Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 (Spoilers)

| June 30, 2017

In the 1997 Simpsons episode “Lisa’s Sax,” Homer Simpson sits down to watch Twin Peaks. His thoughts on the matter: “Brilliant! But I have no idea what’s going on.” It’s safe to say that, collectively, Twin Peaks: The Return Part 8 has left us all feeling the same way. We’re almost at the halfway point of the series and things are only becoming more complex, but let’s not kid ourselves about Part 8—this wasn’t a Lynchian exercise in what Twin Peaks fans will tolerate in the name of art and pretension. This wasn’t pointless or a waste of time and money. This was something resembling—as close as we’ll ever get to—the origin story of BOB and other evils. It is an unforgettable, cacophonic episode and, as Ray tells Phillip (Jeffries, presumably) minutes after shooting Cooper, “may be the key to all of this.” It’s also one of the most inaccessible episodes of television ever aired.

So let’s unpack this thing.

Part 8 picks up right where Part 7 ended, with Ray and Cooper/BOB escaping by car from the prison in the middle of the night. They stop on the side of the road so that Ray can use the bathroom—which harkens back to Agent Cooper’s season 2 statement about there being “nothing quite like urinating in the open air” just before Major Briggs disappears—and Cooper is promptly shot by Ray. Several Woodsmen appear and remove the physical manifestation of BOB from Cooper’s stomach and then disappear again. Though we have always known that BOB is a parasitic demon that requires a host body, Part 8 revealed that he is also something physical, something more tangible than a simple, possessive spirit with nowhere to go without a body. This is also the first real look we get at the Woodsmen; the sooty, barely corporeal figures made their first appearance in Part 2, but this is the first time we see more than one at a time. Ray, on the phone with Phillip Jeffries, describes them simply as “some kind of help” that Cooper must have found.

While this episode is primarily an origin story for BOB, it also gives us a closer look at the other Black Lodge spirits who roam the earth. The original series introduced us to a number of these characters, but we rarely strayed from the town of Twin Peaks. There is, we now know, so much more the Lodge than an intangible evil that requires a host body. Part 8 introduces us to one Woodsman in particular who hijacks a radio station, crushes skulls with one hand, and is desperately in need of a light for his cigarette. The poem he recites over the radio is responsible for rendering a number of listeners unconscious, but we only see one character being violated by the frogroach creature that hatches from some sort of egg in the desert. We don’t know, yet, who this young woman is or whether the frogroach is a force of good or evil. The egg it hatches from resembles something vomited up by the Experiment Model, the alienesque figure from the glass box, earlier in the episode, but it appears right after the golden orb containing the spirit of Laura Palmer is sent to Earth. Typically, it’s not all that difficult to figure out whether a character is good or evil in Twin Peaks, but the frogroach is an enigmatic outlier. 

Not much is clear about the Experiment Model or her purpose, either, but she is definitively the mother of all of the evil we see in Part 8. Specifically, we see her vomit up an egg bearing BOB’s face. Her appearance is brief but meaningful and follows the five-minute Trinity test sequence, which seems to have prompted her arrival. This is where Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks comes into play. The possibility of alien involvement in the events of the original series was, perhaps, a surprise to the unsuspecting Twin Peaks: The Return viewer who hadn’t read Secret History yet. For those of us who have, things are starting to fall into place. The Secret History talks extensively of UFOs, extraterrestrial life, nuclear tests, and an attempt by Jack Parsons to open up a “gate” and summon spirits from spirits. He describes two types: “The grays,” which come from the Zeta Reticuli star system, and “the tall ones… the Nordic types,” which are distinct from the grays and more benevolent. The Experiment Model, certainly, sounds like one of the grays, and the Giant (who is now identified in the credits as ???????) is undoubtedly one of “the Nordic types.” All of this points to and confirms that the Trinity test opened up a rift between dimensions and allowed the evil of the Black Lodge into our world.

Moving beyond The Secret History, though, is the creation of Laura by ??????? in response to the detonation of the atomic bomb in 1945 and the evil it unleashed upon the world. The creation or birth of Laura is, fittingly, the only aesthetically beautiful and peaceful scene in the entire episode. Somewhere in the Mauve Zone, either in the same fortress the eyeless woman occupies or in a similar one, ??????? watches the detonation of the bomb in a theater and levitates in the air, exhaling golden light and the orb containing Laura’s spirit. His companion, Senorita Dido, looks on and, with a gentle kiss, sends the Laura orb to Earth. The music that plays during this birth of the good spirit that is Laura Palmer sounds remarkably like “The Voice of Love” from the Fire Walk with Me score. “The Voice of Love” plays when an angel appears to Laura in the Lodge, cleansing her of all of the suffering she endured in her life. It can’t be a mistake that Laura’s spiritual birth and ascension are accompanied by similar compositions; both moments right the wrongs of the evil Lodge spirits and emphasize that Laura is some kind of holy, healing being. Despite her drug use, sex work, the abuse she endures, and everything that goes wrong in her life, Laura’s spirit is purified and peaceful and divine. She is BOB’s opposite, and the only thing that can defeat him. Part 8 confirms, very clearly, that the Black and White Lodges are real, and the spirits that inhabit them are real. That BOB’s evil is of a cosmic origin does not absolve Leland of the years of abuse he put Laura through, and it does not detract from the gravity of the original series. If anything, that a man-made weapon opened up the gate between two dimensions and allowed evil into the world shows that all of this comes down to the evil—or the potential of evil—of humankind. Good is, perhaps, more elusive, but not nonexistent.

And there’s a full-length Nine Inch Nails performance somewhere in there, too.

About the Author:

Peyton Brunet is a fourth-year double major in English and Media & Cinema Studies at DePaul University in Chicago with a passion for horror, The Simpsons, and monstrous women. She has also been published in her high school literary magazine (which she edited for three years, thank you very much).
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