Well, Chris picked one hell of a week to be off recapper duty and for me to fill in. Did he get insider info? Twin Peaks’ “Part 8” was 100% Pure Distilled David Lynch, as in down to the elemental molecules of the man. Bob bubbles! Nukes! Frog wasps! Egg vomit! Cosmic Laura Palmer gold ball! Metallic scratching alarm intensifications!
The original Twin Peaks was a force of nature, changing the TV landscape in its two brief seasons by opening the door to cerebral, horror-filled, off-the-wall dramas that would dominate the “Prestige TV” landscape two decades later. When the revival was announced, there was a sense of built-in disappointment: Why resurrect it now? How could it possibly be as innovative among these contemporary, “creatively unleashed” TV narratives?
Y’all doubted David Lynch. You shouldn’t have.
What has made Twin Peaks such an event series is that reactions to it are meant to be visceral. Lynch has created some truly horrific moments in these early episodes — gory, bloody moments of deep terror — as well as extended scenes of bizarre humor with Cooper now “trapped” as Dougie. There are many appearances from members of the original cast, and in between, long, often nonsensical and boring scenes of the mundane (driving, sweeping, eating). Sprinkled throughout have also been mystical moments like … well, like all of “Part 8.” Your response to these disparate parts of the show will vary, but I challenge you to consider when a TV series has moved you to such intense responses, especially over the course of each hour. I’m not sure I’ve ever talked at a show as much as I talk at Twin Peaks. I chuckle, I admonish the gross parts, I shake my head and say “WHY. WHAT?!?” at least once a minute. I have to react to it — there is no other way to experience it. I can’t help it.
As for the particulars of “Part 8,” and what the hell was anything we just witnessed, here goes:
Firstly, I think “Part 8’s” scenes are obviously all really key parts of the overall mythology. Ray manages to shoot Bob (finally!) and afterwards he was torn apart and possibly resurrected by a bunch of homeless coal-miners. One of them, the “Gotta Light?” creeper from the end is referred to as “Woodsman” in the credits, so I’ll call them Woodsmen. They seem like demons of some kind, and I think we’ve had a few glimpses of them in other episodes (wandering around the morgue, the one in the jail whose head floated off, etc. Note: A lot of things just float off on this show).
So more importantly, they opened up Bob’s guts to reveal the original Bob (Frank Silva, who passed away in the 1990s, so this was archival footage) in some kind of a bubble. From there, we got our Band of the Week moment with Nine Inch Nails, which then spirited us over to July 16, 1945, where we witnessed a nuke going off (something David Lynch’s Gordon Cole has commemorated on his office wall), which propelled us into several minutes of extended sound and fury and celestial chaos. That slicing demon monster appeared, floating, and vomiting eggs and a Bob bubble. The Giant sees the Bob bubble later and offers up one of his own — a golden orb revealing Laura Palmer’s face. Meanwhile, one of the eggs comes to Earth and hatches into some horrible frog wasp, which crawls into an unsuspecting girl’s mouth as she sleeps.
I repeat all of this in this manner to show the interconnectivity of it all, and to ponder if the advent of the atom bomb somehow set all of this off with the Lodges, Bob, the Woodsmen, and more. Lynch has played around a lot with static and electricity this season (power lines, souls going into power lines, crackling stereos and two “flip the switch the stop the static crackle” rooms to name only a few). In “Part 8,” we heard the radio in that innocent couple’s car on the New Mexico highway start to crackle when the Woodsmen got near it. Later, Woodsman himself used radio waves to hypnotize listeners with his “This is the water, this is the well, drink full and descend; the horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.” (I half expected him to finish with “fire walk with me!” but nothing was expected in this episode). So is the atom bomb — and the many bombs set off afterwards — somehow connected to this story in a nascent way?
“Part 8” felt, mostly, like an extended student film. That’s not bad, it’s just Lynch. When allowed to do as he pleases, Lynch’s work feels like the unbridled creativity and experimentation of student art. He plays around with sound, color, light, editing, and other parts of the production that most filmmakers essentially just allow to go on auto-pilot. Lynch messes with everything. As if the narrative and his visual work weren’t weird enough, he puts every aspect of the creative process on trial, and finds new ways to approach it. Nothing should feel expected, and if it does, it’s because it’s satirical or subversive or setting up something we cannot possibly predict. Two kids go for a nocturnal stroll in the 50s, and one ends up with a frog wasp in her mouth. Two convicts are on the run, and one ends up being gored open by demonic ghosts who free his soul in a black bubble. Anything we recognize as normal just links together some deeply abnormal shit.
In hindsight, I think “Part 8” will, if not make more sense, at least have more tangible context. I truly believe this. At the very least, we should know what happens when Bob left Dark-Cooper’s body — is that why we saw a flash of Good-Cooper’s old self return in “Part 7”? Is Good-Cooper now able to regain control? Who is Dark-Cooper now that the Bob bubble is gone? We have to sit for two weeks and think about this now!
But that’s the fun of this Twin Peaks revival, which is proving to be an event series and appointment television in an era where that is very, very hard to come by. The joy is not in figuring it out (at least not yet) but in just experiencing it. Series like Legion and American Gods and other extremely visually-driven shows have tested some of the boundaries of style versus narrative function in modern TV, but David Lynch just popped and said “fuck you, look at this.” And we all are.
Rating: ★★★★ ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Musings and Miscellanea:
— At one point, some of those graphics looked like a 90s screensaver that transitioned into one from 2004. And yet others were so beautiful. It’s all part of it.
— If you’ve seen Baby Driver, then you may have also thought Trent Reznor looked exactly like a mix of Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal from that movie, specifically.
— So that castle-on-a-cliff room where the Giant popped up … is that some kind of precursor to the room that Good-Cooper visits in an earlier episode? The purple one where the girl ended up falling into space, and he got transferred through the static into Dougie’s house? Are they the same? Is this like some kind of telegraph service for the Lodges?
— Why did the Giant levitate and reveal a cosmic ball with Laura Palmer’s face on it … was she fated as the key to this whole shebang?
— The nuclear bomb stuff reminds me a bit of Carnivale’s mythology. On that show, part of the lore is that magic left the world after the nuclear bomb was first tested, because it had given man a way to completely destroy himself. Did it also create Bob?
— Lock your windows, lock your doors, the Woodsmen are coming.