So we’re eleven episodes in on Twin Peaks at this point, and holy crap. This week’s installment was sheer chaos, a fast-paced episode with so much happening that I could barely keep track of it all. Or at least, the first half of it was. Then things slowed down to the patient crawl to which we’ve become accustomed. That first half, though… Mah gawd. I’m not even sure where to begin.
But it’s not there.
So before I get to this week in specific, let me give a quick spoiler-free review of the series to date for anyone not watching. I had intended to do that this week, anyway, before episode 11 happened and blew my mind so hard. At this point, with seven episodes left in the season, I feel safe in saying that Twin Peaks: The Return is one of the finest things I’ve ever seen on television. It’s a supernatural thriller in which all your expectations for such things have been stripped out and replaced with something far more wonderful and strange. It’s also a cunningly-written send-up of the modern “quality drama” that manages to slowly… in its own weird way… say a few things about human nature.
There is better raw drama on television, I think. You won’t find the deep, nuanced characterizations of Mad Men here, for instance. But Twin Peaks is smarter and more mesmerizing. It’s sly and mysterious. Funny and terrifying. And the scripts are never less than razor-sharp. It’s also plenty weird, with all the absurdity and surreality you’d expect from a David Lynch production. This seems a bit like Lynch’s farewell tour, in fact. Actors, references, and visual cues are being drawn from his entire career, all the way back to Eraserhead and the short films he made in college. It’s a real tour de force from one of our greatest living directors, and you’re missing it at your loss.
Of course, that said… It’s not going to appeal to everybody. Lynch seldom does, and this is the Lynchiest Lynch ever. The tone lurches back and forth between crime drama, inexplicable horror, and broad farce. It’s purposefully slow, sometimes painfully so. Plot and character are developed by inches. But those inches add up, and by the middle of the season, you start to realize (sometimes with a start) how well-developed it all really is. It’s brilliant work, and seems tailor-made for my personal enjoyment. Of course, I’m a weirdo. So if you watch, and your mileage varies, well… You have been warned.
And now that the non-spoilery preliminaries are over…
HOLY SHIT HOW GOOD WAS THIS WEEK’S SHOW?! I still don’t know where to begin, but…
Alright, Sooty. We’ll start with you.
So, yeah. Events came to a head in South Dakota this week. Bill Hastings took our intrepid FBI folk to Major Briggs’ secret hibernation spot, and we found that it was overrun with Black Woodsmen! Some great visual effects here, what with the sky turning into a swirling vortex, and the electric shimmer of Gordon’s near-crossover into the Zone. Super-exciting stuff, and far more… direct? …than I ever expected the show to be about its supernatural side. But the real kicker is this detail dug out of the scene by smarter interweb detectives than myself:
Look down at the bottom there, in-between the first and second Woodsmen (Coonskin and Ear-Flap, I calls ’em). See that sort of floral pattern on the wall behind them? Remind you of anything?
That’s the room from the painting Mrs. Tremond gives Laura Palmer in Fire Walk With Me. We never learn the exact nature of the room, but both Laura and Mrs. Tremond go there in the film, and Mrs. Tremond seems to have been a White Lodge spirit (perhaps the familiar to her “grandson” the magician). That impression that this is a place of the White Lodge is backed up by Major Briggs’ having been there. But now the Woodsmen have overrun it, presumably following Bill and Ruth in. And that, to me, is a callback to what the Giant told Cooper in the very first scene of the season. After playing a strange insectoid scratching sound on a gramophone, the Giant says…
And since the Woodsmen have been linked, however peripherally, to the White Sands nuclear test, and the birth of that weird frog-bug thing, which is in turn connected to the entity vomited them up, which may be the same “Experiment” entity that broke out of the Glass Box, and which some speculate is the same creature as the unseen “Mother” from episode three…
…it’s starting to look like the Giant was telling Cooper that something bad has invaded the White Lodge itself. Are we looking at an attempt by the Black Lodge to overcome the White? Some crazed scheme for the ultimate garmonbozia harvest? Or even just the metaphysical mirroring of whatever sickness and evil is overtaking Twin Peaks?
Because that seems to have exploded in this episode, as well. I mean, it’s not just me, right? It looks like everybody under 40 in that town is seriously messed up. We’ve got Richard with his insane mean streak, Becky and Stephen with their Sparkle habit and violent relationship, Deputy Chad (FUCK YOU, CHAD!) on the take, that posturing bad ass kid who shot up the Double R… And holy god, that little girl with the zombie spew coming out of her mouth!
What the hell’s going on there?!
I hesitate to go off into fan theory like this, especially since it just occurred to me, and I haven’t had time to really think it through, but… Did Cooper’s failure in the Black Lodge unleash something on the town? Did Laura escape whatever evil plans BOB had for her, only for something worse to get loose and infect the youth of Twin Peaks with a more bottomless evil than what the town faced 25 years ago? Is this that thing Hawk says we don’t want to know about?
That is, of course, the symbol from Evil Coop’s playing card earlier in the season, and a symbol found on Major Briggs’ map. We don’t know what it means yet, but it can’t be good. Of more interest in this scene, though, might just be Hawk’s explanation of the symbols. Fire as a symbol for something like “modern-day electricity.” Black corn as a symbol for something diseased or unnatural. Black fire…
…indicating power exercised with evil intent. It’s a big sucker, too. Almost as big as that black tipi beside it, which I have to wonder about. Is that the Black Lodge? Is the map telling us that the Black Lodge is planning something big? As big as the Lodge itself? Hmm.
How awesome is it that Hawk has a magic map, by the way? Where’d he get that thing? Did he step into Glastonbury Grove when he went out there at the beginning of the season, and come out with it? Or is it just something he had lying around? Because, you know, that’s just the kinda thing you keep around the house when your name is Hawk?
Anyway. The Log Lady tells him there’s fire where they’re going, so I can’t imagine the trip out to Jackrabbit’s Palace is going to be a pleasant nature hike. Maybe they’ll find Red out there, mixing up a batch of Sparkle to destroy the youth of the city with. Or maybe Dr. Amp and his golden shit shovels. Or at least poor ol’ Jerry Horne, and Not Jerry’s Foot.
But now I’m rambling. So let’s move on.
The mystery of Diane continued this week, too, and I’m starting to really wonder what she’s up to. For whatever reason, I don’t think she’s actually in cahoots with Evil Coop, in spite of the text messages they’ve exchanged. Or if she is, I think she’s more of a dupe than an evil cohort. I keep coming back to what Evil Coop told Gordon when they spoke in the South Dakota jail. He said that he’d been working undercover with Phillip Jeffries, and that he needed to be debriefed. At the time, I wrote that off as something he made up on the spur of the moment.
But now, I’m not so sure. Near as we can tell, he actually had been working with Jeffries, after all. And we have no idea what he’s up to, other than scheming to not go back into the Lodge now that Cooper’s out. But there’s more to it than that. Because he also wants the coordinates that Bill Hastings’ secretary had. But were those the same coordinates that Ruth had written on her arm? Or something else? And why does he want them? Is he part of this scheme to overrun the White Lodge (if such a scheme exists), or is he trying to fight it? Is he playing both sides against the middle?
And is he playing Diane, too? She’s definitely gathering information, and her mixture of disinterest and cold fascination upon seeing the Woodsman that killed Hastings doesn’t look good. But something’s just making me wonder if she thinks she’s doing all this for a different cause than it appears. Time will tell.
And I suppose I should shut up now. I could go on about this week’s Vegas sequence, how difficult it was to process the abrupt down-shifting it represented in the pacing, and how I came to see that as kind of a brilliant choice on a re-watch. Or about how the opening scene with the young boys finding Miriam, crawling bloody to the road, mirrors something that happened to Lynch in real life when he was a child. But I’ve already said pretty much everything I’ve got there, so…
That’s all for now. Looks like it’s gonna be a wild ride to the conclusion, though. Can’t wait.