What… the… holy… f….. ???… I mean, seriously, what the hell did I just watch? With the latest episode of ‘David Lynch’s Batshit Gonzo TV Experiment’ (inaccurately mislabeled ‘Twin Peaks’ by the network), I think Lynch may have just set fire to the entire medium of television storytelling and gleefully danced around the pyre as it burned to the ground. Even by Lynch’s extremely out-there standards, this is just… I… I don’t even know what this is.
After the episode aired, fellow blogger Shannon emailed to wish me luck in trying to recap it. I’m not even going to pretend to get every detail, because I honestly don’t have any idea what most of the random flashing lights and colors and movements and noises mean, if they mean anything.
The first thing to note is that only two familiar characters appear in the episode: Mr. C (Cooper’s evil doppelganger) and the Giant from the Lodge. Well, also Mr. C’s accomplice Ray, but he’s been a pretty minor presence on the show until now. We don’t see any of Mr. Jackpots (probably a good thing, in my book), or Gordon Cole, or anyone at all from the town of Twin Peaks. Huge chunks of the episode take place as flashbacks to decades earlier, and other huge chunks are comprised of totally abstract images and sounds.
The Part I Can Make Some Sense Out Of
After being sprung from prison, Mr. C and Ray drive toward someplace called “The Farm.” They have an awkward conversation. Mr. C lies about his girlfriend Daria (whom Ray conspired with against Mr. C) still being alive. Mr. C needs some piece of information that Ray claims to have memorized. Ray makes the stupid mistake of trying to blackmail Mr. C for it. This does not seem like a good idea.
At night, Ray drives the car down a deserted road and pulls over to take a leak. Mr. C takes a gun out of the car’s glovebox (he’d insisted that the prison warden provide him with one) and demands that Ray tell him what he wants to know. Ray pulls his own gun. Mr. C tries to shoot but his gun doesn’t fire. Gloating, “Tricked ya, fucker,” Ray shoots Mr. C in the gut a couple of times, more than enough to kill a normal person. Mr. C’s body falls to the ground, seemingly dead.
Suddenly, lights flash. Ghostly figures emerge from the woods and circle around Mr. C’s body as Ray watches in horror. Round and round they mournfully stomp and dance and claw at the body. From a bloody wound in Mr. C’s stomach, a grotesque tumor with the snarling face of BOB emerges.
Ray eventually runs back to the car and flees the scene. On his cell phone, he calls someone named Phillip (I assume Phillip Jeffries?) and leaves a message explaining what happened. He almost doesn’t sound surprised by it and suggests that Mr. C may not be dead yet.
From this, the episode then cuts to the Roadhouse for our only stop in Twin Peaks this week. Appearing on stage are Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, who seem like an awfully big act for a small town dive bar. For four unbroken minutes, we watch concert footage of the band performing the song “She’s Gone Away” in its entirety. If anyone from the town is visible in the audience, I didn’t spot them (not even Jean Michel the bartender).
At the end of the song, we return to the woods as Mr. C bolts upright, bloodied but intact.
Where It Gets Really F’ing Weird
I scrawled several pages of notes for the rest of the episode. Attempting to transcribe them all seems futile, but I’ll do my best. Keep in mind that it’s the type of thing that can’t be entirely digested on the first attempt.
On-screen text identifies the time and place as July 16, 1945, White Sands, New Mexico – the location and date of the famed Trinity test. In rather beautiful, haunting slow-motion, a nuclear explosion illuminates the desert, the first to ever erupt. The camera slowly, slowly, slowly zooms into the heart of the fireball.
The next, maybe 10 minutes… or 20… or possibly 70… I don’t know, I lost track… of screen time are utter chaos and confusion – stars swirling and shaking in the void, fire, explosions, colors, no discernible forms or figures, one very extended WTF. It’s extremely bizarre and surreal, but not in the usual Lynchian way. The score on the soundtrack may not actually be Ligeti’s “Atmosphères” (the music Stanley Kubrick used during the stargate sequence at the end of ‘2001’), but sure sounds a lot like it. Without question, what Lynch is doing here is intended to evoke that scene, as well as the experimental collage work by Stan Brakhage. I’m puzzled by this, as Lynch has never been an imitator of others before.
Finally, something to interpret appears. A lonely gas station with a convenience store. Flashing lights and smoke. In choppy stop-motion, people flitter in and out and around the building.
A monstrous figure that more than a little resembles the ‘Eraserhead’ baby but with distinctly female features floats in space, then pukes a long tendril of something. Eggs emerge from it. (This, at least, is very Lynchian.) Along with the eggs is a bubble once again containing the face of BOB.
A vast, dark ocean. We’ve seen this before, when Cooper fell through the floor of the Lodge. A mountain island with a building on top. Inside, a woman sits on a couch, listening to music and swaying. She has no dialogue but is identified in the episode credits as “Senorita Dido.”
A strange, alarm-like sound repeats over and over. The Giant enters the room, looks concerned, and turns it off by pressing a button. He leaves and goes to another room, where a projection screen displays the image of the atomic bomb exploding, then of the puking monster, and then freezes on the bubble with BOB’s face.
The Giant levitates into the air. Senorita Dido watches as swirling lights issue from his head and coalesce into a human-sized cocoon. A bubble of light emerges and floats down to Dido’s hands. She sees Laura Palmer’s prom photo inside it and smiles. She kisses the bubble and sends it up into the air, where it floats into a tube. It comes out the other side, where an image of the Earth now appears on the projection screen. The bubble floats into the screen and becomes part of the image as it travels to Earth.
It Only Gets Stranger, Folks
We’re now in 1956, still New Mexico. An egg lying in the desert sand hatches, and a disturbing creature that seems to be part frog and part insect emerges.
Another gas station at night. A young boy and girl walk past, perhaps having left a school formal. The boy walks the girl home and kisses her goodnight. She swoons. They part company for the night.
A ghostly body floats down from the sky and lands in the desert.
A frighteningly weathered hobo (whom I believe is supposed to be the Woodsman played by Jürgen Prochnow in ‘Fire Walk with Me’, or at least a Woodsman – perhaps all the scary ghost men are Woodsmen) terrifies a couple in a car on the road. A number of others like him run around behind them.
The hobo walks to a local radio station and kills the receptionist and DJ by crushing their skulls with a single hand. (The action is no doubt supposed to be metaphorical for how viewers feel watching this episode, like our brains have just been smushed.) He stops the music and speaks into the microphone, repeating a short poem over and over and over again.
“This is the water and this is the well
Drink full and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes
And dark within”
I would conservatively estimate that he speaks this in its entirety about 56 times in a row, very slowly. At hearing it, people in the town, including the young girl, pass out and fall asleep. The bug/frog enters the girl’s room through her open window and crawls into her mouth.
Having finished whatever it was he was doing, the hobo leaves the radio station, walks into the desert, and vanishes. In the distance, we hear the sound of a horse braying.
Yeah, exactly. Got all that?
Your guess is as good as mine as to what any of it means. Certain images or references may be meaningful to longtime ‘Twin Peaks’ fans (the convenience store, the horse) or David Lynch’s other movies. The influence of ‘Eraserhead’ is very strong in particular. How they connect narratively is, needless to say, elusive.
From what I can tell, the nuclear test in 1945 opened a breach between our world and the spectral plane where the Lodge exists, allowing a number of dark spirits to visit the Earth. The Giant sent something or someone to follow them. Beyond that… ?
I’ve read one fan vehemently insist that this is an origin story for BOB. I don’t think the Woodsman and BOB are supposed to be the same person, but the implication seems to be at least that BOB was one of the other spirits to arrive with him.
This is clearly a statement episode for David Lynch, boldly asserting the new direction he’s taking the show. It doesn’t feel much like ‘Twin Peaks’ at all. It’s more a cumulative expression of his entire career rolled into the backdrop of the ‘Twin Peaks’ universe. It’s already proving to be the most divisive episode of not just this series, but of any television series that has ever aired. It’s not a TV episode at all; it’s an abstract art film. This will enrage some ‘Twin Peaks’ fans while pleasing other fans of the director. Immediate reactions have ranged from calling it a brilliant masterwork to “over-indulgent pretentious BS” (Shannon’s words).
As someone who’s been incredibly skeptical of this ‘Twin Peaks’ revival, I honestly don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of opinions. I felt exhausted watching the episode, and was frankly dumbfounded at the end when I saw it was only a standard one hour long. Lynch has somehow broken our temporal reality and compressed the very draining physical and emotional experience of watching an entire 6-, 8- or perhaps as much as 12-hour art installation exhibit while only 60 minutes of actual time pass on the clock. In some ways, that’s a good thing, in that I’d gotten totally lost in the show. As abstract as they are, parts of the episode are very beautiful and affecting. The visual effects work is also several leagues above the crappy VFX in prior episodes this season.
I also feel like I’m witnessing something totally unprecedented, in which a TV network has given an artist – not “artist” in the coy way we talk about everyone in the entertainment industry, but a genuine creator of challenging and confrontational works of art – a healthy budget and free reign go absolutely bonkers, delivering his uncompromised vision straight from his subconscious to viewers’ eyeballs for 18 hours. That’s amazing, even revolutionary. Nothing like this has ever aired on television before, and I say that at a peculiar moment in time rife with plenty of quirky and weird and boundary-pushing content on cable airwaves. Shows like ‘Fargo’ and ‘Legion’ and ‘American Gods’ would not exist if not for the original ‘Twin Peaks’, yet here David Lynch is going 30 steps beyond his past work. He’s treating this as his magnum opus, the summation of his career, and tearing loose with it in ways he never could on the original ABC series.
On the other hand, this simply isn’t ‘Twin Peaks’. And when I signed up to watch a third season of ‘Twin Peaks’, I’d kind of like to see ‘Twin Peaks’. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable expectation.