*pulls slot machine lever* HELLO-OOOOOOOOO!!! Oh, what’s that? Must be time for another installment of our Twin Peaks: The Return rambling series: Lost In The Bang Bang Bar. This time we’re setting our sights on Parts 3 and 4 and whew! As poor wayward Cooper, otherwise known as Mr. Jackpots might say, “Call for help!”:
“Albert, I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all,” whispers David Lynch’s character Gordon Cole to his fellow FBI agent colleague Albert Rosenfield. Jeez, do I know the feeling. Even though this blue-tinged conversation happens at the very end of Part 4, Cole’s admission of confusion seems to describe my entire experience of the first four episodes of Twin Peaks’ revival.
This feeling of frantic unmoored bafflement is an echo of Cole’s earlier outburst after seeing crime scene photographs of poor doomed Sam and Tracey (Remember them staring at a box in New York?) with their heads blown off, which could represent how I feel after watching these episodes. Gordon cries out, “WHAT THE HELL?” Same, Gordon, same. In particular, Part 3 might be the greatest and certainly the most unsettling hour of television I’ve ever witnessed. And I still have no idea what is going on.
In Part 3, we check back in with Special Agent Cooper as he flies through nothingness with copious “intense ominous whooshing” subtitles. This time, though, he drops into a purple dumpster (?) near the sea or whatever the hell that is (“What the hell?”).
And this is just the start. The first half of Part 3 is among Lynch’s most surreal and definitely nihilistic visions. And we thought the Black Lodge was scary! We find Cooper staring into the abyss then, walking into a purplish red room with a woman wearing red velvet with no eyes. I, at first, thought she was Josie Packard (Where is Josie?). But now I have no idea.
With a halting, record-skipping pace, the woman in red tries desperately to mouth apparent warnings to Cooper who just asks, “Where is this? Where are we?” There’s loud pounding, Cooper stares into something that looks like an electrical socket with the numbers alternately 15 and 3 (referencing his room at the Great Northern Hotel in Twin Peaks) and a lamp turns on. Is there anyway we can get a shopping guide for all the dramatic red lamps in the first four episodes? Lamps have always been central to Lynch’s vision (along with electricity in general), but the dramatic illumination of the lamps, particularly in these scenes make me want to impulse buy.
Back to Cooper, the eyeless woman brings him up to the top of the room, which apparently is the ship from Mystery Science Theater 3000. What the hell? Is this what you see after doing transcendental meditation? If so, sign me up! Is this the “big fish” Lynch is always rambling about?
Anyway, the woman electrocutes herself, flying down into the abyss when suddenly, the ghostly face of that sulky teen Bobby (more on him later)’s dad, Major Briggs, floats by whispering “blue rose.” I know, dear Filthy Dreams readers, I was as confused as you. This was the first indication that Lynch wasn’t kidding when he told Variety that the key to Twin Peaks: The Return would be his failed film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
If you are one of the people, like me, who adored Fire Walk With Me, despite the fact that nobody else did, you’ll recall that “blue rose” was the phrase used by Gordon Cole for “special cases” (Ok, basically X-Files). And this is a significant move on Lynch’s part because it’s hard to overestimate just how much people hated Fire Walk With Me at the time of its release in 1992 and likewise, it’s difficult to emphasize just how ballsy a move it is for Lynch to lean harder on Fire Walk With Me than the beloved TV series for the show’s context and inspiration. Lynch never gave two shits about what anyone else wanted from him, but those boos at Cannes have got to hurt.
Why did people hate Fire Walk With Me? Because, like Twin Peaks: The Return, it’s pure darkness. The film portrayed Laura Palmer as the troubled teen not the pure white girl victim. Laura could no longer be the innocent homecoming queen when we see her fucking Canadians in sleazy bars and doing blow in the school bathroom. The film is also pure unadulterated horror, whereas the show had enough goofball qualities to make Lynch’s surreal quirks palatable to a wider audience.
But, apparently, Lynch could care less what anyone thought of the film. He must think the audience, now, is ready for it. In Lynch on Lynch, Chris Rodley asks the director, “When your work gets a hammering, how do you protect yourself?” Lynch responds, “The biggest protection is to feel that you did something that you like. That protects you a lot. It’s when you don’t’ like what you’ve done, and other people don’t like it, then it’s a double whammy. It’s very bad. And then there’s often something in the air that keeps people from actually seeing the work for what it is. There’s something else that’s maybe not real that they’re reacting to more than the work. If some time goes by, they see the same thing again but now it’s more worthwhile. That happens sometimes. I feel bad that Fire Walk With Me did no business and that a lot of people hate the film. I really like the film…” (190).
Obviously, he still likes it since it plays a large role in Part 3 beyond Major Briggs’s face zooming through space. For example, later after Cooper runs into Ronette Pulaski, BOB’s almost victim, in the purple room, we meet Dougie, Cooper’s third doppelgänger–a fatter Coop with bad fashion sense and a worse haircut. After cavorting with a prostitute in an empty track home, Dougie’s arm goes numb, similar to Laura Palmer and Teresa Banks’ arms before their deaths in Fire Walk With Me. He’s also wearing an Owl Cave ring, which is reminiscent of the film. Spooky.
Similarly, as Coop’s return is heralded slipping through an electrical socket, both Dougie and Cooper’s evil doppelgänger, Mr. C. puke their brains out. It’s a stomach-churning scene, which is really just great cinema. Like I said in our first Lost in the Bang Bang Bar, Lynch is reaching back to cull from his own extensive and multidisciplinary oeuvre. Not only does this sick seem to be the creamed corn-looking “garmonbozia,” or “pain and suffering” that is introduced in Fire Walk With Me, but the nauseating scene is similar to Lynch’s early student art project Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times). Six Men Getting Sick is, well, exactly like it sounds–a queasy and thoroughly demented short film.
However, despite all these clues and callbacks to Lynch’s earlier work, is it worth trying to ferret out a point to all of these numbers, details and bizarre scenes? I doubt it. It’s best to just ride it out. Even Lynch doesn’t seem to be entirely interested with how they all add up. In an interview with Entertainment Magazine on Twin Peaks: The Return, he reflects, “Ideas just come, you think about them, and you figure out their meaning. Then, how they fit into the whole is another thing completely. It’s not finished until it’s finished, and you don’t really know until further down the road how one thing relates to another. It’s just like a magical thing. I also always say the whole thing exists in another room as a complete puzzle, all the parts are together, and someone from that other room is sort of a rascal and randomly flips parts over into this room. And then you to have to put the puzzle together, but one is from the end of the story, one is from the middle, and a couple from the beginning, and you won’t know until it’s more formed what it could be.” We could also never know.
Aside: In the same interview, Lynch is apparently currently fixated on making a table. Yes, mmmhmm, making a table with everything he needs in it. He’s said it in multiple interviews and the sudden intense ranting about tables is what makes Lynch such a preeminent filth elder here at Filthy Dreams. He even describes his table in detail, saying, “Here is a place for glasses, remote controls, and pens. And here’s a circle with Kleenex coming out. Here’s a larger circle for a wine bottle. This is a door on special hinges that holds cigarettes and lighter. And over on this side is a large door, so this part right here is a place for Parmesan crackers and trail mix and wine glasses and different things. I’m going to have electricity wired into the table — I’m going to have a lamp — so I have a switch right here. And then down here is a drawer that has a place for a yellow pad. If I have an idea, I can take out the yellow pad and write it down with the pens. And it’s on these red wheels. So it’s a side table that holds all the things that I use.”
First, WHAT THE HELL? Second, where do I get one?
Whew! Anyway, after Coop makes his grand entrance from the electrical socket, something’s a bit…ahem…off. It’s like he’s had electroshock treatments. Poor thing. He gets shoved off into the Silver Mustang casino where he wanders around addled, probably not unlike any other person at a casino. It was only a matter of time before Lynch set his singular surrealistic sights on casinos. As Hunter S. Thompson so blatantly captured in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, casinos are a desperate and otherworldly scene. Imagine the most bizarre people chain-smoking while playing confounding, brightly lit games in a venue with no windows. Time barely exists in Lynch’s world, and it definitely doesn’t in casinos either. Frankly, I’m shocked Lynch hasn’t delved into the aesthetic horror of casinos previously.
Cooper, bless his heart, seems to be some sort of slot machine idiot savant as he sees hovering ghostly versions of the Black Lodge above the winning machines. Isn’t it always the people who want the Jackpots the least that get it? As he wins more and more jackpots, worrying everyone in the casino, Lynch allows the scene to go on excruciatingly long drawing out the horror in the mundane.
After seeing return of Gordon, Albert and Tammy, the foxy agent played by torch singer Chrysta Bell who is best known for her “Polish Poem” in Inland Empire, it’s time for Part 4, which, in many ways, seems to be a continuation of the third. We meet Dougie’s harried wife, played by Naomi Watts, get reacquainted with David Duchovny’s trans FBI director Denise, endure Michael Cera in Marlon Brando drag as Andy and Lucy’s son Wally Brando, and see a narcotic version of Nick Cave…I mean, Mr. C who is found in federal prison in South Dakota after his puke fest with a trunk full of cocaine, a machine gun and a dog leg in his trunk. Talk about a party.
However, the best part of this episode, to me, is finally the return of some good old fashioned Lynch melodrama courtesy of Bobby Briggs. Bobby turned from a sullen douchebag teenager (and Laura Palmer’s boyfriend) into, of course, a cop. Spotting Laura’s photo in the conference room where Deputy Chief Hawk is trying to figure out, like all of us, what the hell is going on, Briggs breaks down. What a little bitch! As the camera zooms in close to Laura’s grinning face, we hear the nostalgic “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” which played at the end of every episode of the original Twin Peaks. Bobby’s crying is over-the-top and unstoppable. Finally, people are sobbing in the new Twin Peaks!
But now, “something’s wrong…something’s very wrong,” as Gordon Cole says in the final scene. He’s right, but hey! Who couldn’t use a musical interlude right about now?
Both Part 3 and Part 4 conclude back at the Bang Bang Bar. Can we ever leave? DID we ever leave? The episodes with the continual return to the roadhouse feels like a merry-go-round. No matter how far the plot travels, we find ourselves back at the Bang Bang bar, listening to some other melancholy band. Did any of this plot really happen? What time is it? Who am I?
Throughout Lynch’s work, torch songs seem to signify some sort of redemption. We see Betty and Rita sobbing in Silencio in Mulholland Drive, Laura Palmer breaking down to Julee Cruise in Fire Walk With Me and of course, Isabella Rossellini’s Dorothy Vallens crooning “Blue Velvet” to a young, wide-eyed Kyle MacLachlan in Blue Velvet. While always woeful, there’s a reparative quality to these scenes. It’s no different in Twin Peaks: The Return. Whether it’s The Cactus Blossoms’ Grand Ole Opry-style country tune “Mississippi” (“I’m going down to the sea, M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P”) or Au Revoir Simone doing their best Julee Cruise impression with “Lark” (“So so long ago, so long ago/There wasn’t anyone out there I thought I needed to know”), these final scenes add a vaudevillian twist to Twin Peaks: The Return. Life, Lynch seems to be asserting, is a cabaret. After all these various thrills and chills, we end with a song and dance.