It was with great pleasure that I got together with Joel Bocko of Lost in the Movies to discuss the wider implications of Part 5 through Part 8 of The Return. Be warned: it’s a long read. Our conversation took us on some weird and wonderful journeys, down well-trod paths and forging new ones, as we tried to make sense of it all. So grab a coffee and settle in. After all, it’s what Dougie Jones would have wanted…
LS: First off, something easy and general: Do you feel that rewatching the series with some distance from the original airing enhances your understanding or does it have some other effect on you?
JB: I don’t know if it enhances my understanding but it does provide a fresh context. I’m able to see it more as a cohesive if enigmatic whole.
LS: What was your gut impression when you saw the black box in Argentina? Do you have different feelings about it now?
JB: I think I assumed it was some new form of Jeffries, given David Bowie’s death, plus how David Lynch had turned Michael J. Anderson (the Little Man From Another Place) into a talking tree. Later, of course, we see him as the infamous “tea kettle” so maybe this box is something else after all, like a communication device. If anything, I’m even less sure what’s going on in Argentina than I was while watching. I suppose it’s possible the box doesn’t actually house or facilitate contact with Jeffries at all. We know Mr. C was in South America too, so maybe it’s something for his use. Given its visual links to other communication devices (we see the box right after Lorraine types on her blackberry and Mr. C does the trick with the telephone), perhaps this has something to do with getting in touch with Mr. C while he’s in lock-up, without anyone being able to trace the call? He could have set the device up long ago, in case of an emergency like this. In that sense, maybe the box is Lynch’s outlandish, highly visual version of an answering machine – Lorraine leaves a message, and Mr. C picks it up and then “deletes” the message (maybe “the cow jumps over the moon” triggers erasure) – hence the crumpling up.
LS: I like this idea a lot, that it was simply a highly stylized answering machine. Feels very “Lynch” in a way. There was so much talk about transfiguration and alchemy, with Argentina being highly suggestive of argent/silver, and the black device shrinking down to an apparently silver ball. If Lynch is drawn to gold as a metaphorical colour/substance, what do you think silver represents?
JB: I’m trying to think if there are other examples of silver in Twin Peaks, either verbally or visually. I do think Lynch is interested in different metal textures, for example that very tactile old bank vault in the Season 2 finale.
LS: Yes! Great observation. Now, the line: “You’re still with me. That’s good.” The whole idea that Cooper split into two halves has been explored in depth in the past, but there was always the other debate (going back to Leland vs BOB) about how involved BOB was in all of this. Seeing him emerge in the mirror in Part 5 seems to lend credence to the idea that BOB was possessing Cooper to some extent, which might invalidate the split theory. How do you view that whole situation?
JB: Well, we know for sure that there are “two Coopers” but those doesn’t necessarily mean “two halves.” I liked the split idea, but I’m not sure it’s borne out by the text anymore; it seems like the Cooper who went into the Black Lodge remains intact, but trapped inside, while the doppelgänger, a complete being on its own terms, switches places with him in physical reality. In other words “the good Cooper” is the Cooper we knew during Seasons 1 and 2, not just half of that being, and “the bad Cooper” is a separate being usually confined to the Lodge and now loosed on the world. On a more metaphysical and metaphorical level, of course, the doppelgänger is still Cooper’s shadow self, related to Cooper’s darker qualities and thus emerging in some sense from within, but not — it seems — from a split. As for BOB, it’s hard to know what to do with him in The Return. He mostly seems to be there because he has to be, given the way Season 2 ended and Frank Silva’s iconic status in the show as a whole. But at times it seems like Lynch and Frost are dragging him around out of a sense of obligation. At this point, they’re much more interested in the good/bad Cooper dynamic than in spiritual possession. In the scene you mention, though, it did occur to me on my last viewing that maybe the one saying “You’re still with me. That’s good,” isn’t Mr. C talking to BOB but BOB talking to Mr. C, relieved that he didn’t get sucked back into the Lodge. It’s just an idea and I’m not even sure what its implications would be, but since we see the morphed face when this line is delivered, it’s hard to identify exactly who is saying what.
So long story short, I’m not sure Cooper really split, but I think the doppelgänger is still the dominant force here. BOB seems more like’s along for the ride than pulling the strings.
LS: I hadn’t considered that angle before, that it could be BOB talking in the mirror and not Mr. C. That’s actually making a whole lot of sense…maybe it is BOB doing the driving here. Of course it complicates things if the doppelgänger is fully formed — is BOB just hitching a ride in that case? I like the idea floated in the EW podcast late in the season (maybe it was even post-season?) that the Lodge partnered with the good Cooper/DougieCooper to bring BOB back to the Lodge because he was their prime garmonbozia harvesting device and he hadn’t been delivering — thus, Cooper becomes a pawn in their game rather than an agent of his own the way he believes. So if Cooper didn’t split and this was a whole functioning doppelgänger, BOB becomes (simply) a parasite bunking off from his job collecting garmonbozia for a quarter century. And that might retroactively undercut the power of his presence in the original series.
I might push back a bit on the “good Cooper” being fully formed, just because I tend toward viewing Richard/Cooper in Part 18 as the closest thing to a “whole” Cooper that we’ve seen. Jumping way ahead for a moment, if you think the original Cooper is fully-formed all along, how do you view this final incarnation of Cooper in Part 18?
JB: Well, what I’d say is that Lynch and Frost seem to present the Cooper inside the Lodge (and later emergent when he wakes up in the Vegas hospital) as continuous with the Cooper of Season 1 and 2. What that means is that if this “good Cooper” isn’t as fully formed as Richard/Cooper in Part 18, neither was the Cooper of seasons 1 and 2 which is certainly possible. Richard/Cooper definitely feels like a big break from any Cooper we’ve previously known, while containing traces of all of them.
By the way, even though we’re off the topic of Parts 5-8, I’ll take this opportunity to note that people seem to be in disagreement about when this version of Cooper emerges. Is it when he wakes up in the morning without Diane/Linda? Is it when Cooper and Diane cross over into the nighttime driving by driving past the pylons? Is it when he emerges from the red curtains to greet Diane in Glastonbury Grove? To me, the transition does not occur at any of those moments, but rather an earlier one. Following the Arm’s question “Is this the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” there is a repeat the sequence of Laura whispering, screaming and getting pulled upward, and Cooper reacting with shock before he looks down and then offscreen. In Part 2, as I recall, this reaction is followed by the curtains billowing and the zoom past the white horse. In Part 18, however, we cut to a more calm reverse angle — that still seems to be a point-of-view shot — and then Cooper himself emerges from the curtains and walking toward us (we then cut back to where Cooper was sitting, and now Leland is there instead). This Cooper, the one who emerges from the curtains early in Part 18, has a very different expression and even way of walking than any Cooper we’ve seen before. He exhibits a tension and an edge consistent with Kyle MacLachlan’s performance through the whole rest of the episode. This is clearly the moment the change into this final Cooper occurs.
LS: I guarantee that eagle-eyed readers will be scouring their Blu-rays now to see what you mean! Okay, next question: DougieCooper reacting to various things in his workplace — “agent”, “case files”, coffee, etc. — suggested early on that Cooper was somehow dormant, which is sort of borne out in Part 15/16 when Cooper “wakes up” after the electrical shock. At this early stage there was also ample evidence of Lodge involvement as well (the lights above the casino or the lights on Anthony’s face and in the case files in Part 6). How much of what we see here is some subsumed part of Agent Cooper and how much of it is Lodge-influenced?
JB: I get the sense that the Lodge is gently (and sometimes not so gently, as with “Squeeze his hand off!”) guiding a very childlike, malleable, receptive, dazed Cooper through his new environment when necessary. I think his enjoyment of coffee and repetition of relevant words is probably him responding to vaguely-remembered sensations and associations, whereas when we see more overt Lodge gestures, like the Red Room avatar over the slot machines or the green light on Anthony’s face or the case files, it’s usually more to do with something that Cooper couldn’t know without their help – knowledge external to him. Put another way, the first stuff is “character” material, and the second is “plot” material.
LS: What did you make of Dr. Jacoby/Dr. Amp’s conspiracy theory YouTube channel?
JB: This felt like a Mark Frost touch to me! That said, David Lynch did once appear on The Alex Jones Show, believe it or not. And I do think a lot of the Dr. Amp golden shovel philosophy is reflective of Lynch — he loves gold as a metaphor for spiritual renewal, and often talks about meditation as a release from toxic material. However, the idea of digging suggests hard, conscious work, which is more of a Frostian motif than a Lynchian one (he’s more about receptivity and opening oneself to the universe, “letting go” in a sense rather than “doubling down”). So Amp feels like a good fusion of Frost and Lynch, probably a bit more the former.
LS: How does the Becky/Steven situation ultimately play out for you? Many people say it’s a comment on the cyclical nature of life, that it was obvious Shelly’s daughter would be in such a situation. What’s your read on it?
JB: I’m not sure I like the deterministic element of that although obviously the theme of generational repetition is explicit at certain points (especially when Norma and Shelly first discuss Becky). I actually think Becky has a lot of Bobby in her too; her rage when she chases down Steven, and even her needy weeping on the phone when Steven is missing, feels much more reminiscent of him than her mother. And her expression after firing the gun into the empty room recalls many of Bobby’s most hotheaded moments. She even makes a certain exasperated face in the diner that is classic Dana Ashbrook. Shelly is often attracted to, and then trapped by, abusive and/or unhelpful men but perhaps as a result she was also necessarily self-reliant. I think Bobby as a teenager was much more emotionally dependent on others, and in that sense Becky echoes her father’s personality in her relationship to both Steven and her parents. I was expecting more from the storyline, but ultimately it felt like a rather fleeting glimpse of an ongoing melodrama, just enough to grasp the dynamics, but not enough to get any clear resolution. The way Lynch/Frost keep us at a distance from so much of the Twin Peaks material, really everything we see in the town other than the Cooper investigation, creates a poignant sense of longing in the viewer. They’re letting us back into the world but we can’t get that close anymore. Too much time has passed and so the reunion must be muted and fleeting.
LS: Gut reaction to Richard Horne — how did you view him at the time and how do you view him now that we know where his arc ultimately goes (from killing that child to working with Ray’s gang at the Farm to getting killed by Mr. C)?
JB: I thought this was a powerful first appearance — he seemed like a young Frank Booth. I’m not sure the character ever really lived up to this promise. In fact, I wonder if changing the Audrey material (I’m almost positive Richard was scripted to beat up his mother rather than his grandmother) rendered Richard a little bit pointless as a character? Given that we already have a storyline in which the doppelgänger sexually assaults a character close to Cooper (Diane), Richard’s parentage feels a bit redundant. And without any real payoff (except perhaps Ben’s moment of reflection), Richard’s attack on Sylvia also comes off as kind of gratuitous. There’s something there with Richard — the fact that this abandoned child accidentally kills a child himself certainly seems significant — but for me at this point Richard is probably one of the least successful aspects of the narrative. Which is too bad, because Eamon Farren is excellent throughout.
LS: I completely agree that Richard’s parentage does feel redundant. I’m not sure how that would have played out if Audrey had been his victim instead of Sylvia (because I agree with you there, too, that this was the original scripted incident) but I can’t imagine it having more impact at all. Hard to say, really. So why was his parentage included at all, except to tease Audrey’s eventual appearance and hint at Mr. C’s evil (which we already knew existed)? My question all along was: Is this necessary? And in many ways, much of what we see from Richard and much of what is implied via Richard feels gratuitous.
JB: I think an attack on Audrey would have much stronger impact because she’s a character we’ve all invested so much in, and this is one of the worst things that could happen to her. As presented in the series, we’re still horrified that a young man would do this to his grandmother, and the scene is very hard to watch – but, for me at least, it’s a more abstract horror than it would be if the woman was Audrey. I’m still not sure this would have been a great move on the writers’ parts (and if that had been Audrey’s only scene it would have felt exceptionally cruel), but imagining this makes it clearer to me why they did include Richard’s parentage at all. It would have had a bigger dramatic payoff.
LS: What do you make of “the cow jumped over the moon?”
JB: I don’t! Ok, I’ll try – I think the Diane podcast read the entire nursery rhyme aloud in their review of this episode. The next line is “the little dog laughed,” and given Mr. Strawberry’s association with dog legs, maybe this has something to do with his blackmail plot against the warden? I’m trying to think where cows or moons play any role in Twin Peaks and am coming up short. We do see many shots of the moon when Mr. C is killed and then resurrected; maybe “the cow jumped over the moon” is some sort of oblique reference to bending time or reversing death? I doubt it. There are no cows in Twin Peaks, but Lynch himself has demonstrated an interest in cattle before. He once wrote a screenplay with Robert Engels called “Dream of the Bovine,” where characters become cows; he once submitted a ghoulish sculpture of a slaughtered cow to a much more whimsically-intended “cow parade” in New York, with “Eat My Fear” scrawled across its headless body (the submission was rejected); and he stationed a live cow on Hollywood Boulevard to promote an Academy Award nomination for Laura Dern after Inland Empire (seriously). Probably he just needed Cooper to say anything both ominous and innocuous into the phone, to punctuate the scene, and a cow is what came to mind.
LS: There is something intensely sinister about Mr. C repeating nursery rhymes, though. It could simply be a way of communicating a level of — hmm…is uncanniness the right word? — into the narrative. The cow links throughout Lynch’s career is curious, too. I suppose the moon could be referring to the numerous intercut shots of the moon in the original series, or simply to astrology in general as it was conceived in those Season 2 plotlines. I remember going way off the deep end in my article on this nursery rhyme — I think there’s definitely multiple ways of interpreting it. But perhaps you said it best earlier when you speculated that it could just be a self-destruct phrase linked to the device in the Argentina and nothing more.
Janey-E steps it up in Part 6, which is what helped win many people over to her in the end. What were your feelings towards Janey-E?
JB: I think once we see her actively helping Cooper, many viewers warm to her more. That said, her behavior throughout this opening scene cracked me up, especially the way she eats sandwiches and handles the phone conversation, so I was on board with her from that point on. Naomi Watts is very much in her exaggerated Betty mode for this part, even though the character is very different.
LS: How do you feel the hit-and-run scene functions as part of this season? (It was a beautiful moment for Carl Rodd!)
JB: The show is very much about death, but usually from a standpoint of illness and aging, so it’s startling to see a death so sudden and a victim so young. Lynch usually avoids children altogether in his work; I think if you added up the screen time of every child actor in a Lynch film in the 45 years after The Grandmother, it would be much less than a single episode of The Return. Maybe Lynch felt uncomfortable exposing them to the darkness of his world, so he left them out until now. Indeed there are several examples of endangered/threatened children in the series: the little boy whom a car bomb nearly destroys, the little girl who swallows a monster while she sleeps, the children confronted with a battered woman crawling out of the woods, and of course, the hit-and-run victim. The accident is a beautiful moment for Carl because it’s such a striking juxtaposition: the old man who has been contemplating his own mortality confronted with a young child violently ripped from the world. Two different forms of mortality, seemingly derived from completely different worlds, are placed in close proximity. This could be a painting: a woman clutching her dead child in the street, screaming in agony, as an old man stands by her side to provide what little comfort he can. I don’t know Frost’s role in conceiving the scene but for whatever reason it feels like a Lynch touch to me, with Carl as a kind of narrative surrogate. I can’t remember if/where I heard this before, but it might also be his reaction to the horror of the Newtown massacre, which unfolded as he and Frost began writing the new Twin Peaks. And of course, we see the ascension of that yellow energy past the power lines – pain and sorrow dissipated into electricity, or something more abstract?
LS: Some people bristle at the idea that Lynch/Frost would use Twin Peaks as a vehicle to make a political or social commentary (which is weird considering the entire premise of the show hinged on incest and murder happening under the noses of an entire town, so…) but it does feel like the inclusion of so many children here is important for that reason — an acknowledgement of loss of innocence maybe? He’s tried to keep children out of it for so long, but now that we don’t do anything when five year olds are gunned down in Kindergarten, anything goes? Is he holding a mirror up to us like he did with Laura’s abuse and murder?
JB: Others have noted that the accident takes place at the exact spot where the one-armed man screamed at Laura and Leland in Fire Walk With Me, one of the moments (along with the following exchange between the two after Gerard drives away) where Laura comes closest to recognizing her father as her abuser. This reminds me of one of Lynch’s clues about Mulholland Drive, when he wrote, “An accident is a terrible event…notice the location of the accident.” This clue draws our attention to the fact that this violent physical act (which also incorporates an attempted assassination) takes place at the exact site of a violent emotional act (Camilla greeting Diane and taking to the party where she will be humiliated). Is something similar going on here, with Laura’s emotional violation (triggered by Gerard’s verbal assault) being paralleled to the very physical mutilation of an innocent child? Given The Return‘s re-emphasis on Sarah, is there also some significance to the mother watching and inadvertently participating in her child’s slaughter? Perhaps this location was simply the best available intersection for shooting, or maybe Lynch liked the echo without investing too much, but the resonance is certainly appreciated.
LS: Semi-related, what do you think of Red? What’s his role here? It seems to go nowhere except to anger Richard…
JB: Someone once speculated that maybe the drug dealer and Shelly’s boyfriend were supposed to be separate characters but Lynch wanted to provide Balthazar Getty with more to do. As far as I know, there’s no evidence of this but it does seem like if those were two different people, we wouldn’t have expected as much from Red. As it is, it seems like they’re building him up for something because he’s involved, in intriguing ways, with so many different characters. Going back to rewatch the series now, he fits in much better with the series’ many detours, non sequiturs, and red herrings (although I think Lynch is less interested in fooling us about narrative importance than simply doodling based on his own whims and letting us make of it what we will). From a plot standpoint, yes, his only real function is to set up Richard’s insecurity and rage (and pave the way for the hit and run) – and to give us a bit more insight into the drug trafficking around Twin Peaks (though I guess that’s less of a plot than a motif, since it doesn’t really go anywhere).
LS: Laura’s diary pages found in the bathroom stall was a bombshell moment! Is this what you expected at all? (And, looking back, is it possible that the missing page is actually Carrie Page?)
JB: I’ve heard people laugh at the Carrie Page idea but it seems like a fairly obvious gesture to me. I’m not sure there’s any other reason to have Hawk say there’s a missing page except to set this up. Laura’s diary pages felt really impactful in Part 6 because for the most part it had avoided any mention of Laura Palmer (I think this is the least Laura-centric episode since the Miss Twin Peaks one in Season 2), and the series as a whole had been treading pretty lightly on digging up old Twin Peaks material aside from the Cooper/doppelgänger stuff. This obviously relates to that storyline too, but it also ends up bringing Annie back into the fold while making an explicit reference to Fire Walk With Me. This feels like a Lynch idea (it’s something he mentioned as far back as Lynch on Lynch, one of the few things he ever teased about a third season) but put through a Frost filter where the mechanics are laid out (Leland probably hid the pages when he was brought in for interrogation, although it’s never clear where Laura wrote these passages since she’d already given her diary to Harold). Of course that’s getting on to the next episode…
LS: Let’s go there then. In Part 7 we got the reveal about the body in the bed being Major Briggs’ — did you see that coming or was it a shock for you?
JB: I can’t remember when I heard this idea, or who was the first to point it out, but I don’t think it occurred to me until several episodes in. I didn’t really like it at first; in a way it seemed almost disrespectful to bring Don Davis back as a naked, headless corpse! I don’t think I wanted it to be true, but it seemed pretty unavoidable once it came up.
LS: How did you feel about the subtle reveal (in Part 7, confirmed in Part 16) that Mr. C raped Diane? Or that it was implied that he did the same to Audrey in the hospital?
JB: Initially, I thought Audrey’s rape was a disturbing but necessary narrative turn, but that introducing Diane’s rape was too much. Eventually, given how the show handled these stories, I felt the exact opposite. Diane’s monologue in Part 16 is one of the most brilliantly performed moments in the series, and indeed in all of Lynch’s work, and it’s a haunting precursor to the #MeToo moment that would unfold a few months later (not least because her employers respond to this news by shooting her, an action explained away within the plot but still a vivid, disturbing metaphor).
With Audrey, on the other hand, we never really get any dramatic follow-through – when she finally appears onscreen it’s in material that has nothing to do, at least overtly, with Cooper (or Richard for that matter). I’ve heard viewers interpret her scenes as a kind of dissociative PTSD reaction to sexual assault, but I do wonder if the show really needed both Audrey and Diane to experience this trauma, or if it would have been better off concentrating on just one of them. In Audrey’s case, this feels like a brushed-off trope; in Diane’s, it feels like a piercing clarification. That said, the fact that it was the doppelgänger — not our beloved hero — who committed these acts sometimes feels a bit like the Leland/BOB dodge in Season 2, allowing the show to have its cake and eat it too in terms of confronting us with unpleasant truths.
LS: It’s almost like they love Cooper too much to give him such evil directly, even if they hint that it’s his dark desires that allow this to happen in the first place…I don’t think they had such qualms with Leland, which makes the cop-out even more baffling in Season 2, but I agree that it does feel like a cop-out here, especially since we never do get any pay-off from it. Cooper never has to deal with the fallout of what his deep dark desires have wrought on the people he cared about, which is something I wish the show had done — even considering the uncertainty of the ending, it feels like Cooper got off too easy…
JB: Yes, I’m not sure how I feel about all of this yet. Given how Season 2 ended, they had to make Season 3 about a double Cooper, and so they did (hell, even going so far as to arguably making it a triple, quadruple, or more Cooper) — but what’s the emotional/psychological payoff of it? I’m not ready to dismiss this aspect yet altogether, and I think Part 18 goes a fair way toward playing with this idea, but it’s possible after some more time digging into this element, I could come to a firm conclusion that they didn’t really explore the situation in any real depth. What does it mean that I still can’t come up with a firm conclusion about this after several viewings? I don’t know, but I kind of like that (haha).
LS: What did you make of Beverly and Tom Page? Is there any reason to believe they are related to Carrie Page? Why is it that we never see Tom again?
JB: My understanding is that Beverly’s last name is spelled Paige…
LS: Ah, you may be right!
JB: …so they’re not intended to be related (although it’s an uncommon-enough last name that it makes for an odd dramatic choice). I think Tom plays into what I was discussing earlier, this idea of getting glimpses into a larger Twin Peaks soap opera without really being allowed to enter into it. The scene is effective because it allows us to see Beverly as a more developed, nuanced character with a life of her own, not just a plot device for Ben to play off against. I love that the show does this with so many characters.
LS: The ending of this Part had some exciting moments in the Double R, specifically around the seeming jumps in reality. What does this indicate to you? Are there reality/timeline shifts happening?
JB: I’m not that into parsing the shifts into alternate timelines, particularly within scenes, so I can’t say that the different customers at the counter did a whole lot for me. It almost seems a little too cerebral or clever a concept for Lynch’s particular style; I find myself doubting it was intentional. However, it does seem odd that he’d rearrange the extras at the counter between takes and then use both takes (or whatever happened here), so I’m not sure it could be an accident. There’s probably something going on here, but I’ll leave others to figure it out for now!
LS: I’m totally one of those who totally believes it’s evidence of multiple timelines. I just don’t see Lynch or Sutherland or anyone else involved in filming that scene being that sloppy with their extras in that way unless it was intentional. But you’re right, it feels very “wink wink nudge nudge” for Lynch, and that doesn’t sit well — so either Lynch & Co. didn’t care at all about where their extras sat in the diner, or he was attempting something…I just don’t know!
Okay Joel. Here’s the biggie: In your opinion, what’s the story in Part 8? What happens?
JB: A great question, and harder to answer then it seems. There are of course several different stories, each of which are mostly easy enough to describe, but how do they relate? What is the causal chain, if any, between them? Briefly, I would say the atomic bomb creates some sort of spiritual reaction in which what we think of as the spirit world of Twin Peaks spills out into the human world, like radiation from fallout. We see the further consequences of this in the White Sands small town sequence, between the Woodsmen materializing to kill several people and put others to sleep and the frogbug hatching from an egg and crawling inside the mouth of a sleeping girl (Sarah Palmer, The Final Dossier tells us).
It’s worth noting that the bomb exploded at the Trinity test site was a fission bomb — it created a nuclear reaction by splitting apart the nuclei. I don’t know a lot about physics (at all) but this seems significant (my understanding is that fusion bombs create fission as well but a bomb that relies primarily on splitting apart rather than joining together definitely has some symbolic value). This is also in keeping with Twin Peaks‘ perpetual theme about division being dangerous. In a sense, then, rather than the spirits joining with our world, something is being rendered apart — and the damage arises from this. We see another example of this when the Experiment vomits all the eggs and the BOB-bubble: a separation of elements, the results of which will be extremely toxic.
When witnessing this first explosion, atomic scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” What we witness in this sequence is a creation myth, an origin story, but one characterized fundamentally by destruction. Whatever world is being created here is a broken version of whatever worlds existed before.”
LS: That is a tremendous observation — even if we can’t necessarily agree on whether or not Cooper himself split, the implication here is that it wouldn’t have been a good thing. So that begs the question: would reunification solve the problem? Or is it a signal that, as with nuclear fission, reunification would be almost impossible? Because — and here is my rudimentary knowledge of nuclear physics coming into play — my understanding is that once an atom has been split it can’t be put back together again the way it was before the split. So that might also hold some heavy consequences metaphorically for the world of Twin Peaks…
JB: Wow, great point.
LS: Thanks! But my physics knowledge is weak so I could be interpreting this wrong. Speaking of knowledge, how much does the Fireman really know?
JB: He seems like he’s pretty keyed in to everything, but I do wonder how much power he really has. At one point, I considered him more of a witness than a participant but The Return goes a long way toward the latter reading, doesn’t it?
LS: I think in Part 8 I interpreted his action as a reaction, to what he sees on the screen, while later on he seems more proactive about things. But time is a very loose construct for some characters and The Fireman seems like one of them. We just have no idea when his scenes are happening for him or how his flow of time works, so reactions might not actually be reactions, if that makes sense. I am in love with the idea that he’s a neutral force in this world, though — any power he does have could be in the service of restoring harmony to the world. In that sense, maybe he doesn’t need as much power as something like the Experiment figure or BOB does, because his job is to nudge things back to balance. Maybe?
Next question: Do you think that Laura was manufactured in this episode? Is her fate predestined? And if it is, how does that change your view of what we’ve seen before (especially in Fire Walk With Me)?
JB: For whatever reason, when I first watched the episode I didn’t take it that way at all. Even though the story presents it as an event that occurs before she’s born in some way, the abstract quality of the storytelling made me more conscious of the “meta” aspects than any strict chronological throughline. What I’m trying to say is that I intuitively saw the Laura-globe as following from the development of Laura over two seasons and a feature film, a culmination of the creators’ (specifically Lynch’s) growing empathy for her rather than a negation of her humanity. To me it says not that Laura was always a divine being, but rather serves as a confirmation of the divinity she ascends to (through her human experiences and suffering) in Fire Walk With Me. I can see how others would get a different impression but I don’t know, this was my gut instinct. (That’s a beautiful way of looking at it!) Even if we want to step back from that more abstract consideration and attempt to fit it within a narrative, it’s worth remembering that time works in funny ways for the spirit world, and Lynch generally likes Mobius strips and circular narratives. Thus it’s hard to nest this sequence properly inside or around the events we see unfold in the more earthly timelines. I’m not sure that’s a fully satisfactory answer yet, but it’s where I’m coming from. In relation to my previous answer, somehow the Fireman’s evocation of the Laura globe is a corrective response to the emergence of Bob. This in itself can seem dualistic – good vs. evil – but it’s worth remembering that Lynch’s fundamental principle is the unified field, a ground of consciousness that encompasses the “all”. What is negative or dark or “bad” isn’t an equal force fighting against the good but a distortion of the fundamental underlying principle that is light and positive. As near as I can understand this philosophy, the “good” encompasses and cleanses the “bad,” it doesn’t banish it away. (Even using the words “good” and “bad” may be misleading, but that’s what I’ve got at the moment.) Perhaps it is Laura’s very ability to exist within both the dark and light that makes her such a powerful antidote to the narrow, denial-based horror of Bob.
LS: And that fits rather nicely with the old thesis that Cooper’s fate could have been avoided had he faced his darkness — his “imperfect courage” led to his being trapped in the Lodge/Red Room. Laura’s embrace of both sides of herself (or at least her recognition of and grappling with this duality) is what helps her in the end. If I’m understanding this correctly.
JB: Yes, I definitely agree with that.
LS: Who/what is the frogbug/fricket? Some people say it’s Judy, some say it’s a generic evil…but since it’s clear from Frost’s book that this girl is a young Sarah Palmer, it must be related to her condition as we see it in The Return, no?
JB: Despite the conclusive way Frost attributes the New Mexico girl’s identity, I sometimes find myself wondering if Lynch shares Frost’s interpretation. (For example, the casting of an actress who appears to be of an indigenous background as the younger version of Grace Zabriskie is a fairly unusual choice, especially in a show which has been criticized for going too often in the other direction.) That said, one detail that makes me think Lynch definitely does consider this girl to be Sarah is the way the frogbug links up to other scenes with Sarah. For example, the creature has a long nose and strong hind legs which lead it to “jump,” both of which link it to the Jumping Man (whom we see, in brief flashes, overlapping with Sarah’s face in two different sequences). We can be pretty sure that Judy produced this creature, since we see many similar eggs in the “vomit” she spews (if Judy is the Experiment, which is a heavily implied and extremely popular interpretation though it may be worth interrogating at some point). We can also be pretty sure that Judy/Experiment is inside Sarah — look closely and we see a white/gray face with a black mouth-hole behind Sarah’s face in the bar, as demonstrated in this blog post (which also suggests that Judy takes her face off inside Sarah, like nested Russian dolls, to reveal Laura’s smile).
JB: (cont’d) Thus there must be some connection between Judy, the Jumping Man, and the Frogbug. And maybe Laura too? Perhaps this bug/the Jumping Man is an aspect of Judy, one of many fragments released when she vomits up Bob and all the eggs, part of the fissure that created the Twin Peaks spirit world as we know it. Maybe in a way this is a twisted E.T. story — a being separated from its larger collective, nestling inside a human home but causing further trauma instead of deeper connection. I don’t think pursuing the idea of Judy as some kind of manifestation of pure evil, a Super-BOB or whatever, leads to very productive insights. There must be something more interesting going on there, though I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that is.
LS: In the first part of this hour, we get the first glimpse of the “BOB Ball” being removed from Mr. C’s stomach, something that was later repeated almost identically in Part 17. In Part 17 it signalled the “end” of Mr. C; however, following the scene in Part 8, we get the opening of Part 9 with Mr. C up and at ’em again. What is the importance of showing us this procedure twice with two different outcomes? (Or maybe they aren’t different outcomes?)
JB: Good questions, which I’m not sure I have any real answers for! All I can note is that the first time the BOB Ball emerges, the only person there to see it is Ray, who runs away. In Part 17, the other Cooper is there which is perhaps why the BOB Ball attacks instead of going back into Mr. C and having him wake up. Maybe in both cases Mr. C would have been resurrected, but Freddie is there to destroy the BOB Ball before it can re-enter. It’s also possible Lynch just really likes the imagery and wanted to use it whenever Mr. C is shot, and didn’t worry much about what the mechanics of it mean!
We left our chat there, having gained insights into a powerful four hours of Twin Peaks viewing. I want to take this opportunity to thank Joel for agreeing to chat with me — it’s always such a pleasure. Please check out his site, Lost in the Movies, and follow him on social media for more in-depth looks at Twin Peaks and beyond!