The most perplexing hour TV’s ever known.
After last week’s episode, which most folks I’ve talked with have said was the best of the season, the ball finally seems to be rolling in regards to plot: Diane has confirmed for Cole what we all already knew – that Coop in the South Dakota prison isn’t the Coop they know and love, he’s someone far, far more dangerous and depraved – but what they don’t know is that whoever he is, he’s no longer in prison, he blackmailed his way out and has hit the road with Ray, the only living criminal of the original trio with whom we first met bad Coop. And there’s still the lurking threat of “Richard and Linda,” as well as the Chinese designer drug issue involving Red, Richard, and Shelly’s daughter Becky and her husband Steven. With only 11 chapters to go, it’s seems natural to expect these plotlines will soon begin converging, and this episode, well, I won’t say things converged, necessarily, but they definitely went interesting places. Quite frankly, this was the most daring, adventurous, and strangest hour of television I’ve ever seen, and I loved every second of it. Let’s get into it.
Things start off on the road with bad Coop and Ray. Coop discovers there are a trio of tracking devices on the car, which was provided by the warden, and somehow reprograms them via his cell phone to track a semi. Lynchian technology is like Lynchian furniture: it’s super-cool but super-improbable. Ray wants to know where Darla is, Darla being the redhead bad Coop murdered in the pilot. Instead of telling Ray he killed her, though, bad Coop tells him she’s elsewhere waiting for a call. Ray buys this. Coop assumes Ray probably wants to go “to the place they call The Farm.” Ray does indeed. What Coop wants is the info he asked Ray for back in the pilot. Ray has it memorized, it’s a series of numbers, but tries to leverage a little extra cash for it. Coop directs him off the highway. They end up on a dark, dirt road. Ray pulls over to take a piss. Coop grabs a gun from the glovebox and tries again to get that info, but Ray anticipated this double-cross and took the bullets from the glovebox gun. Ray’s own gun, however, is loaded just fine. He puts two in bad Coop’s chest.
And then the surreality begins. Strap in, kids.
A blue light starts flashing – like the kind that used to accompany the arrival of BOB – and from the woods emerge a bevy of the charred men, the figures I’ve been calling the Woodsmen since episode one, and indeed Woodsmen they are, noted at last in the end credits. A side-note here to say, yes, the Woodsmen aesthetically resemble the hobo behind Winkie’s in Mulholland Drive more than they do the Woodsmen we saw in Fire Walk With Me; a connection? You know how I feel. Anyway, these particular Woodsmen here are transparent and flickering in and out of sight like ghosts. They circle bad Coop, some dancing around him, some digging in his wounds. Ray can only watch, terrified and stupefied. There’s some kind of blob-like growth on Coop when the Woodsmen are done smearing him with blood, and in that blob is a face we’ve yet to see this season, but a face we’ve all been waiting for: BOB. It’s like he’s oozing out of bad Coop. In the midst of all this supernatural chaos, Ray gets into the car and books it outta there. The Woodsmen ghosts remain. They dance, they swarm, they dissolve. The blue light flickers.
As Ray speeds away, he calls, “Phillip” – are we to assume Jeffries? Probably – and tells him he thinks Coop is dead, and what’s more he saw something in him, the BOB bubble, that he thinks is “what this is all about.” No shit, Ray, welcome to Twin Peaks.
Then without warning we’re at a Nine Inch Nails concert at The Road House. Fuck to the YES. Man, this small-town bar has gotten rad since the Julee Cruise days. I won’t get into the logic of a venue this size booking a band this big, I’ll just say Trent, if you’re reading, big fan, and I live in rural Washington, too. We got a spot or two for you guys to play, call me.
Next up, we’re back with the body of bad Coop. He bolts up “alive” like Trent Reznor delivered him from the grave. And cut to black.
Then something really unexpected happens, even by Twin Peaks’ standards: we cut not just in place, but in time. At this particular moment, I spilt my beer by jumping out of my seat. We’re in White Sands, New Mexico, at 5:29 am on July 16th, 1945, the exact date, time, and location of the Trinity nuclear test. It’s a horrifying moment but a beautiful fucking shot by Peter Deming, series cinematographer, whose work throughout season three has been breathtaking, but here he takes the cake. And the music: this whole sequence and many to come sound like the starchild birth scene at the end of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyseey, that same kind of overwhelming and macabre score. The camera moves into the nuclear cloud and it’s as chaotic as you’d imagine. Molecules fly around like insects in a black expanse. Fire imagery, water imagery. A maelstrom on an atomic level. We’re falling though flames all colors, orange, red, green, purple, blue, and then from within the churning smoke a light, several lights, come on like beacons. It’s like we’re ground zero for The Big Bang. Lightning ignites the atmosphere, all is a conflagration. I feel like I’m falling into Hell. The fire goes back-and-white. And suddenly we’re at a gas station. Smoke flickers like electricity behind the pumps, the whole scene feels like one of Fellini’s nightmares. Lights flash inside the station. Bulbs on the pumps come on. Then the Woodsmen are back, strobing about the scene. My wife asks “What does this have to do with anything?” I don’t answer, I don’t have an answer. We’re both transfixed. Then the Woodsmen are gone. No, not gone, they’re inside the station, the convenience store. And then it hits me like a Mack truck carrying three tons of timber: they’re in a convenience store, as in “the room above a convenience store,” where BOB and MIKE lived while they were killing, and where Phillip Jeffries told Cole, Coop and Albert in Fire Walk With Me “they” held their meetings, “they” being the residents of The Black Lodge, including the Woodsmen. I think I might have peed myself a little at this point. Then the screen goes dark.
Then, as if all this wasn’t enough, Box Monster is back, that featureless, gray-fleshed humanoid we saw killing the box watcher and his lady back in the pilot. It’s floating in black space and regurgitating a long strand of mucus or something, out of which a black bubble – no, an egg – separates and floats away. In it is BOB. Holy shit, you guys, I think we’re watching BOB being (re)born. We move into the mucus and suddenly it turns fiery. We’re falling through it, and out of the chaos drifts an amorphous gold, reflective orb, like what Dougie Jones turned into when he went to The Black Lodge in episode three. Then we’re inside the orb, and this is where visually, shit really gets 2001. We’re going somewhere incredible and dangerous, floating past pink stars then over a purple ocean, like the ocean good Coop saw from that strange tower/cube with the eyeless woman inside. And that’s where it looks like we end up, or some other modern abode on a pillar of rock in the middle of an ephemeral ocean. I don’t know, there could be a bunch of them. Wherever and whatever it is, we move inside this, too.
If you’re a Dante fan, you’re counting right now: 1) nuclear cloud, 2) convenience store, 3) Box Monster in space, 4) mucus projection, 5) purple ocean, 6) pillar house. One more and we’ve reached the lowest, darkest circle of Hell.
For the moment, we’re back in the black-and-white,old-school ornate room where we first saw good Coop in the opening moments of the pilot. There’s a big bell in the center of the space – like the one on top of the cube the eyeless woman showed good Coop in episode three – and a woman we’ve yet to see in a glittery dress sitting on a couch. The bell starts blinking/bonging, and out walks the Giant. This is his realm/room in The White Lodge, I’m assuming. He inspects the bell and presses a button that stops the alarm. He looks at the woman on the couch, then walks out of view behind the bell.
Next we see him, the Giant is on a staircase walking towards a set of double doors with light emanating from behind them. He rounds a corner past these, though, and emerges in a great hallway, a theater space without seats, it seems. This leads him to a stage where a screen and another bell are waiting. I for one am getting major Mulholland-Drive, Club-Silencio vibes here (which is also a real club Lynch owns in Paris, and a shooting location for this season). The Giant waves the screen to life and clips flicker onto it, the nuclear bomb explosion, then the Woodsmen at the convenience store, then the box monster and its egg-spewing mucus-strand. This last bit the Giant is interested in. He freezes the screen on the egg holding BOB. Then he moves to center stage and levitates. Meanwhile a spotlight is tracking the woman from the couch as she makes her way towards the stage. There hasn’t been dialogue since before the NIN concert, and there won’t be any more for the rest of the episode. The woman climbs onto stage. A light has started flickering from the Giant’s head. She is transfixed by it. So am I. Sparks fly from his brow like fireworks. This is so fucking gorgeous I think I’m tearing up. The sparks form a galaxy, and from it drifts another gold orb, this one perfectly circular. It moves to the woman, she takes it and peers inside. There we see the floating face of Laura Palmer from her prom photo. The couch-woman kisses the orb, Laura, and lets it drift upwards into a floating horn that swallows it like a note in reverse, then spits it out the other end like a drop of water over an image of planet Earth on a screen. The orb transitions into the screen. Then everything goes dark.
And a title card tells us we’re back in 1945. I had to pause here just to catch my breath, and by “catch my breath” I mean “chug the rest of my beer and grab another,” because I think I know what’s happening, and I think it’s freaking my mind.
But wait, we’re not in 1945, the title card rolls ahead to 1956, August 5th specifically, but still in the New Mexican desert. There’s an egg in the sand. The BOB egg, it could be, but I don’t think so, I think it’s the other orb, the Laura orb. And it’s hatching. Out of it seeps a mucus-covered form, a bug, a beetle, a frog? Whatever it is it’s growing every second. And it has wings, which it uses to drag itself from its shell. Next, we see the convenience store again, and a young couple walking away from it. The girl finds a penny on the ground, heads up. Good luck, or so it’s supposed to mean.
In the desert a figure, a man this time, drifts to earth like a shadow turned solid. He walks through space, we don’t quite see who he is.
On the road now. We’re in a car but we don’t know who’s driving. Whoever they are, they stop when they encounter a man in the road, our drifting-shadow-man, a Woodsman in flannel with an unlit cigarette dangling from his sooty lips. He asks the couple for a light. Over and over, like an incantation. Electricity crackles every time he does. Other Woodsmen approach the car, which we see now is driven by an ordinary couple. The wife is terrified but the husband, in the driver’s seat, seems transfixed, almost hypnotized. The Woodsman continues asking his question. The couple speeds away.
Jump back with the younger couple walking now along a deserted, rural road, the sort where nothing good ever happens after dark. They reach her home. The young man asks for a kiss. The young woman isn’t sure. He just wants one. She relents. They kiss, chastely, and she goes inside. I think…oh god…these two are only billed as “Boy” and “Girl” in the credits, but I think this is the first date of Leland and Sarah Palmer.
The Woodsman with his unlit cigarette is walking thought the desert now. He sees a radio station in the distance and heads for it. KPJK. We see a trio of its listeners, a man in an auto garage, a waitress at Pop’s Diner – presumably the one in Deer Meadow, Washington, visited by Special Agents Chet Desmond and Sam Stanley in Fire Walk With Me because it’s where Teresa Banks worked – and our young girl, Sarah I’ve decided, in her bedroom. Back at the station, the Woodsman enters and asks the secretary for a light. She too seems hypnotized by him, but scared as well. He grabs her by the head and crushes her skull, then moves into the studio, asks the deejay for a light as he grabs him by the skull. The Woodsman jerks the needle from the record. Our listeners notice. He grabs the mic, and says “This is the water and this is the well, drink full and descend, the horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.” He repeats it over and over and over again. The listeners start passing out. This is the second verse of the “Fire Walk With Me” poem, I betcha anything. And if it is, I betcha there’s an “air” verse and an “earth” verse, as well. Ooh, and the horse, like the horse Sarah sees in visions in seasons one and two? You’re goddamn right.
Then we see our little hatching crawling again. A big beetle now. It takes flight and its body, humanoid, becomes evident. It flies into the window of the young girl, now passed out, and crawls in her mouth.
The Woodsman kills the deejay then leaves the station. He walks out into the desert and disappears into the darkness. Horses neigh in distress. And the credits roll over the sleeping girl, incubating something now, I think.
It’s gonna be a long two weeks until the next episode.
So what the hell does this all mean? Well, as I read it, this is when BOB dies, and this is why BOB can never die. When bad Coop gets shot, this should be the end of him and BOB, this should be their deaths, but The Black Lodge has a plan for this, a contingency, and that’s to rebirth BOB from the corpse of his host, Coop, and send him back through the Box Monster, who I always thought had a feminine form, so she can create BOB again through her oral projectile, a sort of birth canal. Hence all the 2001 imagery: what Kubrick used to represent the birth of the starchild, Lynch is using to represent the birth of evil that is BOB.
This rebirth sets off an alarm in The White Lodge – the bell in the Giant’s quarters – and in response the Giant births the resistance to BOB from his forehead, embodied by Laura Palmer. She is the first domino, after all, her resistance while human causes the chain of events that lead ultimately to bad Coop’s shooting at the hands of Ray. This resistance is blessed with a kiss from the couch woman and then sent to Earth – which begs the question, are The Lodges spaceships or alien worlds? The Secret History of Twin Peaks would seem to lend some credence to this notion – where it hatches and crawls into the mouth of that little girl I’m willing to bet my left arm is young Sarah Palmer, and here’s why: knowing as we do from the old series that BOB first takes root in Leland when the latter is a child, it stands to reason that when the BOB egg emerges from the Box Monster’s mucus projectile, it goes to Leland. We don’t see this part though, it’s happening while we’re distracted by Nine Inch Nails, but it could be signified by bad Coop “rising from the dead.” Instead of showing us BOB entering young Leland, Lynch could be indicating this possession by showing bad Coop awake and alive again in the present, meaning the timeline has been restored. This is further supported by the fact that as soon as bad Coop wakes, the screen fades to black and we’re in The White Lodge, where the alarm starts to sound. If all this is true, and The Black Lodge has Leland at this point, the natural countermeasure taken by The White Lodge would be to claim Sarah, mother of BOB’s ultimate enemy, thus starting the story all over again.
This is why, in the 12 or so hours since it aired, I’ve come to think of season three episode eight as the philosophical and spiritual pilot of Twin Peaks. It’s certainly the most significant and important episode to-date, because all context aside and in it’s weird way, this episode reveals where BOB comes from, where he ends, and the fact that this has never been a one-sided war, nor a one-time one. It reveals that wherever and however it concludes, Twin Peaks is a story that never begins and never ends, it just always is, always has been, and god forbid always will be.
I don’t know where we go from here, and regardless of what else happens, taken on its own this is by far the most innovative and interesting television has ever been, and for me at least it’s up there among Lynch’s best work as a director. We’ve got a two-week hiatus until episodes return, and I think we’re going to need every second of that to recuperate – reCooperate? – and prepare for the second half of season three. Til then, Peakies.