Thoughts on Variations on Relations:
I love me some mythology. Those of you who read along with my increasingly-insane ramblings on Lost already know this about me. When it comes to matters mythological/theological/philosophical I can get a little long-winded, and a lot crazy. But to me, that’s a large part of the fun. Why write about television shows unless you’re going to bring your interests with you when you do so? A lot of reviews/revisitings consist of a dutiful recitation of the plot (“So then this happened, and it was cool, and then this happened, and it was most non-triumphant…”) and little else. If you’re spending time reading my ramblings (1) thank you, and (2) you want/deserve something more substantive than that.
So let’s get substantive, sort of.
The episode begins by dropping us back into Owl Cave, where Cooper, Truman, Andy and Hawk have returned after having previously discovered some kind of secret penis lever. They get a good look at the rather elaborate mural on the wall, and so do we. And what we see is, frankly, pretty baffling. But not totally baffling. Let’s take a look at the mural and see what we can see:
Take note of the circle of trees featured on the left hand side of the mural. Notice any similarities to another “circle” portrayed earlier in the show?
As I noted, waaaaaaay back in the column for Season 1, episode 2, the circle of candles that surrounds this mound (glimpsed in Cooper’s first vision, just after Bob and Mike speak) is a perfect mirror of the circle of trees that we see here in the mural. Twelve candles, twelve trees. The tree circle also makes a second appearance during this episode, popping up on Windom Earle’s ambiguous computer/satellite device. Not only does this mirror image reinforce the show’s earlier interest in/evocation of ritual, it also recalls the series’ near-obsession with circles and with circular imagery. Cooper’s ring, the “perfect circle” of Mike and Bob’s partnership, the circle of candles around a circular mound, the circle of trees, the circle of men who gather on the night that Bob’s host is finally discovered…
In addition to the circle, I also make out a conspicuous fire symbol, connecting to the poem recited by Bob and Mike (“Fire, walk with me/Fire walk with me”), as well as two humanoid figures; one tall, one small. Alien and human being? Adult and child? Shaman and tribesman? We leave Cooper & Co. directly after this imagery, but Peaks’ mythology continues to unravel for us immediately, as Windom Earle speechifies at length on the two Lodges that have slowly come to the forefront of the show’s story:
Earle: “Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness called the White Lodge. Fawns gamboled there amidst happy laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and laughter filled the air. When it rained it rained sweet nectar that paralyzed the heart with the desire to live one’s life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place reeking of virtue’s sour smell, engorged with the whispered prayers of kneeling mothers, mewling newborns, and fools young and old compelled to do good without reason. But, I am pleased to note, our story does not end in this place of saccharine excess. For there is another place, its opposite, of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. No prayers dare penetrate this frightful maw. Spirits there care not for good deeds and priestly invocations. They are as like to rip the muscle from our bones as greet you with a happy g’day. And, if harnessed, these spirits, this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts, will offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the earth itself to his liking. This place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge. And I intend to find it.”
That’s a great speech. Sure, it’s a little purple, and sure, it’s pretty expository, but it’s (in this writer’s humble opinion) really good, really exciting exposition. Earle’s description of the White Lodge paints it as something out of a fairy tale, right down to the de rigueur opening words “Once upon a time.” Earle’s words also paint the White Lodge as something lost and gone from us, and the Black Lodge as something very much present and vital: there was a place of great goodness, there is another place. Whether or not this choice of words was intentional on the part of the writers, whether or not the White Lodge exists in the present, or in the past alone, the effect of Earle’s speech is to create the image of the White Lodge as a kind of lost Camelot – a place of harmony and joy and fraternity, a place not unlike Cooper’s idealized view of the town of Twin Peaks – a “brief, shining moment” that is now legend. In contrast, the Black Lodge exists (in Earle’s speech at any rate) in the here and now. And through this speech we learn that it is a “real” place, a physical location that can be found. Earle’s goals – previously assumed to revolve around vengeance against Cooper – are revealed as far more ambitious in scope. Earle wants to locate the Black Lodge and somehow harness its power. I’m a sucker for stories where mad men seek out items/places of ancient power/evil, and so Peaks’ sudden turn toward Indiana Jones territory presses all the right buttons for me as a viewer.
By the way: that’s Ted Raimi (brother of director Sam Raimi) playing the role of the stoner/metalhead who has followed Windom Earle to his creepy cabin on the promise of some brewskis. Raimi’s pretty terrible in the role – a caricature of a caricature – but his fate at the end of this episode is memorable. So, y’know, points for that.
Pete: “It’s a puzzle box.”
So it turns out that the creepy black box given to Catherine by Thomas Eckhardt’s creepy black lingerie-wearing sexual assassin is a puzzle box – one that’s coded via a series of zodiac symbols and moon phases. WHY is it coded this way? Who the heck knows. But I’ve got a theory (one that I’m sure is a common one), and since the show’s ending shortly I’ll float part of it out here now:
The mystical/extraterrestrial gumbo that is Twin Peaks’ mythology seems based, at least in part, on planets and on planetary alignments. Thus the zodiac and the phases of the moon. It’s also based, to some extent, on alchemy, which counts seven “planetary metals” among its elements, represented by zodiac symbology. Note that one of these symbols – the symbol for Jupiter – pops up again in this episode.
I’ll have (much) more to say on this point just a little further down the line.
Bobby continues to confuse the everlovin’ heck outta me. First he’s Shelly’s bold protector/provider/co-conspirator in insurance fraud. Then he’s taking a shot at being upwardly-mobile, and drops Shelly like a bad habit. Then he’s back at her door seemingly that night, professing devotion and fending off FrankenLeo. Then he’s off again, flirting with Audrey, and re-dropping Shelly. Now he’s once again scheming with her to get the money from the Miss Twin Peaks competition and kissing her, and basically WTF? Shelly, to her credit, seems like she’s pretty much over Bobby and his schemes. Given the utterly-bizarre yet strangely-affecting chemistry between her and Gordon Cole, I’m glad to see that.
Just as Twin Peaks seems to be building a good head of steam and returning to the elements that made it compelling television, Lana Milford pops back up again. I have zero interest in this character, or in her weird magnetic power over what seems like every man ever. I have no idea why I should care about her, or her petulant need to be crowned Miss Twin Peaks. I would very much like Lana Milford to wander off and ne’er darken our doorsteps again.
Luckily, Lana Milford’s a speed bump. After that brief, pointless interlude we return to the larger story that’s unfolding, as Cooper sets a date with Annie and discovers that Shelly has received an anonymous Shelley poem. This information clearly disturbs him, and we quickly learn that Cooper had sent that same poem to Caroline before she died. Cooper, starting to rediscover the fact that he’s a damn good law man, recognizes the handwriting and identifies it as Leo Johnson’s. To quote Corky St. Clair (badly) quoting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: “I think that the elements, as Dr. Watson said to Sherlock, are coming together, sir.”
Major Briggs: “Deputy Brennan? As I remember, the line you are drawing should proceed downward, not across.”
Major Briggs continues to suggest his importance to the show’s mythological/mystical elements as he corrects Andy’s reconstruction of the Owl Cave mural, indicating that the Major has seen the mural before – indeed, he comments that he has dreamed it, or seen it, but cannot recall where. I presume that this is connected to his lost memories of abduction, and that he may have borne witness to the mural during that time period. And Cooper, in turn, continues to regain his zen detective abilities with gratifying speed, noting that “Logic dictates these investigations remain separate entities. But recent developments suggest otherwise.” We are veering away from the arguably humdrum, pedestrian investigations of the past few episodes and back into the realm of intuition and magic. And I, for one, could not be happier. Briggs agrees to access the classified Blue Book files on behalf of Cooper and his investigation, but only after considering “certain moral judgments.” It’s assertions like this one that make Briggs my second favorite character on the show. In addition to being a sucker for mad men hunting down forbidden power/secrets, I’m also a sucker for untarnished nobility. Characters like Dale Cooper and Major Briggs represent ideals that I, personally, find both admirable and inspirational. They are unabashed champions of decency and honor, and those qualities need champions. Evil is everywhere in Twin Peaks – the show would not be the (largely) compelling, long-lasting curiosity that it remains to this day were it not for the show’s unblinking focus on and exploration of Evil and corruption. Cooper and Briggs sharpen the sting of the Evil in Twin Peaks by presenting us with Evil’s polar opposite – unalloyed Good. Without their presence and conviction, the powerful portrayal of Evil that we’ve witnessed would not, I don’t think, be nearly as powerful.
And as for what’s up with the hooded figure that appears in this episode, recalling the shadowed figure that abducted Briggs? No idea. Note that the Owl Cave map is featured in his silhouette, and that this becomes a field of stars as the camera draws closer to him/her/it, again connecting the “mystic” and the cosmic. Also note that the stylized 4 featured on the map is the alchemical symbol for tin, the planetary metal dominated by Jupiter. I’ve brought Jupiter up before:
“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
I brought it up again in talking about the Diary of Laura Palmer:
That said, there are interesting/spooky sections to the text, and I think it’s interesting to note here that Laura’s cat was named Jupiter – a detail that may remind you of the quote I posted in last week’s column about that planet.
I’ll go into Jupiter’s potential symbolic significance soon.
Ben: “Sometimes the urge to do bad is nearly overpowering.”
I continue to enjoy Ben Horne’s exploration of what it means to be “good,” and his seeming self-awareness in the process of trying to redeem himself. Watching as he deals with Dick Tremayne and extends generosity to a sycophant is kinda inspiring in its own way. Also, it’s funny.
Earle: “Think of all the hapless sinners, wondering where their soul’s destination lies? Think of the prayers and the doubt, the gut-sucking fear that visits late at night. And for what? To gain the answer to a simple question: ‘Where will my spirit wake? What life am I given after my life?’ This grave question has plagued man’s sorry conscience for eons. And you, lucky boy, have the answer… now.”
I may not think much of Ted Raimi’s stoner/meathead, but I think the world of Earle’s speech here, and the merciless way in which he kills Raimi with a well-placed arrow. Earle’s words strike primal paydirt, and serve as a kind of commentary on the show’s larger preoccupations and (sadly truncated) future ambitions. Had Twin Peaks continued, I think that this speech would have provided a handy road map for where the show was ultimately headed – an exploration of metaphysical proportions.
Catherine: “I think early in her life she must have learned the lesson that she could survive by being what other people wanted to see. Showing them that. It was probably something she had no choice about. And I think that eventually became the largest truth in her life. In time even she no longer knew who she truly was. She, I don’t know quite how to say this … she lost her … center. What was left of her private self she may never have shown anyone.”
Now, see, this just plain aggravates me. Catherine’s referring to Josie here, and everything she’s said about Josie is genuinely interesting to me. So why didn’t the show choose to dramatize any of this? Or were Josie’s confusing/contradictory actions on the show meant to dramatize this kind of identity crisis? If so, I consider it a spectacular failure.
Annie: “I want to come back to the world. I was so frightened for so long. Of everything. Of life. I thought I’d be safe there. Everybody here thought I was nuts. And when I think about it, it was such a weird nineteenth century thing to do. To think I could remove myself, as if that could stop the noise in my head, when the problem was me. It was always in me.”
And that, to put it plainly, might just be one of the central, defining thematic through lines of Twin Peaks: The festering darkness in the human heart. While I take some issue with the speed of Cooper and Annie’s courtship, I have to say that I’m enjoying it. McLachlan does starry-eyed very well, and while Graham’s performance is workmanlike at best, she’s not as flat and as affectless as she’s seemed in other roles. Sure, this relationship in no way captures the natural chemistry of the Cooper/Audrey flirtation, but there’s an essential sweetness at the core here that’s difficult not to like.
Gordon Cole: “Poor kid acts like he never saw a kiss before. WATCH CLOSELY, SON. IT GOES LIKE THIS.”
I have to say: I thought watching David Lynch kiss Madchen Amick would be a lot more viscerally disturbing than it actually was. In actuality it was pretty darn sweet. The fact that Bobby stands by and watches in disbelief as Cole and Shelly share a tender moment is icing on the cake. I am now hoping for a full-on Cole/Shelly romantic subplot that I know I will never get to see. Damn you, ABC!
On another note: I’ll come right out and say it: I love Ian Buchanan. Why isn’t this guy a supporting actor in a ton of comedies? He’s got killer delivery and sly timing and despite emerging during the worst section of this show he’s remained consistently entertaining to me. Yes, Dick Tremayne’s wine tasting adds nothing whatsoever to the show in terms of importance or dramatic heft, but unlike, say, Lana Milford, Tremayne is actually funny. I see that Buchanan was a cast member on “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and I’m not surprised, just disappointed that we haven’t seen him pop up more frequently as a funnyman.
Cooper: “The Hindus say love is the ladder to heaven.”
Cooper and John Justice Wheeler share a brief conversation on love and suffering, and it’s odd to see the two men – one Audrey’s G-man crush, the other her entrepreneurial paramour – discussing their respective heart-flutterings with each other, unaware of their respective histories. Zane hasn’t had a lot of interesting stuff to do on the show thus far, so it’s no big disappointment to learn that he’ll apparently be leaving shortly thanks to a mysterious missive from Brazil. As for Cooper’s line, it’s got a weight to it that makes me want to connect it to the show’s larger themes/mythology. I think I’ll have the opportunity to do that next week.
Truman: “We thought at first it might be a bomb. We don’t exactly have a bomb squad. It’s weird.”
Yes it is, Harry. This episode comes to a close as Cooper, Truman, Andy, Hawk and the rest of the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department discover Windom Earle’s newest victim. Ted Raimi, dead-by-arrow, has been left at the town’s gazebo encased in an enormous paper mache Chess pawn. Hanging from the surface is a sign which reads “Next time it will be someone you know.” Do we need the giant chess piece for this to be effective/spooky? No we do not. It’s pretty ridiculous, frankly. But I find myself not caring too much, because Twin Peaks has started to wake up, and the ride’s getting fun again.
Only 3 episodes left! Join me next Friday for the final two regular episodes, The Path To The Black Lodge and Miss Twin Peaks, and in two weeks for the series finale, Beyond Life And Death (you don’t want to miss that one). I’ll watch Fire Walk With Me, the Twin Peaks prequel film, the week after that, and then it’ll be time to cast your votes again. What will we watch next? If you’re curious, the list of candidates is here. Have a show you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments!
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