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What is gotten from Part Six of The Return is nothing new for Lynch and Frost, not really. Horrific murder is par for the course, especially on Twin Peaks. They’ve been doing it since the beginning. Even though we don’t witness Laura’s murder until Fire Walk With Me, we do have the opportunity to view Maddy’s death. In all its horrific glory, that scene is one of the most iconic, memorable and disturbing things on television. There’s even a song on The Next Peak Vol. III called “And Little Lambs Eat Ivy” by XSRY which samples the audio of her murder scene. There are no words to describe the visceral horror of this sequence, so I won’t attempt it. Suffice to say that between Maddy’s murder and Laura’s murder, I didn’t think Twin Peaks would ever give us something even worse.
Cue Part Five of the Return. The little boy (son of the Drugged-Up Mother) goes out to Dougie’s car, which is wired to blow. Automatically, I thought, “Huh, are they going to kill the kid?”. It wasn’t a particularly anxious thought, because somehow, I wasn’t convinced that they would. Obviously, they didn’t. We know that the thugs show up and throw rocks at him before trying to jack the car themselves and getting blow to pieces.
So, when I started to get exceedingly nervous during the intercut sequence of Richard Horne driving his truck while high and angry, and scenes of Carl on the bench (especially after his discussion in the car about smoking for most of his life and still being alive), I never anticipated what really happened. This was a masterstroke of filmmaking. Part Five lured me, as well as others, into the false notion that, no, Frost and Lynch wouldn’t go that far, wouldn’t kill a child on television, point blank. They showed how far they were willing to go, just suggesting it, and that would be it.
Thus, my utter shock and horror when they showed, on camera, Richard’s vehicle hitting the little boy at full speed straight on. Despite the fact that I covered my eyes on pure reflex, the image of him flying under the vehicle is emblazoned on my mind as ruthlessly as Maddy’s forehead being smashed into the wall, as horrendous as Laura’s face when she screams as she’s murdered in FWWM. But this, this was different inherently.
Something that Lynch and Frost have always asked of their audiences is to be witnesses. The media that they present to us is given for a specific purpose and with a certain intent. We are meant to get something from what we are viewing. A lot of people talk about mood, especially in terms of Lynch’s work, but this goes even beyond mood.
The intense scene which we watched, or as Eeson and Becks of Time For Cakes and Ale put it in a discussion we had on twitter ‘experienced’ was something not only wonderful and strange but also terrible in the archaic sense of the word. As terrible and awesome as old testament angels – not something we enjoy, but something that demands to be viewed without question, or compassion. We are asked to be bystanders, just like the people who stand and watch on in shock, to atrocity, to be witnesses to something that we know is impossible to prevent in order that we gain some manner of understanding about life, and about tragedy.
We can no more save this boy than we could Laura Palmer or Maddy Ferguson. Tragedy does not always strike – one child is saved by chance, the other dies by chance. And chance, at least in this season of Twin Peaks, is not to be taken lightly.
Not all deaths are equal on Twin Peaks. Both Tracey and Sam are murdered, though their death serves mostly as a jump scare. And then, in this Part, Lorraine meets her fate, to very little emotion on my part. We are conditioned to accept the deaths of adults. The mention of Frank and Doris Truman’s son’s suicide is sad, but it is almost certain that he was an adult. We do not see him and we are so familiar with the effects of PTSD on soldiers that, despite our pity – yes, pity, or sympathy – we let it roll off of us, excepting, of course, when Chad is rude about the whole ordeal, which is more than unacceptable and pings our emotional response radar.
Killing a child, in the ruthless, unforgivingly horrible way that they did is utterly taboo.
It is this death that forces us to acknowledge what it is we are willing to accept and what it is that we cannot accept. For many of my colleagues here at 25 Years Later, children are apart of their everyday life. Fathers and mothers. Myself, an Aunt four times over and a teacher to boot, others Aunts and Uncles, teachers as well.
Our children are sacred, but what does it say about us that we can grow to accept any death so long as it is not a child’s? What is it that Lynch and Frost are asking us to bear witness to? For what are we supposed to account? I almost feel like I am being accused, and perhaps not wrongfully so.
Everyone is someone’s child, no matter their age, and I think it’s time we remembered that.