Twin Peaks: The Return – Episode 2 Breakdown, Thoughts, and Analysis

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Episode 2
Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

twin peaks cooper

Part Two of the premiere takes us back to Buckhorn, South Dakota. High school principal Bill Hastings is stewing away in a jail cell when his wife Phyllis comes to visit. Bill insists he was never at the deceased librarian Ruth Davenport’s home, but that he dreamed about being in her apartment the night forensics say she was killed. Phyllis spits back that she knew Bill was having an affair with Ruth to which he replies that he has been aware of Phyllis ongoing relationship with their lawyer, George. Bill also mentions that he is aware of “someone else.” The marriage gets a very definite period on its sentence when Phyllis lets him know he’s going to rot in jail and leaves.

Then events take a very strange turn: Bill sits in his cell coming to terms with the fact that his life, as he knows it is over and the camera moves down the row of cells. We find a man, clothes and skin pitch black, with a black beard sitting silently in a cell, mouth agape. After a few seconds, he fades away, except for his head which floats out of the top frame. Phyllis, meanwhile, returns to her home only to find Bob (as Cooper) waiting for her. She recognizes and smiles, explains that Bill is finished and Bob remarks that she followed human nature just as he expected. He draws a gun, which belongs to George, the lawyer. She attempts to run and blows her brains out from behind and leaves the gun, presumably to implicate George.

This is quite a full sequence to dissect, but I think the two big takeaways are: Bill is possessed like Leland Palmer was but unaware and Phyllis is taking advantage of his condition while in cahoots with Bob. Bob’s connection to Bill Hastings is developed in further scenes this episode.

In an unexpected moment, we cut to Las Vegas and meet Mr. Todd (Patrick Fischler), a man of wealth and power but seemingly under the thrall of an unseen figure. One of Todd’s employees enters his office to collect money to pay an unnamed woman that has been hired for an unknown job. The employee asks permission to inquire about something, and Todd humors him. The employee asks, “Why do you let him make you do these things?” to which Mr. Todd refuses to give a reply and dismisses the employee. There’s not enough here to make a solid judgment on the nature of the business going down, but the person who is forcing Mr. Todd’s hand is either Bob (not very confident on this one) or the unnamed billionaire behind the New York City project from the first episode.

In the second season, Philip Michael Gerard, the One-Armed Man explains that the spirits of the Lodge are attracted to intense emotion. Bob feeds on people’s fear, and it can be surmised that different spirits have different tastes. I believe the entity that appeared in the glass case in New York was attracted to that place by the sexual energy of David and Tracy. In the Secret History of Twin Peaks, the sex magick rituals of Jack Parsons and the Church of Thelema are mentioned. Performed in adherence to the strictures of the ritual, they would bring about summoning the “Moonchild.” You can read more about this here. It seemed pretty convenient that the second night Tracy comes to see David the guard is completely absent. I think the situation was shaped that way by whoever is in charge so that the sexual energy between these two would summon one of the Lodge spirits.

garmonbozia

“Garmonbozia” is represented as creamed corn in Fire Walk With Me.

Back to South Dakota, where Bob is sharing a meal in a diner with Ray and Darya, plus a new minion Jack. Bob continually emphasizes that Ray is going to get information from Hasting’s secretary. Bill Hastings, the high school principal who is currently locked up. Bill mentioned his secretary during his interrogation in episode one. He said the night of Ruth Davenport’s murder he gave his secretary a ride home because she was having car trouble. We have yet to see her, and she may not ever show up, but I wonder what she could know that Bob is so adamant to find out. Ray refers to the “information you need,”and this draws the cold ire of Bob who explains he doesn’t need anything, he only wants. This matches up with his very hedonistic personality, particularly in Fire Walk With Me. It should also be noted, the food on Bob’s plate is creamed corn. In Fire Walk With Me, creamed corn is used as a metaphor and referred to as garmonbozia, translated in the subtitles as “pain and sorrow.” This is apparently the only food Bob consumes and in Fire Walk With Me he’s forced to give it up to The One-Armed Man and The Arm.

We finally see some of Twin Peaks this episode, with Deputy Chief Hawk wandering through the woods and ending up at Glastonbury Grove, the site of Dale Cooper’s disappearance 25 years earlier. I got the sense he comes here every time during the planetary alignment to witness something, maybe some sign as to what happened to Dale Cooper. Previously, it was established that to the residents of Twin Peaks Cooper just vanished after the events of the tv series. Maybe Hawk thinks he went back into the Lodge. Hawk receives his second call from the Log Lady who heartbreakingly admits she is too weak to take this odyssey into searching for Cooper but implores Hawk to come by for pie and coffee when he is finished in the woods. I find Catherine Coulson’s choice to appear so vulnerable, without her illness covered up in any way to be a very powerful and brave decision. Your heart aches every time she is on screen, and I personally love that the Log Lady is the one who makes the first push to bring Twin Peaks and Dale Cooper back together.

laura palmer

The original version of this encounter happened in Twin Peaks Season 1, Episode 2.

We cut to the interior of the Black Lodge, and Dale Cooper is sitting in the familiar tableau: a waiting room of black leather furniture, red curtains hanging at all sides. The One Armed Man sits next to Cooper and asks, “Is it future, or is it past?” This is a direct reference to the Missing Pieces from Fire Walk With Me, scenes cut from the final version of the film but released on the most recent Blu-Ray collection. In two of those scenes, Cooper encounters The Arm who asks this same question. Fire Walk With Me also introduces the idea that time is completely fluid within the Black Lodge. Into the frame walks Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), 25 years older coming to see Cooper just as she promised back in the second episode of the first season. They recreate the dialogue: She asks if Cooper knows who she is, he asks if she is Laura Palmer, she says “I think that I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” This time things change as Cooper asks again and she admits she is Laura, but he reminds her she is dead. She responds, “I am dead, yet alive” then walks over to whisper something in his ear that shocks him. She follows up by telling Cooper he may leave the Black Lodge now. An unseen force violently tears her away, her screams echoing.

Cooper cuts through the curtain and encounters The One Armed Man again who is with The Arm. In the original series, The Arm, or The Little Man From Another Place was played by Michael Anderson, a little person. Apparently, Lynch and Anderson had a falling out due to Anderson making very incendiary comments on social media about Lynch. He seems to blame Lynch for not having a more successful career in film and television. During pre-production, the decision was made to replace Anderson. Their solution is to explain that The Arm has evolved into a new form. In yet another Lynchian moment of coincidence, The Arm tells Cooper “The next time you see me, it won’t be me.” So you have a perfect set-up to explain the drastic change in appearance.

lynch clay head

The type of visual art Lynch is referencing in “the evolution of The Arm.”

The Arm now appears as a tree, pulsing with electricity, topped with a fleshy blob that speaks in a gurgling voice. It immediately reminded me of one of Lynch’s photographic compositions: Clay Head with Turkey, Cheese, and Ants. There are also the continuing tropes of wood and electricity, two objects referenced continually by Lynch in Twin Peaks as conduits of the Lodge spirits. In the original series, Josie Packard dies, and her spirit becomes trapped in the wood of the Great Northern Hotel. In Fire Walk With Me, electrical poles in the Fat Trout Trailer Park can be inferred to creating a path between the Lodge and the physical plane. As with any scene taking place in the Black Lodge, we are never meant to view anything here as literal. This is the subconscious space of intellect and creativity made material by Lynch. Much like Carroll’s Wonderland what is said here has multiple levels of interpretation.

Then we have a somewhat strange and silent scene between Bob and Jack, his apparent car mechanic minion. Bob confirms that a car they are using has been wired correctly and proceeds to kills Jack off-screen. Cut to the seedy motel where Darya rushes to get off the phone with Ray. Bob enters and asks who she was talking to and she says, Jack. Bob plays with her and allows her to dig her hole deeper until revealing he’s killed, Jack. Darya attempts to flee, but Bob brutally punches her face, dazing her. We find out Bob has the phone wiretapped and that Ray is in federal lockup for transporting weapons across state lines. Bob wants to know if Ray gave Darya any “coordinates,” supposedly the information he wanted desperately. Someone paid Ray and Darya to kill Bob, but she doesn’t know his name.

 

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The strange playing card Bob shows Darya.

It’s at this point Bob reveals what his big plan is. Soon he’ll be forced back into the Black Lodge, but he refuses to go. The coordinates tie into his larger plan of escaping the scheduled alignment of planets. He shows Darya an Ace of Spades, scratched up and with a strange image (alien? owl?). She convulses a bit upon seeing it. As we likely anticipated, Darya doesn’t make it out of this scene alive and is shot in the same way Phyllis was killed. This murder was the most reminiscent of Madeline Ferguson’s death in season 2. Lynch not cutting away from brutal violence, forcing us to witness the snuffing out of life. This has been interpreted by some critics as Lynch reveling in violence, but from reading multiple interviews with him, I personally believe he abhors violence but believes that to witness it is to steel ourselves to a moral responsibility to oppose it. He wants us to know the horror of ending a life so that we never permit ourselves or others to get away with it.

 

jeffries fire

Phillip Jeffries points accusingly at Cooper, “Do you know who that is there?”

Bob gets out a strange electronic device and powers it on. After a few moments, it clicks, and he begins communication with Phillip Jeffries. Phillip Jeffries is a character introduced in Fire Walk With Me and played by David Bowie. He is apparently a legendary FBI agent who went off the grid a couple years before the Teresa Banks case. Somehow he is teleported from a hotel in Argentina to the FBI offices in Philadelphia where he shares with Cooper, Gordon Cole, and Albert Rosenfeld that he has witnessed a gathering of the Lodge spirits. He also makes a remark that implies that he knows Cooper will not be Cooper at some point in time. Back in our current episode, Jeffries mentions he missed Cooper in New York and claims that Bob met with Major Garland Biggs at some point. Something about this line causes Bob to question if he is actually speaking with Jeffries. The man on the other end states, “You are going back in tomorrow, and I will be with Bob again.” Bob ends the call and proceeds to download the security data for Yankton Federal Prison where he will presumably go to get Ray and the coordinates.

Bob exits the room and goes next door where he meets up with Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh). What we learn about her is that she is married to someone named “Hutch,” she works for Bob (calls him “boss), was jealous of Darya, and is screwing Bob (behind her husband’s back?). There are a profound seediness and filthiness to this scene. This entire sequence with Bob is another one of those loaded with information moments. The Jeffries moment was truly shocking. The accusatory remark his character makes in Fire Walk With Me would never have led me to infer that he’d partner with Bob in the future. The “missed you in New York” comment can’t help but make me think of poor Tracy and David. Could Jeffries somehow be the billionaire backing the research? In the Missing Pieces, he is seen at a hotel in Argentina and what business he is up to remains to revealed.

Back in the Black Lodge, Cooper learns that while he is allowed to leave he physically cannot because Bob possessing his doppelganger makes this impossible. He ventures through the Lodge for more answers and comes across Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) looking heartbroken. He tells Cooper simply “Find Laura.” Cooper is allowed to see the physical plane and glimpses Bob heading down the highway to Yankton. The Arm and The One Armed Man confer in another room, and we learn that some sort of corruption has befallen the Lodge. It’s somehow tied to The Arm’s doppelganger, who was seen in the season 2 finale. As if on cue, Cooper is crossing into another room when one of the statues morphs into The Arm’s doppelganger. The floor begins to shift and crack under Cooper’s feet as The Dopple-Arm screams “Non-exist-tent!” Cooper proceeds to fall into a watery void beneath the Lodge. He phases into the physical world briefly as a spirit and is in the glass case in New York City. A quick cut reveals this is the night Tracy and David are killed, so he has gone back in time briefly. He is pulled away and back into the chaotic watery swarm.

We find ourselves in the home of Sarah Palmer. It’s nighttime, and she sits in her living room drinking alcohol and watching a nature show that features lions downing a large water buffalo. As I suspected, Sarah’s life in the wake of the television series has spiraled down. Add to it the fact that she looks unflinchingly at this brutal violence on her screen reveals that she has been broken by the tragedy of her life. I know we’ll see more of her, but this is a very bleak place to find her.

The episode ends with our return to the Roadhouse. Shelly is there with three friends, sharing drinks and talking about their lives. We discover that Shelly has a daughter (Becky) who is possibly living out her mother’s mistakes with a boyfriend named Steven. James Hurley enters with a young man who, through dialogue we learn, is coming to the Roadhouse for the first time. I suspect it could be a co-worker, maybe at Ed’s Gas Farm? James seems enraptured with one of Shelly’s friends, and they begin to discuss how strange he is. We learn James was in an awful motorcycle accident and injured his brain, so he’s “quiet” now. Shelly admonishes these women for gawking about James by telling them “James is cool. James is always cool.” The episode is capped with the Chromatics performing their Blue Velvet tribute song “Shadows” on the stage of the Road House.

Lynch is slowly teasing Twin Peaks to us, and I have read that some fans are frustrated with him holding the town back. This is sort of what I expected. In the same way that Cooper must make a strange and confusing odyssey back to the material plane, the audience is going on a journey to find their way back to Twin Peaks. Lynch has said in multiple interviews that he loves the town of Twin Peaks and going back to it was the big reason he decided to revive the series. We will get the show there eventually but as The Giant once said, “A path is formed by laying one stone at a time.”

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