So what did you think of this week’s Twin Peaks? The good news is you’ve got two weeks to figure out what just happened, the bad news is that two weeks is only about 25 per cent of the time you’ll need to even begin to try and decode everything. If you thought David Lynch was being purposefully obstinate and aloof thus far, you were not prepared for whatever the hell just happened in episode 8. Perhaps Lynch thought he and Mark Frost were being too direct last week by actually moving the narrative forward, but only Lynch can dedicate an hour of cable TV to a master thesis in media art.
Things started our relatively straightforward, with Ray and Bob/Cooper heading down the highway after being released from federal detention. Bob asks if Ray has the information he needs, and Ray says he does, but it’s going to cost Bob, and Bob did not like the sound of this extortion. Not. One. Bit. But Ray proved more clever that Bob had believed, switching out the guns and leaving Bob with a dud. Ray shoots Bob twice and thinks that’s that, but is death really that easy for Bob? No, of course not. I’d like to say that this is where it gets weird, but that would be a lie.
Several spirits of what looks like soot-covered coal miners emerge from the dark and start doing some kind of dance around Bob while slobbering Bob’s own blood all over his chest and face. Ray starts freaking out, which is understandable because I was kind of freaked out myself. Ray gets in the car and splits, but while he does, he leaves a message for Jeffries updating him about the situation. Is this show ever going to do something about the fact that they’re building a pair of mysteries around characters played by people who are dead? Anyway, after a brief musical interlude by Nine Inch Nails, we cut back to Bob/Cooper resurrected and fine.
If you’ve been following the episode thus far, then you’re in good shape. The dancing miners was straight-up Lynch-level zaniness, but nothing prepares you for what happens next and what I assume is the secret origins of Bob. We begin in White Sands, NM, on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 am. If you don’t immediately know that date and time, it was the moment that the first nuclear weapon was test detonated in the New Mexico desert. Of course, what immediately happened afterward is well known, when Robert Oppenheimer was quoted as saying “I am become Death the destroyer of worlds.” I guess Lynch took him quite seriously here.
The camera tracks in from a wide shot of the detonation in slow motion and takes us right into the cloud where we are met with a fierce light show of explosions and static as the soundtrack plays, to quote the closed captioning, “explosive booming”. After about five minutes of this, I wondered if there was any point in keeping the closed captioning on, and if there was any point to keep notes on this entire scene. How the heck was I gonna write about this? What could I say?
But it wasn’t all entirely theoretical. We see Bob’s helpers milling about outside a closed convenient store and gas pump. The significance of this boarded up quick stop in the middle of nowhere is unknown, but the helpers moved about like you were watching them through a strobe light, all very disjointed with a mechanical clacking on the soundtrack. What were they waiting for? The arrival of Bob? And is their soot covered visage a statement on the victims of nuclear war? Are the covered in fallout versus, say, coal dust? The use of Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima as we head into another light show seems to answer that question handily.
Also during this 30-minute I-don’t-know-what-you’d-call-it, we see a female form that looks like some kind of marionette throwing up blobs, including a bubble with the face of OG Bob in it. Ray also has a vision of the original Bob as the helpers healed Bob/Cooper, which makes you wonder if we might see this form of the character again before the end of the series. One also wonders that if this was an exploration of the origins of Bob, then might there be some kind of follow-up later on? For if Bob did arrive in this world in 1956, then how did he get from some small town in New Mexico to possessing Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks?
Along with Bob being barfed up, we find ourselves in a castle like structure on top of a tall mountain coming out of a great sea. One might think this were some kind of homage to Lynch’s take on Dune, as this castle looked like something that might have been designed for that movie. Inside the castle we see a woman played by Joy Nash, who looks like she just walked off the set of Plan 9 From Outer Space, and the Giant. In the room with them is a metal chamber, and somebody on the inside is tapping. In another room, the Giant watches Bob’s emergence projected on a screen, and he decides to send something into the world of his own. He floats above the floor sending gold coloured thoughts out and in one bubble is the homecoming portrait of Laura Palmer. The Giant’s companion sends Laura’s bubble to Earth. Did I mention this was all done in black and white?
Also done in monochromatic style is the next flashback in the New Mexico desert, where some kind of frog bug emerges from an egg and starts crawling towards its destiny (I guess). Elsewhere, Bob’s helpers start harassing people by the side of the road, “Got a light?” asks one with a goatee. This goateed gentleman makes his way to the local radio station KPJK, which doesn’t seem to exist in real life, I checked. At the station, as the Platters play, the goateed man walks in, starts killing people by crushing their heads, and offers a little public service announcement of his own: “This is the water, this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of their eyes, and dark within.” Apparently if you say this enough times you knock out everyone listening.
That includes a teenage girl just back from a date with a boy. She falls asleep and the frog bug comes through her window and crawls into her mouth. That was gross and effective, and it makes you wonder if that’s the way Bob became corporeal. It also makes you wonder what the fate of Sunny Jim might be, like if Bob has long term plans for Dougie’s son if he needs that corporeal connection. For that matter, how was Bob able to make another doppelgänger of Cooper in the first place? The episode ends with the girl asleep with the bug inside her, what fate awaits her, or even who she is, is not clear.
So that’s where we end off at nearly the halfway point of Twin Peaks‘ highly vaunted return. It’s hard to say if Lynch is punking us, or if he’s going somewhere with this, or whether we had this entire endeavour backwards all along. It will be very interesting to see what the whole looks like by the time we get to the end of episode 18, but in the meantime we have two weeks to reprocess episodes 1 through 8 to see if we can pick up on something we might have missed the first time around. Only Lynch and Frost know where this is going, but it might be nice to look out the windshield and see what road we’re driving on…