by Francis Friel, The Projectionist
“Through the darkness of future’s past, the magician longs to see
One chants out between two worlds: Fire walk with me.”
“This is the water and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”
As much as it’s been said that Part 8 was Lynch’s “Fuck you” to critics or anyone attempting to describe or break down just what exactly went on during this episode, the truth is that it’s actually pretty straightforward. Only a few things really “happen” on screen, and all of them are directly tied to existing Twin Peaks mythology and Lynch’s own obsessions stretching all the way back to his childhood.
Lynch was born on January 20, 1946, six months after the Trinity test that took place in the New Mexico desert. He grew up in the age of Victory, in a United States of picket fences and waving firemen and cherry pie and damn fine cups of coffee. But that age came at the cost of incinerated human bodies, wiped from the map by nuclear holocaust. Lynch has always described his childhood as nothing less than idyllic, a happy child in a happy home with happy parents in their happy neighborhood, but he knew that the tree in the front yard oozed a black pitch once in a while, attracting the ants. So already, even as a small boy, he was seeing the deeper and darker hidden world that surrounded him, moving through time like an enormous wave.
Growing up, he would feel this much more clearly, pointing back at himself and his own life and manifesting as blurred images on canvas and stark, horrifying visions on screen. A young child’s dream inspired The Alphabet; the birth of his daughter and subsequent fear of fatherhood brought about Eraserhead. Dark and troubling stories, sure, but nothing compared to the sheer outlandish terror he’d inflict on audiences with his more mainstream ventures, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks.
Blue Velvet is boring as fuck. Maybe the most pointless thing Lynch ever put into the world. If you think you can convince me otherwise: STAND DOWN. Many have tried. It’s a workable first draft of a great idea, one he eventually refined later. He should’ve given that script to John Waters. Imagine that movie with the soft lighting of Polyester and you’re closer to what that movie should’ve been. So let’s focus on Twin Peaks. That’s why we’re here after all.
The Return: Part 8 is about as close to a Rosetta stone to Lynch’s process as we’re likely to get. From unspeakable evil bursting forth during an atomic detonation to beauty and majesty echoing through a movie theater and all points in between, we get a near complete worldview packed into 59 minutes. And we get the most concrete, specific answers to some long-standing Black Lodge narrative questions we didn’t even know we needed the answers to, presented in the most surreal and abstract way possible.
First, let’s break down that poem. It’s essentially a companion piece to “fire walk with me” and offers up a pretty bleak outlook for where we are in the series and the story as a whole. Here’s my take.
“This is the water” is a statement on life and the world itself, the third and fourth dimensions we move through everyday, wading through time and space. We live it, we breath it. It’s the Matrix, essentially, that binds us to our lives. “This is the well” indicates that, while we think we are the masters of this realm, we are actually stuck here. Down at the bottom, looking up for answers, having no idea about how vast and infinite our universe really is. We are being looked down upon by these Woodsmen, who seem to have absolutely no pity for our plight. “Drink full and descend.” A possible reference to BOB-like possessions here, this line speaks to our potential for evil and dark works, that to live too fully in the world is to give in to its limitless temptations and corruptions. To be fully hooked in, never questioning our place in the world, only observing from the point of view of humanity as ultimate conqueror. This leads to complacency, which leads to weakness, which allows inhabiting spirits to take hold and guide us. The Woodsmen in this scene seem to be doing some very elaborate work of making sure everyone in the vicinity is lulled into a stupor so they can do what needs to be done, which indeed involves some form of possession or control by the Frog Moth. I assume what we see on screen may not be a single isolated incident, since why would they need to only knock out a mechanic, a server in a diner, etc. just to get ahold of one teenage girl? No, I think more is going on here, possibly on a large scale. Not to mention how easy it must have been for them, considering all the garmonbozia flowing through the Earth at this point in time following the atomic bombs dropping and the Cold War on its way.
“The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within,” this is an easy one. The eyes being the windows to the soul (which has been cited already on this show), here Lynch is straight up telling us that these souls are corrupted already. We are full of the darkness. If only there was some opposing force working the other side of coin (so to speak).
Here’s where we finally get our first really good look at the White Lodge. Dido and the Fireman observe what has happened to the Earth and respond quickly, creating a golden orb with the face of Laura Palmer, presumably to counter the BOB energy that is now loose on our planet.
In addition to all this, we get some forward plot momentum on the Doppelganger / Ray storyline. Ray attempts to double-cross Mr. C., who proves not so easy to kill. But what does happen is that the Woodsmen appear in the present day, manifesting from the trees to feast on the garmonbozia and harvest BOB from Mr. C.’s body. Ray, who sees all of this and is duly horrified, nonetheless seems to have at least a vague sort of understanding of what’s happening. He alerts Phillip Jeffries (or whoever is impersonating Jeffries) and says he may have figured out “the key” to what’s happening. Up until now, it’s been unclear just how much the Doppelganger’s associates knew about who he really was, but now we’re getting confirmation that others in his crew may have been on the up and up and are in, if not full knowledge, some level of clarity as to what all this is about. And when Mr. C. wakes up, he’s without BOB. I have a theory about what comes next, but I’ll save that for next time.
Now, this business of Laura Palmer being an actual manufactured entity originating in the White Lodge is something I had guessed at earlier (I wrote briefly about it in my first Season 3 review), but I never could’ve guessed how specific this would become. It could be that there is an energy form that is taking the shape of Laura Palmer for the purposes of this new problem the Lodge is trying to combat. It could be that she, herself, as Laura, is a being on Earth whose energy was absorbed by the Lodge and can now be freely distributed across our timeline at will, as needed. It could be any number of things. But what we know for sure is that Laura saw The Angel as she sat in the Waiting Room, and no one else has been granted that particular vision besides Cooper himself, who joined her as she watched The Angel pulse with electricity and vibrate through the room. This is turning out to be a huge piece of the puzzle that, again, we didn’t even know was missing.
We also get our first proper look at the infamous Convenience Store. I’ve seen some annoyed (and annoying) arguing online about how this can’t be “the” convenience store because MIKE mentioned that they lived above it, but the store we see in Part 8 only has one story. Friends, the first time we saw someone actually enter the Waiting Room, it was through red curtains that materialized in the middle of the freaking woods. So don’t give me this “there’s no second floor” business. We’re talking about interdimensional beings, here. They do whatever the fuck they want. That should be obvious by now. And also: why would we see a store that literally says “Convenience” on it if that wasn’t the actual place we’ve heard so much about? This is a loaded word in Twin Peaks lore. It’s not an accident or a coincidence. As Cooper once said, “When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object in inquiry, we must always pay strict attention.”
Last time, I talked about George Lucas and all the ways he took a beloved pop cultural touchstones and burned it to ashes. He always said he made the prequels at the time he did because technology had finally caught up to what he had in his head. With Lynch, we are getting another version of that, but the thing that always holds Lynch back is not technology, but time. With eighteen hours to tell this part of the story, we are getting all the details that a network series would never have allowed. The closest parallel to this in recent memory is Lost, which weaved the ever-more-elaborate tale of just exactly why John Locke was “special” through several seasons, finally landing on a pretty bleak explanation involving a simple misunderstanding by way of a standard sci-fi plot contrivance. John’s ultimate fate (fates?) grew more heartbreaking with the knowledge that he might’ve simply been a pawn in a larger game, used by powerful beings he had no knowledge of to advance an agenda he never even knew existed. I don’t think Lynch is going down this road, but the similarities are certainly there. Certainly Jacob in white clothes fighting the Man in Black sticks to the White Lodge / Black Lodge format, as well as just every other classic good vs. evil tale since the beginning of time. But to now make both BOB and Laura even more important than they were before (and they were always pretty damn important) is a huge gamble, I’d say. Before, Laura herself was more or less a way to get Cooper to Twin Peaks and get the plot moving. Now, we are seeing evidence that this goes back a lot further than that. It’s even possible that Cooper being in the White Lodge (as we saw in the opening scene of this new season) was what made the Lodge inhabitants create Laura in the first place (since the flow of time is “slippery” in there, as Lynch has said). And it lines up perfectly with just why exactly Lynch would’ve chosen to make Fire Walk With Me all about Laura, a character who we previously knew next to nothing about (at least from her own perspective). She was always more important than we knew. Added to that, the shot of Laura pulling her face off to reveal a beam of white light is now starting to make a little more sense.
All of this is to say that what we have now is a deepening of the larger narrative. We are getting answers. But as with always where Lynch and Frost are concerned, the answers don’t dispel the mystery. We still have a long way to go.
The payoff to this very elaborate Tibetan Revelation Through Seeing is that we return immediately to Twin Peaks itself, and start getting to the root of the Earthly plot of the series.
While mostly a recap / catch-up episode, we see many of the characters on the FBI end of things finally getting briefed on quite a bit of information, most of which we, the audience, have known for weeks now. But what this accomplishes is getting confirmation that things are pretty fucked-up, even with Albert and Gordon having years of prior knowledge of a lot of this Blue Rose business. They get to see The Major’s body (still minus the head) and work through what they can sort of piece together based on that. They learn about Dougie’s wedding ring. They know that Cooper had contact with The Major twenty-five years ago, when Briggs would’ve been in his late 40s (as his body still appears to be). They have facts. They have answers. But again, it only leads to more questions.
Major Briggs is starting to finally come into focus for us. His relationship with his son, Bobby, was always complicated and defined by a bond that was based largely in the father’s almost otherworldly sense of where his son’s life would lead him. The “two Coopers” issue here (COOPER / COOPER) is another element that takes on a new form in this hour, as Bobby, Frank, and Hawk dive straight into the heart of darkness, deciphering clues left behind by The Major years ago that will lead them to a set of coordinates (related to The Search For The Zone) to finally arrive at Jack Rabbit’s Palace, a “make believe” place where Bobby would play as a child. Briggs’ awareness of who his son would one day become is all making sense, leading everyone back to a place where they’ll need to be the purest versions of themselves. Why else would you stage your Third Revelation in the Land of Make-Believe? Sounds familiar.
We also finally come back to Bill Hastings and what he’s been up to. In his interview with Preston (Fuck you, Tammy) he reveals that he’s been writing a blog about all manner of strange phenomena and conspiracy theories, in particular, searching for what he calls The Zone. he claims to have met The Major there, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that The Black Lodge has spread its influence and is attempting to gain some greater foothold in our reality. This probably is largely to do with their now-frantic search for the original Doppelganger, who is still MIA as far as they’re concerned (not to worry, he just got a new gun from Tim Roth, so all is well). So: Hastings is pretty well fucked at this point, and I won’t be surprised if some Woodsmen show up in his cell in the next episode to cram their fingers in his brain for spilling the beans (not to mention the corn) on what’s been going on with the Major. See ya, sucker.
It’s all adding up. We’re now halfway through the season and it’s time for the pieces to start falling into place. I have a feeling that as we (along with the characters) start to come to terms with just how dark and ancient this story really is, we’re going to see the real reasons why Lynch has been dying to get this final chapter out into the world for so long. And more and more, I’m not thinking we’re gonna get a happy ending.