Last week I wrote about how far Twin Peaks has come from being a murder mystery, which honestly is an angle I wish I’d saved for this week, because hoooooo boy was last night’s episode about as far from a murder mystery as one could get. The rest of the season has been surprising in its unrestrained Lynchianism, but Episode 8 was perhaps the single most Lynchian thing that David Lynch has devised.
In one way, what we saw last night was the most cryptic, surreal and indecipherable episode of television that Lynch — and, quite possibly, anyone else — has ever made. But then, in its own strange way, it was none of those things (except surreal, because duh), because it made sense in its own manner… or, at least, I think it did, because I think what we saw last night was BOB’s origin story. It’s as good a theory as any, anyway.
The episode started conventionally enough — Evil Cooper, fresh out of jail, is in the car with Ray Monroe, whose presence he demanded as part of the escape deal he “negotiated” last week with the warden of the prison where he was being held. Monroe has some information that Evil Cooper wants. There’s no honor among thieves, and Ray holds out for cash — more, perhaps, than was agreed on, because Cooper seems less than amused with his demand. Monroe stops the car to take a piss, Cooper grabs the gun from the glovebox and gets out to menace him with it, only to find that for once, he’s been outwitted: the gun is loaded with blanks, and Ray has a gun himself, with which he duly shoots Cooper three times.
And then all hell breaks loose. A torrent of shadows — all of whom look suspiciously like the black-painted creature we discussed last week, the one who was in the cell in episode one and in the hospital last week, and who we’ll discuss further shortly — surrounds his body, pawing and tearing at him as Monroe looks on in horror. It looks for a moment like they’re going to tear him apart; blood starts to cover his face and body, and then — most unnervingly of all — the camera slowly zooms in and we see a grinning, disembodied face next to Cooper’s inert body.
It’s BOB. (I’ve upped the exposure several stops in the image above, because he’s almost impossible to see, but he’s there alright.) Monroe flees in terror, jumping into his car and driving like all the devils of hell are following him — which they may very well be. We see him making a frantic phone call, telling whoever he’s talking to that “I saw something in Cooper…. that may be the key to what this is all about.” Yes, Ray, did you ever.
At this point, the episode cuts to the Roadhouse, where Nine Inch Nails are performing. We watch an entire NIN song, just plonked in the middle of the episode, because why wouldn’t there just be a live NIN clip in the middle of an episode of Twin Peaks? Once they’re done, we cut briefly back to Evil Cooper, lying dead in the sand. Except, he’s not dead at all. Not long after Ray departs, so do the spirits, and Evil Coop sits up again, apparently unharmed. Is he still Evil Cooper? Is he free of BOB? If so, what does that mean for Dougie? What does any of it mean??
From there, the action cuts abruptly to White Sands, New Mexico, in July 1945. July 16, in fact: the date that brought the conclusion of the Manhattan Project, the date of the first successful atomic bomb test. The camera takes us high above the test site, relying on some remarkable CGI to go soaring through the sky as the mushroom cloud spreads in slow motion below. And then we’re diving down toward the explosion, heading straight into the center of the cloud. We pass the threshold of the plume, like a doomed spaceship falling into a black hole’s event horizon. And then: a good five minutes of discordant, abstract noise, accompanied by discordant, abstract imagery that’s impossible to describe here in a way that’d do it any justice.
The chaos finally resolves into the facade of a gas station in an abandoned town, perhaps one of the towns that was cleared for the explosion. Only it’s not empty: in jerky, stop-start footage, we see more of the charcoal-black men — “woodsmen,” according to the credits — flitting around the frame like insects. Cut to: some strange otherworldly creature vomiting eggs into a void. One of the eggs bears the face of BOB. Cut to: an island in a purple ocean, upon which is a strange, alien-looking building — a castle, or some sort of fortress. The camera floats around the building’s exterior, then dives into its single window.
It leads us to the Purple Room, where we saw the real Agent Cooper in the course of his escape from the Black Lodge. Within: an anonymous lady and the Giant. She sits and watches as he levitates and channels some sort of golden energy field, out of which is born… Laura Palmer. Or, at least, her face, which is contained in a glowing golden orb — one that looks, come to think of it, remarkably like the one into which the unfortunate real Dougie Jones was shrunken several episodes ago. The giant’s female companion holds the orb and looks at it in wonder, before releasing it to float through a trumpet of some description and into the world. Ooooooookay.
And then, the most disturbing part of the episode. We return to the real world in 1956, a decade and change after the bomb was detonated. We’re back in the desert, where it appears one of the eggs we saw emerging from the stomach of the strange void creature has landed. As we watch, it hatches, and out crawls a… thing. It’s some sort of insect, but it’s also indescribably, unpleasantly human-like. The creature crawls across the desert sand and out of the frame. Whatever it is, it does not bode well.
From there, we cut to what seems to be a nearby town, and follow a young couple as they return from what appears to be their first date. They stop outside her house; he asks for a single kiss, and she obliges shyly, before retreating to her bedroom. Cut to a deserted road — not far away, it seems — where we see one of the woodsmen shuffling out of the desert. He flags down the clearly terrified couple driving and asks for a light. They stare at him in horror, and for a moment it seems something terrible is about to happen. Then the driver wrenches himself out of the spell the woodsman has cast on him, floors the accelerator, and drives away frantically.
We cut to the local radio station. The same woodsman wanders in, again asking for a light. This time, something terrible does happen: he kills the receptionist by crushing her head with his bare hands, then walks into the broadcast booth, grabs the hapless DJ’s head, and begins to recite a creepy poem (which is an internet mystery all of its own) over the air, over and over again. It seems to cause everyone listening to pass out. And finally, we watch as the hideous bug creature climbs through the window of the girl we saw before, and climb straight… into… her… mouth. Cut back to the woodsman, whose job is done; he kills the DJ, his fingers piercing the poor man’s skull, then shuffles back into the dark. Fade to black.
So: what the fuck? Obviously there are all sorts of interpretations of what happened here, but here is mine: the general consensus, with which I agree, is that the bug is BOB. Way back in the show’s second season, where BOB vacates Leland and disappears into the ether, Cooper and Sheriff Truman discuss whether or not BOB is real. They come to the conclusion that he is a manifestation of “the evil that men do.” With that in mind, it makes sense that he’d be born of the atomic bomb, which is perhaps the single greatest evil that man has created. It’s no accident, I’m sure, that the music accompanying the surreal atomic bomb scenes is Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” — nor, for that matter, that Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself) has a huge poster of a mushroom cloud in his office.
In a less metaphorical sense, it seems that the bomb tore a short-lived hole in the fabric of spacetime, allowing creatures from the Black Lodge dimension to pass through it. If the bug is BOB, then it appears the woodsmen come from the same place — and have the same desires — as he does. I’m not sure I’m 100% down with this — I always liked the theory that BOB was a manifestation of the way abuse is passed down through generations, an idea that seems undermined by the way his first host is a young girl who Lynch goes out of his way to portray as innocent and pure.
But then, that’s also how Laura was portrayed at first, and part of what made the first incarnation of Twin Peaks so fascinating was the way we got to know her posthumously, slowly realizing that she was no such thing. This fact makes the way she seems to be portrayed in this series — as an avatar of all that’s good and pure — somewhat incongruous. But honestly, this is all my interpretation, and part of what makes Lynch’s work so great is that it invites any number of interpretations. Quite where the show goes from here is anyone’s guess; annoyingly, we have to wait two weeks to find out, although maybe we do need the extra week to recover from the most pleasantly batshit episode of TV in living memory. A show both wonderful and strange, indeed.