TV review: Twin Peaks – The Return, Episode 8 Gotta Light

John Preston

*contains spoilers*

Last week’s Twin Peaks feels a long way off now. Episode 7 was comparatively easy to understand, took place on American soil throughout and was just so satisfying as it began to work its way back into the show’s original narrative, tying up those loose ends and cliffhangers that were potentially doomed to be left unresolved – forever. ‘Gotta Light’, the title given to this week’s eighth hour, was pretty much avant-garde, surrealism throughout with maybe 10 minutes of dialogue total and a whole truckload of disturbing, beautiful and slow, trance-inducing images and sounds.

If you are at all familiar with David Lynch’s work you will again see direct references here to Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Muholland Drive and Inland Empire; 3 out of 4 of his most ‘difficult’ films, if you don’t include the last 40 minutes or so of Muholland Drive. ‘Gotta Light’ goes back to the first two, almost forcibly experimental, episodes of Twin Peak‘s return, but this episode is more successful at creating a cohesive, relatively straight-forward and strong message. It’s an hour of television that will leave some utterly transfixed throughout, or completely cold.

The episode starts where last week’s left off. Evil Coop and Ray are driving away from prison when Ray demands money from Mr C in order for him to divulge his secrets. This is the information Coop is desperate to know and pertains to some kind of coordinates. They are heading to a place called The Farm when Ray stops the car to pee and midstream Coop tries to shoot him – but his gun has been loaded with blanks. Ray instead shoots two bullets into Cooper’s chest and then we fully enter a realm, or an area, of Twin Peaks that Lynch has been hinting at since season 3 begun but up until now, had resisted revealing.

Whilst Coop lies shot on the floor, the second time in Twin Peaks that this has happened, translucent, charred men pour out of the woods. They do some kind of dance around the body, pound his wound in dirt and smear his face with his own blood. After time the head of a grinning Bob is removed from Coop’s stomach. Ray can see this and is terrified and doesn’t understand who these figures are and what are they doing, much like the viewer.

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Eventually, he climbs back into the car and tells Philip Jeffries that he has shot Cooper but adds, ‘I saw something in Cooper, maybe the key to what this is all about.’ Maybe indeed. Following a performance at Roadhouse of ‘the’ Nine Inch Nails Cooper Cooper sits back up bold upright, but where’s Bob?

The remainder of the episode is made up of three parts. It’s 1946, White Sands, New Mexico and an atomic bomb has exploded. The perspective is initially way back from the explosion – which is scored by one of Lynch’s favourite composers, Krzysztof Penderecki, and his piercing ‘Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima’. We are then propelled inside the blast and it is a devastating and beautiful collage of manic textures, plumes of smoke and coloured fire. The men who extracted Bob from Coop’s dying body then appear in a long and disrupted, twitching scene, black and white like the explosion, in and outside of a convenience store.

This location has been referred to so many times in Twin Peaks but only by souls who have occupied the Black Lodge. David Bowie as Philip Jeffries went to the one of ‘their meetings – above a convenience store’. I don’t know who these dead, cindered ghost-men are and why the bomb seems to have triggered their appearance. Did they die in the blast and this is why they are soot-covered, is the convenience store another form of purgatory and why are they still wandering around America some 60 years later?

The convenience store finally disappears and is replaced by a suspended, milky-white creature called The Experiment. She vomits a long string of eggs filled, thick gel. One of which contains the face of Bob. Is this the mother who was so fearfully referred to in episode 3 and also the creature that devoured those horny kids in episode 1? Maybe even the figure that Mr C is so desperate to find, the outline of which appears on his playing card? It’s a possibility.

The Giant reappears along with his new glam housemate, Senorita Dido, in what could be the White Lodge – another first sighting of an often referred and significant place in the Twin Peaks mythology. They are disturbed from a sedate and relaxing evening of listening to jazz on their gramophone (the tune is called ‘Slow 30s Room’ and is fantastic) by a signal emitted by a large bell in their living room. The Giant moves into their home cinema and watches images that we have already seen: the atomic explosion, the convenience store congregation and the birth of Bob. The alarm bell is just that, a warning that something significant has happened and that he must react to this, prevent or challenge it. As Grace Zabriski warns in the opening scene of Lynch’s last full-length film, 2006’s Inland Empire, ‘evil was born, and followed the girl around’. It is happening again.

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After levitating and producing a gold galaxy from his head, a ball disconnects from the glimmering cloud and floats down to Ms Dido. She stares into it, relieved and moved that it contains the face of Laura Palmer. After kissing the globe as a parent would embrace a child before sending it into the world as an adult, the ball is sent to earth via a funnel-like contraption. Everything about this gauzy, dreamlike segment directly opposes the one before it, the nightmare of the convenience store and its inhabitants.

Weird prestige TV is everywhere at the moment. It’s become common place and a lot has been claimed re: Twin Peak‘s enduring influence on this genre, some of which is fast becoming a cliché of itself. With these two sequences alone, David Lynch and Mark Frost subvert everything again and only allow you to feel your way around a fictional and surreal situation that should, and would normally, be ludicrous and unfathomable.

We know that evil has entered the world and that it is manmade. Everything has changed and safety and happiness is under threat. This is not an imagined scenario, it is the re-telling of a point in history of which there is no going back. Listen to Trump and Kim Jung-un in 2017 – the evil that men do. Twin Peaks has always been extremely frightening and season 3 has abandoned almost everything that made the original series a kitsch fan-favourite. Although initially this shift is disconcerting, it has now become clear that this is a smartest decision Lynch and Frost could have made as it has pushed the show firmly out of its own comfort zone and rendered it totally unpredictable. The final part of episode 8 is a near b-movie horror show.

Something is hatched from an egg that has landed in the same desert as the explosion, 11 years later in 1956. It looks like a moth and has wings but with a small lizard’s body. The wings make a hissing sound – it’s unpleasant. An oil- and dirt-coated gentleman called The Woodsman has floated to earth. He is obviously one of the convenience store mob and he has one, repeatedly spoken request – ‘gotta light?’. Like Diane from last week, here is another new TV character that will instantly dominate the internet and will be remembered for far longer than a week.

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After terrorising a couple in a car, The Woodsman is drawn to the KPJK radio station and within seconds has split the receptionists skull, her face, down the centre just by touching the top of her head. He moves to the DJ studio, and listeners in a garage and a diner begin to faint following a mantra he repeats on air that sounds like a Laurie Anderson monologue: ‘This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is white of the eyes, and dark within.’ The show’s host loses his brains to the floor as his head eventually cracks open

Two teenagers walk home after a date – it’s still 1956. The girl finds a coin outside of something that looks like a variation of the convenience store. She thinks this will bring her good luck and her boyfriend hopes she’s right. The moth-lizard creature is seemingly at first the golden Laura Palmer globe, now born, and the young girl with the coin who’s mouth it creeps into could be Laura’s mother, Sarah Palmer. This would makes sense date-wise, and it would make sense that Sarah Palmer has the gift of seeing what others can’t, like Laura. But it certainly didn’t result in her having a good life as the coin she picked up suggested she might. A bereft mother who has lost her child, killed by her rapist husband: neurotic, depressed and a heavy drinker. Doesn’t it make more sense that the egg that hatched was the Bob vessel?

It could certainly be that Sarah Palmer, like Laura, is more key to the mythology of Twin Peaks than we ever could have guessed and that we will see more of her in this series than just the incredible scene of her watching a nature programme in the return’s pilot. In the final episode of season 2 it’s Sarah Palmer that tells Major Brigg’s that she’s ‘in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper’. This suggests she too has a doppelgänger. Could it be her dead daughter? Or maybe someone more predatory.

Episode 8 is extraordinary and will cement the show’s relevance and worth in comparison to its current contemporaries. It isn’t what I was expecting and I have no idea where’s it leading – there are still 10 hours left and I’m thrilled by the proposition.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.