Twin Peaks recap: 'The Return: Parts 3 and 4'
Garmonbozia is a nonsense word on this side of the TV screen. But in Twin Peaks the term has weight and meaning. “Pain and sorrow.” For the predatory demons of the Black Lodge, “pain and sorrow” is foodstuff. They convert the paired feelings into creamed corn — literal creamed corn — and slurp it up from their cupped hands. Manners! Didn’t their mother teach them anything?
“The Return” is chunky with Garmonbozia. You saw it in the foamy toxic hairballs thrown up by too fast, too furious Dirty Cooper and his hilarious spin-off, Dougie Jones, an empty-headed stooge created to avoid repossession by the Black Lodge. You felt it in the terror of the woman with the sealed eyes trapped in an electrified box floating in space, and in the despair of the single mom with all the addictions screaming 9-1-1 backwards. You heard it in the anguished sobs of Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Deputy Bobby Briggs, triggered by the sight of Laura Palmer’s photo to feel all the old feels — an echo of the moment in the pilot when Deputy Andy wept over Laura’s wrapped-in-plastic corpse. “Brings back some memories,” he said as the strains of Laura’s theme swelled on the soundtrack. It was a nostalgia rush, for sure, but it reminded us that nostalgia — “pain from an old wound” — is also a kind of Garmonbozia. The things Mad Men taught me…
Subscribe to A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts – to unwrap the mysteries in EW’s after-show every Monday during the Showtime revival.
The varied hues of creamed corn were everywhere in Parts 3 and 4. It was the color of Dougie’s blonde blazer, Jade’s amber Wrangler, the gilded horseshoe logo of the Silver Mustang Casino, and the beige homes of the busted Rancho Rosa development, a ghost town Carcosa on the outskirts of Sin City. It was in the latest expression of a Lynchian signature, a POV shot of a fast car barreling down a lost highway, dashed yellow lines leading to the horizon. Here, the driver, Dirty Cooper, a cowardly psycho desperate to cheat a death sentence, was en route to visit a treacherous associate in prison. By the end of Part 4, the yellow king was in prison himself. It was as if Lynch, working a spiritual or political complaint, was tagging the glittering jackpot promises of the American West and the values of the world — land, riches, possessions, unchecked freedom — the way Dr. Jacoby sprayed (fool’s) gold paint on those shovels hanging from a rustic conveyor belt like meat from hooks, like condemned from gallows.
But the 3-D spectacles of Dr. Jacoby and the milieu of his forest abode pointed toward the show’s saving grace for the hurting people of a jaundiced world. Red + Blue = the color purple — the color of soulfulness and creativity, the color of bruising and forgiveness, that color Prince sang about when he expressed regret for Garmonbozia. “I never meant to cause you any sorrow, I never meant to cause you any pain…” Purple shaded the extraordinary sequence that opened Part 3 set in the metaphysical realm of Blue Rose mystery. Prefaced by the image of a billowing ultraviolet cloud, a brainstorm in the mind’s eye of a free-fallin’ Agent Cooper, this mesmerizing passage of pure Lynchian invention gave us the very good idea of moving our hero out of dramatic limbo so he could have scenes with real people, not just reverse-talking trees and specters. It resolved the question of Cooper’s return not with a straight story but a personalized reincarnation myth. It was a wonderful flexing of Lynch’s intuitive art-making powers, and, in my view, a love letter to filmmaking and his fans. (More, later.)
Purple also suffused the twilight sequence that ended Part 4: Shot with a bluesy tint, the scene saw Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself, crank up his hearing aid to receive a confession from Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), a moment made more tender by knowing that we were watching some of Ferrer’s final work. We left them plotting a field trip that promises to be another spiritual rescue mission: they’re off to find a certain someone who can help them make sense of Dirty Cooper, someone who spends her time soothing her own Garmonbozia with drink, someone I suspect is none other than Cooper’s never-seen helper, Diane.
These two hours did much to invest us in the 18-hour journey of the new Twin Peaks. The literal rehumanization of Agent Cooper symbolized a movement toward organizing the series around very human characters with very human concerns and detective characters designed to investigate the world of Twin Peaks. The activation of Cole facilitated an amusing check-in with one of his former operatives, Denise Bryson (David Duchovny), a former DEA agent, now the chief of staff for the FBI. Denise’s promotion mirrored the cultural advancement of transgender representation, and LynchFrost allowed the show to pat itself on the back for its progressive thinking 26 years ago. “When you became Denise,” said Cole, “I told all your colleagues — all those clown comics — to change their hearts or die.” My favorite moment: Dense finding “thrill” in saying “Federal Bureau of Investigation” in unabbreviated form, the way, say, she must find it thrilling to live unfettered. I also liked the moment when she waved off a hot flash after Cole left. Was it the hormones, or does Gordon do something for her?
Speaking of clown acts, damn, these episodes were funny! The emphasis on comedy — goofy, sweet, meta — contributed to a warming trend after the chilly weirdness of Parts 1 and 2. There were stand-out scenes that became stand-out scenes thanks to Lynch’s own practice of being “unabbreviated,” letting scenes like Lucy, Andy, and Hawk mulling the mystery of the missing chocolate bunny play long, going from kinda dumb to rather winning by applying The Law of Rakes (see: The Simpsons). The irony of high concept Dougie going, “That’s weird!” while shriveling away in the Black Lodge was an all-time Twin Peaks knee-slapper, one that gave voice to our own confusion. Ditto the wink of Cole — Lynch himself! — beholding crime scene photos of the beheaded, monster-mauled Manhattan lovers from Part 1 and yelping, “WHAT THE HELL?”
Parts 3 and 4 continued to defy our expectations of Twin Peaks here at the start. But I’m liking it and I find meaning in the challenge. Agent Cooper might be back on the same temporal plane as Twin Peaks, but he’s not in Twin Peaks, and he’s not the man he once was. A few things got lost in Cooper’s transmutation from pure spirit to flesh and bone: his memory, much of his personality, and his shoes. It was if Cooper 2.0 had been reduced to Cooper 1.0’s best essential traits: his simplicity, his decency, his curiosity, his selflessness. And yet, he’s also a hero without a self. He’s an Eraserhead. His enchanted man-child evoked the protagonists of Being There, Rain Man, and Regarding Henry. There was some Boo Radley in his story, too, plus a touch of Forrest Gump. But the movie these episodes made me want to re-investigate most, after Lynch’s Eraserhead, was John Carpenter’s 1984 sci-fi romance Starman. Honestly, I had to fight through my want for classic Cooper to connect with this current take on Cooper and enjoy him, but I did. MacLachlan is just terrific.
(Recap continues on page 2)
Converted into pure energy by his own private metempsychosis machine, transmitted to Earth via the invisible circuits of the transcendental psychic web, Agent Cooper re-materialized in the basest of places, Sin City. Our born-again hero brought a new, healing color into this arid yellow world, beginning with the only other possession on his person besides his black and white suit: the key to his room at the Great Northern Hotel, attached to a forest green plastic fob shaped like a Douglas Fir. It was a symbolic compass, pointing him toward home, and it was a lucky charm. It dropped from his hands just as he was passing into the crosshairs of an assassin’s scope. Bending over to pick it up rendered him invisible, saving his life. Cooper — whom Dougie’s wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts) dubbed “Dreamweaver” after he overslept — seems to have returned from Dreamtime possessed with the extrasensory powers of Synchronicity that The Police once sang about, a holy ghost in the machine.
Super-Cooper immediately began ministering to the dry souls of Vegas with his god-blessed fortune. He raked in the green at the Silver Mustang Casinso, led by visions of Red Room curtains that appeared above hot slot machines like tongues of fire. He had no want for the lucre; he practically recoiled when coins came spilling out at him like so much Dirty Cooper vomit. But he did share the wealth with those who needed it, changing hearts in the process, like the mean bird-flipping homeless lady who melted into a puddle of warm gratitude. The way he called out the change with a shout (“HELLLOOO!”) reminded me of MacLachlan’s super-spiced Paul Atreides yelling “MUAAA’DIB!” in Dune, only here, he was making it rain with a salutation, not bringing liberation with a killing word. But I’m weird that way.
Cooper’s desert messiah act extended to a practice of substitutional atonement. Filling the shoes of his diabolical doppelgänger’s dummy double (I promise, we’ll be breaking down that perplexing business soon), Cooper began redeeming Dougie’s ruinous patriarchy. He gave Janey-E the casino windfall, buying her much-needed liberation from enslaving debts, details TBD. Either the Keeping Up With Joneses striving of these model-house Joneses has led to some dead ends, or they’re tangled up with some foul fiends, or both. Good boy Cooper handing over his bag of greenbacks to a desperate housewife mirrored the moment when naughty boy Dougie handed cash to prostitute mistress Jade, a redemptive reversal. Janey-E was so overjoyed, she forgave the man she thought to be her husband for being MIA for three hellish days. The spiritual revival initiated by Cooper was symbolized by a sartorial transformation: Goodbye, yellow coward’s jacket, hello Master’s green. Jesus Christ, Cooper! Surely you are the Kwisatz Haderach!
If Cooper does represent reincarnation, and if we’re dealing with Eastern ideas, like the notion that your current dharma is influenced by karma, then remember that while Cooper was a very good guy in the original series, the Dalai Lama fanboy committed at least one huge worldly boo-boo that produced some serious Garmonbozia in his past life: He had an affair with the wife of his gone-psycho partner, Windom Earle. From this POV, Cooper fixing Dougie’s wayward life is his next-life duty. Note again how the new Twin Peaks is fixated with the theme of adultery. I’m convinced that the evil-in-the-Heartland tale of Bill and Phyllis in Parts 1 and 2 represented a kind of myth of original sin for Twin Peaks USA, with Dirty Cooper playing the snake, bringing enmity between man and woman, seeding death and struggle for all mankind. We got echoes of their story this week, in the case of a congressman accused of murdering his wife, and the troubled Jones marriage. The stakes in the new Twin Peaks are spiritual. The moral, to paraphrase Lynch’s proxy: Fix your hearts or die, America!
Watch the cast discuss the show’s odd universe and the revival in the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) special EW Reunites: Twin Peaks here, or download the app on your favorite mobile and streaming devices.
Anyway. Everything was new again for Cooper. Janey-E was more mother than wife to him, dressing him, feeding him, escorting him to the bathroom. Taking his first pee scared the s— out of him, suffering the relief like the world’s most painful orgasm. Seeing his reflection in a mirror for the first time — reaching out to touch his twin reaching back — was like witnessing some Hegelian master-slave birth of consciousness. There were a few moments when he bumbled into a Cooperism and we thought everything would come rushing back, no more so than when he took that swig of coffee and spit it out. How badly did you want to him to issue an involuntary, “Damn good coffee! And hot!” But the words never came, just a long, teasing beat in which it seemed Cooper was looking to camera after his spit-take, a goofy-ass grin of sunny delight on his face. Dammit, LynchFrost, quit playing games with my fanboy heart and get ‘N Sync! (Or was that Backstreet Boys? Like Cooper’s doubles, all those boy bands look the same to me.)
Eraserhead Cooper sets up familiar Amnesia Plot tensions worthy of the soap operas that inspired Twin Peaks and so much alt-reality sci-fi. (See: season 4 of Fringe; season 6 of Lost.) Will Cooper develop a new identity, new relational attachments, and new worldly concerns? If Cooper gets his Cooperness back, whither his new identity? What life does he choose? I’m sure fans want to see Classic Cooper restored and sent back to Twin Peaks. If the scene that began the series was a flash-forward — a black and white beat between The Giant and a fully realized Cooper — then we might take it as reassurance that full, psychic reinstatement is inevitable. His spiritual transmigration could end in past-life regression, his story, The Pilgrim’s Regress.
I wonder, though, if LynchFrost might go another way, given other emerging themes like evolution, progressivism, and grieving nostalgia. To borrow again from “Purple Rain,” maybe Agent Cooper’s journey is about “reaching out for something new” and becoming something new. Cooper’s odyssey to recover the fullness of his unique identity — or not — in an alien landscape filled with people who confuse him for being someone else or want him to be something else is compelling, in part, because it plays to, and with, our nostalgia. It’s a metaphor for the new Twin Peaks itself, a show that, for now, wishes to behave more as a new life reincarnation than a reboot or revival. Cooper contains the questions, ambitions and restlessness of its creators. What should Twin Peaks be in 2017? How to satisfy themselves and the audience? By mimicking the original? By being radically different?
But Cooper is also the man Mel Brooks once described as “Jimmy Stewart on Mars”: David Lynch, returning to the mainstream after years on the Inland Empire fringe, navigating a dramatically different media environment, trying to find his place without compromising his artistic soul. These two hours were Lynchian to the max — and they were self-consciously about Lynch, too. The opening sequence of Part 3 paid sly homage to the first feature he made, Eraserhead (and, I believe, to his first movie experience, Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie. I’ll elaborate in the final section of this recap.) The last line of Part 3 (Albert: “The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence”) winked at the title of the unmade opus that haunts him, Ronnie Rocket, or The Absurd Mystery of the Strange Forces of Existence, as well as the headache-spinning experience of Lynchian mystery.
(Recap continues on page 3)
Cooper’s adventure in the desert spoke to the bruising lesson Lynch learned from the one-two punch of Dune, a colossal flop, and Blue Velvet, a comeback masterpiece: that he can only flourish if he follows his vision and has total control. But it also reflected the lessons of Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive (a masterpiece about heartbreak, born of creative heartbreak, a busted TV pilot): that you can’t do it alone, that filmmaking is a collaborative art of many artists pursuing different kinds of art together, and that there are responsibilities that come with playing with other people’s money. (For auteurs who go gambling at the Silver Mustang Casino that is Hollywood, it’s their version of the congressman’s prisoner’s dilemma. How to get away with artistic murder and make everyone happy at the same time?) As Cooper chased those flickers of Red Room curtains, as he won with every “HELLOOO!” call to action and roll camera-crank of the lever, who was assisting him by gathering his winnings and getting him bigger buckets? Casino rep Jackie, played by executive producer Sabrina Sutherland. Cooper: “Call for help.” Jackie: “That’s what I’m here for!” (If only Hollywood really worked that way for all high art filmmakers!) Cooper brought the winnings home to Janey-E, who rejoiced in the freedom the money would buy them. There’s another way to look this story line: Lynch expressing debts of gratitude to two actors, Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts, who’ve helped make his movie dreams come true, who’ve helped him thread the auteur needle in Hollywood and spin Garmonbozia into gold.
Twin Peaks reminds me of what Major Briggs once said about the nature of dreams, that they’re “the mere sorting and cataloguing of the day’s events by the subconscious,” except here, “the day’s events” are motifs and images culled from the entirety of Lynch’s past work. The mother-son sufferings of The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. The Yellow Man of Blue Velvet. The death row escapee/fugitive nihilist (and his amnesiac double) of Lost Highway. These could be auteur tics and coincidences, but they could be more synchronicities in a story organized around the concept. There’s a scene early in Eraserhead when Henry (Jack Nance) opens a drawer and finds a photo of a woman ripped in half along the neckline, a decapitation. He keeps a bowl of water filled with coins, like a secret wishing well; we see him throw in a penny. In the background, next to his bed, we see a small framed photo of an A-bomb explosion and a tree growing from a mound of dirt. All of those ideas and concept have been seen in the new Twin Peaks, but transmogrified and evolved: the decapitated woman in Part 1, Lucky Cooper feeding coins into the slots, the giant A-bomb photo in Cole’s office, and the Brain Tree, a.k.a. “the evolution of the arm,” a.k.a. The Man From Another Place.
Lynch seems to be treating Twin Peaks the way Dr. Jacoby is treating those golden shovels: as a very expensive, very personal retrospective art project that allows him to dig and sift through his life, from his midnight movie days to his Mr. Jackpots Hollywood years to the “dark cloud” ’90s to the digital wanderings of the early century and back again — for the purpose of reflecting, celebrating, grieving, and breaking new ground on the final act of his career, creating opportunity for more. In the process, he’s making the new Twin Peaks into a nostalgia act about nostalgia and a progression about progress — ours, America’s, Lynch’s.
Perhaps no single scene summed up everything heady, humorous, and heartfelt currently transpiring in Lynch’s dense, evolving, slow-fast narrative more than the risky, complex and brilliantly successful spectacle of Michael Cera as Wally Brando, the born-on-Brando’s-birthday son of Andy and Lucy. Dressed as biker Brando in The Wild One, emulating Brando’s tone, patter, and cool, Wally is either a curious young man who’s given himself over to religious idol worship, conforming himself in the image of Brando-likeness, or a jerky smart-ass who’s committed hard core to an Andy Kaufmanesque punking of his family. It’s also entirely possible that LynchFrost wants us to consider the idea that Wally is the actual reincarnation of Marlon Brando. More than anything, I saw him as a fantastic riff on their interest in interrogating nostalgia.
Wally had come to town to give his parents permission to turn his childhood bedroom into a study, and before roaring away, he wanted to pay his respects to our new Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster), brother to Wally’s godfather, the ailing, original Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean). His salute evolved into a touching tribute to Twin Peaks itself, even as it explained why this adventurous, wandering soul couldn’t make it his home.
Cera’s performance was a deft blend of sincerity and cheekiness that suggested several possibilities. Is Wally genuinely eccentric? Is he a big phony that’s just putting us on? Both? (By the way, people have been asking that same question of Lynch his entire career.) Lynch shot him at a perfectly measured medium distance, taking the perspective of Sheriff Truman, a character who’s all about keeping correct distance on the peculiar town of Twin Peaks and possessing the perfect amount of grace for its quirky denizens. Wally was effectively performing for the sheriff, and I wondered if what was unspoken in their communion was some secret history — if perhaps Wally was something of a wild one in his youth, and that he had more than few run-ins with Truman back in the day.
The scene spoke to Lynch’s love for both old Hollywood and new Hollywood. The actors, all Lynch veterans except Cera, reflect his past, present, and future, what has been and what could have been: the joke of Forster as this new Truman is that the actor was Lynch’s first choice for the original Truman. You could see Truman as Lynch’s wish that he — that everyone — might grow old with grace and balance, changing with the times while remaining true to himself. Note how the Sheriff’s Department has grown over the years and how Truman manages it. It’s doubled in size, and it has a divided personality. There’s the old-school side, mystic and quirky and backward-looking, where veterans Hawk, Lucy, and Andy were reassessing the Laura Palmer evidence and mulling the relevance of Hawk’s heritage to the solving the mystery of Cooper’s WAB; and there was the forward-looking new-school side, where a completely different set of officers operated new technology and practiced new CSI techniques. Truman is the guiding, synchronizing intelligence uniting the whole, managing both sides and both sets of personnel with wisdom and patience, rolling with everything they threw at him except hate. He, too, is a “Fix your heart or die” kind of guy.
And then there was the sublime irony of having Cera, most famous for Arrested Development, playing a young man grieving his childhood and trying to find a correct handle on his past as he moves forward. There was deeper irony in tasking him to create a wholly original character by mimicking one of Hollywood’s greatest method actors and loopiest characters. The whole thing was quintessential Twin Peaks while being new Twin Peaks, with Wally embodying the yearnings and worries of its creators to produce something that’s true to brand yet innovative, that transcends craven franchising or empty imitation. (Those anxieties are also encoded on the Cooper-Dirty Cooper-Dougie Jones relationship, which we’ll be unpacking soon.) But it also represented Lynch making fun of himself and acknowledging criticisms about him – his rebel-auteur filmmaker image; his practice of homage and parody; the questions about his sincerity — while making a convincing case that his creative ambitions are legit, and that his affection for Twin Peaks, and his audience, is for real.
(Recap continues on page 4)
So. What about Dougie? How to wrap our heads around Agent Cooper’s mind-bending metempsychosis? How do we make sense of his agency-challenged, Cooper-desaturated nature? Is he animal, human or spirit? Does he have a self? What is the self, anyway? And what makes any of us human? These knotty questions regarding the nature of authentic personhood have long been Lynchian preoccupations, but they trouble this story like little gremlins thanks to the occult trickery perpetrated by fugitive chaos agent Dirty Cooper and his dead ringer scheme to to avoid reclamation by the Black Lodge. Were you baffled by the abundance of inexplicable and cryptic details? Here’s how I’m currently making sense of the story and Twin Peaks’ supernaturalism in general:
+Dirty Cooper is a paradox. He’s Cooper’s doppelgänger, a perverse product of the psycho-mystical pocket universe known as the Black Lodge. But he’s also infused with a more powerful Black Lodge denizen, a parasitical incubus, KILLER BOB, who may or may not have once been human. (I assume he was.) Does everyone have a doppelgänger hiding in the crimson curtains of the Black Lodge? Maybe. (My theory is that the Black Lodge functions like a cloning machine and your double doesn’t exist until you visit it.)
+BOB can roam free as a disembodied spirit whenever he chooses, but he might need the home-base of a physical host to do so, an anchor to keep from getting sucked back into the Black Lodge. Doppelgängers, which are pure animal, can only reside inside the Black Lodge if they can trap their prime inside it. The only way primes can escape is if the doppelgänger returns.
+Last week, when Dirty Cooper told Darya that the Black Lodge was coming for him, he said, “I have a plan for that.” This week, that plan was activated.
+The Black Lodge wants BOB back, but it can only yank him during certain windows of opportunity, per synchronized celestial mechanics beyond my understanding. One theory is that the aperture opens every 25 years, thus explaining Laura’s line to Cooper from the original series, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” (The original Twin Peaks took place in early 1989. So are we in 2014?)
+The Black Lodge searched for Dirty Cooper by scanning for a mass of Garmonbozia moving in the world or by searching for his owl ring or both.
+Dirty Cooper’s scheme for cheating the system? Confusing it. He “manufactured” Dougie from a dollop of his pure Garmonbozia essence and further tagged him by giving him an owl ring, which bonds mortals to the Black Lodge. His plan was to dupe the Black Lodge into taking his life model decoy instead of him. (Note: As some of you have pointed out, the doctored Ace of Spades card that Dirty Cooper showed Darya last week was most likely a version of the signet ring’s owl symbol.)
+Dirty Cooper must have performed his death-dodging Horcrux chicanery many years ago. Dougie — who displayed zero awareness of his true nature — lived long enough to make a life for himself, getting married and having a child. (Unless “Sonny” Jim isn’t his kid?) But we should also consider that Dirty Cooper didn’t make Dougie out of whole cloth but rather knitted his beard from the stuffing of an existing Dougie, whom he killed. Was Dirty Cooper puppeteering or controlling Dougie through psychic or material means or both? We got the sense that Dougie and his family were in debt to someone; I’m guessing that someone or something was Dirty Cooper.
+Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Lynch’s 1992 prequel film, intimated that Black Lodge spirits are capable of traveling between dimensions as currents of electricity. They might even be able to move between terrestrial locations through wires.
+As the Black Lodge made its move, Dirty Cooper was driving to visit an imprisoned associate named Ray who had accepted an offer to kill him. The voided lighter socket in his car — an electrical outlet — began to glow. Dirty Cooper became nauseated. He seemed determined to keep from upchucking his Garmonbozia. That could have been a character idea, an expression of BOB’s greed. In Fire Walk With Me, the demon clearly resented having to turn over Laura Palmer’s pain and sorrow to the Red Room high priests, a killer Cain stingy with the blood sacrifice. But the sense I got was that if Dirty Cooper puked up toxic Garmonbozia, the Black Lodge would have been better able to sniff him out.
+Because Dougie was an extension of Dirty Cooper, he got sick, too. It’s possible that the Black Lodge locked onto him because Dougie tossed up first. The ring probably made a difference, too. Dougie got taken — sucked into an electrical outlet inside a Rancho Rosa home — instead of Dirty Cooper.
+With one-armed MIKE playing judgy examiner, the Black Lodge broke Dougie down. It popped off his head. Blacks fumes came from his neck like oily smoke from scorched engine oil. His mortal coil was flattened into a spinning black circle (which immediately got me thinking about both Rusty “time is a flat circle” Cohle from True Detective and the Pearl Jam song “Spin the Black Circle”), then inflated and hardened into a chrysalis that cracked, spewing pus and birthing a tiny, shiny gold pearl — a bead of pure Garmonbozia. We remember what Hawk told Cooper back in the original Twin Peaks: “If you confront the the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
Breakdown within a breakdown:
As all of this was playing out, Agent Cooper was making like a Tom Petty song, free fallin’ out into nothing. We met him plummeting through the starry void following his expulsion from the Black Lodge and a brief, bizarre detour in which he was snared and processed inside a mysterious glass box in New York. But then — Eureka! — that purple cloud erupted, exploding from a larger purple haze. (Yes, the lyrics of “Purple Haze” do speak meaningfully to Cooper’s experience; look them up.)
Cooper then dropped through a chute and landed on the terrace of what appeared to be a beach house overlooking a roiling ocean. (It would later take the form of a metal box with a thimble-shaped silo floating in space, like a rustic constructivist mini-sub.) Inside, he discovered a literal black lodge – a shadowy, electrically charged living space, home to a blind woman in a red velvet dress, her eyes covered by bumpy, gouged skin. She would eventually lead Cooper to the top of the structure, pull a lever, absorb a massive jolt of electricity, and get thrown into space. Cooper returned inside and found another woman who exhorted him to leave before her mother — pounding on the walls from either outside the structure or inside a sealed room — broke into the space and… did something bad?
(Recap continues on page 5)
I owe you the work of decoding the details of this sequence with my Twin Peaks decoder ring. Let me first acknowledge that I loved this passage as a thing unto itself, a short film about alienation, loneliness, yearning, and any number of things. One beautifully produced idea suffused with deep feeling will stick with me for quite a while. As Cooper approached the blind woman and sat next to her, reality became disjointed. The film stuttered forward and stuttered back, like a spastic stop-motion animated movie. The only time it ever became continuous and fluid again was when they clasped hands or touched, their human connection stabilizing them amid the temporal chaos. Lovely.
Now let’s ruin it with “analysis.”
+My first theory of this place is that it was a dream structure conjured by Cooper with the magic purple crayon of his imagination for the purpose of saving his life and returning him to Earth. It should be noted that many elements of this sequence echo details about Cooper’s young life as described in the 1992 Twin Peaks tie-in book, The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. As a child, Cooper was haunted by a nightmare of someone pounding in a door, as trying to break in and get him. His mother had the same nightmare. Another example: Cooper has a history with doomed women, including two young ladies who were so troubled they wound up in mental institutions. Once of them killed herself. The other had major mother issues; her mom had a tendency to seduce her boyfriends. We might understand this sequence as a representation of Cooper’s guilt, haunt, and Freudian drives/issues.
+My second theory — and the one I’m gravitating toward at present — is that the structure (which I will dub the Blue Rose Room) and its occupants represent an ancient conception of the Black Lodge that has become displaced or marginalized. It is the matriarchal opposite to the patriarchal Red Room. I do believe the endgame of this show is the destruction of the Red Room, a temple that owes its power to the murder of women.
+It’s possible Cooper could have reentered the world another way, like, say, a fight to death with BOB-Dirty Cooper in the Black Lodge. I’m sure Dirty Cooper would have wanted such a duel. So I’m wondering if Cooper was sent this way by his allies in the Black Lodge to avoid such a confrontation.
+Who was the entity or “mother” pounding on the structure throughout the scene? I suspect it’s the monster that seemed to follow Cooper out of the Black Lodge last week. I’m guessing it’s either Evil Brain Tree or the vengeful spirit of Laura Palmer.
+The blind woman who pulled the lever to set the machine, losing her life in the process, sacrificing herself in the process: Was she foreshadowing Cooper’s casino lever-pulling? Was she representing the values — patience, faithfulness, sacrifice — of his character? Was she modeling those traits, maybe imprinting them upon him? (By the way, her name, per the credits, was Naido, played by Nae Yuuki)
+The giant head floating through space belonged to Major Garland Briggs (the late Don S. Davis), who allegedly died in a mysterious fire the day after Dirty Cooper entered the world. (Dirty Cooper was, in fact, the last person to see Major Briggs alive.) His job was to monitor and investigate the supernatural phenomena of Twin Peaks.
+Major Briggs uttered the words “Blue Rose.” That’s the catch-all term that Gordon Cole uses for occult mysteries, and I’m sure Briggs was familiar with it. It was introduced in Fire Walk With Me.
+The starry expanse, the floating head, the image of someone throwing levers on a cosmic machine that results in the transmission of life to Earth, the font of the numbers on the control panel — all echo the opening sequence of Eraserhead.
+When Cooper first entered the station, the electrical outlet that would take him back to Earth was labeled with the number 15. After Naido pulled the lever, the room was reset. There was a blue rose near the electrical panel, which was now labeled with the number 3. Agent Cooper’s room number at the Great Northern Hotel is 315. Would Cooper have materialized back in Twin Peaks, back in his room, if Dirty Cooper hadn’t thrown a spanner into the works with his Dougie monkey wrench?
+The room also got a new threshold guardian after Naido pulled the lever, a woman played by the actress Phoebe Augustine. In the original Twin Peaks, she played Ronette Pulaski, who was nearly killed by BOB’s previous vessel, Leland Palmer. She may still represent that character, at least in the mind of Agent Cooper, but the credits dubbed her “American Girl.” I would like to encourage to you read the lyrics to the Tom Petty song “American Girl,” because I dare say the feelings and images in this sequence are inspired by it. Fun Fact! “American Girl” was released as a single a month before Eraserhead. The B-side? A song called “The Wild One.” Coincidence? No: Synchronicity!
(Recap continues on page 6)
Back to planet Earth:
+Dirty Cooper knew — or knew that it was possible — that his Dougie fake-out would result in Agent Cooper materializing in the spot where Dougie left. My take is that the two assassins stationed on the outskirts of Rancho Rosa were part of Dirty Cooper’s network — cult? — of goons. Their job was to kill Cooper.
+Dirty Cooper’s scheme worked, except for the hit on Cooper. Consequently, he, too, isn’t quite himself right now. He’s slurring his words, running sluggish. He and Cooper are clients of the same life server, and they’re suffering lag. Still, Dirty Cooper remains the dominant Cooper, which is why Agent Cooper, a shell of himself, is more affected. Neither will have their service fully restored until one of them is disconnected, permanently: MIKE, the One-Armed Man, told Cooper via psychic Skype that he had been tricked and now one of them must die.
+Now in jail thanks to a trunk filled with guns, drugs, and a severed dog’s leg (!), Dirty Cooper tried to convinced Cole, Albert, and new Blue Rose agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) that he was the real-deal Cooper, and that he had been working undercover for many years, collaborating with another MIA FBI agent, Phillip Jeffries (played by David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me). Albert confessed to Cole that he had once tipped Jeffries to the identity of “our man in Columbia,” and that Jeffries passed that name onto Cooper; the man was subsequently murdered.
+Note the psycho-spiritual-mythical geography of Twin Peaks USA that the new series is mapping. We have Twin Peaks to the north, everything else to the south or southeast, except New York, which resides on the same parallel. With Twin Peaks as the fixed constant, our heavenly north star, everything else is underworld (either inferno or purgatory) or bizarro twin to it. Moreover:
+The Rancho Rosa complex mirrored/doubled aspects and elements of Black Lodge mythology. It’s an enclave of lodges, of course, with a name evoking the Red Room. Cooper (and the camera) spied a street sign — Sycamore — and we remember that the Glastonbury Grove, the entrance to the Black Lodge in Ghostwood National Forest, is surrounded by Sycamore trees, and that the “evolution of the Arm” is a Sycamore tree topped with a head. The miserable single mom and her blithe, crackers-eating son stationed in another house, playing lookout, were versions of those Black Lodge surveillance agents, miserable Mrs. Chalfont and her blithe, Garmonbozia-eating grandson. More moreover:
+The Black Lodge and Rancho Rosa were copied again in the form of the housing community where the Jones family lived. Location: Lancelot Court, which links to Glastonbury Grove, as Glastonbury Grove in England is the legendary resting place of King Arthur. Every door was black, except Dougie’s house, which had a red door. Owls fly overhead. (Inside the house: a ceramic owl cookie jar.) Janey-E and “Sonny” Jim are another suffering mother-child pair, another pair of lookouts. The kid is cute but his name is a sinister joke: “Sonny” Jim Jones evokes the cult leader Jim Jones, who killed his followers with poisoned orange drink. I’m not trying to cast shade on “Sonny” Jim and the Jones family, although this coding does continue a Lynchian tradition of paradoxical yearning and suspicion of suburban happiness and traditional family constructs. Perhaps they’ll all go bad in the weeks to come.
(Recap continues on page 7)
Before we end this, a few more thoughts about what we saw in the opening sequence of Part 3, what it means, and the “American Girl”/”The Wild One” of it all.
The first movie Lynch says he can recall seeing was Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie, a melodrama from 1952 about a man whose life is pure Garmonbozia. It’s full of Lynchian motifs: infidelity fears, parenting fears, American dream struggles, mobsters, hardware stores. The movie was based on a book entitled I Hear Them Sing, but the title comes from an old American standard, a staple of barbershop quartets. The lyrics tell of a woman trapped inside a house on a rainy day. Her true love, Joe, lifts her spirits:
On a Sunday morn sat a maid forlorn/With her sweetheart by her side/Through the windowpane she looked out at the rain/’“We must stay home, Joe,” she cried/“There’s a picnic, too, at the old Point View/It’s a shame it rained today”/The boy drew near, kissed away each tear/And she heard him softly say/“Wait til the sun shines, Nellie…”
Basically, it’s a song about the positive effects of damn good joe.
The song corresponds to Naido, trapped in her home, and Cooper ministering to her. But there’s nothing uplifting about the scene; the mood is one of pure dread. Maybe akin to the dread Lynch felt watching Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie? Speaking to the New Musical Express in 1982, Lynch said: “I saw it at a drive-in with my parents, and I remember this scene where a guy is machine-gunned in a barber chair, and a scene where a little girl is playing with a button and suddenly her parents realize she’s gotten it caught in her throat. I remember feeling a real sense of horror. I saw the movie again many years later and I could hardly stand to watch it. It wasn’t a good movie at all and I didn’t want to watch it because it was ruining the images in my mind that I had from it.”
I submit that Part 3’s opening wasn’t just a strange, creative way to dramatize of Cooper’s psyche and reincarnation. You could also read it as a was also a dreamy myth about Lynch the filmmaker, telling of the film that marked him, the first film he made (again, see all those Eraserhead references), and even his gratitude for his collaborators and fans, who’ve supported him over the years and been waiting on him, like Naido and “American Girl,” to come back to mainstream pop culture with something big, new and challenging.
Which brings us to Tom Petty.
“American Girl” was released as a single in February 1977 — one month before the release of Eraserhead. The song is about another young woman feeling trapped and full of yearning, but from a modern, feminist perspective that asks what, exactly, the American dream has to do with her. The song’s imagery is reflected in the scene where Cooper, full of yearning himself, looks out on that purple ocean from the terrace:
Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’
That there was a little more to life somewhere else
After all it was a great big world
With lots of places to run to
And if she had to die tryin’
She had one little promise she was gonna keep
Well it was kind of cold that night,
She stood alone on her balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by,
Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach
And for one desperate moment
There he crept back in her memory
God it’s so painful when something that’s so close
Is still so far out of reach…
The B-side of “American Girl” was “The Wild One.” In the context of my theory here, think of Petty’s love song as coming from the perspective of an artist who lost it at the movies and (whoa Nellie!) keeps chasing the feeling of that first time. Of course, it also speaks to Twin Peaks fans who were deeply impacted by the series and have longed for more. In other words, “The Wild One” has something in common with the Cera-Brando-Wild One scene — it’s about nostalgia; about keeping a past love in your heart, forever.
But then something I saw
In your eyes told me right away
That you were gonna have to be mine
When the strangest feeling came over me
Down inside no matter what it takes
I’ll never get over how good it felt
When you finally held me
I’ll never regret
Baby those few hours
Will grow in my head
Let’s just say I’m not crazy. Let’s say that Lynch was pointing us in the direction of Tom Petty by naming a character “American Girl” (and, by extension and through the Wally Brando scene, “The Wild One”). Why would he do that? Well, maybe he’s just a big Tom Petty fan. Maybe these songs remind him of his Eraserhead experience, as they were in the air at the same time the movie came out. Or maybe it’s because of this:
On March 29, 2010, a critic named Bill Gibron wrote “An Open Letter To David Lynch” for the online journal Pop Matters. His piece is part fan letter, part lover’s complaint. Addressing Lynch as the “God of Post-Modern Moviemaking,” Gibron spends most of the essay describing his lifelong ardor, producing a complete, succinct, and sweet-yet-cheeky survey of the director’s career. He discovered the director with The Elephant Man, he fell hard and forever for him when he discovered Eraserhead, and at the time of his writing he had just voted Mulholland Drive the film of the decade. Gibron’s experience speaks for many Lynchians, although perhaps not necessarily with words like this: “Like almost getting lost in a gorgeous woman’s eyes, I have been absent in your artistic aspirations for years.”
Yet in 2010, Lynch had turned his gaze away from Gibron and most of us, or so it seemed. There had been short film art projects at DavidLynch.com like “Bunnies” and “Dumbland” throughout in the early 2000s, and there had been Inland Empire in 2006, an experiment in digital filmmaking that few people saw. Gibron needed more. He needed Lynch among us in the main, challenging the culture with a bold new vision. He could make one of his legendary passion projects, like Ronnie Rocket, which in another reality would have been Lynch’s follow-up to Eraserhead, or One Saliva Bubble, a project written with Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost shortly after Blue Velvet. Or Lynch could conjure something new. Just make a movie, dammit!
Gibron was stumped as to why Lynch couldn’t or wouldn’t satisfy this desire. Was it simply about financing? That didn’t make any sense of him. Who wouldn’t want to throw bags of cash at someone as talented as Lynch? Gibron had another theory: Lynch was ghosting us. “Let’s cut to the chase — are you breaking up with me?” he wrote. “Are you simply going to sit back on your limited oeuvre laurels and wait for me to give up? Do you honestly think that will work?”
In his conclusion, Gibron pledged to remain a faithful — and obsessive — lover and be patient for his maybe lost, certainly MIA idol to come back home to him. “Until then, I will simply have to wait. As the rock and roll scholar Tom Petty once said, it is truly ‘the hardest part,’” wrote Gibron. “I need you to make more movies. Please? If not just for me, but as a favor to the rest of the art form. Cinema is stale without you — and I know my life is as well.”
Did Lynch respond to a fan letter asking for him to return to movie-making by embedding a Petty reference in Twin Peaks: The Return?
Bill, I think your god heard your prayer; maybe it even shook him up, but in a good way. (I’d like to think the Ethan Suplee character at the casino who pointed Cooper in the direction of home — Bill Shaker — was named in your honor.) Lynchians, consider the new Twin Peaks a song, dedicated to you, for your long-distance dedication.
And Mr. Eraserhead? Welcome back.