by Francis Friel, The Projectionist
Meanwhile, 25 years later...
In the lead-up to the third season of Mark Frost and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, a lot of behind-the-scenes intrigue surrounded the production. Lynch, throughout the years, announcing that the project was “dead as a doornail”; Showtime swooping in and acquiring the rights to the title and characters (they are co-ventured with CBS, which has owned the distro rights for years); Frost and Lynch telling the world that the series would be back, as a limited run; Lynch saying he’ll direct every episode, then demanding more money for the production budget, Showtime balking, and Lynch saying “it’s do or die time.” Lynch threatened to quit the project, then actually quit the project, then returned once his demands were met; Michael Anderson’s bizarre falling-out with Lynch, following accusations made on social media that the plot of Twin Peaks was maybe not so fictional after all (specifically, he accused Lynch of sexually abusing his own daughter, director Jennifer Lynch, which Jennifer immediately denied. He also alleged that the director has murdered people. David has made no statements whatsoever on the subject); Frost publishing The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a HUGE DEAL that everyone I know was excited about when it arrived on their doorsteps, yet no one talks about anymore; the deaths of many actors involved with the project, some years past, some very recently (some even died during production); and finally, the episode count expanding from the originally announced nine episodes to a stunning EIGHTEEN full hours of this thing.
A couple things up front: I, like many people of my generation, feel a great connection to and love for Lynch’s work, Twin Peaks being my introduction both to him and the “strange and wonderful place” he depicts on screen. Seeing the commercials when the show originally aired, hearing the adults around me talking about it (no one in my family was a fan exactly, but everyone was aware of it, and I watched VHS dubs of the series at way too young an age, probably). For years, Eraserhead was my favorite movie, with Wild at Heart and Fire Walk with Me being my second and third favorites by Lynch. Having grown and having exposed myself to a wider world of cinema, I can’t put Eraserhead that close to the top anymore, but it’s certainly a formative film for me.
I bought and read every book on Lynch I could find, read all the interviews, tracked down copies of The Cowboy and the Frenchman and Hotel Room, and even kept a David Lynch notebook / scrapbook around age 15 or 16, trying to write down everything I could to try to make sense of the overall world and scope of his work, making connections, watching all the movies that inspired him. In the late 90s, a girlfriend even once surprised me with a Japanese laserdisc rip of Eraserhead that came complete with The Grandmother, The Alphabet, and Industrial Symphony No. 1 back when this stuff was close to impossible to see otherwise. A friend later took us to see an exhibit of Lynch’s artwork in Reading, and I stuck my finger in the mouth of one of the Six Men Getting Sick. So, he was important to me. He still is. And his work still resonates with me like no one else’s really can. But I found myself thinking about him less and less as the years went on. Not out of any loss of love, but simply as a result of new obsessions filling that spot.
But I was still excited about Twin Peaks Season 3. Then I was worried. Then I swore up and down that I couldn’t care less about this new Lynch offering. And it was true, at the time. I was severely underwhelmed by Inland Empire, and still think it’s his weakest film. It falls under a heading I find myself more and more filing things away under, a failed experiment that it took a genius to make. It didn’t break any new ground. The shock of seeing that grainy, murky, consumer-grade production thrown up onto the Big Screen was only as interesting to me as it was years earlier when Jackass: The Movie opened. Or, going back even further, the weirdo features of late-period Godard or early Dogma 95. That is to say: not all that interesting. The saving grace, then as now, is that I believe Lynch came by it honestly. I think he was absolutely true to himself, or, maybe less generously, as a friend recently put it: “he was his own audience on that one.” If others were able to click onto its wavelength, great. But in no way do I think he gave a shit about communicating much to his audience with that one. So I needed something more than just diving into the muddy ocean of fishy ideas with a barely focused lens and bad lighting.
Twin Peaks Season 3, for better and for worse, is a huge leap forward on this particular brand of filmmaking. It’s in fact closer in spirit (not to mention outright visual language) to Eraserhead than anything else he’s done since then. It’s the early art-school bonkers-brained Lynch combined with the wacko narrative magic of something like Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive It has a story to tell, it doesn’t care if you can’t see the road ahead, but hopes you do, and is getting at something truly unsettling about human nature and what it’s like to live in the bleakest rooms and farthest-out headspaces our nightmares can conjure up for us.
Over the next few months, Moviejawn will present these episode recaps / reviews / analyses. We’ve screened the first four episodes available to stream from Showtime (a big Thank You to Andrew Crowley in Philly and Matt Hammitt in Asheville for their help with this!). These reviews will assume that the reader has seen ALL of TWIN PEAKS up to the latest episode. Which means: SPOILERS AHEAD.
With all that out of the way: Let’s Rock!
We begin Season 3 with the recently oft-quoted “I’ll see you again in 25 years” scene from the end of Season 2, itself a retcon of the European cut of the Pilot, which used the Bunuel-esque “25 Years Later” onscreen title to try to explain just what the fuck was up with the Red Room (later revealed to be the waiting room at the entrance to the White / Black Lodge). The Waiting Room definitely holds sway over these new batch of episodes. Indeed, much of the plot originates there, if you can believe it.
The Black Lodge is a place where evil lives, lurks, and is cultivated, as Ex-Special Agent Windom Earle put it at the end of the second season, “in exponential fashion.” What’s important to remember about the Black Lodge is that THE FBI IS FULLY AWARE OF ITS EXISTENCE. Please keep this in mind. The Air Force knows about it. The government knows about it. They are actively searching for it, monitoring it. They have microphones aimed at deep space and in the woods surrounding the town of Twin Peaks. They know what it is. They know, more or less, how to get there. In all likelihood, they know who lives there and what they are up to and why. Three main characters outside of Cooper have at least a passing knowledge of it (or know more than they are letting on). Major Briggs has been involved with Project Blue Book for years, tasked with deciphering “gibberish” to see if any clues about this phenomena can be gleaned. Deputy Hawk knows of the Lodges as part of his own peoples’ legends, and it’s he who first informs Cooper of how powerful these forces really are. Windom Earle, now presumably dead since having his soul taken by BOB after forcing his way into the Black Lodge in some kind of attempt at harnessing its power, if not an outright coup. So keep this in mind. This will all be important going forward.
The story proper begins in black and white, in a room somewhere in the vicinity of the Waiting Room / Lodge, as Cooper is instructed by The Giant to “Listen to the sounds.” Since we can guess that this story must kick off with Cooper finally making his exit from the Black Lodge and going after his doppelganger, who has gone completely rogue these last few decades using Cooper’s image as his new vessel, in this scene we see that Coop must first face this very Lynchian version of a Revelation Through Hearing. Sound has always been important to Lynch, and in fact he’s credited with Sound Design in the closing crawl of these episodes. In any piece of cinema, it’s important to listen to what we are told up front. So Coop listens. The Giant continues: “Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.” Coop responds, “I understand.”
What is it, exactly, that Coop understands?
Before we get too deep into this, let’s do a quick rundown of plot points, then we’ll double back and dig in deeper.
Here’s what’s going on:
Dr. Jacoby is living out in the woods, receiving shipments of shovels.
In New York, an anonymous billionaire is paying a student to sit and stare at a giant glass box.
The Horne brothers are supplementing their fortune with marijuana dispensaries.
A dying Log Lady is apparently giving Hawk instructions (“Something is missing, and you have to find it.”)
BOB’s Cooper avatar, or “Mr. C.”, is still out there running amok with an extra, bonus Cooper doppelganger in tow, in the form of Mr. Dougie Jones.
In South Dakota a woman’s head is found seemingly severed from someone else’s body, and a local high school principal is charged with the murder (of the woman, at least).
Meanwhile, the Giant sits playing a scratchy phonograph.
From here the seeds of the main “narrative” will take form and build into what has to be the strangest collection of images ever put on a major network.
First, the glass box. It’s a huge contraption, hooked up to tubing and wires and sensors. Cameras are set up at strategic angles. Every once in awhile an alarm goes off, and a student installed to keep watch over all this will get up, pull a memory card from a camera, place it in the vault assigned to that camera, and start the process over again.
How long has all this been going on? Who is the anonymous billionaire paying for all this? I have a few guesses. It’s possible we’ll never find out. It’s possible this story thread will fall away and we won’t see it again. But I sincerely doubt it.
My first guess is that Audrey Horne is somehow behind all this. Imagine an adult Audrey, never having forgotten her long-lost Special Agent. She rises up in the ranks of the Horne empire, maybe even hooking deeper into John Justice Wheeler’s many business ventures. She uses all her resources, tracks down Major Briggs (or uses Bobby for this purpose), and learns all she can about the system of Lodges and the occult murders that are taking place and decides to do something about it. Maybe she figures out that, just as there are Lodge entrances in Twin Peaks, there may be others (as we later see, there’s an apparent exit point situated above a long stretch of road in the Nevada desert). She identifies one in New York, gets the exact coordinates, and essentially places an armed guard around it. She puts a giant box in place. She gets some goofy fucking idiot to sit and watch it all day, to see if anything shows up. She’s either waiting for Cooper to finally appear or ready to interrogate whoever comes out (she likely has no idea what this could mean for her own well-being, since doing this turns out to be incredibly foolish, to say the least, and the eventual interview that’s conducted by Gordon and Albert goes… less than satisfactorily).
A problem with this idea is that, as we know, only “the gifted and the damned” are likely to have any communion with these weird spirits, and that the actual doorways in and out of the Lodge are more of a formality than anything else. We’ve seen all manner of creatures turn up at moments of their own choosing, whether in the Great Northern, the Roadhouse, or just out in everyday life, as MIKE and BOB seem to come and go as they please, and they can effectively operate through human dreams as well. The fact remains, something does appear in the box (or, more than one something, as we’ll soon see). And we learn in Episode 2 that the box does indeed connect indirectly to the Lodges. But everything seems to be up in the air at this time.
Another possibility is that the box is the handiwork of the doppelganger himself. He knows his time on Earth is running out and wants to make sure he has as many fingers in as many dams as possible to make sure nothing and no one forces him back home before he’s ready. And the box looking like something a Super Villain would come up with tracks with this as well.
Overall, though, the box is a direct link back to the opening scene of Fire Walk With Me. The box is another Lynchian metaphor: a giant tv set. A kid stares at the box all day, waiting to see if something interesting happens. And when something finally does happen, it’s absolutely the last thing he was expecting. So Lynch is using the box to prepare us for what’s to come in this new iteration of his most famous project. No more coffee. No more pie. This time, when we stare at the box, we are only going to receive horrors, aimed directly at us and unrelenting, that may even make us question why we wanted this in the first place. Our Twin Peaks was never Lynch’s Twin Peaks. He’s always said he had more to say about this town and these people, and that Mulholland Drive shares the same fictional universe / logical space as Twin Peaks. So it makes sense to do it this way.
So. What happens is this - the kids get killed in the most gruesome manner possible. After a friend drops by and they notice that the security guard who is normally stationed outside the door is gone, they go inside together. They start making out. The woman gets naked. She gets on top of him. And that’s when he notices that the box has become filled with black smoke. And out of the smoke comes a ghostly entity, snarling and screaming and, eventually, smashing its way out and straight towards them, ripping their faces and heads to shreds before disappearing as quickly as it came, leaving them as a pile of gore on the couch. This ghost even seems to have a human shape, a female body. We may want to hold onto this detail for later.
Now, Lynch has a long history of cinematic violence against women. It effectively turned Ebert against him for life after the critic felt more immediate sympathy for the battered Dorothy of Blue Velvet than for Lynch’s artistic intentions with the character and the overall piece. And while Lynch has always maintained a straight and narrow “this is not about women, it’s about THIS woman, and what happens to HER”... it still opens up a meta-narrative can of worms. It comes up again and again, Twin Peaks even launching the now way-too-common empathy trap of television narratives stemming from a dead female body. Lynch certainly didn’t invent this idea, but Twin Peaks, considered one of the first modern examples of major, purely artistic postmodern works of televisual art, gave an easy out for any TV writer to throw this plot point in as an “homage.” So easy, in fact, that most imitators probably have no idea why this is even a thing. It’s as common as laugh tracks used to be.
Going with Lynch on this and letting him off the hook aren’t the same thing, however. Because he actually does have something to say on this subject. He doesn’t question the big fish when he catches one, he simply reels it in. And to take the women he works with at their word, he’s as open and honest with them about his intentions with these depictions as he is stone-faced and silent when it comes to literally any other subject when it comes down to “what does it all mean”-type questions. Lynch is a surrealist, and surrealism is, at its core, about getting down to the business of presenting the subconscious to itself. Not to analyze, not to interpret, but to simply get it all down before it fades away, and to share these notions with other people. To build these worlds takes a certain kind of patience that other artists wouldn’t come close to bothering with. It simply isn’t all that fun. To create a piece of art with a complete and coherent through-line that simultaneously leaves the viewer scratching their head, but while also maybe recognizing themselves, is some pretty hard work. And with that comes depictions of sex, and even sexual violence. We are hardwired with these coordinates. It’s a part of our culture and always has been.
So, to me, Lynch is using these “narrative tricks” not to exploit or as off-hand easy outs to launching a story. He’s saying: Look at how fucking evil this all is. This is us. At our worst, we are possessed by these demons. Whether in physical reality or in our collective subconscious, we are the victims and arbiters of these crimes. WE do this. We fight to stop them, and we condone through inaction. But these evils exist. In Season 2, after Laura Palmer’s killer has been caught and BOB has been revealed, Cooper asks, “Is it easier to believe that a man would rape and murder his own daughter?” Well, yes. It is easier. It happens. But that’s not the story we’re telling. The story we tell ourselves is that “others” do this. Evil men commit these crimes. But not ME. Never ME.
Lynch’s response would seem to be, Yes. It’s you. It’s all of us. We are the evil men, and we are the ones who want our entertainment to be crowded with these evil men, and these images, and we want to be let off the hook at the same time. We want it to be a demon, some otherworldly entity, that drove the father to do these things. In this regard Lynch is edging very close to Haneke territory. But the fact that he introduces this question into the narrative at all is telling, as well. He’s essentially throwing it back in our face in this scene. He’s reminding us that this story is About Something.
And what it ends up being about is this: Laura Palmer won’t stay dead. Or, as Donna puts it in Season 1, “it’s like they didn’t bury you deep enough.”
This will, I think, end up being some kind of key to whole story. Laura, speaking to Cooper in the Waiting Room, says “I am dead, yet I live.” This is more than just some Black Lodge weirdness. Lynch and Frost only have eighteen hours to get through the rest of this story. They’re not gonna waste any of it on weirdness for its own sake. This is all going somewhere. And yes, it’s gonna get a lot weirder before it gets easier.
Now, to my point about Lynch and his intentions. The main thrust of it is that he’s telling a very specific story in a very specific manner. But it’s also completely possible that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And in fact I welcome arguments to this point, as it’s something I’ve thought a lot about but don’t have all the clearest of answers. Lynch is a tricky fella, and I’m oversimplifying for the sake of this not being the longest thing I’ve ever written. But I’m open to discussing this further.
The Laura stuff we’ll follow up on shortly, but for now let’s get back to the glass box. No matter who is behind it, it’s for now serving as the show’s and our entry point into the Lodge. Cooper must face the bardo to attain liberation. This syncs up perfectly, obviously, with his insistence throughout the series that Tibetan meditation and intuitive logistical practices are what have always guided his detective work. And just as he threw rocks in Season 1 to break glass bottles, now he must break one last enormous piece of glass. After being advised by various beings throughout the various incarnations of the Lodge, ranging from the familiar Red Waiting Room where he meets The Evolution of the Arm, to a pulsating Purple Room where he meets a blinded woman who leads him to The American Girl (the Lodge’s doppelganger of Ronette Pulaski), to finally a small space station where he meets the giant head of Major Briggs, he emerges back into the “real” world. At each step along the way he is made to “listen to the sounds” just as the Giant explained at the start. What does The Arm say? “I am the arm and I sound like this.” Again, this is Cooper’s Great Liberation Through Hearing, the Tibetan prayer cycle designed to guide the soul of the recently deceased through the “non-existence” of the immediate afterlife on their way to a deeper self-assessment and self-realization.
Hawk told Cooper about the Dweller on the Threshold. Coop must now find the Dweller, who will be his key to unlock his own path to freedom and back to the clear, focused certainty that he lived with prior to being swallowed up by the Black Lodge. Unfortunately for Coop, BOB had other ideas.
At some point in the past few decades, BOB, it seems, came up with a plan. Knowing he would at some point be summoned back to the Lodge, he knew that this would mean Cooper escaping and resuming his place in the world. BOB set up an alternate route. So we meet Dougie Jones, an exact physical copy of Cooper “manufactured” by the Lodge. The Dougie storyline, brief as it is, is maybe the most unsettling piece of narrative Lynch has yet come up with for this show. Dougie, it seems, has been happily living his life, married to Naomi Watts, with a young son, and a girlfriend on the side; he’s a schlub who seems to “have it all.” But when Cooper makes his final exit through an industrial vent and emerges back out into the world through an electrical socket in a wall of Dougie’s girlfriend’s house (“electricity” is a Lodge conduit, as referenced in Fire Walk With Me), Dougie’s life is effectively over. He’s absorbed back into the Lodge. He even wears the owl ring. When he meets MIKE in the Waiting Room and asks what’s going on, MIKE explains that Dougie was manufactured to serve a purpose and that purpose has now been fulfilled, at which point Dougie’s hand starts to shrink and the ring falls off. As Dougie notices this happen and says “That’s weird," he is literally extinguished into a puff of black smoke, snuffed out of existence.
This is another example of Tibetan philosophy creeping into the narrative. In The Matrix trilogy these figures are represented by the Agents, programs who are built into the system to make sure things are running smoothly. These are human-seeming figures who are custom-built to live a life, not make waves, and create obstacles for “real” humans as they live their lives. Dougie’s job, above all, was to serve as a situational roadblock for MIKE and The Arm, should they decide to call BOB’s original Coop doppelganger home. He serves his purpose and is destroyed, never knowing who or what he really was, full of the memories of a real person, a family who will miss him, and all the things that go with living a normal, non-supernaturally-created life. He’s simply gone. RIP Dougie. You seemed like a douche, but we barely got to know you. Better luck next time around the wheel, dork.
While all this is happening, the original doppelganger starts having a panic attack. He knows his time is up. He starts vomiting up decades worth of garmonbozia before swerving off the road and crashing his car into the side of a mountain. It’s absolutely fucking disgusting.
So. The box.
Cooper emerges into the box on his way to the final exit point via a fucking wall socket, and does so while the student and his guest are out in the hall talking about how he shouldn’t let her in, but since the guard seems to be taking a break, why not? What’s the worst that can happen? The worst immediately follows in the form of a face-devouring ghost, but the point we’re after here circles back to what the Log Lady told Hawk: something is missing. In this instance, it’s the student and his friend. They “miss” the big moment when Cooper enters the box, and are punished for their inattention. They miss the danger sign of the guard being gone and instead see it as an opportunity. Throughout this new season (so far), we will see this happen again and again.
Another example of this is the bonsai tree on the table next to the ghost’s victims. This is now code on Twin Peaks for surveillance, specifically for listening. The tree is never referenced in context of the scene, and is only seen briefly in wide shots, but it’s there. So, they “missed” this, too. They didn’t heed the Giant’s warning. Lynch is here reminding us to pay attention, that even in a scene set up as a classical horror trope of two young sexy kids getting mauled by a monster, the clues are everywhere, if we pay attention. If we listen.
Lynch has typically used eye / ear substitution in his work to demonstrate confusion or miscommunication or, in Blue Velvet, to emphasize a clearer version of communication, as in when Jeffrey, the voyeur who peeks through the blinds, confuses Frank by broadcasting a radio signal in order to ambush him, or the inverted ventriloquism of Ben lip-syncing along to Roy Orbison- “I close my eyes.” This shows up again and again in Lynch’s work. The Mystery Man of Lost Highway, who wields a video camera, introduces himself to several characters via phone calls (the last of these in the film being particularly important, when his eyes are covered in shadow). Eyes and ears are all over this thing, the most blatant and famous example being Lynch, the “all-seeing” auteur behind the camera, playing a nearly-deaf character onscreen as Gordon Cole. He even hammers this point over our goofy heads in the scene where his deaf character can suddenly hear when he is “blinded” by Shelly’s beauty in the RR Diner.
What this means is that the characters in the room with the glass box are so intent on looking, focusing on what they can see, that they don’t notice the coded visual of the bonsai tree sitting right next to them. The eye / ear imbalance in full effect. They are “missing” everything important. And what this Really Means is: we should probably be “watching” this new season with the best, most expensive headphones we can all get our grubby mitts on.
This brings us back around to Laura, and the Log Lady’s instructions to Hawk.
Back at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station, Hawk, Andy, and Lucy are poring over boxes full of evidence from the original Laura Palmer murder case. The first thing Hawk notices is that a chocolate bunny is missing. It’s a joke in the context of the scene (Lucy ate it), but it’s also Lynch winking realllly hard at us, as Hawk goes back and forth to himself out loud “Is it about the bunny? It’s not about the bunny…. IS IT about the bunny??” It was never about the bunny. It was never about the coffee, or the doughnuts, or the cherry pie. It was about the brutal, literally evil murder of the homecoming queen. The show and the overall arc of the story was never really about the funny, “quirky” elements, was always darker and more sinister in its meaning. And while, yes, coffee and doughnuts are as much a part of Lynch’s cinematic DNA as murder and mayhem and inhabiting spirits, he now wants us to pay closer attention to these darker elements while we’re listening to Michael Cera mumble to Robert Forster in a scene that went on for what felt like forty-five minutes. I hate Wally Brando. I have a lot to say about Wally Brando. But I’m getting ahead of myself with that one.
Hawk needs to find what’s missing. It could be anything at this point, but we do get a few clues. Cooper meets Leland in the Lodge, who tells him “Find my daughter” after Laura is mysteriously sucked up into the fabric of the Waiting Room itself, in an effect that is later mirrored as Cooper descends to Earth as he makes his way out of the Lodge. Again, Laura’s line: “I am dead yet I live.” And throughout the Sheriff’s Station scenes, as they’re digging through the old case file, we return to Laura Palmer’s homecoming queen photo, the image that launched the series and closed out all but two episodes of the original seasons. We know that Hawk has been specially chosen by Margaret to find what’s missing and that it has “something to do with” his heritage. The most obvious route for this storyline to take would be to have Hawk encounter the Waiting Room and we’ll finally get to see just how pure of heart he actually is. But for what purpose? Why send poor old Hawk into the Lodge?
To find Laura. More specifically, to find the real, alive, non-manufactured version of Laura who was abducted / rescued by the Lodge twenty-five years ago and replaced with an avatar to be murdered by BOB. The other inhabitants knew BOB was hogging all the creamed corn and, quite frankly, they were fucking pissed. There’s enough corn to go around BOB, stop being such a goddam idiot about it.
So we’re presented with two possibilities here based on evidence from the text of the show itself. In the first version, events of the first two seasons and Fire Walk With Me occurred in pretty much a straightforward manner. Laura lived, was murdered, and ascended to the White Lodge. In the other, Laura lives, is given the photo to hang on her wall by Mrs. Tremond, and enters the photo, serving as a doorway into the Waiting Room where she eventually meets Cooper and is granted entrance to the White Lodge by The Angel. She then spends the next decade and a half with the Tremonds (and MIKE and The Arm and the Giant). Her doppelganger is sent back out in her place. This theory also holds that several other characters living in Twin Peaks might have doppelgangers as well, using the trembling arms as codes for who might be useful to them now or in the future. Teresa Banks was one of these. So. I think Laura’s body might be missing.
This lines up also with the question of how exactly you depict present-day versions of dead characters played by actors now aged up twenty-five years. It’s a convenient plot contrivance just from a production standpoint alone. We also know that Mrs. Tremond and Her Magic Grandson were replaced by another woman shortly after meeting Donna, but had been known to Laura and might have gone by another name when living at the Fat Trout Trailer Park keeping tabs on Teresa, waiting to call her into the protective “arms” of the White Lodge as well. We know from trailers that Carl Rod will re-appear at some point. So there’s some more shit he’s gotta do now, too.
The one thing confusing this theory is that Cooper specifically tells Laura to not take the ring. So if the ring is meant to protect people rather than mark them as territory, why does MIKE flash the ring at Laura during the traffic jam? It seems very threatening in the moment, though that could also just be that MIKE was specifically chastising Leland for holding onto so much garmonbozia and not sharing with the rest of the class.
All of this is very interesting, and makes for compelling television. But a major production issue is plaguing the show and needs to be addressed.
What we know for sure is that Showtime originally ordered nine episodes then changed their minds and gave Lynch and Frost nine more just because (one assumes) they asked nicely.
What we also know is that Lynch & Frost then went ahead and turned in a 1,200 page script and said “here’s season three, where’s my fuckin’ money.” They had NO IDEA how to chop that script up and turn it into individual episodes, figuring (I guess?) that they’d just shoot the whole goddammer and then fix it in post. And while Lynch has *sort of* pulled this off before, he’s never once gone into a project with no idea what the finished product would look like. Even Dune was thrown in the garbage can and re-worked from scratch once he started assembling his crew and had to start making creative decisions. But back then, his career was riding on it. He’d had a midnight movie coronation with Eraserhead which led to Mel Brooks bankrolling The Elephant Man. But after that he turned down a chance to direct Return of the Jedi because he thought Dino De Laurentiis was gonna let him make Blue Velvet. But it came with some stipulations, chief among them being that he had to direct Dune first and he’d better not fuck it up. Now, a friend once told me that Dune was essentially Lynch’s only worthwhile film and that it was everything Star Wars wished it could be. While I hold that person’s opinion in an extremely high regard, I disagree with him here, but the point is that it’s a film that definitely connected with a certain audience. Certainly, it’s currently making the rounds of conversation (as it seems to do every few years) as being a sorely underrated film. Seeing the blu ray certainly changed my mind. The fact of the matter, though, is that back when Lynch’s entire career was riding on a piece of work he didn’t really, in his heart, give two shits about, he still went out and made one fucking hell of a movie.
But times have changed. Francis Coppola relates the story of how on the first Godfather, he was a nobody and the studio tried to push him around, even spread the rumor on set that he would be fired any day. When that film turned out to be a major commercial success, they changed their tune and he was free to do whatever he wanted with Part II. Then when it came time to make Part III, it was because he was broke and had to go back to the well and do what he was told and make a surefire hit. When he said “It’s not called Part III, it’s called The Death of Michael Corleone,” Paramount told him to go fuck himself and get back in his dumb Silverfish. He was back to being a hired hand.
Likewise, nobody knows quite what to do with Lynch right now, or at least they didn’t before two weeks ago. Showtime’s deal with Lynch / Frost productions is unprecedented. They were given complete creative control over the project and no one at the network was allowed to see even a single frame of the thing until trailers were released, and even then no one was allowed to see the finished product until its premiere at Cannes. Even now, only David Lynch, Mark Frost, and Kyle MacLachlan (and, let’s be real, Laura Dern) have any idea what’s in store for the rest of the season outside of the pieces any one person might have specifically been involved with, production-wise. If I was Matt Blank I’d have been shitting myself. But their faith in the team paid off. Certainly brand-name appeal helped.
But Lynch has nothing to lose right now. He’s free. Before, when he’d make the projects he wanted to make on his own terms with no interference, always in the back of his mind was the knowledge that this movie better make its money back. Hollywood (or France) might’ve given him the Genius Auteur Gold Card, but those things expire. It’s been over a decade since his last feature, and he’s spent the intervening years promoting the David Lynch Foundation and getting it into college kids’ heads that if they just meditate three times a day the earth will become lighter and we’ll all start floating and christ I don’t even know what. I respect the man. But what I want from him is the work. That’s all I ever signed up for.
So he’s at the point now in his career where even if this show doesn’t work, even if that 1,200 page script can’t hold itself together when cut and pasted back together into something resembling what we commonly think of as a cohesive narrative, it’s not really his problem, now, is it?
Wrapping up now, the first four episodes show the Lynch / Frost team at the top of their game. Taken as a whole, I can see why Showtime chose to release the first batch of four in the way they did. They work well as Act 1, dropping us off right at the moment when we can’t wait to see what happens next. Individually, they are harder to parse, but this isn’t business as usual. It’s intensely serialized, this new season, with the first three episodes ending on almost (narratively) random shots and scenes, with only the cuts back to the Roadhouse to signal that the episode is about to end.
Which brings us to the end of Episode 4 and my favorite bit of trickery this show has presented to us so far. After Cooper’s doppelganger is found on the side of the road following the car accident, he’s brought in for questioning by the FBI (the stench of the garmonbozia corn he vomited up sent the responding officer straight to the emergency room). Once his identity is seemingly confirmed, Gordon Cole is notified and he brings in Tamara Preston and Albert Rosenfield. As they speak with “Cooper” it becomes clear pretty much immediately that the owls are not what they seem, so to speak. Coop speaks in a slow, very deep voice. It’s chilling, to be honest. He tries his best to imitate Coop’s classic smile-and-thumbs-up to Cole, who responds in kind, but something has changed in him. He’s weak, probably from throwing up in the car. He can’t quite hold it together. And when he finally speaks, both senior agents recognize something very familiar about the way he speaks. “It’s very very good to see you again old friend” - this is what he attempts to get out, but his mind is going, reminiscent of HAL 9000 shutting down. He mispronounces something. More pointedly, he accidentally starts speaking in Black Lodge-speak, sounding out his words backwards. It comes out sounding like “It’s yrev-very good to see you again.” Cole responds “It’s very very good to see you as well.” The doppelganger doesn’t catch this, but we do. Closed-captioning the scene confirms this as well, and has Cooper as saying “It’s very good” while Cole says “It’s very very good.” This would be an odd response if we weren’t meant to pay attention to it. Like the Giant said, “Listen to the sounds.” Cole, discussing this with Albert later, refers to Cooper not “greeting me properly, if you catch my meaning.” And that leads us to a closing exchange between the two men that gives us one heck of a cliffhanger. They’re looking for someone. We don’t know who yet. I have a few guesses, but let’s wait and see on that one together.
A few extra thoughts / bits of info:
Dougie Jones lives “on Lancelot Court, around the corner from Merlin’s Market.” This is an obvious callback to Glastonbury Grove, and the circle of sycamore trees that lead into the Waiting Room, which Cooper identifies as “the legendary burial place of King Arthur.” Dougie’s house also has a red door, which matches up thematically with the red drapes at the entrance to the Black Lodge.
Dougie sees an owl when he gets out of the cab and has an owl cookie jar in the kitchen when he has the coffee freak-out. More coded surveillance imagery that Dougie misses (he does see the owl that flies overhead, but how much he’s actually consciously responding to is up for debate right now).
I’ve referenced The Giant throughout this piece, but the credits actually name Carel Struycken’s character as being “???????”
Dale is given two numbers to watch out for, 430 and 253. I’m still working on what 430 could refer to, and it’s a little interesting, but possibly not strictly relevant (yet?). For a start, though, the bible’s John 4:30 says “They came out of the town and made their way toward him.” So that part is definitely relevant, though Lynch so far hasn’t shown much need for biblical references for their own sake. I’ll give more thoughts on this number if my working theory on it turns out to make any sense. It’s kind of a mish-mash right now.
As for 253, in context, it’s the time of day that Cooper re-enters the Real World and the doppelganger has his car accident. It’s also an area code in Washington State, though not specifically to the area where Twin Peaks is set. 47 U.S. Code § 253 - Removal of barriers to entry states:
No State or local statute or regulation, or other State or local legal requirement, may prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide any interstate or intrastate telecommunications service.
So, that’s a little interesting, and relevant in context. We’ll see.
I didn’t really get a chance to talk about the Horne brothers, Dr. Jacoby, or that whole pesky murder scene. We don’t have a whole lot to go on with any of these plot threads yet, so let’s put these on the back burner and see what plays out. But quickly: the doppelganger was hired by the principal’s wife to commit the murders. That’s about all I got on that one. We don’t know why, we don’t know who that woman was, and I don’t care too terribly much about the relationship between Matthew Lillard and the detective, outside of the fact that he’s played by Brent Briscoe, the detective from Mulholland Drive who says “Could be somebody’s missing…”
And, on second thought, we’re not gonna talk about Wally Brando. In fact we’re not gonna talk about Wally Brando at all, we’re gonna keep him out of it.