Monday, September 4, 2017

Meditations on Twin Peaks: The Return, the nature of reality and ultimate evil

I have enjoyed returning to the world of Twin Peaks for the past few months, and David Lynch's third season ("The Return") of this legendary show easily figures among my very favorite of his creations, from start to finish.

Since I am still very busy with work-related activities stemming from the flooding that has spread across Houston and eastern Texas, I don't have a lot of time to chime in with online discussions so I thought I would present my initial response to the series finale here, for the enjoyment of my friends and casual passersby. I have only watched each episode once and I have pretty much just absorbed them along the way without prolonged commentary, but here are some of my thoughts, accompanied by a selection of Twin Peaks-inspired artwork I have done in recent months.

TL;DR: I love it.

Reflections on Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks gained a large portion of its audience because of its quirky characters and sense of mystery, but as we have known for some time, its underpinnings are profoundly dark. Would a neat resolution and a happily-ever-after coda do justice to the fact that the show is philosophically rooted in the concept that mankind’s infinite capacity for malice and destruction has threaded a new form of evil into the cosmic fabric?

Inspired by the Philip Jeffries sequences in "Twin Peaks: The Return"

The show’s concessions to conventional narrative—tying up some of its romantic plotlines and delivering on some audience-pleasing moments of triumph and reunion in episodes 16 and 17—are almost a parody of the form when viewed against the bleak and open-ended meditation which is episode 18. It is another layer in a multi-layered universe that has already been revealed to us several times during the show’s run, in moments such as Cooper’s transformation into Dougie, the audience’s journey through modes of time and reality in episode 8, or Audrey’s dreamlife and unresolved awakening in episode 16. This layering is explicit in the sequence where Cooper’s image is superimposed over the concluding moments of episode 17’s “final boss battle” and the subsequent events.
A bit of Twin Peaks catechism we will never forget.

When his image stares ahead after the big battle at the sheriff’s office, is Cooper waking from a dream the way Audrey does when she confronts her image in a mirror in a bright white room? Her dreamworld was populated by intrigues and romance and battles, but they were ultimately all shadows on the wall. She does not reappear in the last two episodes because the point of her storyline has been made. It would be nice to see her reunite with Cooper and lock arms to go out and fight evil together, but is that what this show has ever been about? Was it ever going to end with a freeze frame of everyone laughing it up in the sheriff’s office, hoisting coffee mugs while the theme song plays? We were given that moment when Cooper recovered in the hospital, but there is still a lot of activity backstage after the curtain closes on the show’s narrative action.

Following the fast-paced events of episode 17, is episode 18 merely an hour of “nothing is happening?” I see the episode as germinative, which by its nature requires a period of darkness and a length of time, but also heralds a beginning, even if it is merely the latest in an infinite loop. In a prolonged moment bridging two realities, Diane and Cooper in the motel represent a moment not unlike that in episode 8, where the same music accompanies the sleeping world’s invasion by uncanny and malignant forces. Nothing will be the same afterward.

The evolution of the arm (SOLD)

Cooper and Laura's long drive to Twin Peaks is not an action-packed sequence full of satisfying narrative elements, but it does represent movement and transition. The show as we knew it ended in 17 when Cooper walked through that door. It makes me think about other long, meditative but seemingly superfluous“driving” sequences. The first thing that occurs to me is the long driving scene in “Solaris” (1971) before the main character leaves Earth for a planet where reality is highly subjective. I found an excellent description of the meaning of the 5-minute driving scene in that film, on this post answered in Quora which I excerpt here:

Twin Peaks is a different animal, of course, but it deals similarly with questions of reality and dream states, and these long and silence sequences—in the motel, or on the road—seem to offer both the seeding of a new reality and its slow and silent gestation.

The show was never about answering a question or solving a mystery, as any viewer who has made it this far will know. It pulls back layers, but it is clear that Lynch does not intend to provide a clear explanation, for who can explain the nature of evil or reality? The concluding moments of the show make it clear that we are still within the shadow of the show’s main narrative—the whisper of Laura’s name, the flickering of the house and her unforgettable, resounding scream show that this world is still anchored in another. Is progress ever possible, within this loop, or are we merely switching between different outcomes and different levels of experience? I think it would be less satisfying to have this tie up with a well-explained happy ending, and it would completely inappropriate for the themes Lynch has explored throughout.

Inspired by Dougie Jones' unforgettable coffee scenes

The Room 315 key at the Great Northern Hotel assumes a particular importance in episode 18

So many mysteries to be revealed (SOLD)

Thank you for reading and viewing. I am always open to doing some Twin Peaks-based fan art for individuals who share my enthusiasm, both in paint and embroidery.

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