This horse had pronounced biblical symbolism. The mention here is less readily defined, but the sound of horses as The Lumberjack stalks off into the darkness that ends this installment does conjure for me an apocalyptic foreboding.
I’ve already seen a lot of comment on this installment saying that Part 8 is like nothing before it, but that’s not accurate. It certainly has its forebearers in cinema. Most vividly for me it brought back memories of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – especially the ‘Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite’ section – and also Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, again for the roaming inside unknowable spaces and for the audacity of taking a narrative structure and going for an elaborate detour into the past. There are further precursors to be found, not least in the canyons of experimental and surrealist cinema going back through the history of film. I’d add a minor television precursor too; HBO’s Carnivale which used nuclear test imagery to link into its overarching theme of good vs evil and also quite memorably had a mass of sinister spectres that looked like soot-coated miners, echoed strongly in Evil Coop’s life-saving visitors.
And then there are echoes from within Lynch’s own work. The style of Eraserhead is echoed prominently here, and again, those darkly clad figures feel in some way kindred to the dreaded ‘Man Behind Winkies’ from Mulholland Drive. Then there are those shots of a road lit only by headlights, harking back fondly to the pulpy noir of Lost Highway.
So Part 8 isn’t without its precursors, but what a stunning assemblage it is. I’ve made some connections and suggestions here, but as intimated at the start, Part 8 is most readily enjoyed as a wave. Let it wash over you. Draw your own conclusions. What does feel clear is that TV has been changed by this hour. In that sense Part 8 has few precedents, and one can only wonder how it might influence non-linear storytelling in serialised drama over the years and decades to come.
UPDATE!! – I may have missed this the first two goes through… but do the darkly clad men extract BOB from Evil Cooper? It’s very gloomy and I’m finding it hard to tell, but if so… well… what happens next should be quite interesting…