Twin Peaks Season 3 Episode 8 Recap
“It may be the key to what this is all about.” They say that ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’. If that’s the case, then writing about the already (in)famous eighth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return is like baking about quantum physics or swimming about the works of Marcel Proust.
Lynch’s ‘Ultimate Trip’
The episode’s abstract nature is something we were warned about beforehand. Frost and Lynch both claimed it was unlike anything we had seen in Twin Peaks previously. Lynch was working for weeks on this particular chapter in absolute secrecy. For fans waiting for Lynch’s ‘Ultimate Trip’ this was manna from heaven. But for those who already felt starved of the show’s quirky traditions and have longed to spend more time in the town itself, this was might have been a step too far.
Regardless of your stance on the polarising episode, never before have our Twin Peaks episode summaries been so appropriately named. So, WTF did just happen in Twin Peaks this week?!
Episode 8 opened with Dopple Dale and Ray making their escape from the prison in South Dakota. The Daleganger makes it abundantly clear that he wants the coordinates that Ray has and threatens him with a gun as Ray takes a bathroom break. The jokes on Mr. C. though. The gun provided by Warden Murphy is a dud and Ray takes the chance to end Cooper once and for all by shooting him with his own pistol. However, no sooner has Cooper hit the ground than some Lynchian strobe-lighting flickers across the screen. Then, a gaggle of those darkened figures we had seen appearing surreptitiously in previous episodes start rushing around like sooty munchkins.
Twin Peaks’ Woodsmen
We now know that these figures are called the “Woodsmen” and we have seen their kind before Season 3 in the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me. They begin tending to the stricken Cooper in what we presume is an attempt to retrieve BOB from the doppelganger as they pull a black orb from his stomach with Frank Silva’s face grinning inside it. The panicked Ray drives away and quickly phones Philip Jefferies to ‘explain’ what just happened as he heads to the ‘farm’ that he and Mr. C had been discussing previously.
Next up, we’re treated to a performance by ‘The’ Nine Inch Nails (or NIN to their friends) at The Roadhouse in our only visit to Twin Peaks this week. Presumably, business must be booming at the local venue to be able to afford such a world famous act. The band performs She’s Gone Away and it is worth listening closely to the lyrics that Trent Reznor growls into the mic: there’s more than a few parallels to events of Twin Peaks contained within them. And then, David Lynch literally drops a bomb on proceedings.
New Mexico on July 16, 1945
We cut to New Mexico on July 16, 1945, to witness the first test of the atom bomb, all realised initially in gorgeous monochrome slow motion. As we zoom into the explosion, we start to see several abstract sequences where black clashes with white and another selection of shots that look like the ‘non-existence’ Cooper fell through in Season 3’s premiere. It seems to be a visual metaphor to convey the idea that the atom bomb has upset the balance between the White and the Black Lodge, which has a dire consequence.
We see a deserted convenience store being overrun by more Woodsmen (clearly they have a thing for 7-11s). Then we then witness the creature from the Glass Box known now as either Mother or The Experiment spewing out a stream white fluid loaded with eggs and a black orb containing BOB’s face. It appears that what we are seeing here is the birth or transfer of Killer BOB into our world.
Then we are transported back to the Pink World -where Dale escaped via electric socket from in Episode 3- to see it in a far more opulent state. Here we meet a new, presumably, friendly face in Senorita Dido listening contently to the same gramophone we saw at the very beginning of Season 3. Also in the room is the familiar looking Tesla-inspired electric bell (like the one we saw Naido throw the switch on in Episode 3) and it starts bleeping away to itself much to the concern of the Senorita and the Giant (who’s now being credited as “?????????” but let’s try to keep it simple, shall we?).
The Giant then makes his way to a small theatre (quite possibly the same real-life location used in the Silencio sequence in Mulholland Drive) and witnesses the arrival of BOB on a cinema screen before levitating into the air with golden tendrils emerging from his face. Slowly, these tendrils form into a golden orb that S. Dido takes hold of to witness none other than Laura Palmer’s face appear inside it before the orb is sent to Earth (via a large golden pipe, of course).
Now, is this orb actually Laura Palmer? Probably not. It’s more likely that this is the being that has been talking to Dale in the Red Room, who the Man From Another Place once said of “Doesn’t she look just like Laura Palmer?”. Likewise, the Laura we met in the Red Room in the premiere says she feels like she knows Laura (but sometimes her arms bend back) before then claiming to be Laura Palmer and revealing herself to be made of pure light under her skin. One thing we know for sure in Twin Peaks is that nothing is what it seems and there is almost certainly more to the golden orb than it simply being the origin of the teenage Laura Palmer from 25 years ago.
Once we’re done with that revelation, we return to New Mexico in 1956 to witness a strange frog/bug thing crawl from one of Mother’s eggs just as we see two Woodsmen descend into the desert. We then focus on one of these charcoal figures. He terrorises local residents with the already iconic line, and the name of this particular episode, “Gotta light?”. It seems also that time slows down around them. The crackling noise that has previously been heard in their presence could well be a signifier of radiation rather than electricity as was first thought.
Meanwhile, an adolescent boy and girl walk home together. There’s lots of speculation already about who they could be when they grow up as their characters are credited as just “Boy” and “Girl”. This suggests we may have met their adult selves already. Likewise, Frost and Lynch could just be screwing with us.
Video Killed the Radio Star
Next, the tall Woodsman stumbles (seemingly) upon a radio station and promptly murders the receptionist. He achieves this by apparently crushing her into the floor before he applies the same treatment, only more slowly, to the DJ on shift. Then begins perhaps the most haunting scene we’ve seen in Season 3. The blackened giant starts to recite a short poem into the mic (“This is the water and this is the well…”) again and again. This poem causes listeners in the vicinity of their radios to fall asleep, including the young girl from earlier.
Outside her window, the Frog Bug flies up to her room and then just pops himself into the young lady’s mouth. It’s unlikely this is how BOB takes his first possession as we saw several of the Frog Bug eggs spew forth from Mother. Also BOB’s orb was separate from them. However, is this how other residents of the Black Lodge take their human forms?
Finally, with his work presumably done, the Woodsman leaves the radio station. He merges into the darkness as the credits roll and we pick our jaws up off the floor.
Best. Episode. Ever?
So, there we have it. Was this the best episode of Twin Peaks: The Return for you so far? Did you enjoy unfettered Frost and Lynch letting their vision and imaginations run free? Or was this the moment where your patience finally snapped? Did you give up any hope of the show recapturing its lighter, quirkier side? Will Twin Peaks start to become a permanent fever dream, only with less internal logic? Let us know in the comments below.
Remember that Twin Peaks: The Return takes a break this weekend for Independence Day in the US. It returns on Sunday, July 9th but be sure to check back to BackToTwinPeaks.com next week. We will be discussing and examining the further ramifications of Episode 8.