Lost In The Bang Bang Bar

I Saw Myself, I Saw Myself From Long Ago: Unraveling Subjecthood In Twin Peaks: The Return “Part 14”

Surprise!

I’m like the blue rose….Oh! Hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers and fellow Twin Peaks fanatics. I don’t know about you but I’m feeling in the mood for another Bloody Mary with a side of existential terror and half a neck, but we’ll get to our role model Sarah Palmer later as we continue to get Lost In The Bang Bang Bar for Twin Peaks: The Return Part 14. Oh…and last night I had another Monica Bellucci dream (Oh boy!):

“We are like the spider
We weave our lives and then move along it
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream
This is true for the entire universe.”

David Lynch quotes this segment of the Hindu holy text The Upanishads in the epigraph to his section on his magnum opus/mindfuck Inland Empire in his transcendental meditation screed Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity. Perfectly capturing the nonlinear structure of the dream state–or possibly, transcendental meditation (I don’t know, I’ve never done it), Inland Empire follows Laura Dern’s Nikki as she leaps from scene to scene, persona to persona. She does “The Locomotion” with sex workers, dies in alleyways and eventually, in a monstrous moment, enacts a face-melting moment worthy of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

Not only mirroring the thin line between reality and fantasy in Hollywood, as well as the frequently switching personas of acting, Lynch, by quoting The Upanishads, expands this observation to the unreal and constructed nature of our perceived world. He essentially erases the possibility of concrete forms of subjecthood. Instead, like Nikki’s fragile subject, all identity and experience is merely a dream–one that we are moving, or even, trapped within.

Lynch and Frost revisit this quote, continuing the cannibalization of Lynch’s entire multidisciplinary career, in Twin Peaks: The Return Part 14. But, they do so with a twist. While Lynch’s character Gordon Cole recounts a dream to his fellow F.B.I. colleagues, featuring Italian actress Monica Bellucci at a French café, he recalls Monica repeating, “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.” She then adds a question: “But, who is the dreamer?”

Rather than the self-made world indicated by the original text in The Upanishads, Twin Peaks seems to indicate that this world is controlled by a larger force–the dreamer who manipulates this world-making, subject-forming dream. Is it BOB? The Black Lodge spirits? The Experiment/Mother? Or is it just Lynch himself? This question seems to pervade the entire transcendent fourteenth episode as certain characters seem to act as if controlled by some outside force.

Part 14 opens on the F.B.I. agents Gordon, Albert and Tammy in South Dakota. As Gordon returns a call from Sheriff Truman, learning about the discovery of the missing pages in Laura Palmer’s diary indicating the possibility of two Coopers, Albert and Tammy revisit Blue Rose Task Force’s founding case in 1975. Led by Gordon and David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries, this murder case featured a woman–Lois Duffy–who was shot and killed by a woman who was also Lois Duffy. The wounded woman, before she died, recited, “I’m like the blue rose,” disappearing, presumably, into the Black Lodge. Explaining the significance of the blue rose, Tammy says, “Blue rose does not occur in nature. It’s not a natural thing. The dying woman was not natural. Conjured. What’s the word? A tulpa.”

A tulpa, returning to Lynch’s obsession with both transcendental meditation and Eastern religions, is a notion connected to Tibetan Buddhism that a being can be created from collective thoughts from separate individuals. According to this mythology, tulpas act independently of the thinkers’ consciousness. Apparently, these doppelgängers were thought into existence. Did they catch the big fish? Can they make Chrysta Bell’s Tammy sing “Angel Star” in the Roadhouse? I’m waiting…

Shouting “coffee time!” Gordon appears, along with, a few moments later, that always cheerful Diane (“Deputy Diane reporting”). We learn that Diane is Janey-E’s estranged sister (“I hate her so…I haven’t talked to her in years.”) and Gordon, after Diane exits, recalls his Monica Bellucci dream, which is shot in black and white and filled with scratching sounds like a record skipping, as well as a faceless Cooper.

Meeemories!

After Monica recites her bit about the dreamer as mentioned above, Lynch observes, “A very powerful uneasy feeling came over me. Monica looked past me and indicated for me to look back at something that was happening there. I turned and looked. I saw myself. I saw myself from long ago in the old Philadelphia offices, listening to Cooper telling me he was worried about a dream he had.”

Returning to a scene from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, we see Cooper running into a young Gordon Cole’s office as Gordon continues narrating, “And that was the day Phillip Jeffries appeared and didn’t appear…And while Jeffries was apparently there, he raised his arm and pointed at Cooper, ‘Who do you think that is there?’”

“Damn I hadn’t remembered that. Now this is something really interesting to think about,” says Gordon. “Yes, I’m beginning to remember that too,” Albert responds. This small exchange is a sly inside joke considering the scene from Fire Walk With Me was, in fact, a deleted scene from the film–nobody who watched it without the extras would have remembered that either.

But thinking about this scene, was it just Phillip Jeffries’ paranoia or was Cooper not himself even then? The subject, in this scene from Fire Walk With Me, seems ever-fluid and always suspect. And at this point in The Return, a stable subjectivity seems impossible as well as we see later in Sarah Palmer’s unmasking.

First, though, Lynch finally takes us to Jack Rabbit’s Palace with the guys from the Sheriff’s department–Bobby, Hawk, Sheriff Truman and Andy. Despite the instability of many of the characters’ subjecthoods, there are those that seem solid, namely these four from the Sheriff’s Department. The Log Lady was right when she told Hawk in Part 10, “Sheriff Truman is a true man. And the others, the good ones, who have been with you.” These four guys march into the forest to crackling electric sounds, following Bobby, looking for Jack Rabbit’s Palace, directed by Major Briggs’s note.

Walking down a path, the four resemble Dorothy and her pals wandering down the Yellow Brick Road in Oz. Of course, this is no mistake–Lynch famously loves to reference the fantastical film, the most obvious being in Wild At Heart. Here, though, even the tree stump, which Major Briggs and Bobby called Jack Rabbit’s Palace, looks similar to the architecture of the Emerald City. Naturally, Bobby would be Dorothy–what a sap.

Not only does Jack Rabbit’s Palace look like the Emerald City, but its natural structure also appears like a mirror image (meaning flipped) of the building next to the purple waves in Part 3 and Part 8 where we first met the eyeless woman Naido with Cooper. Is this area of the forest a key to an alternate dimension? Well, looks like as the four stumble upon Naido, nude, in the forest who we last saw tumbling down into the void in Part 3. Apparently, she landed here.

Of the four, that goofball Andy holds Naido’s hand and at 2:53PM, a portal opens up in the sky, sucking up Andy to the White Lodge perhaps because he is the empathetic and pure soul. There, he meets the Giant who finally identifies himself as “The Fireman” (“There is a fire where you are going”). To the sound of skipping records (“Listen to the sounds”), Andy’s attention is directed upward after being given a strange box. Further delving into Lynch’s fascination with viewership, we watch Andy, resembling a silent film star, gaze upward and revisit the entire narrative of Twin Peaks from the original series to perhaps its conclusion.

AAANGEL STAAAR

We see mother puking up BOB, the convenience store, the Woodsman, electrical cables indicating how the lodge spirits travel, a high school student running when the news hit of Laura Palmer’s murder, Laura’s hokey homecoming photo flanked by two angels, Naido, who seems related to Laura in some inexplicable way, the splitting of the two Coopers, a phone ringing at the sheriff’s department, ominous rumbling as Andy brings Lucy over to see something (maybe the two Coopers?) and a telephone pole with the number 6 emblazoned on it, which is recognizable from a moment in Fire Walk With Me. Phew! Andy was out of breath too. And who wouldn’t be!

As the four return, we see different forms of them wandering around the woods similar to the splitting of the Woodsmen at the convenience store. Andy comes last, holding Naido, saying with a force rarely heard from the clownish Deputy: “We need to get her down the mountain. She’s very important and there are people that want her dead.”

They put Naido in a cell for safe keeping where that asshole Chad is locked up for being a shady shit and stealing mail for Richard Horne. In the next cell is….a zombie? Billed in the credits as The Drunk, this figure is dripping blood from his mouth with flesh seemingly ripped from his cheek. Pooling on the floor, the bloody spit resembles motor oil. This figure, somewhat like Dougie, repeats every word that’s said in the prison from Naido’s chatter to Chad’s yelling. The back and forth cacophony is reminiscent of Mike and Bobby’s bullying of James in the jail cell in the original pilot.

Not only that, there’s also an eerie connection to the puking girl in the car from Part 11. What is going on with people in Twin Peaks? There’s a sense that something–“the dreamer”–is controlling these subjects, whether possessed or manipulated by some outside power.

Later in the episode at the Roadhouse with Lissie, two girls discuss the last time the mysterious Billy, spoken about by Audrey, was seen, perhaps hinting at Billy being the drooling “drunk” dude in the Twin Peaks jail. One girl, who was the last to see him, mentions that he ran into their house with “blood coming out his nose and mouth,” similar to the description of the dream Audrey had. She mentions her mother’s name is Tina and her and Billy had a thing. Something about the scene feels strange as if Audrey is connected to these girls differently than expected. Is Audrey who she thinks she is? Is anyone themselves anymore?

Well Sarah Palmer certainly isn’t. Nobody does fragile subjecthood quite like Sarah Palmer, my new hero. We find Sarah Palmer heading to a bar with a neon sign Elk’s Point #9 Bar. No wonder all the Black Lodge spirits love Twin Peaks just the sheer amount of neon bar signs alone would give them enough electricity. She walks up to the bar and orders a Bloody Mary. Yeah! They’re in season honey!

A gross trucker in an envy-worthy “Truck You” T-shirt saunters up to Sarah, wrongly deciding to hit on her. “Drinking alone tonight?” he says. “Mind your own business please,” she responds. Eventually he snarls, “It’s a free country. It’s a free cunt-ry…Maybe you’re on of them bull dykes.” Done with his shit, her voice changes, “I’ll eat you.”

She then, like her daughter Laura in the Black Lodge with Cooper, removes her face, a symbolic removal of the constructed mask of the subject. And what’s underneath? Well, a slashing pointed thing that could be what The Experiment/Mother used to kill those two kids in New York. It also resembles an insect-like proboscis. But, that’s not all. Another hand with a black “spirit” finger reaches up and pulls away another layer to show a Cheshire Cat-like grin. It’s a vaudevillian moment–a pure showstopper, proving instability of subjectivity in Lynch’s constructed world. The image of the grin and the hand, however disturbing, is not new to Lynch either, resembling a 2013 artwork Head #3.

David Lynch, Head #3, (from the series ‘Small Stories’) 2013 / Gelatin silver print on Baryta paper / Courtesy: David Lynch and Item éditions / © The artist

After this performance, Sarah leaps at the trucker and rips half his neck off. What a fun date! I want to sit next to Sarah at the bar. And as if waking from her stupor, she screams at his bleeding body: “He just fell over. I don’t know.” “With half his neck missing?” responds the bartender, “Damn. You have something to do with this?” “I was just sitting here having my drink,” she says. “We’ll see about this,” he replies. “Yeah…Sure is a mystery, huh” she growls. What a feminist role model.

*mind blown*

But, who is possessing Sarah? Some smart people on the Interwebz identified the smile as her daughter Laura’s. Is this Laura’s revenge? Is Sarah the girl who swallowed the bug in Part 8? Is she Mother? Who the hell knows!

Analyzing Lynch’s use of The Upanishads in relation to his view of subjectivity, Allister Mactaggert in The Film Paintings of David Lynch invokes a selection from Roland Barthes The Pleasure Of The Text. Using a similar metaphor of the spider, Barthes writes on, “the generative idea that the text is made, is worked out in a perpetual interweaving; lost in this tissue–this texture–the subject unmakes himself like a spider dissolving in the constructive secretions of its web” (155).

Both the description of the “perpetual interweaving of text” and the unmaking of the subject seem to resonate at this point of Twin Peaks: The Return. In Part 14, random strands of narrative, that seemed, at first, like a turn of the dial in the earlier parts of the season, now are starting to come together. From Diane’s connection to Janey-E to Laura’s letter on two Coopers to Freddie’s story about his gloved handed mission, these disparate strands are beginning to come together. But, is Lynch going to just blow them all  apart in the end? God I hope so.

Will the real Dale Cooper please stand up

But, it also seems that as the narrative gets more clear, the identities of the subjects become more unstable–unmaking themselves as they dissolve into Lynch and Frost’s interwoven text. Nobody is, perhaps, who they seem.

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