Courtesy of Showtime

REVIEW | How the eighth part of Twin Peaks: the Return changed television

TV | Got a light? The last episode of David Lynch's 18-hour long film is one swirling, ephemeral origin story

"This is the water. And this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within."

For those of you who tuned in this week expecting a continuation of the last episode of Twin Peaks, you're in for a surprise. Not only do we temporarily set aside Dale Cooper's long-running search for some semblance of himself, we get a whole universe we never expected to see: the origin story of BOB, and therefore the evil of all mankind. It's no surprise from David Lynch, who is all too forthcoming about his obsession with this topic (darkness that lurks underneath the surface), but it is a shock that something so polarizing and experimental was shown on network TV. Everyone who tuned in got the sense that we were witnessing a kind of history: Lynch has dived nose-deep into uncharted territory.

It is happening again.

On July 16, 1945. 5:29 AM (MWT), somewhere in the White Sands of New Mexico, the first atomic bomb was launched - a new sort of evil is birthed into the world. A rip in the fabric of time. Lynch is offering here a representation of how the Black and White Lodges (as above, so below) teared through the seams of our reality as we know it, with BOB being it's ultimate conception. The nuclear cause of human suffering is accompanied with Penderecki's gripping and bone-chilling "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima." In the words of Vulture's Laura Hudson, who could not have worded it in better terms: "The ability to drop death like a pin on a map, to spread its horror like a biblical flood across the earth, unmaking everything it touched. If a miracle is something so divine that it surpasses understanding, then what is its opposite? Something too terrible and too human to be believed. Later, when Oppenheimer — now credited and condemned by history as the father of the nuclear bomb — described his reaction to the first mushroom cloud of the atomic age, he quoted from another great work of literature, the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds." What would the explosion look like from another world, if someone were watching?"

We live in a world where we are used to seeing it all. There is no longer anything that phases us, not even the most jaded New Yorker. To have the worst of humanity thrown into our faces, as a reminder of what we can do, is jarring.

"Twin Peaks" (2017)

Cut to a convenience store with ghostly figures (credited as "woodsmen") flickering as time passes in some undisclosed pace. In the show's first series, the One-Armed Man can be recalled stating: "I think you say 'convenience store.' We lived above it." It can be safe to assume that maybe, just maybe, this is the place where the explosion led Black Lodge residents to drift. More Lynchian sequences follow, with imagery of stardust, atomic particles, colliding over and over again. The most unsettling part is coming to terms with the fact that Lodge beings did not come from some other-worldly, supernatural source - they, in fact, stem from humanity's own atrocities, an evil launched the minute the first atomic bomb did as well.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Roadhouse is pleased to present the Nine Inch Nails."

Here's what I'm going to take a second to applaud the true stars of Twin Peaks: the sound designers. The sound designers, engineers, and mixers have managed to create an ambiance on this show that is unlike any other on air - songs that almost sound like characters themselves. For an episode with about fifty words of dialogue total, it is brimming with the deeply unsettling vibrations, orchestra strings and looming crescendo that we've come to associate with the world of David Lynch. "She's gone, she's gone, she's gone away," croons lead vocalist Trent Reznor, which might be a sharp redirect to what the show's all about: Laura Palmer and her presence that lingers.

In what is perhaps the most significant scene, we are brought to a black and white room with a fuzzy record playing on loop. The Giant (who is now credited as "?????????") makes an appearance - it is clear that he has been made aware that something in the universe is wrong. A darkness has been born. In an effort to combat BOB, he appears to send a figure of goodness and light to earth - a figure that emerges from his head. In a sudden turn, it's made apparent that the figure - floating through a golden ball - bears the face of Laura Palmer. If (and only if) this is the interpretation we were meant to be led to, then this is a shocking twist in the mythology of Twin Peaks, as it suggests Laura Palmer wasn't just a victim but a sacrifice.

Rene Magritte's "The Art of Conversation", 1950 - 1963

Twin Peaks (screenshot)

The eighth part of Twin Peaks: the Return is one that pays homage to the surrealist greats - it all feels a little too on the nose of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Lynch is recalling Kubrick's ghost as a way of honoring the origin story of all origin stories. It moves beyond the boundaries of narrative linear story-telling, as Lynch himself has described it as an "18-hour long film, broken up into 18 parts." In a binge-watching era, this might make some fans insane, but it might do some good in remembering that with part eight, Lynch has just given you the greatest gift of all, without you even asking for it: the story of Twin Peaks. We now know there is something cosmic, beyond our understanding.

The power of part eight lies in Lynch's ability to puncture our subconscious. With the 71-year-old director's career coming to a close, this may very well be the last "feature film" he gives us - and man, is it a sight. This was the sequel to 1977's Eraserhead, with black and white imagery and violent score leading us right back full circle. The Return, having been twenty-five years in the making, is something that we are privileged to be witnessing - nothing like it has come before, nothing like it has happened since. A show like Twin Peaks only comes along once in a lifetime. It's an honor that it's come along in ours.


Twin Peaks: the Return airs on Showtime on Sundays, 9/8c.


Vanessa is a music and culture writer. She will probably dance to "Laura Palmer's Theme" x Britney Spear's Everytime at her wedding. Follow her on twitter.



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