The first thing to say about this episode is, “wow”. The second thing to say about this episode is, “wah?” It was that kind of episode. Again. Constantly throughout this third series of Twin Peaks, you think you kind-of-maybe-sort-of-know what’s happening and can perhaps kind-of-maybe-sort-of-predict what might happen. But then all your assumptions are ripped up in the most unexpected, mind-frazzling, dazzling way possible, to the extent you sit there in stony silence wondering what the fuckety-fuck just happened. This was one of those episodes.
To begin with, we joined Bad Coop in a car, travelling down dark roads, lit only by the headlights he and driver Ray were emitting from their get-away vehicle. (Shades of Lost Highway, there.)
So far, so linear. There was an altercation – Ray owed Bad Coop something, and there was a stony silence in the car as their conversation reached an impasse, both men lost in their thoughts; Bad Coop’s black eyes glazing over with malevolent intent. Ray wanted to stop to take a leak and in the ensuing moments, both men pulled a gun on each other; the younger man emptying his adversary’s barrel rendering him defenceless. Ray shot Bad Coop, and called Phillip (Jeffries?) to tell him the deed had been done.
And then. And then. And then. Wispy ghouls, men once, lurched forward out of the darkness and, like zombies, began to consume Bad Coop as he lay on the ground, tearing and gnawing at his flesh. He was a goner, for sure. Where would that leave us in the balancing of The Coop Equilibrium? Would Bad Coop’s death clear the way for Good Coop to finally break free of his Dougie Jones prison?
[UPDATE: One of our readers, Michael (who pulls me up in Twin Peaks every week) suggested that the ghouls were actually healing Bad Coop, rather than devouring him.)
Bad Coop, after being devoured by these hideous – and really scary – things, rose. Not dead.
And then we were in The Bang Bang Bar, watching Nine Inch Nails grind their way through a tune. Normally, these musical interludes (and there have been some great guests in this series) signify the end of an episode. But there we were, only 15 minutes in.
When I look back on this episode now, I see clearly that this was the end of the episode – or this particular, conventional episode.
The next half an hour or so was something so unexpected, so discombobulating and so wow that I just don’t know where to begin. It was like wandering into the Tate Modern and watching an experimental film… by accident. It was an episode within an episode.
We were plunged into a black and white milieu, a nuclear explosion erupting in the distance. The screen told us it was July 16, 1945. White Sands, New Mexico. 5:29:45 am (MWT). The camera zoomed in slowly into the eye of the nuclear storm, and suddenly we were in a vortex, scratchy white noise, plumes of smoke, specks of grit, and swirls of god-knows-what appearing and disappearing from view. Penderecki’s Threnody For The Victims Of Hiroshima screeched dissonance on the soundtrack. It was a nightmare ride into the heart of man-made destruction and evil.
As the old world was destroyed, new forms began to emerge. A rickety gas station – filmed in stop motion – came to life: there was smoke, doors flapping, strobing flashes of white light from the inside and then human apparitions (the same kind we saw devour Bad Coop earlier) who were dirty, hooded, and almost faceless, stuttered and shuffled into view. This scene utterly terrified me.
Then out of a plume of gelatinous, regurgitated gunk (emitted from an equally gelatinous, amorphous being) came Bob, his sharp-toothed growl immediately familiar. Could Twin Peaks, after everything we’ve seen – Laura Palmer, Dale Cooper, the Log Lady, damn fine coffee and cherry pie, Audrey Horne’s dance – actually be an anti-war piece? Could it be, finally revealed after so much subterfuge, a statement on the horrors of war? Could it be that Bob – representing all evil in all human-kind – was born because of us, because of what we created… because of the pandora’s box we opened?
It was a stunning thought and a stunning development. It changed the whole tenor of Twin Peaks, changing it from one thing to something else. Has this potential development tarnished the pure pleasure of the folksy melodrama, the paean to small-town life and nostalgia, and the whodunit structure? We could argue that long into the night. One thing’s for sure though: there is no real sweeping, underpinning narrative arc anymore, and Twin Peaks is now a purely visceral experience.
We’re on our own.
But it wasn’t over yet. We floated our way out of the smoke and the destruction to a craggy island in the middle of a great ocean. Inside a smooth, modernist edifice, we found a woman sitting in faded Victorian splendour, our old friend the giant emerging from behind the kind of bell-shaped object (complete with dials and valves) that Lynch loves. The giant moved slowly to a new room, which felt like a dusty old cinema. He saw Bob’s ‘birth’ on the screen. As if alerted to this danger in the world he levitated and held his almost horizontal, perpendicular position in the air, 10 feet off the ground. His bulbous forehead pointed towards the ceiling and he emitted a golden field of magical dust, from which a sphere was formed, like a spectral paperweight. As the lady, smiling with delight down below, held the sphere in her hands, inside was an image of Laura Palmer.
Similar to how we saw Bob, perhaps formed in the clouds of destruction, we saw Laura Palmer created in a magical, colourful light. Or did we?
By this stage I was agog and unable to speak.
It was pure surrealist Lynch, and unlike anything that has been on television before. It was genuinely extraordinary and so avant-garde and strange and weird, but it was also so wonderful to behold. I had not a clue what was going on, but I couldn’t take my eyes off it and was aware that what I was watching was somehow important; like I was witnessing something – death, birth, evolution – that needed to be witnessed. The only thing I can compare it to is Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, which also had that mix of classical music, juxtaposing images and unidentifiable portent.
And then we fast forwarded to 1956, where we saw two young teens walk home, their innocence soon to be destroyed. On the dusty floor of the New Mexico desert (I think we were still in New Mexico) hatched a creature: a sort of half insect-half toad mutation. This thing found its way into the mouth of the young teenage girl as she slept. But before that, a faceless apparition (the sort seen devouring Bad Coop and then at the gas station) floated down from the sky and wreaked havoc. He was wearing a plaid shirt and hunting hat, and had a slate-grey, grizzled face, with a voice so scary – a sort of buzzing, drone (the same buzzing drone we saw from a shapeless figure in the hospital in last week’s episode) – I was convinced the sound was going to give me nightmares. He stopped random people and repeated this question as he held up a cigarette: “Gotta light?”
He didn’t want a light.
Instead, he crushed people’s skulls, ending his rampage at a local radio station, where he took over the broadcast, reciting this phrase over and over into the microphone: “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and the dark within.”
This was only supposed to be a short review, but good goddamn.
For all our news and reviews of Twin Peaks, go here.