For those who thought “Part 7” of Twin Peaks: The Return contained too much exposition and narrative linearity, Mark Frost and David Lynch have obliged you in spades with “Part 8,” a delirious descent into the murky matrix of material existence. Events pick up, deceptively enough, right where they left off last week, with Bad Dale (Kyle MacLachlan) and Ray (George Griffith) barreling through the night, leaving their recent confinement in Yankton federal prison far in the rearview. The opening sequence sets us up to expect that Bad Dale will summarily execute Ray for withholding key information. Frost and Lynch, though, have a nifty, noirish twist up their sleeves: Ray gets the drop on Bad Dale, putting two in his chest, but before Ray can finish the doppelganger off with a headshot, three spectral figures appear out of nowhere to “treat” his wounds with some bloody hands-on healing.
In a bizarre parody of childbirth, the operation results in a bubble bearing the image of BOB (Frank Silva) emerging from Bad Dale’s stomach. It’s at this point that the setting shifts abruptly to the Bang Bang Bar, where Nine Inch Nails performs “She’s Gone Away.” Prior to this, Lynch reserved these musical performances almost exclusively for the end credits, but here the music serves a twofold purpose. Most directly, the song mysteriously cues (or perhaps causes?) the doppelganger’s seemingly miraculous resurrection. More intriguingly, the music-video aesthetic sets up the first term in a matched pair with the subsequent scene: an extended flashback to the Trinity nuclear test site in White Sands, New Mexico, on July 26, 1945.
As the camera floats above the desert landscape, Lynch sets the controls for the heart of the mushroom cloud, pushing through the blossoming nuclear shroud, and into a brave new world of human destructiveness. For the next 11 minutes or so, the screen explodes with a disorientating barrage of abstract imagery accompanied by Krzysztof Penderecki’s stunningly discordant “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima.” The sequence invites comparison with the psychedelic Slitscan finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Where Stanley Kubrick represents the birth of the cosmos, Lynch presents the genesis of a new force for malevolence, one capable of rending asunder the very building blocks of the universe. Not for nothing was J. Robert Oppenheimer, mastermind of the Trinity project, prompted to quote from the Bhagavad Gita when contemplating the devastation wrought by the first atomic detonation: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
We next see a naked gray female figure—credited only as Experiment (Erica Eynon)—floating in the cosmic soup, spewing forth a vast stream of particulate matter, including odd speckled eggs as well as the BOB bubble seen earlier in the episode. This being bears a striking resemblance to the thing that appeared in the glass box in “Part 1.” And given its procreative abilities, it probably embodies some version of the “Mother” that the American Girl (Phoebe Augustine) warned Cooper about in “Part 3.”
This bizarro-world cosmogony relates in obscure fashion to the convenience store in the next scene, peopled by a brood of the shadowy figures that recently revived the Bad Dale. In the original series, the one-armed man mentions that the entities known as MIKE and BOB live “above a convenience store.” What’s more, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, we’re given a brief glimpse of this space, occupied by, among others, a Woodsman outfitted exactly like the one who features prominently in this episode.
The camera traverses an enormous purple sea, like the one that Cooper surveyed from a balcony in “Part 3,” closing in on a massive structure (reminiscent of Castle Caladan in Dune) perched atop a rocky promontory. Somewhere inside, Senorita Dido (Joy Nash), whose rococo ensemble even suggests that of Virginia Madsen’s Princess Irulan from Dune, sits listening to old-timey music issuing from a Victrola. This setting looks a lot like the brief scene early in “Part 1” between Cooper and the individual credited only as ??????? (Carel Struycken, who played the Giant in the original series). And, sure enough, Struycken emerges from behind a bell-shaped machine (like the one Naido turned on in “Part 3”), in answer to a klaxon’s summons.
??????? enters a ballroom, where he watches the cosmogony we’ve just witnessed unfold on a movie screen (in Academy ratio, no less), until the frame freezes on the BOB bubble. In a process that mirrors the earlier maternal “emission,” Struycken projects a golden eruption from his cranium (purified spirit emerging from the crown chakra, perhaps?), in particular one golden globe that contains the radiant image of Laura Palmer. With a kiss as envoy, Senorita Dido sends the globe into a spiraling Rube Goldberg contraption that transmits it into our dimension. It’s a poignant notion that this alternate dimension inhabited by benevolent beings would monitor, and occasionally interact with, our own via a gilded dream-palace movie screen. It also raises the question as to the precarious balance being struck throughout Twin Peaks: The Return between the two mediums of cinema and television.
We may be treading dangerously close to Manichean theology with these two very different acts of creation: a system of belief that hypothesizes equal but opposing deities—one good, one evil—who rule over the universe. At any rate, it seems clear enough that we have just borne witness to one of the most outlandish origin stories ever concocted. But this episode is far from over: Frost and Lynch radically shift gears again, into the realm of pure horror, as the clock clicks forward from 1945 to August 5, 1956.
With its stark monochrome cinematography, the scene where three woodsmen terrorize drivers on a remote New Mexico highway could’ve been lifted straight out of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, except for the fact that the cigarette-chomping head woodsman (Robert Broski) keeps asking whether anyone’s got a light in one exceptionally chilling voice. Elsewhere, one of those speckled eggs hatches into a hideous cockroach-reptile hybrid, something out of a Guillermo del Toro sketchbook. That critter is fated to rendezvous, in a particularly disturbing manner, with a young girl (Tikaeni Faircrest) fresh from a Norman Rockwell-chaste first date. The woodsman takes over a radio station, graphically mutilating its receptionist (Tracy Philips) and disc jockey (Cullen Douglas). What’s even worse, he interrupts the hopeful tones of the Platters’s “My Prayer” in order to recite some dark and riddling Beat poetry: “This is the water. And this is the well. Drink deep and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”
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