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Quantum Poetics: A Deep Dive into Twin Peaks and the Lynchverse with Martha P. Nochimson

Over 30 years, the collective story of Twin Peaks has thrillingly changed shape and evolved right along with the work of its driving creative spirit, David Lynch. As someone who has followed his career closely and conducted many in-depth interviews with him over that span, Martha P. Nochimson is perfectly placed to track those changes and their seismic effects on the worlds of film and television.

Her latest book, Television Rewired: The Rise of the Auteur Series, is a fascinating study of the influence of Twin Peaks on a generation of brilliant and groundbreaking “non-formulaic” series, culminating in an analysis of The Return that can support multiple theories of “what happened” without short-circuiting the boundless possibilities inherent in those 18 masterful hours of television.

Nochimson’s first book on Lynch, The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood, focused on the subconscious as the driving force of his work, but the second, David Lynch Swerves: Uncertainty from Lost Highway to Inland Empire, keenly observed a radical shift in Lynch’s style, one which began to incorporate concepts from quantum physics and Vedic philosophy into the very narrative fabric of his work.

Crucial to Lynch’s evolving artistry is the Unified Field of Consciousness, a theory that links physics with spirituality to establish consciousness as the universal energy underpinning everything, including nature itself. For Lynch, this force interacts with the “marketplace,” which Nochimson describes as a term for “the level of reality on which daily cultural transactions take place” that “cuts his characters off from the larger realities of the universe.” This is the seemingly boundless canvas for the events of The Return—a space where powerful forces for both good and evil meet, and where the distinction between waking life and dreaming dissolves.

What emerges in Television Rewired is a reading of Lynch that is as open, elegantly constructed and generous in scope as his own work. Nochimson acknowledges that there’s no right way to interpret Lynch’s work, only an optimal spirit in which to explore it. Her view is, to borrow a Lynchian phrase, “the one that leads to the many.”

The following is a wide-ranging, informal discussion, one with room for digression and exploration in the same spirit as Lynch’s and Nochimson’s work—but one rooted in a celebration of the unending mystery of Twin Peaks.

Overhead shot of mountain forest, with Twin Peaks logo superimposed

It Is Happening Again

Brian Krikorian: Television Rewired does such a great job not only of exploring how groundbreaking the original Twin Peaks was and its influence on the other shows that you consider kindred spirits (The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, Girls, etc.), but also in articulating how The Return was even more innovative. Knowing Lynch’s work as well as you do and having discussed his methods with him, did you have any expectations before you saw The Return?

Martha P. Nochimson: I was terrified.

BK: Were you? Why?

MPN: I shouldn’t have been—I should have known better. But the advance publicity looked terrible.

BK: That Entertainment Weekly cover made it seem more like a Friends reunion. Maybe things like that conditioned some people to think he would revert to the original, folksier tone of the series.

MPN: Yes. And maybe he was teasing the audience. Because some of those photos—I mean, they didn’t take those photos without his permission—so I was just praying that I was right (laughs), that he was kind of putting people on.

BK: When the Showtime executive referred to it as “pure heroin David Lynch,” it struck a very reductive, overly simplistic note—the whole “David Lynch is a weirdo” thing. And I feel like it almost doomed any commercial expectations from the start, although in retrospect I don’t know why Showtime would expect to replicate the original pop-culture phenomenon, which was of its time and place. And after Lynch’s “swerve” in narrative technique that you identify beginning with Lost Highway (more below), audience members who sought traditional narrative closure would always be disappointed.

MPN: You’re right. It’s just so hard for me to understand why people wouldn’t be flocking to this, because it’s so wonderful, and it always makes me feel—I’m so happy to struggle with it. I don’t want to see anything anymore that I don’t have to struggle with, because of Lynch’s work! I was talking to [Mad Men creator] Matthew Weiner before this third season came out, and he said, “It isn’t going to look anything like the original.” Lynch isn’t going to do anything that anybody expects.

BK: That’s always part of the pleasure for me. And in The Return, the frustration accompanying the appearance of those classic Twin Peaks signifiers—coffee and pie—was excruciating in a good way.

MPN: I loved the cherry pie, in the dream [in Part 11]!

BK: It’s so good to see them again, but they only mark how far away Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is from whatever his mission is. Lynch appears to give you what you think you want, but it ends up meaning something else later on. It’s teasing, but of a very generous kind.

MPN: No, he is a generous man and a generous artist. But I think that’s well-observed.

BK: I think the main reason I find your reading of Lynch so profound is that it’s not so much a theory as it is a guiding spirit in which to explore it, a lens through which to see it. It has a plasticity or adaptability to it that resonates with the work itself. Were you writing Television Rewired before The Return aired, and did the latter change what you were writing in any significant way?

MPN: I’m trying to remember. The answer, I think, is no. The answer I think is, “Oh my God, it’s like I asked him to do this! It’s just showing what I’ve been saying all along, you know, it’s the perfect end to my book!” However, that said, everything in it was a surprise. The general spirit, as you say, was right there, but the specifics generated a great big and delighted, “Huh?” And the first real shock I had was when Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) disappeared in Part 2. The source of the abduction were and remain mysterious. And I’m fascinated, of course, and it’s very important. The other thing I don’t understand is how hard Laura looks in Part 2.

BK: She really does.

MPN: At first I wondered if this was simply how the actress had aged. Then I saw photos of Sheryl Lee now, and she’s still very soft-looking—clearly, it was a deliberate effect. And then of course when I got to the end and saw Carrie Page, I thought, yeah, this is where it was going. And that’s very tantalizing to me, and I’m thinking about that, because bodies are very big in Lynch. So the hardness of her—it’s an ongoing thing, as you understand. I’m always thinking about it. There are so many things I’m puzzled by, and I love that.

The Path to the Unified Field

BK: In retrospect, it feels like in your first book, you were always just one sentence away from making the connection between the subconscious and the fundamental energy of the universe, just as Lynch was so close to more fully expressing that connection in his films. It’s like you were shadowing him when he made that—forgive the pun—quantum leap. When did you first hit on the subconscious as important to Lynch, which would lead him to his later emphasis on the Unified Field of Consciousness?

MPN: As soon as I saw Twin Peaks, I knew it was about the subconscious. I didn’t have to think about it at all.

BK: Was that your first encounter with Lynch’s work?

MPN: No, the first one I saw was Blue Velvet, which I also knew was about the subconscious. So as a result, I couldn’t believe how badly misdirected the reviews were. The critics were simply missing the point.

BK: They weren’t attuned to the spirit of what he was trying to do.

MPN: But that’s a very intolerant way of looking at things because if you don’t have the parallel intuition with Lynch, which not everybody does, you fall back to what you already know. The critics retreated to talking about film noir, about the blonde and the dark girl, which is totally irrelevant to what’s going on there. And knowing that it was about the subconscious, I began to see patterns, that it was about masculinity and manhood. If I said this to David, he would grin and say, “Yeah?” But it doesn’t matter, because we’re still talking about the same thing.

Dale Cooper floats suspended in a giant glass box

A Painter in Hollywood

BK: Another fundamental influence on Lynch is his background in modern art. The composition of any scene in The Return can certainly evoke his paintings, both in terms of framing and the homemade feel of the special effects. I think of the chapter in Passion of David Lynch where Lynch discusses Francis Bacon’s 1967 Triptych with you. It’s haunting how much the two outside panels of the triptych feature a clear, glass-like box, just like the one used for Mr. C’s experiment in The Return.

MPN: Oh God, I hadn’t seen that!

BK: But for me, the real revelation from the Bacon triptych is that Lynch treats actual story structure like he’s painting or sculpting. The middle panel, with its blurring of objects into one continuous thing, seems to me exactly how Lynch constructs his stories—elements we think we can identify are abstracted, sometimes down to their raw state as particles, and then blended to the point where we have to experience them in a new, maybe more primal way. Rather than “finishing them,” he releases stories in an indeterminate state, inviting the audience to connect the dots emotionally without providing a specific rationale. Was this the big breakthrough he was always working towards, up to Lost Highway?

MPN: I think it took time for him to feel that he could do it, that his audience would watch.

BK: So he was always working towards that.

MPN: If you look at Eraserhead, you can see that he would have liked to have done that immediately, I think anyway.

BK: But there’s still a major Hollywood influence, too, both as a place and for its commercial movie production. So he’s working the two extremes of a binary system, art and commerce, to make a third thing that’s, as you say, “more than one and less than two.” It’s a blurring effect.

MPN: What a movie adds is time, which is what he wanted. That’s why he stopped being only a painter. And yet at the same time he’s said to me, and I’m sure to many others, that painting is everything, he couldn’t keep going unless he continued to paint. It’s very important.

BK: In the context of a Hollywood movie, that blurring creates the ghostly presence of another possible “movie,” or several movies, all variations on a theme. That’s Lynch’s “room to dream.” You can imagine other versions of, say, Mulholland Drive, with endings ranging from the saddest to the happiest. But you can’t really say that what we’re shown is official, or even definitively either a dream or real life.

MPN: Well, what is a dream? He thinks civilization is a dream from which we cannot awake. I think James Joyce also said that [in Ulysses]: “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake.” I think there’s a lot of commonality there. Many people who talk about dreams in Lynch get the wrong end of the stick. They want to say, oh, this looks strange to me, it’s a dream, it’s not real. What’s not real in Lynch is much more complicated than that, or it wouldn’t be Lynch, and we wouldn’t be talking about it. I mean, we’ve got plenty in Hollywood going back to 1928 where you’ve got dream sequences—there’s nothing to it.

BK: Everything is clearly delineated.

MPN: Totally, and it’s not puzzling in the least.

BK: Speaking of Hollywood dream sequences, The Wizard of Oz seems to be an endlessly renewable resource for Lynch, which is ironic, because you would think that film has been calcified as a “classic” to the point where it might be difficult to see it for itself. The whole concept of doppelgängers in Lynch seems to build on the recurrence in Dorothy’s dreams of people from her life in Kansas. He uses that to devastating effect in Mulholland Drive—the blurring of dream and reality is a direct commentary on Hollywood.

MPN: In Mulholland Drive, the context is poisonous. And you don’t get out alive. People want to say that the first part is the dream and the ending is reality, but that’s not it. It’s all reality.

BK: The supposedly “real-life” part is just as disorienting.

MPN: Well, there are temporal ellipses and reversals. You know, the one place in that movie that people are not able to deal with is, just at the moment where it’s transitioning between Betty and Diane…

BK: Opening the blue box.

MPN: Yes, there’s a jump cut, as the camera is panning down a hallway, and it’s a total rupture of time, and what that means. It’s not like we’re traveling to Gallifrey with Dr. Who; it’s what happens to time in a corrupt society. The Hollywood that we see in Mulholland Drive is an icon of corruption, of American corruption. Just as the Silver Mustang Casino in The Return is an icon of American corruption. I think that the Silver Mustang stuff is probably a whole lot more mysterious than anybody has got to yet, including me, and I’m hoping that I’ll go there.

BK: They’re both versions of the marketplace—though in the case of Hollywood, it’s the marketplace in which he has to work, for better or worse.

MPN: He wants to be a commercial moviemaker; he wants a lot of people to see his movies. And what I think you’re saying in some way, or maybe in every way, is that he’s tapping into something that’s always been true about Hollywood movies, but he’s using it, and his vision is expanding on it.

BK: You characterize The Return as a “modern epic” and see Lynch as taking the traditional characteristics of a hero’s quest and reshaping it to reflect the kind of modernist ideas of uncertainty presented by writers like James Joyce, Franz Kafka, and William Faulkner. Whereas most stories attempt to make the personal universal, Lynch seems pretty radical in using the literal energy of the universe to tell individual stories.

MPN: It’s the energy of the universe poured into our everyday lives. And how it is impossible to see our daily lives unless we are able to experience the energy of the universe. And there we have what you said originally: the melding of science and art. Because the energy of the universe is religious for him, for sure. But it is also about physics. And a totally new paradigm what of time and space and materiality are about.

Dale Coopers disembodied head is superimposed over Cooper as stands in the Twin Peaks Sheriffs Office

The Evolution of the Dreamer

BK: Since Lost Highway, there’s been an increasing intricacy in Lynch’s dream structures. Whereas most movies treat dreams as separate from “reality,” Lynch uses quantum physics ideas such as entanglement and superposition to recast dreaming as an equally valid reality—just as “real” as any other state, not separate from what we consider real life. The Return appears to be his most sophisticated use of this technique yet. Which leads to the big question: “Who is the Dreamer?” Cooper is the focus of the story, but there are elements that seem beyond his imagination or agency. But in the Unified Field, where everything is connected to everything else, does it matter who the Dreamer is?

MPN: No it does. I don’t know the answer. It’s not Cooper, it can’t be, but who is the Dreamer? That big head…what does it mean?

BK: Sometimes it feels like Cooper is acting like a pilot wave in quantum physics, the most dominant part of the wave that’s dictating where everything else goes. He does seem to be the driving force of what you call “Mobius time,” in which his decisions, like those of Fred in Lost Highway and Betty in Mulholland Drive seem to twist time and send him and his “world” off to what you memorably call “the wrong side of infinity.” You believe the first twist is when Cooper doesn’t jump off the space bunker but allows himself to be sucked through the electric socket into his existence as Dougie Jones. You see this as a “grave mistake”?

MPN: I believe so.

BK: When you first watch that scene, it feels like jumping into nothingness would just mean death for him.

MPN: I was in great fear. And I wanted him to get back in, and this is exactly what you said earlier, that Lynch pulls you away from the thing that you think you want, and you have a revelation, but you have to allow him to do it.

BK: When he does become Dougie Jones, it reminded me of another quantum concept from David Lynch Swerves. The theory of decoherence is a way of talking about the uncertainty and instability of the universe, a way to rationalize the concrete appearance of our world. Lynch uses a poetic rendering of this in The Straight Story to both acknowledge but strategically block out the uncertainty of the protagonist’s world. It seems like Dougie Jones is Cooper’s way of decohering, only in this case he’s deluding himself. Does that make sense?

MPN: I’d have to think about that. It’s very interesting.

BK: It would explain how Dougie manages to avoid one dangerous situation after another, despite operating at a comically diminished capacity. It feels like everything in the universe is willing him to revert to the good old Coop we know and love, which is why the end of The Return is so devastating.

MPN: And why it’s so shocking, at least for a lot of people, when he wakes up in the hospital and says, “I am the FBI.” There’s something so wrong about that moment. I don’t mean that it’s a wrong note in the scene, not at all. It’s the perfect way of signaling something terribly wrong with Cooper—he’s absolutely on a lost highway.

BK: It would also explain why the Mitchum Brothers (Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper), who are vicious gangsters, can turn out to be sweethearts.

MPN: I know! That’s so important. When Cooper says they have hearts of gold—these murderers?

BK: We’re introduced to them so violently, then everything turns zany, especially when Candie (Amy Shiels) and her friends are involved. It’s disorienting.

MPN: The three ladies in pink. [in Candie voice] “Oh, they do, they really do!” It’s sort of, “Who are these critters?”

BK: In Television Rewired, you mention Vedic cycles of change as important to Lynch, and while I imagine that to be a neutral concept—neither good nor bad—when the Log Lady says in Part 10 that “the circle is almost complete,” it feels more like a warning. Are loops something fundamentally negative in Lynch, something you need to break?

MPN: I believe so.

BK: And if the world is as you are, in the Eastern way of thinking—and Cooper is stuck in a destructive loop, then Cooper could still be a major part of the dreaming, if not the sole Dreamer.

MPN: He’s climbed into it, as she says, Monica Bellucci [in Part 14]. “We are the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.” Well, that’s what he’s doing. And of course, it’s bad. As bad as you can imagine David Lynch thinking about it. Do you know the poetry of William Blake?

BK: Only by reputation.

MPN: I think they [Lynch and Blake] really share a vision of the universe. Blake is hard to read—not the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, but later on, he’s got three epics, and he’s doing with time and space what Lynch is. I think the important thing about Blake is to break out of the cycle, and his poetry is so difficult, but the more you read it, the more you know it’s evocative of what a cycle means to a flesh-and-blood person, and to a culture. And I think that Lynch is working on the same track, although I’m sure he hasn’t read Blake.

BK: So Cooper is on the wrong side of infinity, the wrong side of a Mobius time loop. Is there a second twist in Part 17, when he chooses to go back in time?

MPN: It seems to me that everybody is on Mobius time, and there’s a twist in every life, but I wouldn’t literalize it as a double twist. It’s just that’s how time is—as we’re experiencing time and space. Shifts in time are shifts in space.

BK: And all the time-splitting that happens—in the Double R Diner in Part 7, or with Big Ed’s reflection in Part 13. Who or what is causing that? Is that just consciousness?

MPN: Whose consciousness?

BK: The All, the Unified Field. That’s the only way I can imagine that all of the disparate events or phenomena follow some kind of order, however complex or mysterious. It’s a kind of order.

MPN: But not in terms that people usually think of as order.

BK: Lynch gives himself the freedom to not think in those terms.

MPN: Well, he’s got a vision, an organic vision, and—I don’t speak for him. But what I would say is that his vision is sacred to him, in the full meaning of that word—that it’s sacred to him, and he’s just going to go with it. And the question of asking what it’s about doesn’t occur to him.

BK: It’s about the integrity of the vision.

MPN: It’s the integrity, the organic integrity of the vision, and nothing is going to stop him from that. Nothing. And I think that the reason the second season of Twin Peaks was such a trainwreck was that he couldn’t negotiate with ABC about what he wanted, because his vision as an artist is non-negotiable, and it should be. So he walked away.

BK: But with The Return, which is basically an 18-hour movie, he controlled everything.

MPN: He got about as close as you can.

BK: As much as you can when you’re collaborating with other people.

MPN: Yes, which is very important.

The famous prom picture of Laura Palmer is propped up against a storage box, surrounded by pieces of evidence

Laura Palmer and Female Experience

MPN: In my first interview with David in person, we’d been talking for a while, and I asked, “Are you a feminist?” And I thought his teeth would come out (laughs). He said, “Well, there’s always room for improvement!”

BK: (laughs) That’s an interesting answer. In general, he seems to value feminine energy and female-centric viewpoints as an antidote to more destructive, masculine desires.

MPN: Let me put it this way—this is actually a sentence I got from Mary Sweeney [editor of Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive; screenwriter and editor of The Straight Story]. I felt the same way, but I thought she put it beautifully. She said that he really understands feminine experience incredibly well. So he knows women, and he feels for us. The Laura in Fire Walk With Me is—amazingly—not the same Laura who is in the first and second seasons, and it’s not the same Laura who’s in The Return. It’s a very different Laura.

But what’s most shattering about it—I mean, men ran screaming from it, why? Because unlike almost any other movie about a raped girl, we were called on to identify with the raped girl. Not the psychiatrist, not the policeman, but her. Now it’s changing tremendously, but American men don’t want to do that. It’s too frightening to identify with the girl, especially with a raped girl. I mean, they’ll identify with Xena: Warrior Princess, anybody who’s kicking butt, what a certain kind of man does, which I think is totally antifeminist—John Wayne as a girl, or James Bond as a girl. But here’s Laura being violated—what does it take for a man to identify with that? Obviously, there are plenty of American men who are confident enough to deal with it and get into it—but there’s enormous strength there, and I find that very appealing. And David’s got the confidence to do it.

BK: What’s interesting in the portrayal of Laura over 30 years is that it ends up as a sort of Cubist vision of her, from different perspectives. In the first two seasons, she’s like the Kannon figure in Japanese Buddhist myth, the woman who absorbs all the suffering of people, ultimately transforming it. The circumstances of her life and death uncover the various intrigues and mysteries of the town, from the silliest to the darkest, which makes sense—there are as many tones as the various characters who knew her. But in FWWM, it would be impossible to replicate the original tone of the series, because it’s from her point of view, which is dark, terrifying and traumatic. The tone has to be harrowing.

MPN: Yes, it is harrowing. Somehow my reference is The Three Faces of Eve, but there you identify with the psychiatrist, and that takes the edge off it. The suffering of the girl is—I mean, it’s a milestone in its own way, but it’s nothing compared to Laura.

BK: And through the portrayal of her trauma, Laura has become a sort of beacon outside Twin Peaks, in our world/reality, for those who want to confront their own traumas, especially women.

MPN: I prefer not to think of Laura as personally significant to me, but as culturally significant to me. I’ve been asked to contribute to books about Laura, where it’s, “What does Laura mean to you?” And “nothing” is what my answer is—I couldn’t do it. But a lot of women are transforming Laura into a personal resource. I mean, if it’s good for them and it’s helping them, that’s great. But it’s more like fan literature than criticism. We need to see the difference between two ways of talking about Laura. Lynch is an artist; we need to see his aesthetic in creating her as a separate way of experiencing Twin Peaks from engaging the series as a powerful form of self-help.

BK: One of the things I loved about what you wrote about FWWM in Passion of David Lynch was its focus on Laura’s feminine receptivity, her way of adapting to things and finding her way through fear. Cooper ultimately doesn’t do that. If anything, in The Return, Cooper undoes all of her work, which is telling—that the man destroys the work of the woman. That’s one of the darkest elements about The Return, for me. There are also some very discordant moments, like when Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer) ogle Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) as she walks away from them.

MPN: There are very few places in The Return that I don’t like. And one is having Albert Rosenfeld watch her walk away and say, “I feel better now.” I thought it was cheap. And it wasn’t Albert, as I understood him. But it’s there, so I have to say, OK, it is Albert, because there it is. But it wasn’t the Albert I was thinking about. And I really didn’t like it.

BK: It seems really out of place. And Gordon Cole himself frequently tries to assert his masculinity in awkward ways—it’s goofy, but it’s still there. It’s interesting that Lynch would make himself the mouthpiece for that sort of behavior, when his overall vision would seem to counteract it. But then there’s that beautiful scene with Denise Bryson (David Duchovny) where Gordon tells the other FBI men to “fix your hearts or die.”

MPN: (laughs) I love that line.

BK: Which is very evolved of him. So Lynch really does keep things in balance.

MPN: Gordon Cole—and this is very interpretive, I don’t feel like my opinion is any more authoritative than anybody else’s on this particular subject—I think he really just likes women. I don’t feel like he’s asserting any masculine prerogatives, I think he just enjoys women. I mean, that crazy scene with the French woman—he was getting such a bang out of her, doing all these things! And Albert is throwing his hands up. But there is a genuine delight. Now, it’s true that it’s a very theatrical femininity, it’s not a natural femininity—but there was still something lovely about it as far as I was concerned. You have to look where it’s coming from.

Diane sits in a chair in the Red Room

BK: Maybe one of the riskier moves was incarnating Diane (Laura Dern), because if you do that wrong, it blows apart all the mystery of the Cooper-Diane dynamic in the original series.

MPN: It was very funny, but it was also a clue—it added something to the detective. And that she wasn’t embodied then now seems so important. Yeah, I have to agree with you that it really was a huge risk, but he did it.

BK: Showing her in fragmented, manifold ways—whether as a tulpa or her double appearing to herself at the motel in Part 18—that was a great solution to letting the audience see her without ruining the mystery of it.

MPN: He certainly didn’t ruin the mystery; he compounded it. So the invisible woman is too much body, has too many bodies.

BK: And you wonder exactly who or what she is to him in some other reality because she appears in so many different guises. Somewhere in the multiverse, is there is another version of Diane that’s a truer reflection of their relationship?

MPN: Well, “what is truth, said jesting Pilate.” It’s a huge part of the Lynchverse and its complications.

BK: That’s spooky: the phrase “jesting Pilate” was coined by the other Francis Bacon [the philosopher]. A doppelgänger has entered this conversation.

MPN: That’s a very cool synchronicity!

Gordon Cole leans back in his office chair whistling in front of a picture of the Los Alamos A-bomb test

The David Effect

BK: The main thesis of Television Rewired is that Lynch’s radical vision for the original Twin Peaks—despite the compromises of Season 2—influenced two other innovative Davids, David Chase and David Simon, who made The Sopranos and The Wire, respectively. You call their cumulative impact on the next generation of television auteurs The David Effect. Watching those shows, I could vaguely sense that they were all of a similarly top-tier quality, but I couldn’t express why. Was there a specific moment or aspect of The Sopranos or The Wire that crystallized that connection for you?

MPN: No, I knew it from the beginning. I could see that they were integrated visions, and that artists were creating them. I mean, I saw it right off the bat. I would be watching something, and I would say this isn’t it, like Breaking Bad, or Deadwood, even worse—I shouldn’t say “even worse.” Breaking Bad is the highest-functioning formulaic series that I could imagine.

BK: It’s up there for you, but not at the top. You wrote that shows like these, with their focus on antiheroes, are just as closed in their rendering of the world as pre-Twin Peaks formulaic television.

MPN: Yeah. I knew it immediately. This is my talent, for “thems” that appreciates it (laughs). Not everybody likes what I do, by far. Some do, some don’t. But this is what I do, and most of what I do comes to me exactly the same way that Lynch’s visions come to him, it’s just there. I see it. It’s just how it is (laughs), and it’s something that gives me enormous joy and pleasure. I remember talking with David Chase, and him saying “I don’t understand why I have to explain any of these things to anybody. This is what it looks like!” And I said, “I know just what you mean (laughs).”

Part of the pleasure of writing the book is my dialogue with the reader because if it looked that way to everybody, I wouldn’t be writing the book. It is interesting coming up against people who see things differently from me, and developing a rhetoric of saying, OK, this is what I’m talking about, and really working hard and struggling to make my point as clear as possible.

BK: One of my favorite chapters in the book is on Matt Weiner’s Mad Men, which creates a world of uncertainty by way of the twin identities of the main character. That was one of those shows that frustrated me in a wonderful way. An episode would start in New York City in the ad world, but then Don Draper (Jon Hamm) would be driving upstate somewhere, in an existential crisis.

MPN: Oh, it’s wonderful.

BK: I loved how it just wouldn’t give me what I felt I wanted.

MPN: Exactly. That’s exactly how I feel. Have you seen [Weiner’s recent series] The Romanoffs?

BK: I haven’t yet.

MPN: You have to see it. I mean, the reviews were horrific, but it is brilliant. And you have to understand that it’s all connected, except it’s connected in a completely unfathomable way. It’s not like it’s a theme that’s running through it, or even a thread that’s running through it. I’m not going to tell you any more than that, but there’s stuff going on there. It’s fantastic, but you have to get to the end. Because it’s not like each piece isn’t fun and good, but when you get to the end, if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that you didn’t see what’s going on (laughs).

BK: As far as recent shows go, it seems like Russian Doll is in the same lineage of auteurist shows that have both an integrated vision and an openness to interpretation.

MPN: I love Russian Doll.

BK: In your article about it, you wrote, “Russian Doll opens before our eyes a very different, hopeful, fearless universe of comic, non-linear flow, movement, and, above all, the beauty and vitality of change as the very stuff of life.” That could be a description of Twin Peaks. The show also vibes with Lynch’s empathy with female experience, most notably in Fire Walk With Me. Russian Doll is very progressive in its use of a decidedly feminine system of images to generate meaning—it’s moving away from the same old patriarchal vocabulary.

MPN: This is very wonderful, as far as I’m concerned. The culture is opening up. I feel that America always goes this way, then that way (hand gestures from one extreme to another). Some of the #MeToo stuff is just awful, but a lot of it is just marvelous. It’s a blessing. So we’re going through convulsions, but maybe it will be alright. But that, of course, is one of the pleasures of Lynch’s perspective: the universe is not gendered.

Laura Palmer (right) whispers enigmatically in Dale Cooper's ear

Will It Happen Again?

BK: The open-ended conclusion of The Return naturally encouraged fans to wonder or hope for more Twin Peaks. If there is more, can you imagine where the story could go?

MPN: No. I never second-guess him, never. To me, that’s blasphemy (laughs). But the other thing that probably is also blasphemy is that I pray there isn’t more. I think this is it. I think the ending is so beautiful, so wonderful, and as you say, so indeterminate. So there are things we don’t know, and perhaps we’re not supposed to know.

BK: I feel like the ending is akin to the end of Mulholland Drive, as you described it in David Lynch Swerves. That shot of Betty and Rita “in a radiant cloud of light…there is a quality of peace, freedom, and happiness that accompanies this vision of a better place beyond the marketplace.”

MPN: But they’re in an alternate timeline.

BK: Right, but if all of these realities can exist at once, in a strange but hopeful way, somewhere and someplace, they’re happy. That’s what gives me the feeling that the ending of The Return is relatively hopeful. Her whisper at the end, whatever she’s specifically saying, seems to mean: “Let’s try this again.”

MPN: Oh, I like that so much! I once asked David whether Fred Madison in Lost Highway could ever get to a better place, and he said, “Well, if the movie went on long enough.” And I think that’s right. But I think that’s it’s—you’re absolutely on target that it’s all happening at once. I don’t know whether that’s hopeful, or it’s not hopeful, or it’s an irrelevant concept. So you think that the final credits, with her whispering in his ear, means “We should try this again?” I like it.

BK: It’s like a restatement of the mission. Because you get the sense that she’s been speaking in his ear over and over.

MPN: It’s possible. But she’s not a center of truth.

BK: But if you believe the Unified Field Theory and that matter is neither created or destroyed, then the world doesn’t end, only that pocket world in Part 18 does.

MPN: I think so, too. I like what you’re saying, but I’m inclined to think that’s not it. The thing that I’m focusing on is that we don’t hear it. And I think that’s very important. And I don’t know where that’s going. Because we do hear what she says in Season 2, although maybe he never wanted us to.

BK: I think that the only possible way to extend it would be to have Cooper go through sort of what Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) does in Inland Empire: investigate all kinds of possibilities, confront his worst fears and try to resolve his deepest concerns.

MPN: I think Cooper is finished. I think that if there was another one, it would be some character that you would never imagine being the center of it.

BK: But wouldn’t Cooper want to redeem himself for unraveling all of Laura’s hard spiritual gains in Fire Walk With Me?

MPN: Well, after all, isn’t that what David said to me (about possible redemption of Fred in Lost Highway), “The movie just wasn’t long enough”? So maybe he will, maybe that’s possible, I don’t know. If David did that, it would be beautiful.

BK: You can trust him to do something unexpected. Whatever happens, we’ll be in good hands.

MPN: He’ll whisper something wonderful in our ears.

Written by Brian Krikorian

Brian Krikorian is a writer/editor at 25 Years Later with a background in screenwriting. He has edited for over a decade, most recently for Bleacher Report.


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  1. Thank you for this content, a lot of insightful thoughts. I still think the scene with French Woman was a sort code or test. Not for us the viewer but for Albert. Because Albert is not throwing his hands up. In fact he looks bewildered, you expect a line from Albert, a snag at the situation. But he is in deep thought. ”She is here visting a friend of her mother who’s daughter is gone missing”, says Gordon. Then Gordon makes a yoke, but all this time nothing is registering with Albert, literally. Is he daydreaming? Gordon earlier expressed concern for Albert, repeatedly saying his name. Everybody is always talking about the French Woman but I`m always focused on Albert’s bewilderment.

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