TV & Film

What’s REALLY Going on in Twin Peaks #1

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Mon 29 May, 2017

Loving the return of Twin Peaks? Of course. Have no god damn idea whats happening? Naturally. Luckily Chris Burgess is here to enlighten us all.

Spoiler alert – this articles is full of spoilers. Don’t read it unless you’ve seen episode four – or are some kind of TV-viewing masochist.

So Twin Peaks is back in bizarre and outlandish style, with a mix of old and new cast members and a continuation of the murder mystery/malarial dreamscape story that Lynch and Frost began some 27 years ago.

The question of who killed Laura Palmer, raised in the very first scene way back in 1990, has now given way to whole lodgefull of other, deeper questions about Twin Peaks universe.

The first two episodes brought a semblance of plot and reintroduction to the world of Twin Peaks, Washington (well, at least as much of a plot as David Lynch will allow). While they were glorious episodes in their own right, episodes 3 and 4 have turned the dial all the way up to ‘FULL LYNCH’.

We begin episode 3 with Cooper falling through space, landing in a strange room that seems to exist somewhere between the Black Lodge and the ‘real’ world. Giant numbered electrical circuits abound and suck Agent Cooper through them, while Bad Cooper loses consciousness and crashes his car.

We’re also introduced to Cooper Mark 3, a fat version named Dougie, cavorting with a prostitute and suffering from what appears to be a stroke.

Bad Cooper, following his crash, throws up gunk. Dougie turns into gunk and disappears into the Black Lodge, where he turns into a pearl. Cooper enters Dougie’s house through the electrical socket, having lost many of his cognitive functions before finding his way to a casino (the ‘something’ to do Hawk’s heritage, perhaps, or just a red herring?)

As with everything in Twin Peaks, there’s a lot of analogy and symbolism at play here – but it seems to me that Lynch is toying with the audience – hiding in plain sight the very heart of these two episodes.

It’s a show about itself.

Let me rephrase that – these two episodes are about the return of the show of Twin Peaks – told through the show itself.

Confused? Well it’s Twin Peaks, so you’re bound to be. Let me explain my theory.

Cooper – for the time being a perfect symbol of the show – comes in through the walls clearly representing the new way in which TV enters your home, either through cable or the internet – Netflix for example. He’s immediately placed into new shoes, Lynch’s way of telling us not only that the show has big shoes to fill, but that it also needs to find it’s footing after being away for so long – taking tentative steps forward and learning as it goes along.

From here on, it’s more clear. Lucy, Andy and Hawk revisit the case files, spreading them out on the conference room table is akin to a writer’s room – laying out the plots and storylines of the new series.

There are two lines that are crucial to this theory. Firstly “there’s something missing”. Perhaps here Lynch is talking about his long term collaborator Jack Nance, who died four years after the end of the original series, of which his character was integral.

The other is Hawk’s seemingly throwaway line “It’s not about the bunny. Is it about the bunny? No, it’s not about the bunny!” Hawk is quite clearly depicting Lynch in this moment – considering why he’s bringing Twin Peaks back. Is it about the money? Maybe. But ultimately no, he’s not bringing this back for the money, he’s doing it for other reasons. Lucy’s guilt at taking the bunny to ease a restless stomach indicating Lynch’s guilt at taking the money for the return series? It’s possible.

This scene then jumps to another which back up the theory. Why the five gold spades?

Maybe they represent the five big awards – three Emmys and two Golden Globes – that the original Twin Peaks series was awarded? Symbolic of the fact that the critics ‘dug’ it?

However, the very nature of the spades being spray painted gold perhaps suggest that Lynch and Foster aren’t particularly in thrall to awards. They’re not making this for the money or the plaudits – they’re making this for themselves, as a piece of art.

From here on in, the symbolism and meta elements keep on rolling in.

The casino scene – where a confused Cooper is guided to win big on every one-armed bandit – can be viewed as an analogy for investors. The spectral red curtain from the Black Lodge floating above the winning machines perhaps suggesting that Twin Peaks is Lynch’s very own ‘Mr Jackpots’, with investors willing to throw money at its resurrection. A confused and stumbling Cooper representing that this wasn’t something that Lynch and Frost had planned on, bemusing even them.

Or, read another way, it’s symbolic of the new crop of big TV shows – on Netflix and beyond – each generating huge returns in their own right. The inclusion of the old gambler looking on in envy (before joining in herself) lends credence to this – a sign of TV’s shifting fortunes from the old broadcast and cable channels to the new and exciting digital and streaming age. Cooper’s “Call for help” line betraying the writers’ uncertainty with this new world.

This is also evident in the Manhattan loft scenes in episodes 1 and 2, where the student is watching a black box for countless hours, waiting for something to happen. When something does eventually show up in reality it leaves him and his female companion literally brainless. Much like Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

This is Lynch’s critique of modern television, which continues into the next episode in perhaps a more focused and overt manner. All the clues are there.

Episode 4 starts with the theme music of the show – marking a disparity from the previous three. We start with Cooper winning big while casino owners watch on with concern, as any TV or studio executives would for the return of such a big show.

We are introduced to Bill and Candy Shaker – concerned colleagues of Dougie, nervously asking Cooper if he’s ok. Another level of TV exec perhaps, concerned that the show may be too weird for mass consumption?

Cooper takes the money from the casino (with conditions, naturally) and visits Dougie’s wife, who doesn’t seem to notice (or care) that he’s a different man entirely. “It’s good to have you home” she says, echoing the feelings of many Twin Peaks’ fans when they heard that the show was to return.

Later, we find Lucy and Andy in a very odd scene, played for laughs, back at the Sheriff’s Department. Taking a step back from the action we find ourselves in a place stuck in the past. Lucy and Andy’s fear of mobile phones, the old school computer technology,  the nods to the slapstick and silent comedies – there’s a lot to suggest Lynch sees the town (and show) as out of date, stuck in its own world for the past 25 years without moving on.

And maybe that’s the crux of what these two episodes are about – Lynch’s insecurities and worries about reviving a show from the 1990s in the modern 2010s. The new guys at the department don’t get it, trolling Andy and Lucy – who perhaps represent fans of the show here – and are dismissive of their silliness, not wishing to engage further. Meanwhile Bobby returns, overcome with emotion when seeing a picture of Laura Palmer.

And then there’s Wally Brando.

If you hadn’t uttered ‘what the actual fuck’ before now, this was probably the moment it left your lips.

Impersonating Marlon Brando, Michael Cera plays the son of Andy and Lucy – paying his respects to Sheriff Trueman and giving his parents permission to turn his bedroom into a study. While I’m sure this scene will be picked over by many fans looking for meaning. Is Wally just Lynch’s way of paying tribute to the shows that Twin Peaks has influenced over the years? Or a symbol of the legacy of Twin Peaks original run? Perhaps Brando – who characterises ‘the movies’ is a nod to the Twin Peaks film Fire Walk With Me, hence the adoration of the audience of Andy and Lucy.

The episode ends with Cooper wearing all the wrong clothes and not knowing how to behave in this new suburban world – while Sonny Jim gives him the thumbs up. The new generation ostensibly giving their approval to the daft old man, while chuckling at his strange behaviour. This continues in the kitchen, with Cooper wearing a tie on his head and copying the self-assured youngster’s behaviour. The two of them are building up to the coffee moment – the show’s most famous catchphrase.

This is Lynch wondering whether Twin Peaks can sit at the table with the new generation of TV shows, worrying about whether it will ‘fit in’ or be a curio to the new breed of audience. This is hammered home when Albert finally talks back to Lynch’s Gordon Cole, perhaps indicating that the director himself needed a bit of a push in the right direction from time to time during the production of the show.

Cole talking to Bad Cooper is simply Lynch watching the new show himself “I too have missed our good times together, where have you been these past few years?”. The interrogation room laid out like an editing suite, as Lynch looks on with uncertainly and disquiet.

You’re watching the world of Twin Peaks commentate on the return of Twin Peaks while you yourself are watching Twin Peaks. The levels of self-reference and meta are enough to leave you befuddled, bewildered and bewitched, while also pushing the story forward in its own right.

Lynch is taking you behind the scenes and laying his worries bare. He needn’t worry – it’s a genius masterstroke, a triumph of post-modern surrealist storytelling and one which demands repeat viewings. We can only hope that the rest of the series is as compelling and layered.

However, although there’s a lot that seems to fit my theory, it is just that, a theory. I could be wrong and probably am. Many of other people have tried second-guessing Lynch and gotten things totally wrong.

There are also a lot of questions unanswered. What’s the importance of the ‘red door’ at Dougie’s home? Why is Deputy Andy channelling Stan Laurel? Does Gordon know that Bad Cooper isn’t the real Cooper?

Let us know if you have any other ideas, we’d love to hear them.

 

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