Twin Peaks: The Return – Episode 8 Breakdown, Thoughts, Analysis

Part 8
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

laura light

What Showtime, David Lynch, and Mark Frost presented to us in last night’s Twin Peaks is nothing short of a visual masterpiece of horror and drama. In the same way that the Cooper’s dream sequence moved me as a child, this episode’s travel back to the birth of the Atomic Age, with its references to elements of the series while visually presenting as a 1950s monster movie, enthralled me. We are seeing work that is operating at the level of the some of the most profound artists in any field. And it is okay if you are confused. There is a lot of non-linear, experimental storytelling happening. Just sit back and absorb rather than try to actively decipher.

Based on the events of this episode, I believe referring to the evil Cooper as Doop (Duplicate Cooper) and separate from Bob, will make more sense going forward. Doop and Ray are driving down the highway away from Yankton Federal Prison. Doop uses his phone to key in the fact the car has tracking devices on it. He does some sort of FBI voodoo using the license plate of a truck in front of them, and that seems to handle the tracking. Doop lies about Darya still being alive to Ray and says “You’d probably like to go that place they call The Farm.” This appears to be their destination until Ray attempt to leverage his knowledge of coordinates and Doop suggests they take a back road.

A bit off the highway, Ray stops to use the bathroom. Doop sees this an opportunity and pulls the gun from the glove compartment he asked the warden to place there. Somehow, Ray anticipated this, and the bullets in Doop’s gun are duds. Doop is shot in the stomach, the same location Cooper was shot in Episode 8 of Season 1, this being Part 8 of The Return. Whereas, Cooper was visited by the benevolent Giant and saved, Doop is attended by a cadre of burnt men, like the ones seen at the police station in Buckhorn, South Dakota.

These burnt people are transparent, ghost-like and surround Doop’s body, smearing his blood and innards on himself. Their purpose doesn’t appear to be resurrecting him, rather in time we see a large black membranous egg emerge from Doop. The face of Bob stares out, grinning. Smoke and flashing blue lights appear. Ray is terrified but manages to run for the car and leave. Ray calls Phillip Jeffries and says he thought he killed Doop but isn’t sure followed by “I saw something in Cooper, it may be the key to what this is all about.” He continues on to the Farm.

We get our musical performance early, The Nine Inch Nails.

Doop sits up, but we are left wondering if Bob is still there. Now the episode truly begins.

The title card reads July 16, 1945. White Sands, New Mexico. 5:29 AM (MWT). This is Trinity, the first atomic bomb test. The doors between worlds are thrown wide open.

A convenience store crackles with electricity. Time stutters, the same as when Cooper encountered the eye-less woman in Part 3. The burnt men appear, stumbling about. Smoke pours out of the store and lights flash.

In the hell fires of the bomb, The Experiment, the creature was seen in the box in New York City, the creature who slaughtered those poor souls floats in a void. She opens her mouth and spews out a stream of particles, floating among this is Bob in his black egg.

An amorphous gold blob emerges from the fire, and we plunge into it. We arise in another place and time.

This is the Mauve Zone, the place Cooper passed through on his way back to the material world. We are in a different location though, a palace sits atop a rocky island. Inside we find a woman, Senorita Dido sitting inside on a couch listening to music playing on a phonograph. The entire place is drenched in an art deco style, she included. An electrode structure, the same type of object that sent the eye-less woman plunging into the void, sits in the room. An alarm sounds from it, and The Giant emerges looking concerned. He eventually switches off the alarm and exits.

The Giant ascends the steps of what resembles an old movie palace. Inside the theater he watches the events following the bomb played out on a screen, freezing on the Bob egg. The Giant floats up, and Senorita Dido enters. She watches as a golden dust sparkles and emerges from the Giant, eventually forming a glowing golden orb. Senorita Dido holds the globe, and we glimpse inside to see the face of Laura Palmer. The ball is sent towards an image of Earth on the screen, and Dido looks hopeful.

Title card on the screen reads 1956, August 5th, New Mexico desert.” One of the particles from The Experiment’s sputum is revealed to be an egg, sitting in the sand. It cracks open, and a creature resembling something between a moth and a frog emerges and begins crawling.

A boy and girl walk past a gas station, sharing small talk while apparently crushing on each other. She finds a penny heads up, states this is good luck.

Meanwhile, the burnt men emerge from the desert. One man, resembling Lincoln funny enough after the penny, approaches an older couple in a car, “Got a light?”, He asked in a distorted voice. Flashing lights, electrical crackling is in the background. The audio is slowed, the woman’s scream resembling the death scene of Madeline in Season 2. Cries become animal roars.

The boy walks the girl home, and she confirms he’s no longer going with a girl from their school. He asks for a kiss, she obliges. They say goodnight.

The burnt man heads to a radio station in the desert. The Platters’ “When the Twilight is Gone” plays. The burnt man approaches the secretary, asks again, “Got a Light?”, And proceeds to crush her skull. The burnt man enters the radio booth and begins crushing the head of the DJ. He switches off the music and starts to repeat a poem/chant:

“This is the water.

And this is the well.

Drink full and descend.

The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”

The townspeople fall into a slumber, the insect creature from the desert crawls into the girl’s room, she sleeps, and it crawls into her mouth.

The burnt man exits the radio station, lights flashing in the distance, the sound of a horse whinnying in the darkness.

The end of Part 8. So much to unpack.

First, the atomic bomb we saw going off was the Trinity test, the first test of an atomic bomb in human history. Thus, we saw the beginning of the Atomic Age, an era that is crucial to David Lynch’s upbringing in 1950s America. The plutonium used in the Trinity test was manufactured in Hanford, Washington. The land where the Hanford Site is located was seized from the Nez Perce people in 1942, and they were forcibly relocated. The leaders of the displaced people threatened that a “reckoning” would come for this violation of treaties. I wonder if the spirits of the Black Lodge found their way into this world by the enrichment of the core of a device that would go on to inflict tremendous pain and suffering on humanity, garmonbozia.

Lynch is not holding back his personal feelings about nuclear weapons either. The music underscoring the detonation scene is Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.” The piece is intended to evoke a sense of catastrophic pain and destruction, and even Penderecki has expressed the deeply emotional effect hearing it played by a full symphony had on him. This piece being used in the moment of the first atomic test also alludes back to the query from The One Armed Man: “Is this future, or is this past?”

I immediately recalled the poem spoken by The One Armed Man when the bomb was going off:

“Through the darkness of future’s past

The magician longs to see

One chants out between two worlds

Fire Walk With Me.”

Fire is the primary gateway for the denizens of the Black Lodge. The bomb, the presence of smoke, electricity is a type of fire, the blast of a bullet from a gun. It should be noted the burnt man’s poem continually mentions the water from the well, another elemental reference. There’s also this moment from one of the FWWM Missing pieces where The Arm talks about the Lodge spirits descending from “pure air.” In the shooting script, Mrs. Tremond and her grandson have this bit of dialogue which was cut from the final script:

Bob: Light of new discoveries.

Mrs. Tremond: Why not be composed of materials and combinations of atoms?

Mrs. Tremond’s Grandson: This is no accident.

I also don’t think we witnessed the birth of Bob. In The Secret History of Twin Peaks, one entry details a story of two Gold Rush-era miners, one of whom is nicknamed Denver Bob. Denver Bob and his partner are going through what would be the woods of Twin Peaks decades later and come across owl cave. They encounter a giant owl in the woods, and Denver Bob finds the owl rune ring before disappearing. The essence of Bob is an eternal thing, a concept rather than an individual being. His appearance though is likely influenced by those he hosts. What we saw happening was the atomic bomb acting as a powerful enough force to allow Bob to slide into our world. In FWWM, we see he is still subservient to The One-Armed Man and The Arm, giving up his garmonbozia after killing Laura Palmer. But, this event in 1945 looks to have given him much more autonomy. Furthermore, I see the burnt men as advance men, low-level pawns in the Black Lodge’s agenda, possibly hollowed out victims from the past.

mother card

The Experiment that appears to spew forth Bob and the other eggs is the same being as The Mother, the spirit was so afraid of when Cooper was in the Mauve Zone. In this episode, we see the Mauve Zone as home to the Giant, but I wonder if the Black Lodge has grown in power so that the Mother lives there now. The playing card Doop shows to Darya with the strange face is the silhouette of the Mother’s face. I also believe The Mother is a figure important to Jack Parsons and the Cult of Thelema. Parsons and his occult interests took up a decent part of The Secret History book, so it’s worth exploring.

Jack Parsons was one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and helped pioneer the modern rocket and rocket fuels. He also began to correspond with renowned occultist Aleister Crowley and began practicing arcane rituals with friends. He eventually converted to Thelema, the church founded by Crowley and was an officiating priest. Once McCarthyism rolled into town in the 1950s, Parsons was blacklisted and died near penniless after a failed test in his own home. A friend would later state that this had been a failed ritual to create a homunculus. Around the time of the Trinity bomb test, Parsons and his followers were partaking in extensive occult rituals in the Mojave Desert. Their chief goal was to perform sex magic and summon Thelemite goddess Babalon. Babalon is often depicted carrying a gold goblet from which she pours filth and evil from.

Aleister Crowley wrote a novel called The Moonchild. This book tells the story of White Magicians in battle with Black Magicians who hail from a place called The Black Lodge. The Black Magicians are only able to be stopped when a young woman gives birth to a spirit being called The Moonchild. Now all of this esoterica comes not from the mind of David Lynch, but from Mark Frost who has an obsession with this occult history.

This episode also marked the third significant appearance of a coin. Red pulls the dime trick on Richard. Hawk finds the pages of the diary when chasing after an Indian head nickel. Now, we have the young girl finding the lucky penny on the ground. I noted before that the burnt man who overtakes the radio station bears a remarkable resemblance to Lincoln. There’s a lot of history behind the significance of coins in the occult, more than I have room to share here, but worth looking up if you’re interested.

Lynch revisits two images in this episode: The sea of stars and the open empty highway at night. Both are paths to another realm, though he always frames them with different tones. The sea of stars, seen in Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and The Straight Story is a place of hope. The highway at night seen in Lynch’s darker work is a symbol of dread, of a journey that leads to a place of pain and evil. And so we continue on our journey. Next Sunday is an off week so our next chapter will come on July 9th. Can’t wait to see what’s next.


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