Quick question: In your opinion, is this show even television anymore? It was one thing when the new iteration of Twin Peaks merely presented unconnected scenes and musical performances as though it were a particularly unsettling season of SNL. But this week was a full-blown experimental art film! It's almost as if David Lynch finished watching House of Cards or Breaking Bad and was like, "Great television. Let's do the opposite of this." Then he popped his head into a room full of experimental animators and was like, "Impress me, boys." As someone who truly loves television and particularly this newish trend of "Peak TV" that, despite the brilliance of certain series, has also birthed truly tiresome and boring tropes, I must say that to see Twin Peaks break the rules so audaciously every week has been an out-and-out thrill. This week was next-level. "Part 8" was shocking, unsettling, challenging, and beautiful. But also--and I can't believe I'm even saying this--it maybe even made sense a little? Let's talk about it!
We began on the open road. To quote the Celine Dion cover of the Roy Orbison song, Evil Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Ray (George Griffith) "drove all night" after blackmailing their way out of federal prison. But where were they going, and why? And how was Evil Cooper able to disable all the tracking devices on their car using only an off-brand iPhone? Evil spirits can be crafty as h*ck sometimes.
But things took a turn almost immediately. Ray had information that Evil Cooper wanted, and Ray decided he wanted to get real paid for it. This rubbed Evil Cooper the wrong way. You might say that Evil Cooper was borderline irked about it.
But after pulling over for a roadside pee (on an especially unpaved and dark stretch of road) the two men suddenly found themselves standing gun to gun! But Ray had planted a busted revolver in the glove box for Evil Cooper to find, so Evil Cooper was powerless to do anything when Ray shot first and murdered him! That's right, Evil Cooper had been killed! But what neither Ray nor us expected was the spectral pit crew that showed up to heal Evil Cooper.
As Ray looked on aghast, a gaggle of sooty-faced men (much like the one from Matthew Lillard's neighboring jail cell and also the one hanging out in Jane Adams' morgue) materialized to jab their hands into Evil Cooper's wounds and rub blood all over his face. In the ghost world this is considered a cutting edge medical procedure.
Things went from bad to worse when a wet, black orb with the face of BOB began emerging from Dark Cooper's chest, so Ray decided he should probably RUN AWAY. He hopped back in the car and shouted about the situation to 'Phillip' into his speakerphone. But assuming he was talking to Agent Phillip Jeffries, what did the ghost of David Bowie think about all this? It wasn't yet clear.
Before the shock of Evil Cooper's potential death could wear off, we were suddenly treated to a mid-episode performance by none other than "the Nine Inch Nails!" I especially loved the pine cone on the emcee's microphone stand. It really set the tone for the middle-aged, crabby shouting that followed.
Oh, Trent. I'd be mad and nihilistic too if I had your bank account... Oh wait, probably not. Different strokes, I guess!
But say one thing for the Nine Inch Nails: Their industrial wailing sure can resurrect a dead villain! Shortly after Trent Reznor stopped screaming at everybody, Evil Cooper shot bolt upright and looked a little worse for wear. But he was alive again, and this probably meant Ray was in trouble.
Thus concludes the 'normal' part of this episode, because what followed was one of the strangest trips I've taken since my birthday acid slumber party. Ladies and gentlemen, THE ORIGIN OF EVIL:
We were treated to, like, a half hour of seemingly esoteric imagery and experimental filmmaking, but if I may be honest with you, I think Twin Peaks was actually saying that much of the evil (and good) this show has been examining since the start originated with the advent of the atomic bomb. Yes, that same bomb in the poster in Agent Gordon Cole's office. BOB and his ilk weren't some ancient evil from primordial times, they were MAN-MADE. And this sequence--which included the camera flying INSIDE a mushroom cloud leading to a 2001-esque sequence of colors and shapes--seemed to suggest that a test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico in the 1940s had torn a hole in space-time and had allowed these dudes to access our realm:
These "Woodsmen", as the credits called them, were clearly agents of darkness and something about that nuclear blast allowed them to emerge from this run-down convenience store and get up to all kinds of mayhem later. As if this weren't troubling enough, that one faceless female ghost from the glass cube in the premiere had eaten some bad sushi and VOMITED a ton of scary things into the ether:
Among the detritus she expelled was the black orb containing the face of BOB as well as some speckled eggs of some sort. So, damn. That white ghost lady was BOB's mother, kind of? But don't be too sad, because as the old saying goes, whenever an evil spirit is vomited up, a good spirit is vomited up as well.
We were then whisked to that palace in the purple ocean where Good Cooper had once had a cute conversation with a no-eyed lady. But this scene took place in a different, more black & white room (the one we saw in the very first scene of this season)!
Here was where a lady and also the character named ??????? (Carel Struycken) received some kind of distress signal via their giant papier maché bell device.
This was ???????'s cue to go to his home theater and legit rewatch the nuclear explosion montage that we had all just watched. When he saw that BOB had been vomited up by a faceless white ghost, he knew what had to be done: He levitated into the air and vomited up gold sparks that formed into a gleaming orb!
His roommate caught the orb and guess whose face was in it?
Laura Palmer! The orb was then shot out of a golden horn where it floated to the Pacific Northwest region of a spinning globe. If we were to try and interpret this sequence, it was that Laura Palmer was specifically created to help counteract the existence of BOB. Man, these alternate universes live for the drama.
Then we were treated to an unparalleled nightmare sequence that I may never recover from. We revisited the New Mexico desert where things were still pretty black & white. Several of those dastardly Woodsmen floated down from the sky to torment the town.
This one in particular stormed around demanding "Got a light?" in a monster growl while people fled or, worse, allowed him to crush their heads like walnuts. (This poor receptionist lady!)
He then took over a radio station and began chanting some beat poetry into the microphone, which resulted in everyone all over town (which resembled a cozy, 1950s desert version of Twin Peaks) losing consciousness. Including this town's answer to Laura Palmer, a nice-seeming girl who'd just gotten home from a promising first date:
One of those speckled eggs that the white ghost had vomited up had hatched in the desert and a sort of grasshopper with frog legs crawled out. And now it had climbed in her bedroom window and INTO HER MOUTH. Oh man, I can't.
Then, having successfully wing-manned a frog-freak into some poor soul's body, the evil Woodsman finished popping a man's head like a water balloon, then walked back into the desert and rode an unseen horse away. It was all a terrible nightmare and I am borderline mad at Twin Peaks for making me watch it! But it was also incredible to learn that Twin Peaks was not the first small, cozy town to be terrorized by evil phantasms. Was this episode a backdoor pilot for a spin-off prequel series? Probably not! But you know Peak TV has trained me to expect prequel spin-offs.
"Part 8" was unlike anything I've seen on television, and that includes the rest of Twin Peaks. However you feel about Twin Peaks' refusal to conform to Peak TV expectations, it's a special, once-in-a-lifetime moment in TV history and I feel truly privileged to see it unfold. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to vomit up a spirit or whatever. It's kind of the new trend.
Twin Peaks airs Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.
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