Golden Orbs, Time Travel, and Poem-Reciting Woodsmen: Return Rewatch Part 8

Immediately after watching Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8, I knew I had seen the most ambitious, experimental, heartfelt 56-minutes ever committed to the screen. It was reported soon after the segment aired that David Lynch worked on portions of Part 8 by himself, offering little information to others about what he was developing. This tidbit comes as no surprise as Part 8 seems to serve, at least partially, as David Lynch asserting himself to the critics that have unfairly critiqued his art throughout the years, reiterating the fact that Lynch makes art for himself and his audience rather than for critical reception.

As is typical with David Lynch, Part 8 is a wildly experimental hour that has invited countless gaped mouths, think pieces and interpretations. I mean, it’s not every day that an instalment of a television show, even one as cinematic as Twin Peaks: The Return, will suddenly jump into a black and white exploration of the origination of evil and mysterious skull-crushing woodsmen. Lynch took on a lot in just one hour of groundbreaking (again) television, while also bridging his most recent and each of his previous works together. Twin Peaks: The Return is the magnum opus of David Lynch’s career. There are connections to Lynch’s earlier works scattered all throughout The Return, connections that are also powerfully prevalent in Part 8. Such links to the previous works of one of our greatest working auteurs and such rich commentary on human nature are bound to invite study and interpretations.

What’s easy to forget is that Part 8 is full of plot details before we ever get to the point in which we’re told to “drink full and descend.” We reunite with Mr. C. and Ray as Mr. C. thwarts a tracking mechanism from them to the truck in front of them. Each man is traveling with their own agenda and the understanding that each would, and has, betrayed the other if given half a chance. This atmosphere rife for treachery reaches critical mass when Ray attempts to kill Mr. C. Just when he thinks his problems are over, and Mr. C. is dead, a pack of nightmarish figures referred to as “Woodsmen” appear to help Mr. C. in his time of need. These dark knight saviors seem to suggest that evil regenerates evil, a notion in sync with what we’ve seen in The Return thus far. Perhaps Dr. Amp’s warning to shovel your way out of the shit is also related to the plight of the Woodsmen. We often find ourselves victim to the narrative that there is not a lot of change that one person alone can bring about. Unchecked, however, evil will continue to grow and manifest from the strength of the evil forces around it, becoming a more acceptable and powerful state of being. Maybe the ‘weirdest’ most incoherent aspects of Twin Peaks: The Return make more sense and offer more to our worldviews than was initially imagined.

Woodsmen mr. c. part 8

Almost immediately after seeing Bob’s face in the body of Mr. C., we find ourselves at the Roadhouse — what? In the middle of the chapter? Not only were we in unfamiliar territory visiting the Roadhouse with so much time left, but we are preparing to listen to “The” Nine Inch Nails. Their song “She’s Gone Away” seems to have a lot to say related to Twin Peaks lore:

You dig in places till your fingers bleed
Spread the infection, where you spill your seed
I can’t remember what she came here for
I can’t remember much of anything anymore

She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
Away…

A little mouth opened up inside
Yeah, I was watching on the day she died
We keep licking while the skin turns black
Cut along the length, but you can’t get the feeling back

She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
Away…

Who could this ‘she’ be referencing? What is this mention of the ‘seed?’ These lyrics, perhaps, have even more to do with what we had left to see in the episode.

The title promises time travel, and we get a healthy dose of that in the remaining two-thirds of Part 8. But this is David Lynch, so we don’t get right to the time travel. Instead, what we get is that grand, unmistakable sound design and fantastic, cosmic imagery that reminds us why we fell in love with him in the first place. That imagery and sound design that has defined David Lynch’s career, in this context, act as a perfect bridge to the thematic element that drove most of our return to Twin Peaks: evil.

There is a uniquely human blend of evil, like that which is represented by the exact moment chosen to go back to: July 16th, 1945, 5:29 a.m. This, of course, is not serendipitous, but rather a calculated look at the evils of nuclear war and the testing, known as Trinity, which took place on that date and time. These tests marked a clear descent of humanity defined by fear of others and a drive to be the most powerful entity with power outlined by those with the means to end life. Murder and the intention of killing those only because they are different than ourselves is an obvious extension of the potential of evil unique to human beings, but Part 8 also involves more subtle nods to the possible malice of humanity. The audience sees a gaggle of Woodsmen descend upon the outside of a convenience store, that may or may not carry some relation to Big Ed or his station (something which I personally couldn’t help but think of upon first viewing). We’ve already seen the Woodsmen carrying out evil, bringing the wicked Mr. C. back to life in this hour, alone. They clearly represent evil as it is carried out; but what is responsible for its origin?

part 8 2

In a similar way to that which brings about Henry Spencer’s child in Eraserhead, we see a cloudlike trail emanating from an unknown being in which BOB’s face is seen. It seems as though we are witnessing the origin of BOB and the evil within Twin Peaks as it is connected to the human spirit in general, and the evil that enters the world outside of our television screens. BOB isn’t a symbol, or a representation of what evil could embody because it already has taken human hold in the real world, namely through the Trinity nuclear testing called attention to in this segment.

As the intensely visual story progresses, we enter an ornate, castle-like dwelling where we see a woman listening to a phonograph, who seems to be blinking backward, and ???????, whom we’ve always known as ‘The Giant’ watching the events watching the evil unfold on a screen. ??????? sees the convergence of woodsmen at the convenience store, as well as Bob, becoming part of the evil being created. Upon seeing this, ??????? begins to levitate, a gold stream being released from his body producing a golden orb caught by the mysterious woman below. Elated by this image of Laura, there seems to be a hope previously absent from the woman’s being.

What does this all mean? Who’s to say, but there seems to be offered — if one chooses to accept it as such — a commentary on how evil is generated and then acted upon in the world. Perhaps, ??????? is the higher being or plane upon which we, as human beings, base our own morality. Each of us is driven by a unique moral compass no matter what edict we follow. If it’s a religion we follow, we carry it with our own interpretation; if it’s a philosophy we adhere to, we bring to it our own baggage and experiences from the world, which influence how we carry it out. Maybe we each hold the power to release a golden orb of goodness into the world if we can harness our abilities. It’s conceivable, then, that The Giant’s name was changed as a means to remind us that our sense of self is constantly evolving, and we are continually realizing or developing different aspects about ourselves that can bring about positive changes for us and to the world.

What I’ve always appreciated about Twin Peaks is that it allows one to explore the human condition presented, the good and the bad, and all that which influences which side we may adhere to; yet no matter which side, good or evil, we exact, the potential exists to embrace the other. Who would have thought that after we left Bobby Briggs at the conclusion of the second season of Twin Peaks that we would return to him as a deputy at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department? Dale Cooper is indeed the last person we would have expected to be overtaken by evil forces; yet, these extreme shifts in both Bobby Briggs and Dale Cooper are presented as the actualization of changes in both consciousness and outside forces. This unlimited potential of human beings to bring about such extreme pain, yet also, to be agents of such immense goodness is a hallmark of David Lynch and Mark Frost, and perhaps define what Twin Peaks means more than cherry pie or damn fine coffee ever could.

Twin Peaks Giant Golden Orb

Fast forward to August 5th, 1956, still in New Mexico, 11 years beyond our first instance of time travel brought about by Part 8, we see an egg-like object hatch in the middle of the desert. In the city, there is a young man and woman on a date, in what looks to be the early stages of a courtship, sharing what is probably their first kiss. We also see the reemergence of a Woodsman who famously asks a couple whose vehicle he has stopped: “Gotta light?’ Terrified, the couple drives away, and the Woodsman continues his quest for a light into a radio station which looks to belong in a Norman Rockwell painting, just as the DJ puts on ‘My Prayer’ by The Platters. I know I’m in the minority here to be more excited about The Platters in the same episode that features (The) Nine Inch Nails. I certainly enjoyed (T) NIN, but The Platters are one of my favorite groups of all time, and never one I expected to be heard in an episode of Twin Peaks. As is the usual in this series, the song selections reveal a connection to the plot of each episode they are used within. In this instance, the lyrics below seem to relate to the darkness, or perhaps evil, and the absence of songbirds we’ve grown accustomed to seeing at the opening of the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, perhaps relating to goodness.

When the twilight is gone and no songbirds are singing
When the twilight is gone you come into my heart
And here in my heart you will stay while I pray

Maybe, then, the Woodsman releasing terror as he crushes the skulls of anyone who gets in his way keeps requesting “gotta light” because he’s searching for a beam of goodness to dismantle evil. We’ll never know, for we never see the Woodsman get a light for his cigarette before reciting the poem that he repeats over the airwaves:

“This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.”

We are shown cuts to people in the town, a mechanic and a server at a diner, for instance, who pass out upon hearing this poem. We also see the girl whom we saw earlier on a date, referred to in the credits simply as “Girl 1956”, become a victim to the bug-like creature of evil we saw hatch in the desert, entering her body to use as a vessel. Just as abruptly as it all began, the Woodsman disappears, and the sound of horse neighs play out the credits as the audience is left trying to decipher that which we just saw.

Part 8 Eraserhead inspiration

Just as we can’t discern with any degree of certainty what is depicted in this town in 1956, neither can we explain the meaning of our own lives or the random events that take place within them that define who we are. Evil is in the world, and despite the fact that we don’t know exactly how it starts, we see how it builds in scale and our part in its existence. One can look at the world and see evil in the form of nuclear bombs and murdered teenagers, and the mystery that surrounds the mindset that leads to it, but we are just as able to see the golden orbs of goodness in the world, as well. Often, it is claimed that the world is good or the world is evil, as if something as complex as two words that don’t even carry a universal definition can be categorized into one group or the other. The fact is the world isn’t inherently good or evil; we can only call it such based on our own scope. Do we choose to primarily look at the Woodsmen or the golden orbs, and do we have an understanding that the existence of one doesn’t negate the other? We’re limited in that each of us is only one individual, but we are powerful because we are a whole complete person that can either succumb to the negative forces around us or bring a light that has the potential to radiate solid gold and inspire and influence any of those on whom the light shines. That’s what Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 means to me, and that’s why I’ve watched that one-hour spectacle more than 60 times. In the age of golden shovels and knee-high shit that we desperately need to shovel ourselves out of, a reminder of the strength of the human being, unchained to the unexplained origin of the darkness around us, is a hauntingly beautiful ride I can’t seem to stay away from.


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