Thoughts on May the Giant Be With You:
“I am no longer sure of anything. If I satiate my desires, I sin but I deliver myself from them; if I refuse to satisfy them, they infect the whole soul.” – Jean Paul Sartre
The Giant: “We want to help you.”
Cooper: “Who’s we?”
• Here we are again – back in David Lynch’s warm/cold embrace/grasp, back in the place where dreams bleed into reality; where time ceases to have the same meaning it typically does. Season 2 of Twin Peaks begins with one of the longest, strangest sequences of any season premiere ever. We return to a bloodied Agent Cooper laying prone on the floor of his Great Northern hotel room as an elderly, seemingly-senile/mentally-deficient employee comes in bearing a glass of warm milk, and proceeds to converse with the half-conscious Cooper while giving no hint whatsoever that he recognizes the clear, unambiguous fact of Cooper’s having been SHOT, MULTIPLE TIMES.
Their bizarre interaction seems to stretch on forever – Lynch again using repetition and unusual pacing to throw the audience off, keeping us in a state that’s probably best described as bewilderment right up to the point where, from the ether itself, a Giant suddenly appears.
Yes, a Giant.
There’s a queer dream-logic at work here. Near the beginning of Season 1, Cooper met a dwarf. Here, at the start of Season 2, he meets a Giant – two beings that are “twins” of a sort in their physical dissimilarity to one another. Both of these apparitions have offered Cooper “clues,” but for unknown reasons and to unknown ends. There is no way for the audience, or for Cooper, to know whether these figures are real or hallucination, whether they are aligned or opposed, whether they are “good” or “evil.” And this sense of dislocation – of being led, without a sense of where or why – is one of the elements of the show’s mythology that I most enjoy.
Cooper: “Where do you come from?”
The Giant: “The question is – where have you gone?”
• As mentioned in the column for Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer, much of what these “dream” figures say comes across as nonsense. In actuality, however, their statements have a queerly-specific meaning. In Season 1 we discovered the ways in which the Little Man’s statements served as obtuse signposts along Cooper’s journey to discover Laura’s killer. This season we’ll discover the Giant’s words have similar intent. This includes the statement above – one that we’ll tackle in much more detail later on. For now, the two most important mythological details to keep percolating in the rear-compartment of your head are: “The owls are not what they seem,” and “Without chemicals, he points.”
Both these jumbled statements are very, very important to Peaks’ larger narrative. Also important, to Cooper’s story and presumably to the larger narrative: Cooper’s ring. If you read the autobiography I’ve linked to in this column you’ll learn the origin of that ring and the personal meaning it holds for Cooper. You’ll also get a sense of a larger story lying untold around the edges of this one.
• I’d like to return to the subject of Appetites with all of you. I’ve talked before about how the denial of/satisfaction of appetites is a major undercurrent on this show, and the Season 2 premiere hauls that aspect back up front and center for us. Blackie’s got a heroin habit that leaves her needy and “hungry” for her drug of choice, willing to bear not-so-subtle humiliation to satisfy the animal/instinct inside of her. Ben Horne’s got a carnal hunger, dark and deep, that’s led him perilously close to the point of committing incest with his own daughter. Watching Horne prepare to unknowingly deflower his own daughter brings the show to a level of sleaze and discomfort that’s new. We’ve witnessed and intuited a number of terrible doings in this town, but this sort of despoilment – the threat of innocence violated in the most awful, most unthinkable of ways – is a new kind of darkness.
• Audrey uses a mask to disguise herself from her perpetually priapistic poppa – a move that reinforces the notion of the masks that people wear in this town generally.
Cooper: “I guess you can say that about most anything in life: It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”
• Keeping Cooper immobile and dying for the first hour of the premiere is one ballsy move on Lynch and Frost’s part. I love the decision, personally, since it reaffirms our emotional connection with Coop and emphasizes both the danger and the absurd dark humor of his predicament. And FYI: His words here? Majorly important.
Truman: “Lucy, you better bring Agent Cooper up to date.”
• Cooper is finally rescued by the Sheriff’s Department, almost 20 minutes into the episode. He’s hauled into the hospital, and thanks to Lucy we receive a brief, hilarious rundown of the events of the finale, reminding the audience of where everyone was left when the first season ended. Remember – back when this episode first aired folks had been waiting all summer to see what would happen next on the show, and there was a level of anticipation that’s, in some ways, comparable to Lost. Remember also that there was no DVD or internet technology at this point in time (AHH! Cavemen! We were all cavemen!), meaning that for most people, outside of keeping weird, detailed journals, this kind of recap wasn’t just nice but necessary.
• Love that the bullet hits and kills the tick Cooper was searching for. This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but I still love it.
• The burnt and twisted wreckage of the Mill makes for a surprisingly beautiful tableau.
Madeleine: “Aunt Sarah….I had the strangest dream last night. The rug…right here. Right from this angle where I’m sitting…”
Sarah: “Was Laura in it?”
• Maddie’s dream seems to spill over into reality – but again there’s a question of how “real” it is. One moment, there’s a dark stain spreading over the carpet and the next, it’s gone. Evidence of insanity? If it were Sarah Palmer glimpsing that stain it would be easier to say, categorically, “yes.” But it’s not Sarah that glimpses this strange vision. It’s Maddie – a girl who, so far, has been shown to be nothing other than wholesome and “normal.” So we have two options here: Either Maddie is also going crazy – experiencing some kind of insanity that’s near-viral, given how quickly its spread to her – or she’s experiencing actual “visions.”
Leland Palmer: “Ohhhhh…Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy! A kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you!”
Leland Palmer has lost his mind. His behavior is erratic, troubling, intense. His hair has turned white over the course of one night (incidentally: this is only possible in “reality” due to a certain medical condition that Leland likely doesn’t suffer from. It’s far more likely that this sudden change reflects an impressionistic change in Leland psychologically, and that impression is underscored by the manic, uncomfortable cheer he wears in this re-introductory scene). There’s no hint here of the weeping, inconsolable father we’ve watched for a (short) season. In his place is a newly jaunty, smiling, white-haired, somehow-unsettling person who strolls into Ben and Jerry Horne’s presence and announces, arms wide open, that “I’m back! Back and ready!”
Sidenote: The way that Jerry and Ben join in on Leland’s singing – jumping up on a desk to dance, or diving onto the floor like some surreal breakdancer – is deeply, deeply weird. And wonderful.
Albert: “And it’s another great moment in law enforcement history!”
• Special Agent Rosenfeld rolls back into Twin Peaks just in time to see Deputy Andy slam his face into a board, resulting in one of the better/funnier/stranger slapstick moments on the show – the sight of Andy duckwalking around, bleeding from the nose, alternately half-laughing, half-about-to-pass-out. It’s a terrific bit of inexplicable physical comedy, and it again brings up the notion of being “led,” of being guided by “intuition” and “luck” or “fate” or “unseen hands” or whatever the heck you wanna call it. For all of Rosenfeld’s (frankly justified) contempt for the hayseeds in this ‘burg, they get the job done. And they get that job done, typically, by simply being themselves and living in their own moment completely. Had Andy stifled himself when he saw Albert – had he composed himself and forced himself to be Not-Andy in that sense – there’s a very good chance that coke would never have been found. Hooray for hayseed intuition!
• Donna and Maddy meet up so that Maddy can give Donna a pair of Laura’s sunglasses (that she asked for? Do I not remember her asking for them? Or did this happen offscreen?), and they get an anonymous tip to “Look into the meals on wheels program.” Shortly thereafter, Donna pops up at the Sherriff’s station to participate in a long, bewildering scene between herself and James involving finger-sucking and lots of gratuitous smoking. Lara Flynn Boyle must have done some serious drugs, or gotten some serious electroshock therapy over the break between seasons. It’s like she’s a different person – not just in terms of the character she’s playing (who seems radically different in some indefinable way), but also in terms of the woman playing the character. She’s becoming the LFB we all seem to love to hate. Watch her scenes in this episode, and try to reconcile them with her scenes from last season. You can’t do it. I’m not sure what’s going on here – if there’s some upcoming explanation for her behavior/demeanor, or if it was the result of offscreen events, or what. What I do know is that the shift in character for Donna makes no sense, and will seemingly be undone by the end of the episode, where we watch Donna acting much more Donna-like among her family members.
• Andy confirms the first of the Giant’s signposts for us, by discovering that Leo Johnson was held in a jail in Hungry Horse, Montana (Yes, amazingly enough, it is a real place). The date of his incarceration means that he has an airtight alibi for the murder of Teresa Banks – the murdered woman mentioned in the pilot episode.
• One-armed Mike, who we’ve seen previously in Cooper’s dream and in reality, waltzes into the Sherriff’s Department, claiming that Truman asked him to stop by at his convenience in order to buy shoes. Again, I could be forgetting the details here, but I don’t remember that conversation ever taking place, which immediately makes Mike’s sudden appearance somewhat creepy (as does the manic grin he wears when he turns toward the camera with his face fuzzily out of focus).
• When James isn’t playing the lovesick puppy he’s quite tolerable. His scene with Truman as they talk over his cocaine possession is a good one, even if the scene itself makes no real dramatic sense whatsoever. There’s never any real indication that Truman believes James is running drugs, and there’s no sense from James that he’s worried about being busted. So why invent the pretense at all? Why not just have James acting as a civilian liaison to the Sherriff’s Department as a Bookhouse Boy? Sidenote: The more that I watch of James’ physical performance in this episode, the more I’m becoming convinced that he and David Boreanaz were separated at birth.
• Just as I’m thinking that this scene won’t rise above tolerable, James pulls more mythology into the light:
James: “I remember, this one night, when we first started seeing each other….she was still doing drugs then. Well, we were in the woods and she started saying this scary poem – over and over – about fire. And then she said, ‘Would you like to play with fire, little boy? Would you like to play with Bob?…Would you like to play with Bob?’”
Creepy! The poem that James references here is the same poem that we’ve seen pop up a few times now: “Through the darkness of future past/The Magician longs to see/One chants(One chance?) out between two worlds/Fire, walk with me.” The words that Laura uses here will come back again to us from out of another character’s mouth. Keep them in mind.
• The symbolism of the heart necklace becomes overt here, as Jacoby emphasizes the two “halves” of Laura Palmer – the Homecoming Queen that was outwardly adored, and her “doppelganger,” or double, a woman who delved into self-destructive behavior like a prospector with gold fever. Also explicitly confirmed (again!): Laura’s perhaps suicidal (perhaps unconscious) desire to die.
• And speaking of symbolism and mythology….
Jacoby: “This was a smell like…like oil; scorched engine oil.”
• I never tire of Lynch’s preoccupation with nonsensical behavior. Shelly and Bobby gripping each others’ hair and woofing like happy puppies definitely qualifies.
• We learn the origins of Big Ed and Nadine’s improbable marriage, and of what happened to keep Ed and Norma apart. Norma apparently “ran off” with Hank after four years with Ed, and in anger and confusion, Ed turned to Nadine for comfort and put out Nadine’s eye on their honeymoon through mistake. That’s nice and simple. And I really like Everett McGill, who plays Ed, so his performance and delivery nicely sell the whole tale. Making the whole thing that much better is the presence of Albert, who vocally and silently mocks it all with much-appreciated relish.
The second of the Giant’s signposts (“A man in a smiling bag”) shows up in the hospital in the form of a body bag hung on the wall, looking as though its abstractly smiling.
Major Briggs: “Bobby? May I share something with you?”
Briggs: “A vision I had in my sleep last night.”
“Jupiter represents essentially the realization in a human being that alone he is normally unable to meet the harsh challenges of life on an earth teeming with potential enemies and dangers, but that by cooperating with his fellow men he can handle successfully the problems of existence. ‘In union there is strength,’ is Jupiter’s motto; and union here has a very extensive meaning. From union an organized society comes forth; from union also, at a more psychological level, is born the religious sense, and all forms of culture and art, all social institutions — and first of all, language and the various kinds of symbols and myths on which religion, culture and political states were founded.” – Dan Rudhyar, The Planets and Their Symbols
• Twin Peaks has been very, very good at evoking certain moods – dread, uncertainty, befuddlement, bemusement – but spiritual peace hasn’t been much a part of that mix thus far, outside of Cooper’s evocations of his beloved Tibet. That changes in the brief, surprisingly-poignant exchange between Major Briggs and Bobby. Briggs’ vision sketches for us a kind of subconscious Camelot, a place where the soul feels calm and balanced, where individuals who’ve felt severed and disconnected in real life can share deep, unabashed affection and love. Briggs is careful to distinguish his vision from a dream, which he describes as a mere cataloguing of the unconscious.
One of the ways in which Twin Peaks and Lost share thematic interests is in the focus on community as salvation. Reinhold Neibuhr once wrote that groups tend to be more immoral than individuals, but I don’t know that I agree with that assertion, except as applied to selectively-chosen groups like, say, the German people of the Nazi era. More often than not, groups tend to act as pacification-enablers over the individual, savage impulses of the individual, and the concept of the Social Contract is perhaps the best abstract representation of this. I’m of the opinion that Twin Peaks is very much concerned with how community acts as an opposing force to individualized appetites, and this opinion is reinforced by the details of the show itself. The quote above about Jupiter probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, first-time watchers of the show, but I’ll ask you to exercise a modicum of patience. It’ll become clearer in the near future, and I’ll be sure to connect the dots for you. Like those moments already singled out earlier in the column, allow me to say again: Remember this vision.
• I love that every time Deputy Andy uses Albert’s full name he gets it wrong. I believe he calls him Albert Roserfelt here.
• A mysterious Japanese businessman pops up in the Great Northern, phoning around looking for Josie Packard, who has gone missing along with Catherine Martel. If there’s one thing this show has been missing, its mysterious Japanese businessmen.
• We learn that Donna has TWO sisters: the one we saw in the pilot, who had since vanished completely until this episode, existing only as an off-stage phantom to be remembered, and this still-younger sibling, who was just awarded the role of “Fairy Princess” in the school play. Presumably, she will also disappear completely when this episode concludes.
• ….Why is Leland in a tuxedo?
• Thanks to the burning of the Mill, over 150 jobs will probably be lost, and the way is now cleared for the Horne Brothers and their Ghostwood development project. The clash between differing ways of life, between blue collar and white collar, between logging jobs and golf links, mirrors the similar clashes between dream and nightmare, civilization and savagery that are also omnipresent here.
• That song “Get Happy”? Remember the lyrics.
Audrey: “Special Agent, are you there?”
• Audrey’s moment of prayer to Cooper is one of the more touching moments on the show as far as I’m concerned. Cooper has been Twin Peaks’ True Moral North since the beginning – he’s the closest thing to an actual saint that we’ve seen so far (and notice, if you will, that in the small town of Twin Peaks, no one seems to attend church – in fact we’ve seen no evidence that I can recall that religious institutions exist in this town). There’s a purity of spirit to Coop’s character that makes a moment like this seem genuine, and in no way blasphemous, or jokey, or ridiculous (despite the fact that, if we’re honest, it’s all three of those things).
The Giant: “You forgot something.”
• The episode ends as it began – with a visitation from The Giant, a visitation that’s seemingly confirmed as reality when the figure appears in Cooper’s darkened room while the Special Agent sleeps. The Giant then manifests himself again, in a halo of light, and “wakes” Cooper (or causes him to dream?) for one last conversation. The Giant reminds Cooper that mysteries are solved one step at a time, and then seems to gift him with an unidentified ball of light that floats to and into Cooper, apparently at neck-level (note that this entry point corresponds with the Vishuddha chakra, and with the throat “contact point” in Kabbalah’s teachings.
• And as if all of this weren’t enough for a double-stuffed episode, we end with one of the more terrifying moments in the show for me as a viewer. A silent camera stalks smoothly through an empty hospital corridor, intercut with the sight of a comatose Ronette Pulasky’s arms slowly, eerily rising in the air, and then….
Then we’re flashing through imagery from a grimy, hellish nightmare: a crouched Bob, snarling in the train car and then running at the camera from some unidentified open doorway; a demonic Laura Palmer with wide, terrible eyes and a rictus smile, blood around her mouth; the sight of a dead, bloodied Laura on the floor of the train car as Bob crouches beside her and howls with a sound that somehow straddles exaltation and what sounds like despair. For the first time, the end-credits don’t feature the static face of Homecoming Queen Laura. How could they, after what we’ve just witnessed? Instead, the frozen face of Bob remains, swaddled in shadow, head reared back in an animal howl.
All of which is genuinely and rather deeply disturbing to me.
Since this is essentially Ronette’s vision, can we assume that what we’re seeing is her impression of past events? And can we then also assume that, at some point during the events of the night in which Ronette was brutalized, that Laura herself participated in that brutalization in some way? Probably not, actually. Lynch’s imagery is famous/infamous for working as pure abstract symbolism, not as linear pieces of the larger narrative. And yet…
• Speaking of abstract symbolism, these final images are powerful as symbols, regardless of intended meaning (if any). Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what these images “mean” in a logical, rational context. What matters is what these symbols “mean” on an emotional, irrational level. The imagery itself isn’t as important (or so I’d argue) as what the imagery evokes inside you, the viewer. For me, these moments conjure pure dread and fear. They suggest that Laura’s final night involved acts of depravity that step past all commonly-drawn bounds of decency and civilization; acts that cross irrevocably over into the animal, the primal – that seem to reject completely the Norman Rockwell-style notions of goodness that Twin Peaks prizes and that Lynch and Frost set as communal ideals in favor of unthinking oblivion.
We began this journey with the image of a blue-lipped Homecoming Queen wrapped like some exotic flower in a shroud of plastic. We conclude the first installment of the Second Season with the image of that Homecoming Queen’s lips stained red with blood, her eyes a mockery of the small town decency she represented in the abstract.
We’re deep in the woods now, folks. There’s no turning back.
This week’s Twin Peaks Ephemera
Each week I’ll link to a bit of pop culture ephemera that was created around the time of Twin Peaks’ airing, or that was created due to the show’s influence/inspiration, or is otherwise related to the show. This week’s offering is at the top of the column – Agent Cooper’s “autobiography,” a book that I owned and re-read several times during Peaks’ initial run. I hope you’ll give it a shot over the next few weeks, and that you’ll let me know your thoughts on it.
Catch up on Lost & Found!
• Lost & Found: An Introduction, A Proposition, A Preponderance of Purpled Prose
• Lost & Found: And The Winner Is…
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (S1, Pilot)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 1 & 2)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 3 & 4)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 5 & 6)