Season Three, Episode Eight — “The Return, Part Eight”

'Twin Peaks' returns to Showtime

© Copyright 2017, Showtime. All Rights Reserved.

By Brad Sun. For all the expectation-defying curveballs we’ve come to expect from Mark Frost and David Lynch, here’s a statement I never thought I’d write: Twin Peaks just got really weird.

Immediately following the series’ fan-friendliest episode, we are plunged headfirst into the most abstract and audacious imagery since Lynch’s student film days. Character, story structure, and narrative all take a backseat to unrelenting aural and visual spectacle. It’s David Lynch at his most painterly and operatic, an absolutely astounding experiment that will no doubt be remembered as one of Twin Peaks‘ most remarkable and divisive moments.

Things start out simply enough. Picking up immediately after the end of Part Seven, Evil Coop and Ray drive down an increasingly dark and isolated road. As tension builds, the doppelganger’s attempt to kill his duplicitous partner ends with a surprisingly resourceful Ray turning the tables. That’s when things go bonkers.

It’s almost as if Evil Coop’s unexpected death knocked the show’s narrative off its axis. It begins with a swarm of those blackened ghosts ripping him apart, and then, well…

Our first hint that something is off is a sudden cut to the Bang Bang Bar for a pretty kick ass performance by Trent Reznor and “The” Nine Inch Nails. Usually saved for the closing credits, the sequence seems to signal an early end to the regularly scheduled proceedings, leaving the bulk of the eighth hour open for an extended interlude, equal parts riveting and opaque.

With a slow continuous zoom (and the aid of some impressive special effects artistry) we are taken into the heart of the mushroom cloud at the center of the 1945 Trinity nuclear tests. Flashing patterns and orchestral discord overload the senses as Lynch treats us to his nightmarish version of Disney’s Fantasia. As the line between the poetic and literal disappears, we bear witness to a horrific creation myth, the apparent birth of BOB, and possibly the origins of the White and Black Lodges. It’s a sequence that explains nothing, but perhaps reveals everything. Either way, it’s absolutely thrilling.

But Lynch is just getting started. The sight of mellow purple waves finally gives us some relief from the orchestral intensity, and we are treated to yet another surreal silent film. Observing BOB’s emergence from the vomit of a demonic mother, the gleaming gold soul of Laura Palmer emerges from the Giant’s mind, an angelic beacon of hope that descends to Earth, bringing Twin Peaks‘ ever expanding mythology full circle.

While the back half of the series has yet to be seen, it’s probably safe to say this is the “pure heroin version” of Lynch that Showtime’s CEO was talking about.

Part Eight concludes with a time jump to 1956, where the hatching of a grotesque frog-locust triggers a horde of blackened demons (their leader is called “The Woodsman” in the credits) to descend upon a nearby town. Shot in black and white, their gory invasion is a send-up of zombie horror flicks, complete with an ill-fated teenage couple. As the Woodsman broadcasts a sleep-inducing mantra from a local radio station, the frog-locust slowly climbs into a young girl’s mouth and down her throat. These are the least strange things that happen in the episode.

At its halfway point, Twin Peaks: The Return has produced its most challenging and fascinating hour to date. Where Frost and Lynch take us next is more uncertain than ever. What remains clear is we are witnessing a benchmark moment in David Lynch’s career — perhaps even in television history.

BEST LINE(s): 

I think he’s dead, but he got some kind of help so I’m not sure about that. I saw something in Cooper. It may be the key to what this is all about.” – A surprisingly level-headed Ray speaking just about the only clear dialogue of the entire episode, and possibly hinting at what’s to follow.

BEST MOMENT: For half the episode’s runtime, Lynch dares us to follow him through a symphonic cacophony of abstract color and pattern that eschews narrative for the poetic dream logic of the avant garde. At the same time, we are given revelatory glimpses that seem to answer some of Twin Peaks‘ most fundamental questions. Operating with an effects budget that, perhaps for the first time, matches his ambition, Lynch pushes his “filmmaker as painter” sensibility to its absolute extreme. And while video art experimentation is nothing new, it’s never had the mass exposure of a TV show whose merchandise can be bought at Hot Topic. Observing the audience’s varied reactions will be nearly as fascinating as the episode itself.

EPISODE’S MVP: From start to finish, this episode absolutely belongs to director David Lynch. No one taps into the primal recesses of our monkey brains quite like him, creating visceral reactions that can never be adequately described, only experienced. That he kicks off the proceedings with a Nine Inch Nails music video is another delightfully Lynchian move.

'Twin Peaks' returns to Showtime

© Copyright 2017, Showtime. All Rights Reserved.

SLICES OF PIE: 

– The woodsmen creatures appear to remove BOB’s essence from Evil Coop’s body. It remains to be seen how this will affect the reawakened doppelganger.

– This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a mushroom cloud this season. It’s also displayed prominently in a photograph in Gordon Cole’s office.

– The purple-tinted realm appears to be a location separate from the Black Lodge. Is it the White Lodge? If so, it appears to be under attack, as seen in Part Three during Cooper’s escape.

– Speaking of which, is the “mother” that was banging on the door the same creature that birthed BOB and all those eggs?

– The Woodsman makes reference to a horse, and we hear one as the episode fades to black. A pale horse has appeared at key moments in the original and new series, and is traditionally associated with apocalyptic imagery.

10 out of 10

Next: “The Return, Part Nine”, in two weeks.

Before: “The Return, Part Seven”, here.

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