by Benjamín Harguindey
A weekly review of Twin Peaks, the 2017 revival of the 1990 cult classic. Created, produced and written by Mark Frost and David Lynch. Directed by David Lynch. Spoilers.
Fresh out of prison, Ray (George Griffith) promptly outwits Cooper’s doppelgänger (Kyle MacLachlan) and shoots him multiple times, which in turn summons a group of ghostly woodsmen (like the ones that have been turning up at the Buckhorn police station) who promptly ravage the body. Leaving him for dead in the South Dakota desert, Ray flees and reports back to the mysterious puppet master Phillip Jeffries – still unseen, unheard and to date one of the show’s biggest ciphers.
Cut to the Twin Peaks Roadhouse, where Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails play “She’s Gone Away“. Because the gig has been moved up early on as opposed to ushering the episode’s curtain call, one might suspect it will be of special relevance to the plot. Nothing really happens during the performance – the band plays for five uncut minutes – but the lyrics might be telling of what follows in the episode. Specially the lines “Spread the infection, where you spill your seed” and “A little mouth opened up inside /
Yeah, I was watching on the day she died“.
Evil Coop suddenly wakes up, and then the rest of the episode happens: over forty minutes of mostly silent, surreal imagery that recalls Lynch’s early phantasmagorias in which he blended animation, stop-motion and live-action. It’s as disconcerting as the show or indeed the Twin Peaks universe has ever gotten, though in summary it might very well be illustrating an age-old concern of the artist, which is the birth of evil.
First in line is a flashback to July 16 1945, White Sands, New Mexico: the stage for ‘Trinity’, the first detonation of a nuclear bomb. The blast is rendered in a haunting black and white tableaux to the sound of “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima“- strident, awesome and macabre. The camera slowly zooms into the mushroom cloud, and once within we’re treated to a kaleidoscope of multicolored seizures akin to the psychedelic trip at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Next we see a rickety convenience store, helpfully labeled as such, which may be the infamous place mentioned by Mike (Al Strobel) in season one, episode two (“We lived among the people. I think you say, convenience store“) and again in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) by Jeffries, when recounting his Black Lodge visit (“It was above a convenience store“). If you look close you can even see through the windows cans of what might be creamed corn – the show’s visual shorthand for garmonbozia, or the “pain and sorrow” on which the Black Lodge inhabitants feed.
Fuming and bathed in Lynch’s trademark short bursts of lightning, the store is populated by the previously mentioned ghostly woodsmen, their faces coated in black filth. Next is a shot of the monstrous creature spawned from the glass box, dubbed Experiment (Erica Eynon). Floating in a void, it vomits a jet of liquid, birthing a batch of mottled eggs as well as a sphere bearing the image of BOB (Frank Silva).
Now we’re in a theater, which sits atop a massive rock in the middle of the purple sea previously visited by Cooper. The theater is an expressionistic mess of shadows and sharp angles, scored with a melody reminiscent of Brian Eno’s soundtrack for Dune (1984). Dune is the last of Lynch’s films you’d expect to feature in any shape or form in Twin Peaks, but here we are in a fantasy landscape inhabited by one Dido (Joy Nash), who dresses like sci-fi royalty and regards Earth from what appears to be outer space.
Also with her is a familiar face played by Carel Struycken (the erstwhile ‘Giant’, now credited as ???????). He reviews BOB’s birth on the big screen, levitates and then conjures a golden orb bearing the face of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), which is then picked up by Dido and sent to Earth. Is that Laura’s soul? Was she spawned in answer to BOB ?
What follows is highly suggestive of a ’50s B-horror movie embedded in Atom Age dread. It’s August 5, 1956: one of the Experiment’s eggs hatches in the middle of the New Mexico desert, begetting a bizarre hybrid that looks part locust, part toad. In the next scene, a couple driving down the highway at night are suddenly stopped by a group of ghostly, zombie-like lumberjacks and accosted by the Woodsman (played by Abraham Lincoln lookalike Robert Broski), who asks them: “Got a light?“. Meanwhile a bashful boy and girl are seen returning home from a first date.
The Woodsman then stumbles into town and into a radio station, where he brutally murders the receptionist and the DJ, crushing their skulls single-handed. He tthen takes the mic and broadcasts the following chant: “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within“. Little by little, the residents of the town fall asleep – most of them quite literally.
Finally we cut back to that locust/toad creature, which has managed to drag its wet belly across the New Mexico desert and into town. This creature is as disgusting in concept as it is in its motion, carrying its weight like a malformation of nature. It manages to fly through a window and into the room of a sleeping girl (seen previously getting back from a date), then proceeds to slowly crawl into her open mouth. Cue credits.
This is the show’s biggest surrealistic aside, if you dare think of these increasingly lengthy, trippy fugues as being “aside” the show. There’s no immediate or obvious connection to any of the multiple characters and storylines established in any of the Twin Peaks canon other than some references to the series’ iconic mythology: the convenience store, the Giant and the dual symbology of BOB and Laura.
The episode mostly resembles Lynch’s early work, up to and including Eraserhead (1977). But no matter why we’re being shown these specific sequences of images, the theme at hand seems to be birth of evil: the creation of the atom bomb, the creation of BOB, of a new species, of a new evil capable of sweeping mankind overnight. But also the creation of something beautiful and essentially good, which we see in that most enthralling, majestic sequence involving the golden orb. Depending on how you read the scene, Laura Palmer has gone from being a tragically dead girl and transcended into the divine paragon of righteousness as foretold by entities not of this world.
There’s plenty of time for theorizing, since the show goes on a two week hiatus and we’re only getting the ninth episode on July 9th. Then the show will be tragically halfway over. Take these two weeks to consider how wonderful it is that we get to experience Twin Peaks not as a part of history but as history in the making – in real time, at its own pace, and with its secrets intact.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).