If episode 7 was as close to what the original series was like, episode 8 is about as opposite as one can get. It makes Eraserhead seem coherent in comparison. This is not a bad thing in my estimation, but it has left a lot of TP fans (fair-weather fans to be frank),upset and annoyed. They view it as more Lynchian film school nonsense, forgetting that there is a reason for every single frame he films. Whether we see the reason is irrelevant to him. He knows it’s there and that’s all that matters. Between watching the episode and figuring out how the hell to write about it, I’ve read many theories about what it means, and what he was trying to say. Some made sense; others were about as obtuse as the show. While I try to keep things simple and talk about what it is I like and dislike, I find that isn’t enough this week, and will offer my own theory.
We start out easily enough almost right where we left off last week with evil Coop and Ray driving away from the prison. There are shades of Lost Highway as we see many of the same shots of rolling along pavement as were in the movie. Coop makes it clear that Ray has information he wants, and Ray makes it clear that he feels such info is worth a lot of money. They stop at the side of the road so Ray can pee. Guns are drawn and Coop is shot. That is about 7 minutes in total and the only bit that made much sense on initial viewing.
Almost immediately a pack of what the credits refer to as Woodsmen descend on Coop’s body. They tear at it and gnaw at it until we see a growth come out of the torso with Bob’s leering head in it. It’s perhaps the creepiest sequence in the series I’ve seen yet. The etherealness of the woodsmen and how fast they are I found to be truly disturbing. It also seemed to me that the more of Coop’s blood that was spilled, the more physical they became.
Needless to say Ray takes off, and evil Coop does get up, seeming to be no worse for the wear. We then cut to the Roadhouse for a musical interlude by (as the announcer says), “The Nine Inch Nails.” Now I like NIN a lot. I’ve been a fan since Pretty Hate Machine came out in ’89, so I didn’t mind seeing them, but it certainly seemed an odd point in the show. In hindsight I choose to look at it as a palate cleanser. As if Lynch was saying, “Okay folks, get ready!” Truth be told, nothing could prepare anyone for what came next.
Twin Peaks has never been about a murder, let alone solving it; nor was it ever really about the quirky characters that inhabit the small Washington town, or their mundane lives. TP always had something bigger in mind. It was a meditation on good and evil, the darkness that lies just under the surface, like dirt in an uncut fingernail. Cooper and the gang have always been pawns-nothing more, nothing less. In this week’s episode we see that more than ever. To try and describe it is to try and describe the contents of a fever dream. You’ll get bits and pieces but never the full thing. After the NIN interlude, we see Coop sit up after being shot and then mauled by the woodsmen. We then go back in history to 1945, and the first testing of an atom bomb. Those paying attention will see it’s from this event that Cole has a blown up photo on his wall (and Henry from Eraserhead has a smaller version in his apartment). The camera moves in slowly and we get to see the inside of the explosion and mushroom cloud.
There is also a convenience store which is inhabited by a multitude of these woodsmen, scurrying about. This fades to some kind of floating figure, similar in looks to the creature in the box from episode one, that spews a stream of fluid, and we see one globule that has Bob’s face in it, leering at us as he did in the growth from Coop’s body.
The giant, in a theater with an unknown woman, watches the explosion and the woodsmen on a screen (possibly the same theater from Mulholland Dr). He then floats and a golden light emanates from his head. A globe floats down to the woman and we see the face of Laura Palmer. She sends the globe off with a kiss and it heads towards earth.
After this there are three scenes intercut with one another: the birth and travels of an insect, a first date between two teenagers, and a woodsman gone amok in a radio station. The insect ends up crawling into the mouth of the girl who was on the date, while the woodsman kills the two employees at the radio station, all the while reciting the same verse over and over again.
As the screen fades to black you feel as if you’ve been hit in the head with a ball peen hammer. You try to make sense of what you’ve seen, but it’s impossible. You get angry and wonder what this has to do with that odd group of folks in Twin Peaks. You yearn for cherry pie and coffee-instead you get the smell of burned oil. It’s only on further contemplation, at least on my part, that you realize you’ve seen the origins of Bob, and perhaps those two teenagers are perhaps Bob’s parents(if indeed, he could be said to have any). We see Laura sent to confront Bob. At least that’s what I think is happening, and only time will tell, and if it ever is revealed, it will say more about us a species than it will any one individual.
As I’ve said before in other articles and in my book on Lynch’s movies (available here), his work is a documentary on an alternative universe. Things seem recognizable, but when you give it all a cursory look, you realize it’s nothing like what we know.
Episode 8 showed us everything we know and don’t know. All we understand and all which is incomprehensible. And as in life, we may never get the answers we want-but we do get the answers Lynch thinks we deserve. And that, I think is the best we can hope for.