GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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A Non-Definitive Essay on Being Not-at-Home, Coping with Thwarted Expectations, and Fearlessly Losing Hope in Twin Peaks' House Away From Home
I. Introduction--House Away from Home: A Road Into the Uncanny
It's almost 11:00 pm on Sunday, May 21, 2017 in West Hollywood's celebrated Silent Movie Theater. The venue is still home at this point to the now disgraced and defunct Cinefamily repertory theater, whose underground premiere screening of Showtime's desperately long-awaited Twin Peaks revival is nearly two hours underway. A capacity crowd of pie-, coffee-, and heaven-knows-what-else-addled Peakers watches in rapt silence as a wasted Sarah Palmer languishes away amidst the wreckage of the home that ruined her daughter Laura. Overflowing ashtrays and surplus bottles of bloody Mary mix that couldn't keep pace with the Smirnoff absorb the nauseating blue radiance of a flatscreen television. Sarah watches entranced--eyes bulging, gnarled hands delivering frantic drags of her nth cigarette--as a mortally wounded wildebeest is devoured alive by a pride of voracious lions.
We've been here before. Sarah Palmer, in the comfort of her own home, watching in an addled stupor as predators exploit and destroy a vulnerable creature right under her nose. We often say "Home is where the heart is!". Less often, we acknowledge that--for this very reason--home is also inevitably where the hurt is. The human heart is most often broken right where it lives, among the treasured possessions, filial relationships, and homely vulnerabilities that shape our most intimate selves. Away from home, out there in the beautiful and terrible world, we are always already engaged in a defensive campaign to shelter and protect our homely selves. The case of Laura Palmer is a particularly harrowing example, but who among us hasn't done the equivalent of tutoring, volunteering for Meals on Wheels, or maintaining wholesome if somewhat disingenuous friendships, while secretly seeking solace in substances, sex, or "success" for the purpose of papering over the dark parts of ourselves that get us where we live? Trouble on the home front--domestic trauma--is and always has been the dark heart of Twin Peaks, and the Palmer home is its emotional nerve center--a black-shuttered Dutch Colonial amygdala where love, fear, anger, and sexual desire primordially, pre-rationally, and amorally reside together.
The opening riff of Chromatics' "Shadow" suddenly delivers us from the jaws of the lioness, as we are abruptly transported from the Palmer home to The Roadhouse. The spell is broken in the Silent Movie Theater, as snatches of relief-induced applause ripple through the audience. Like Laura, many of us would rather be anywhere but home, and--at least initially--it seems like The Roadhouse is delivering just the escape we crave: dreamy music, the sweet nostalgia of a place where we remember being young and careless, tequila shots with Shelly, Renee and friends, some risky flirting with a mystery man at the bar, and a chaser of "two ice cold Colonials" with our old pal James Hurley and his new friend Freddie Sykes. "James is still cool. He's always been cool." And at least at first, we couldn't agree more with Freddie: "It's the dog's bullocks in here!". Indeed, my own personal efforts to prolong my stay at The Roadhouse reached the heights of listening to "Shadow" on repeat for the duration of a twelve hour odyssey back to the midwest starting at 5 am the following morning.
But after a big night at the bar, things always look very different in the morning. For what remains concealed of The Roadhouse on opening night inevitably reveals itself relentlessly, week after week: The Roadhouse is not a friendly, familiar place where everybody knows your name and certainly not a place where you know everybody else's (here's looking at you, Renee, Charlotte, Chloe, Ella, Abbie, Natalie, Trick, Angela, Clark, Mary, Sophie, Megan, Paula, Billy, Tina, Chuck, Skipper, Ruby, and Monique!). Rather, The Roadhouse is a place for being anxious, ill-at-ease, alienated--literally and figuratively not-at-home.
It's a place where people of little import who are deeply alienated from their children, their significant others, their jobs, and especially their own best selves engage nightly in tedious escapism, mind-numbing small talk, and throwaway acts of cruelty and betrayal. It's a place where sociopaths who beat up their own grandmothers pay off cops between rapes and attempted murders. A place where the proprietor brags about the quality of his underage prostitutes while his debt-strapped employees sweep away the detritus of last night's delusions of grandeur in their dead-end day jobs. And a place where exploited artists perform for gas money and exposure, singing about duplicity, darkness, suicide, brokenness, insufficiency, unrequited love, depression, disappointment, deferred dreams, the unaffordability of salvation, running out of time, and of course the hope that somehow it'll all still be okay--that some way, in the nick of time, even though it seems for all the world like everything is receding into shadow for the last time, that love won't ultimately go away after all, but will come back and stay, forever even.
The Roadhouse presents itself as alienating for its televisual audience as well, within a certain frame of reference. The appearance of The Roadhouse often signals the end of a much anticipated experience that, during the first run, anyway, was for many viewers the highlight of their week; if ends are often a let-down in themselves, they can be especially disappointing when the experience is accompanied by unmet expectations. The Roadhouse also demands that we listen to music we may not love performed by bands we've never heard of, and that we pay close attention to the manifestly trivial conversations of seemingly random people we couldn't care less about.
Moreover, we must do these things repeatedly, perhaps with growing irritation, as the weeks pass and we are forced to calculate the increasingly high opportunity costs of watching "Ella" complain to "Chloe" about work or "Sophie" compliment "Megan" on the sweater she borrowed from "Paula". It's fair to say that a devoted viewer can be forgiven for failing to give a flatulent fuck that "Trick" is "lucky to be alive" and--joy!--now free from house arrest even!, when Audrey Horne's fate remains a mystery and we've seen more of some rando sweeping The Roadhouse floor than we have of our hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper (at least as we are wont to remember him).
Indeed, this perspective on The Roadhouse as an alienating aspect of the series was a hot topic among fans in last summer's online discussion groups. My first long post on the Roadhouse for THE GLASS BOX went up after Part 10, which ended with Rebekah Del Rio's "No Stars" juggernaut. It was mid-July 2017 and many viewers were perplexed that Del Rio was lavished with almost eight full minutes of precious time while many of the characters we know and love had still received little to no attention. Some viewers were downright irked, opining that The Roadhouse segments were mere "filler"--the result of Frost and Lynch's efforts to stretch what was originally projected to be just nine hours of programming for the series into the eighteen hours we ended up getting. This interpretation struck me as deeply implausible even last summer, as I argued at length in "Listen to the Sounds: Why The Roadhouse Matters Whether We Like It or Not". Now that some time has passed, it seems even more profoundly wrong-headed.
For me, the performances and events to which The Roadhouse bears witness have as much staying power, both emotionally and intellectually, as anything that happens in the series. Their continuing affective power is doubtless a result, at least in part, of the fact that The Roadhouse recordings are now indelibly written into the soundtrack of my life, allowing the events of the series to revisit and haunt me almost daily in the car, on the elliptical runner, as I drift off into slumber, and even and especially as I sleep. And the lingering intellectual challenge of The Roadhouse attends to wondering, as I so often still do, why we were invited to spend so much time there, what the songs and conversations and the order of their presentation might mean, and what to make of the fact that Frost and Lynch's process for Twin Peaks is all about falling in love with ideas and then translating them for the screen.
What are the ideas that, implicitly or explicitly, played the muse for Frost and Lynch, coaxing them into lavishing so much time, effort, and talent on this strange and wonderful place? A full year later, like Audrey Horne, I just can't shake the feeling that everything depends on getting to The Roadhouse, or at least on getting The Roadhouse--being open to what that singular space and the ample time we are invited to spend there may tell us if we pay close enough attention.
I certainly don't want to deny that The Roadhouse is a deeply alienating place in important respects. My working hypothesis, in fact, is that an important part of its job in the series--perhaps even the most important part--is to aid us in becoming well-practiced at coping constructively with alienation. What The Roadhouse does, among many other things, is provide a kind of therapy for disabusing ourselves of vain hopes for the future that can rob us of our joy in attending to whatever is before us in the present, whether beautiful or terrible, transcendent or banal. The Roadhouse is a sustained invitation to experience the transformation of vision that attends to taking the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca's sage advice: "Cease to hope and you shall cease to fear."
By training us through the repeated thwarting of our expectations to let go of the vain hope that every minute will be scintillating, every song our very favorite, every character fully rendered, every storyline tidily plotted, every narrative aspiration fulfilled, The Roadhouse readies us to jettison our hopes for the series as a whole so that we can be more fully present to what is happening in front of us right now. It invites us into a more open interpretive space where we are less encumbered by specific expectations, and thus better able to revel in the play of the experience for its own sake, anticipating and delighting in surprises from the unknown rather than expecting and then lamenting unrealized outcomes. Once we are at play in the series in this way, liberated from the need to cut the experience to fit our interpretive inheritances, we vastly expand our receptivity to the show's potential to transcend the safe and the familiar--that which, in our fragility and finitude, we are always so tempted to hope for--and present itself to us instead in all its uncanny otherness, now without fear that the looming disappointments of vain hope will send us cringing to the most obvious, accessible, definitive, or self-serving readings of what is revealed to us. Ironically, losing hope--at least in this more mindful sense of the term--can give us an invigorated sense of purpose and a great deal more interpretive freedom.
This interpretation of The Roadhouse is the result of my dwelling with these scenes for a very long time and yet failing to discern any obvious continuity across the revelations I experienced in them apart from a consistently de-centering discontinuity (which I had intuitively grasped from the get-go as a significant part of The Roadhouse's intrigue but that became clear to me as such only after I had preformed a full audit of the scenes and pored over every performance, conversation, and event numerous times in search of a common thread connecting them). My method in the remaining two sections of this essay is to offer readers (II) an overview of the results of my full audit of The Roadhouse scenes--or, as the case may be, the conspicuous lack of any unified results--followed by (III) the contents of the audit itself, which provide a full accounting of every scene, including a roll call of the characters involved, a contextualization of the time and place of each scene within the broader narrative of the part in which it appears, notes on narrative intersections with other scenes, characters, or storylines throughout the series, full transcripts of all conversations and significant plot-related events, a photo digest of significant moments from each scene, video and sound clips (where available), and lyrics for musical performances.
There's a wellspring of information here for readers wishing to drink full and descend into the intimate details of The Roadhouse scenes, and perhaps emerge from the experience better able to appreciate the richness of what is revealed (and concealed!) in these scenes even and especially in the absence of a master narrative that binds them neatly together.
II. Overview--Continuous Discontinuity: Parts, Plot-lines, & Purposes in The Roadhouse
My aim in section II is to provide a summary overview of insights into happenings in The Roadhouse that I gleaned from performing a full audit of each scene in which The Roadhouse appears. Readers who prefer to begin with a more organic, less abstract presentation of this information might consider skipping ahead to section III to work through the full audit of each scene before returning to this summary overview.
There are 16 total Roadhouse scenes that occur in 15 of the 18 parts of Season 3. The Roadhouse makes an appearance in some form in Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15a, 15b, 16, and 17. We do not encounter The Roadhouse in Parts 1, 11, or 18, though Part 11 is the only standalone episode in which it does not appear (given that Parts 1 and 2 and Parts 17 and 18 were originally presented as two-part features). The Roadhouse appears in two separate scenes in Part 15, resulting in the need to label these events "Part 15a" and "Part 15b".
There are three general types of Roadhouse appearance that recur across the 16 scenes: (A-type) those that feature musical performances only (Parts 3, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 17); (B-type) those that feature a combination of music and significant narrative content or character development (Parts 2, 5, 13, 14, 15a, 16); and (C-type) those that feature a combination of music and thematic texturing that is usually (but not always) delivered through trivial conversations among Roadhouse patrons who are non-recurring characters (Parts 7, 9, 12, perhaps 15b). C-type scenes at times appear to be contrived in part to create the surface appearance of continuity with superficially similar B-type scenes that are in fact more narratively consequential on closer inspection. This creates the potential for confusion in two directions: viewers may be inclined to pay insufficient attention to B-type events that deserve close scrutiny on the assumption that these scenes' similarity to C-type events is cause to disregard them; or viewers may invest too much significance in C-type events that are basically there for texture because of their similarities to B-type events that are crucial to the narrative structure of the series. I discuss this potential for confusion in more detail under Figure 2 below.
A-type and B-type Roadhouse scenes also seem to come in two different modalities that are indicated by the absence or presence of the Roadhouse emcee: "immanent" scenes do not include the emcee and seem to take place in what we might call, for lack of a better term, "the real world" or perhaps the main timeline; "transcendent" scenes, by contrast, include the emcee and seem to take place in a dream, or fantasy, or perhaps even an alternate timeline or other possible world (at the least, there are dreamy or fantastic elements in play at some point in the scene itself or in an immediately adjacent scene). C-type Roadhouse scenes seem always to be of the immanent variety, although there seem to be cases in which hints of transcendence can be found in C-type scenes despite the absence of the Roadhouse emcee. We can make these general distinctions more concrete by reference to a paradigm case of each type as represented in Figure 1 below.
Exposition of Figure 1
Part 6 (top left) features a paradigm case of an A-type scene in the immanent modality (A-im): the scene portrays a musical performance only (Sharon Van Etten's "Tarifa") that is not introduced by the Roadhouse emcee. Other examples of A-im scenes include Cactus Blossoms' performance of "Mississippi" in Part 3 and Au Revoir Simone's performance of "Lark" in Part 4.
Part 8 (bottom left) features a paradigm case of an A-type scene in the transcendent modality (A-tr): the scene portrays a musical performance only (NIN's "She's Gone Away") that is introduced by the Roadhouse emcee and that prefaces the fantastical primeval history of Twin Peaks beginning with the explosion of the atom bomb at White Sands and ending with the frog-moth entering the young Sarah Palmer while the Lincoln woodsman seeks a smoking buddy. Part 8 is the only clear instance of an A-tr scene, though it is intriguing to consider whether Julee Cruise's performance of "The World Spins" in Part 17 might count (it satisfies the fantastical condition, though the emcee is not discernibly present; it is conceivable that this performance might be a case of a hybrid type, A-im/tr).
Part 2 (top middle) features a paradigm case of a B-type scene in the immanent modality (B-im): the scene portrays a combination of music (Chromatics' "Shadow") and significant narrative or character development without an appearance from the Roadhouse emcee (specifically, we meet Shelly and Renee and learn of the marital discord between Becky and Stephen; we meet James Hurley and Freddie Sykes and learn of James' unrequited love for Renee; we meet Red and get subtle indications that Red and Shelly are an item; and all of these interactions play significantly into future plot developments, including the showdown between Freddie and Bob, the Sparkle drug-trafficking ring, and the domestic violence between Becky and Stephen). Another example of a B-im scene is Richard Horne's antics in Part 5 (as Trouble performs "Snake Eyes").
Part 15a (bottom middle) features a paradigm case of a B-type scene in the transcendent modality (B-tr): the scene portrays a combination of music (ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man") and significant narrative or character development in the presence of the Roadhouse emcee that includes the intervention of fantastical Freddy's magical garden glove (after the emcee turns up the volume on "Sharp Dressed Man", James' attempt to engage Renee results in his being attacked by her husband Chuck, which results, in turn, in Freddie knocking out both Chuck and his buddy Skipper). Other examples of B-tr scenes include Sophie and Megan's discussion of Billy (as the emcee enthusiastically introduces Lissie's "Wild West") in Part 14 and Audrey and Charlie's visit to the Roadhouse in Part 16 (as the emcee introduces Edward Louis Severson's "Out of Sand."
Part 12 (top right) features a paradigm case of a C-type scene (C): the scene portrays Abbie and Natalie lamenting the absence of their friend Angela and the fact that her new love interest Clark seems to be two-timing her with Mary (as Chromatics perform "Saturday"). Their friend Trick joins them for beers after narrowly escaping a serious car accident. None of these characters recur in the series and no significant narrative or character development occurs, but the scene offers thematic texturing by providing examples of themes that recur throughout the series, such as domestic trauma (Angela's mother is implied to have died a horrific death), relationship alienation/sexual infidelity (Clark's two-timing Angela). Other examples of C-type scenes include Ella and Chloe's drug-addled discussion of work woes over Hudson Mohawke's "Human" and Au Revoir Simone's "A Violent Yet Flammable World" in Part 9 and Jean-Michel Renault's discussion of underaged prostitutes over "Green Onions" in Part 7.
The interplay of these different types of scenes can wreak havoc on the viewer's sense of continuity, and especially so when one fails to track their important differences. Consider the potential confusions that can arise in the case presented in Figure 2 below.
At face value, the scenes depicted by Figure 2 from Parts 9 (top left), 12 (top right), and 14 (bottom center) appear to be clear instances of the same type. In all three cases, we see non-recurring characters sitting in the same booth at the Roadhouse making thematically consistent small talk while drinking beers as the bands perform. As Figure 2 illustrates, the similarities go all the way down to the color palate; if you got the characters from all three scenes together for a photo, the result would look like a snapshot from a bad color-coordinated family reunion. After experiencing two clear C-type scenes in Parts 9 and 12, moreover, viewers are well-primed to interpret Part 14 as another instance of the same type and will almost inevitably do so. In tracking the difference between C-type and B-tr-type scenes, however, the discontinuity is salient: Ella and Chloe (Part 9) and Abbie, Natalie, and Trick (Part 12) are engaged in banal this-worldly conversation that offers worthwhile thematic texture but doesn't really advance any central narrative threads, whereas Megan and Sophie (Part 14) are engaged in narratively crucial dialogue that is mysteriously tangent to (or even corroborative of) Audrey Horne's dream/fantasy, insofar as they discuss specific details of experiences that Audrey and Charlie have had searching for Billy in previous episodes (see the full audit of Part 14 below in section III for further details).
To clarify the character of this continuous discontinuity as it plays out over the course of the series and illuminate the potential for viewer alienation that results from it, it will be helpful to get a birds-eye view of the central plot-lines and themes that recur throughout these scenes in the context of the broader Roadhouse narrative. By indexing these plot-lines and themes to their relevant scene types, moreover, we can elucidate the significant extent to which various central narratives in Twin Peaks seem to blur or even cut across the reality/dream distinction. Though it shouldn't come as a surprise to any serious Twin Peaks viewer that these boundaries are routinely crossed and that the realms they delimit intermingle, it is nonetheless intriguing to observe how importantly and explicitly The Roadhouse figures into these crossings and their potential revelation to viewers, especially in light of the tendency of some viewers and critics to undervalue the importance of these scenes.
KEY: Roadhouse Plotlines and Thematic Content
Freddie vs. BOB (FVB)
Where Is Billy? (WIB)
Sparkle Drug Trade (SDT)
Domestic Unrest or Violence (DUV)
Sexual Infidelity or Violence (SIV)
Musical Performance Only
Roadhouse Emcee (RMC)
Part 2 (B-im)-James & Freddie, Shelly, Renee & friends, Red/Chromatics, "Shadow"
FVB (Freddie introduced), SDT (Red is at the Roadhouse), DUV (Shelly mentions Becky and Steven)
Part 3 (A-im)-Cactus Blossoms, "Mississippi"
Musical Performance Only
Part 4 (A-im)-Au Revoir Simone, "Lark"
Musical Performance Only
Part 5 (B-im)-Richard Horne (RH), Deputy Chad Broxford (DB), Charlotte (C) & friends/Trouble, "Snake Eyes"
FVB (RH's death saves Mr. C), WIB (RH uses Billy's truck), SDT (RH pays DB), SIV (RH assaults C)
Part 6 (A-im)-Sharon Van Etten, "Tarifa"
Musical Performance Only
Part 7 (C)-Employee sweeps Roadhouse, Jean-Michel Renault (R) on telephone /"Green Onions"
SIV (R pimps underaged sex workers)
Part 8 (A-tr)-Nine Inch Nails, "She's Gone Away"
RMC introduces "The Nine Inch Nails"
Part 9 (C)-Ella and Chloe discuss work woes/Mohawke, "Human"; Au Revoir Simone, "Violent Yet..."
SDT (Ella and Chloe show signs of severe drug abuse)
Part 10 (A-im)-Rebekah Del Rio, "No Stars"
Musical Performance Only
Part 12 (C)-Abbie and Natalie discuss Clark (C) and Angela (A), Trick (T) joins in/Chromatics, "Saturday"
SIV (C two-times A), DUV (A's mother dies violently), possibly WIB (T saved by "some farmer")
Part 13 (B-tr)-James Hurley (JH) performs "Just You" as Renee (R) watches in tears
RMC introduces JH, FVB (R precipitates Freddie's intervention), DUV (R and Chuck)
Part 14 (B-tr)-Sophie (S) and Megan (M) discuss drug use at "nuthouse" & Billy (B)/Lissie (L), "Wild West"
RMC intros L, STD (nuthouse), WIB (B at M's house; M's Mom, Tina (T), dates B), SIV (B/T/Audrey)
Part 15a (B-tr)-Freddie knocks out Chuck (C) and Skipper/"Sharp Dressed Man"
RMC turns up "Sharp Dressed Man", FVB (R's husband C fights with JH and F, landing them in jail)
Part 15b (C)-Bikers remove Ruby from booth, Ruby screams/The Veils, "Axolotl"
Part 16 (B-tr)-Audrey (Au) and Charlie (C) arrive, Au's Dance/Edward L. Severson (Vedder), "Out of Sand"
RMC introduces Severson/Au, WIB (C toasts: "to us!"; Au: "to Billy!"), DUV (Monique's husband)
Part 17 (A-im or perhaps A-tr or even A-im/tr?)-Julee Cruise, "The World Spins"
Musical Performance Only
A closer look at some photo highlights from the two most prominent Roadhouse plot-lines, Where is Billy? (Figure 3) and Freddie vs. BOB (Figure 4), clearly demonstrates that these narratives both cut across immanent and transcendent modalities and serve as crucial narrative connective tissue to events outside The Roadhouse that figure importantly in these central plot-lines.
Figure 3: Where Is Billy? Bing plays guitar in Trouble's performance of "Snake Eyes" in Part 5 (top left) before showing up at the R&R in Part 7 looking for Billy; Richard Horne pays off Deputy Broxford in Part 5 (top center) before using Billy's truck (stolen by Chuck) in a deadly hit-and-run in Part 6; Trick tells Natalie (top right) that "some farmer" (possibly Billy?) pulled him out of a ditch after he was run off the road; Megan and Sophie discuss Billy's harrowing final visit to Megan's mom Tina's house in Part 14 as the Roadhouse emcee introduces Lissie (middle left and center); Charlie toasts "to us" and Audrey toasts "to Billy" upon finally arriving at the Roadhouse in Part 16 (middle right) after multiple false starts at home (Parts 12, 13, and 15); Audrey performs "Audrey's Dance" at the invitation of the Roadhouse emcee, runs terrified to Charlie saying "Get me out of here!" when Monique's husband violently interrupts her performance by attacking his cuckolder, and wakes up in a white room staring gape-jawed into a vanity mirror (bottom right, center, and left).
Figure 4: Freddie vs. BOB James Hurley and Freddie Sykes enter The Roadhouse, where James immediately spots Renee across the crowded room in Part 2 (top left); Richard Horne is revealed to be a sparkle dealer in Part 5 (top center), paying off Deputy Broxford to pave the way for doing regular business with Red, which results in a deadly, sparkle-addled hit-and-run in Part 6, necessitating an escape from Twin Peaks to The Farm in Part 13 where he encounters Mr. C. and trails him to The Dutchman's Lodge in Part 15, leading finally to his dying in Mr. C's place in the trap laid at the false coordinates in Part 16, thereby enabling Mr. C. to transport BOB to the showdown with Freddie in Part 17; introduced by the Roadhouse emcee in Part 13, James Hurley performs "Just You" (top left) with Renee at heart, as she watches, crying, in the audience (middle right); soon after the Roadhouse emcee turns up the volume on "Sharp Dressed Man," James and Freddie approach Renee in Part 15a (middle center), enraging her abusing husband Chuck (whom Audrey refers to as "certifiable" at home in Part 12) (middle right); Freddie rushes to James' aid as Chuck attacks him in Part 15a, laying out both Chuck and his buddy Skipper with jackhammer punches from the magic green garden glove (bottom left, center, right), resulting in the incarceration of James and Freddie at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department in Part 16 and their eventual participation in the showdown with BOB in Part 17 (which appears to happen in Cooper's dream).
It is intriguing to observe, given Figures 3 and 4, that both Freddie and BOB arrive at the final showdown by way of The Roadhouse, and the causal chains that land them there take their departures from scenes of different modalities: Richard kicks things off in an immanent B-type scene in Part 5 which eventually leads to his dying in Mr. C.'s (his own father's!) place; and Freddie goes to jail on the steam of a transcendent B-type scene in Part 15a. To note that there are some narrative discontinuities here is something of an understatement.
The picture that emerges from this overview is that The Roadhouse scenes are distributed in a way that strenuously resists any sort of straightforward, unified interpretation of what is happening there. Indeed, the arrangement of these scenes--the combination of transitions from one scene type to another and the fits and starts of partial patterns taken up and then abandoned--could hardly be more resistant to prediction or better suited to thwarting our expectations if they had been explicitly contrived for these ends. And this resistance to a unified interpretation persists whether one considers this arc of scenes prospectively in the order it is originally experienced on a first viewing (without any knowledge of what comes next) or retrospectively as a whole (in full knowledge of everything that has happened in Season 3).
When we consider the scenes prospectively as a linear series unfolding from part to part, to wit, we find that there is virtually no way reliably to predict future scenes on the basis of past ones. The scene in Part 2 sets us up for a nostalgia fest with characters from the past. The scenes in Parts 3 and 4, then, build on the foundation laid in Part 2 of concluding episodes in The Roadhouse, but jettison the interaction with past characters, tempting us to expect a sort of "band showcase" at the end of each part moving forward. But then Part 5's scene shows up well before episode's end and wades deep into narrative waters, introducing Richard Horne and exposing corruption in the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, thereby weaving The Roadhouse narrative together (in the longer term) with Mr. C. and thus with the showdown between Freddie and BOB. Part 6 then veers back to the band showcase. Part 7 departs entirely from precedent by showing us The Roadhouse after hours. And Part 8 goes even farther off script by taking us to The Roadhouse just eleven minutes into the episode, introducing the Roadhouse emcee, and subjecting us to Nine Inch Nails before launching us headlong into the center of a nuclear explosion. As if none of this ever happened, then, Part 9 introduces the "random strangers drinking beer" trope, and things only get increasingly unhinged in the second half of the series, as we careen, willy nilly--between immanent and transcendent modalities--from the band showcase (Part 10), to the omission of The Roadhouse altogether (Part 11), to more and still more booth chat with boozing strangers (Parts 12 and 14), to bizarre meta-performances of numbers from the soundtracks of previous Twin Peaks seasons like "Just You" (Part 13) and "Audrey's Dance" (Part 16). And while we're at it, why not let the Roadhouse emcee get hopped up on "Sharp Dressed Man" just for good measure (Part 15a)?
Imposing order on this discontinuous Roadhouse chaos is no easier in retrospect. Virtually every tempting unification strategy has obvious counterexamples. One might notice, for instance, that the first half of the series is modally immanence-heavy and the second half transcendence-heavy; fair enough, but the Roadhouse emcee's first appearance is in Part 8 in the first half, and Part 15b interrupts an otherwise continuous run of transcendent scenes across four episodes (Parts 13, 14, 15a, and 16) in the second half. One might observe that the songs played in transcendent scenes introduced by the Roadhouse emcee have an uncanny knack for being performed by 80's and 90's rock icons or high school heartthrobs of the sort you might expect to be rattling around the subconscious of a woman of a certain age with a skeptical edge and a penchant for saddle shoes: NIN (Part 8), James Hurley (Part 13), ZZ-Top (Part 15a), and Eddie Vedder (Part 16); sure, sure, but then there's Lissie (Part 14) about whom the Roadhouse emcee gets more excited than he does about the other four combined. One might be tempted to interpret Rebekah Del Rio's performance of "No Stars" in Part 10--given both the realist, deflationary lyrics about the impossibility of understanding our origins and the obvious parallels to Del Rio's similarly arresting performance of "Llorando" at Club Silencio in Mulholland Drive--as a kind of narrative hinge that transitions the audience from the wishful thinking of fantasy to the harsh truths of reality; the thought is alluring, but if anything, the narrative seems to break the other way in the second half of Season 3, at least until the final chapter in Part 18.
What I'm left with in the face of this paucity of hermeneutic leverage on The Roadhouse is the impression that these scenes are continuous only in their unmitigated, unrelenting discontinuity. The Roadhouse simply will not let us settle into a rhythm, forcing us week after merciless week, part after mystifying part, to abandon our received views about televisual narrative, let go of our hopes for friendly catch-up time with favorite characters and stories, and fearlessly address ourselves to the beautiful and terrible possibilities that are actually before us. The Roadhouse is an invitation to experience the interpretive freedom that attends to consenting to the events imposed by destiny and mindfully dwelling with whatever is revealed simply as it gives itself.
I conclude section II with a round-up of some of the purposes The Roadhouse seems to me to serve in Twin Peaks on this interpretation. By "purposes" here, I mean something far rather more like "functions" than "prescribed or intended ends". I don't want to suggest that any of these alleged purposes are "what Frost and Lynch intended" or "set out to show" when they penned and shot The Roadhouse scenes. Whatever Frost and Lynch may have had in mind, my sense of things (following Hans-Georg Gadamer's account of the ontology of the work of art in Truth and Method) is that the being of a work of art has less to do with the artists' intentions than with the interpretive community's ongoing efforts to understand the work and do justice to the range of interpretive possibilities it puts into play at a given place and time.
From the foregoing reading of The Roadhouse scenes, then, we can distill five different purposes that The Roadhouse may be said to serve in Twin Peaks within this general orientation to the scenes:
i. Mood Framing--Through the careful juxtaposition of music, dialogue, and events, The Roadhouse scenes conjure a general mood of productive anxiety and alienation over our current circumstances that reminds us of our finitude--our tendency to fall victim to wallowing in the familiar and getting stuck there--and calls us out to transcend the familiar. There are dozens of lines in the songs performed in The Roadhouse that demonstrate this acute self-awareness of our entrapment in the familiar and the need to get beyond it, but Ruth Radelet of Chromatics sings my favorite exemplar of the genre in performing "Shadow:" "At night we're driving in your car, pretending that we'll leave this town. We're watching all the streetlights fade, and now you're just a stranger's dream. I took your picture from the frame, and now you're nothing like you seem." When we stop pretending to leave the old ways behind and actually jettison the frames of reference that curtail expanded self-understanding, new revelations can appear from out of old seemings.
ii. Thematic Texturizing--The Roadhouse scenes provide case-study after case-study of the ravages of the familiar gone bad: domestic violence, sexual abuse, infidelity, parental neglect, escapism through drug- and alcohol-abuse, gossip, manipulation, unrealistic fantasizing about emotionally unavailable potential partners, and cruelty to others.
iii. Therapeutic Expectation Foiling--By consistently foiling our best efforts to render them intelligible (much less predictable), The Roadhouse scenes help us to get over the need to have our expectations met so that we can enter the play of the unknown, anticipating and mindfully attending to horizon-expanding surprises and adventures as the mystery unfolds.
iv. Modal Shifting--Via the presence of the Roadhouse emcee and the positioning of a variety of types of immanent and transcendent scenes, The Roadhouse provides clear examples of specific ways that Twin Peaks is a place between two worlds where people and their stories resonate in multiple dimensions simultaneously.
v. Plot Driving--Far from an opportunistic set of "filler" scenes aimed at inflating run times or showcasing bands, what happens in The Roadhouse is artistically and narratively integral to most of the main story arcs of the series, including and especially the "Where is Billy?" narrative that culminates in Audrey's awakening and the possibility of the ideality of The Roadhouse, and the "Freddie vs. Bob" narrative that culminates in Mr. C.'s demise and the possibility for Cooper to meet Jeffries, launch the plan to kill two birds with one stone, and turn back the clock on Laura's death (or perhaps open a new possible world for Laura's life).
III. Full Audit: Ceasing to Hope--At Play with the Gifts of Discontinuity and Alienation
My aim in section III is simply to share with readers the raw materials that gave rise to my interpretation of The Roadhouse as a liberating invitation to let go of the need for palatable, familiar outcomes and just sink into the experience of what Twin Peaks has to offer in all its alienating discontinuity and otherness. These audits were compiled over the past several months in many different sessions that encompassed re-watching the entire series and revisiting The Roadhouse scenes in particular for hours upon hours. Despite efforts to standardize the treatments of each scene, there is inevitably some discontinuity in my renderings. In many cases, too, my anxiety over the difficulty of conveying what is going on is palpable; I'm often clearly grasping at straws and reaching for handholds that crumble under pressure.
So be it. Anxiety is an indispensable part of the adventure. It's only in anxiety, after all, that we realize that possibility always stands higher than actuality where human beings are concerned: thanks to our open future, we are never reducible to our current circumstances, always already ahead of ourselves, always already more than the ascendent matrices of understanding and familiar ways of being that we've inherited from the past. It's this open future and its unstinting resistance to being predicted and controlled by inherited forms of thinking and doing that motivate and compel us to keep moving forward. Without anxiety, we might be tempted to think it's possible to get everything figured out or--much worse--that we've already figured it out. There's no risk of falling prey to those deceptions in these musings.
Part 2: The Stars Turn and A Time Presents Itself (Roadhouse Event #1)
Featured Act: Chromatics, "Shadow"
Who: James Hurley and Freddie Sykes; Shelly Briggs, Renee, and friends; Red.
When: Just after Sarah Palmer watches lions devouring a fallen wildebeest on TV in Part 2, and just before Cooper falls through space on his way to the violet world on the outset of Part 3.
Narrative intersections: Freddie vs. BOB (this episode marks the first appearance of the green-garden-gloved Freddie Sykes, who will go on to fight BOB in the showdown at Twin Peaks Sheriff's station); James' unrequited love for Renee; Steven and Becky's domestic problems; "Sparkle" drug trade; Shelly Briggs' relationship with Red.
Listen to the sounds (video currently unavailable)
49:25--Chromatics perform "Shadow."
"Shadow, take me down with you
For the last time (x4)
You're in the water
I'm standing on the shore
Still thinking that I hear your voice
Can you hear me? (x4)
For the last time (x4)
At night I'm driving in your car
Pretending that we'll leave this town
We're watching all the streetlights fade
And now you're just a stranger's dream
I took your picture from the frame
And now you're nothing like you seem
Your shadow fell like last night's rain
For the last time (x4)"
49:45--Shelly, Renee, and friends are having tequila shots in the booth.
50:00--James and Freddie Sykes walk in.
James: (smiling) "Great place isn’t it."
Sykes: "Yeah, it’s the dog’s bullocks in here.
James: "What kind of beer do you want?"
Sykes: "Oh, I’ll have whatever."
James (to bartender): "Two ice cold Colonials."
50:14--Shelly, Renee and friends:
Shelly: "No, you guys, my daughter is with the wrong guy."
Renee: "Are you kidding me? Everybody loves Steven."
Shelly: "You don’t know Becky. I can see it on her face. There is something really wrong."
Friend: "It’s her life."
50:31--James (smiling) sees Rene and is dumbstruck.
Friend: "Hey, over there. There’s James. He’s staring at you again."
Shelly: (gasps) "Does James have a thing for you?"
Friend: "There’s something wrong with that guy."
Shelly: "There’s nothing wrong with him. James was in a motorcycle accident. He’s just quiet now. James
is still cool. He’s always been cool."
51:30--Red sees Shelly and gestures at her.
Part 3: Call For Help (Roadhouse Event #2)
Featured Act: The Cactus Blossoms, "Mississippi".
Who: Roadhouse patrons, The Cactus Blossoms.
When: Just after Warden Murphy calls to inform Cole that Cooper (Mr. C.) is incarcerated at Yankton Federal Prison in Part 3 (prompting Rosenfield to comment to Preston "The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence!"), and just before Cooper (standing in for Dougie Jones) resumes his winning streak at the Silver Mustang Casino on the outset of Part 4 ("Helllllloooooooo!").
Narrative intersections: None known.
Watch Roadhouse Event #2
55:42--Twin Peaks locals dance as The Cactus Blossoms play "Mississippi":
"I’m going down to the sea: M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-
I watch the sun yellow and brown
Sinking suns in every town
My angel sings down to me
She’s somewhere on the shore waiting for me
With her wet hair and sandy gown
Singing songs waves of sound
There’s a dive I know on River Street
Go on in and take my seat
There’s a lot of friends I’ll never meet
Gonna take a dive off River Street
You look different from way down here
Like a circus mirror I see flashes
Of you on the surface"
Part 4: ...Brings Back Some Memories (Roadhouse Event #3)
Featured Act: Au Revoir Simone, "Lark".
Who: Roadhouse patrons, Au Revoir Simone.
When: Just after Rosenfield and Cole discuss the need to track down Diane after meeting with Mr. C. at Yankton Federal Prison and realizing that something is yrev wrong, and just before Gene and Lorraine discuss the botched assassination of Dougie Jones prompting Lorraine to text the mystery box in Buenos Aires on the outset of Part 5.
Narrative intersections: None known.
Watch Roadhouse Event #3
54:20--Au Revoir Simone performs "Lark":
So long ago
There wasn’t anyone out there I thought I needed to know
But no more
When I find the day leave my mind in the evening
Just as the day before
I saw the window was open the cool air
I don’t know what you saw there
Don’t know what you saw in me
Sometimes I want to be enough for you
Don’t ask know that its understood there’s not enough of me
I saw that something was broken I’ve crossed the line
I’ll point you to a better time a safer place to be."
Part 5: Case Files (Roadhouse Event #4)
Featured Act: Trouble, "Snake Eyes".
Who: Bing; Richard Horne, Deputy Chad Broxford, Charlotte and friends.
When: Just after Colonel Davis dispatches Lieutenant Cynthia Knox from the Pentagon to Buckhorn, South Dakota to investigate the latest of 16 hits on Major Briggs' finger prints in the past 25 years, and just before Agent Preston discovers discrepancies between Cooper's prints from his Bureau file in Philadelphia and Mr. C's prints from Yankton Federal Prison.
Narrative intersections: The search for Billy (in which Bing, the guitarist of Trouble, is engaged in Part 7); "sparkle" drug trade (Richard Horne bribes Deputy Chad Broxford); Horne's hit-and-run homicide of the young boy in Part 6 and Miriam Sullivan's attempted murder and cover-up (perpetrated by Horne and Broxford); Mr. C's search for the coordinates/Jeffries/Judy (Horne sees Mr. C. at the Farm and follows him to the convenience store portal to The Dutchman's).
Watch Roadhouse Event #4
46:40--Locals dance to Trouble's "Snake Eyes" as Richard Horne sits in a booth illicitly smoking.
Server: "I have to ask you to stop smoking. Put that cigarette out!"
Horne: "Make me!"
Deputy Broxford (off-duty): "I’ll take care of this."
Server: "Just make sure he stops smoking in here. Okay?"
Deputy Broxford: "Gimme a smoke."
Horne: "Keep the whole pack."
Deputy Broxford: "Thanks, buddy!" (inspects the pack to find a fat roll of Ben Frankies)
49:38--Having paid off Broxford, Horne--still smoking with impunity--has attracted the attention of some young women sitting in the adjacent booth.
Charlotte: "Hey, can I have a light?"
Horne: "Come here. Sit down." [grabs her]
Horne: "Hey what? What’s your name?"
Horne: "Wanna fuck me, Charlotte? Wanna fuck?"
Charlotte: "No, stop it!"
Friend: "Leave her alone."
Horne: "Little fucking smoking babies. Makes me laugh. I’m going to laugh when I fuck you, bitch."
Part 6: Don't Die (Roadhouse Event #5)
Featured Act: Sharon Van Etten, "Tarifa".
Who: Roadhouse patrons, Van Etten and band.
When: Just after Deputy Broxford mocks Sheriff Frank Truman's son's suicide in front of his colleagues following upon Frank's wife losing it in front of them over her Dad's car repairs, and just before Jerry Horne's cannabis-induced freak-out in the forest ("I don't know where I am!") on the outset of Part 7.
Narrative intersections: None known.
Watch Roadhouse Event #5
54:54--Sharon Van Etten performs "Tarifa" to a crowd of Twin Peaks locals:
"Hit the ground
The yard I found something
I could taste your mouth
Shut the door
Now in the sun tanning
You were so just
Looking across the sky
I can’t recall no
I can’t remember anything at all
Let’s run under
Cursing myself at night
Slow it was seven
I wish it was seven all night
Tell me when
Tell me when is this over?
Chewed you out
Chew me out when I’m stupid
I don’t wanna
Everyone else pales
Send in the owl
Tell me I’m not a child
You summon forget about everyone else
Fall away somehow."
Part 7: There's A Body Alright (Roadhouse Event #6)
Featured Song: "Green Onions" (Booker T. and the M.G.'s).
Who: Jean-Michel Renault, unnamed Roadhouse employee.
When: Just after Beverly and her sick husband Tom have it out over Beverly's return to work (as Ben Horne's secretary) in order to make ends meet as Tom convalesces at home, and just before Ray Monroe and Mr. C. break out of Yankton Federal Prison (with the help of Warden Murphy) and make for The Farm.
Narrative Intersections: Possible drug- and human-trafficking connections between Jean-Michel Renault and Mr. C.'s crime syndicate.
Watch Roadhouse Event #6
49:49-53:12--The bar is closed and a bearded young man in black sweeps the floor as Jean-Michel Renault attends to business behind the bar. After an ample two minutes of watching the Roadhouse employee sweep the floor, the phone rings and the lascivious Jean-Michel picks up, laughing in response to the caller’s opening salvo. “Of course he loved it! Who wouldn’t? Wait, he owes me for two! He wanted blondes I sent him two blonds.” The caller informs Renault that the women were under-aged, and Jean-Michel protests that they both had good IDs: “This has nothing to do with the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse has been owned by the Renault family for 57 years we’re not going to lose it now because of a couple of 15-year-old straight-A students.” The caller continues to press for a discounted rate, but Renault isn’t biting: ‘No, those girls…they are whores pure and simple. From what I hear though, they are straight-A whores…He owes me for two.”
Part 8: Gotta Light? (Roadhouse Event #7)
Featured Act: Nine Inch Nails, "She's Gone Away".
Who: Roadhouse MC, Roadhouse patrons, Nine Inch Nails.
When: Just after Ray Monroe calls Phillip Jeffries to check in after witnessing Mr. C. "get some help" from the woodsmen in the wake of Ray's shooting him, and just before Mr. C. wakes up in the lead-up to the White Sands nuclear explosion.
Narrative Intersections: This first appearance of the Roadhouse "MC" (JR Starr) in Twin Peaks: The Return brings to mind the iconic "Black Lodge Performer" (Jimmy Scott) and his legendary performance of "Sycamore Trees" from Episode 29 of the original run of Twin Peaks. After this first appearance in Part 8, the Roadhouse MC makes 4 additional appearances in parts 13, 14, 15, and 16. The common narrative threads across these latter four episodes are the Audrey/Charlie storyline and the James/Renee storyline, both of which seem to contain fantasy/dreaming elements in which the Roadhouse is a liminal space where different worlds collide.
Watch Roadhouse Event #7
11:20--MC: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Roadhouse is proud to welcome The Nine Inch Nails.”
"You dig in places till your fingers bleed
Spread the infection where you spill your seed
I can’t remember what she came here for
I can’t remember much of anything anymore
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
Away, Away, Away
A little mouth opened up inside
Yeah, I was watching on the day she died
We keep licking while the skin turns black
Cut along the length but you can’t get the feeling back
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away
16:00--The song ends and we cut to Mr. C. waking up, followed by White Sands nuclear explosion.
Part 9: This Is The Chair (Roadhouse Event #8)
Featured Acts: Hudson Mohawke, "Human"; Au Revoir Simone, "A Violent Yet Flammable World".
Who: Hudson Mohawke, Chloe, Ella, Au Revoir Simone.
When: Just after Beverly and Benjamin Horne narrowly avoid cheating on Beverly's husband while trying to discern the source of the hum at The Great Northern, and just before Richard Horne attacks Miriam Sullivan in her mobile home at the outset of Part 10.
Narrative Intersections: "Sparkle" drug trade (Ella and Chloe are clearly junkies and their references to "that zebra" and "that penguin" seem linked to their experiences in local drug culture).
Watch Roadhouse Event #8, Part 1 (Hudson Mohawke, "Human")
Watch Roadhouse Event #8, Part 2 (Au Revoir Simone "A Violent Yet Flammable World")
51:57--Hudson Mohawke performs "Human".
Chloe: "You know that zebra’s out again (laughing) Uh, haven’t seen you in awhile."
Ella: "I got another job."
Chloe: "Oh yeah? What happened?"
Ella: "I got fired. Fucker fired me."
Chloe: "That’s fucked. Why?"
Ella: "I came in high a couple times, I guess."
Chloe: "You guess?"
Ella: "Yeah. Fuck, I can’t remember. You know what I mean, what’s the big fucking deal? I mean, I did the
fucking work. Like, how can you fuck up serving burgers, you know what I mean? I’ve got some kind of
wicked rash." (scratches at irritated under-arm)
Chloe: "So where are you working now?"
Ella: "Across the fucking street, serving burgers. (laughing)"
Chloe: "Oh shit."
54:21-Au Revoir Simon begins performing "A Violent Yet Flammable World"
Ella: "Have you seen that penguin?"
Chloe: "Have I—What?"
Ella: "You know, the penguin. (laughing) Yep."
Au Revoir Simone performs "A Violent Yet Flammable World":
"It all was just a dream
At their faces I’m looking
But your feet I’m following
In soft steps on a path the way you lead
I don’t want to lose myself
It’s a whisper
It’s a funny thing
We fold like icicles on paper shelves
It’s a pity to appear this way
You’re flying when your foreign eyes trace the heights of the city
Steaming with rocks and clouds we breathe
A shock to my own body
Speech is wild
Alive and sacred sounding
From across and beyond wild
I don’t want to lose myself
It’s a whisper, it’s a funny thing
We fold like icicles on paper shelves
It’s a pity to appear this way
Hold on I swear I saw it somewhere
Waving, wading, one, two three,
Above the wakes that follow
I don’t want to lose myself
Tonight I sleep to dream of a place that is calling me
It’s a whisper
It’s always just a dream
From across and beyond."
Part 10: Laura is the One (Roadhouse Event #9)
Featured Act: Rebekah Del Rio, "No Stars".
Who: Rebekah Del Rio, Moby, and band.
When: Just after Margaret Lanterman tells Hawk that "Laura is the One" ("Electricity is humming. What will be in the darkness that remains? The Truman brothers are true men. The circle is almost complete. Watch and listen to the dream of time and space--that which is and is not."), and just before local boys playing catch discover a bloodied Miriam Sullivan crawling out of the woods toward the road on the outset of Part 11.
Narrative Intersections: Though there are no known narrative tie-ins within Twin Peaks, it seems deeply significant that Rebekah Del Rio is the same artist who performed "Llorando" at Club Silencio in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive-a performance that, within that film, marked a key narrative transition from fantasy to reality, as the protagonist's psychological projections of a relationship gone bad (or that perhaps even never was) descend into the dark actualities of murder and suicide. Both in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, Del Rio's performances seem to indicate a turning point in the audience's consciousness: our deepest desires to find originary meaning in the world must go unrequited: "No hay banda!" (Mulholland Drive: "There is no band!"), "No hay estrellas!" (Twin Peaks: "There are no stars!").
Listen to the sounds (video currently unavailable)
46:15-53:15--Rebekah Del Rio performs "No Stars:"
"My dream is to go to that place (you know the one) where it all began
On a starry night on a starry night when it all began
You said hold me hold me hold me
Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, we’re with the stars!
I saw them in your eyes en tus palabras y en tus besos
Abajo de una noche llena, llena de estrellas
Under the starry night long ago
But now it’s a dream
Yo vi en tus ojos Yo vi las estrellas
Pero ya no hay ya no hay estrellas
Pero ya no hay ya no hay estrellas
No stars (x2)
Ya no hay estrellas
No stars (x6)
Ya no hay estrellas
No hay estrellas
No stars (x5)"
Part 11: There's Fire Where You Are Going (No Roadhouse Event)
If we consider Parts 1 and 2 as a single premiere event, and Parts 17 and 18 as a single finale event (given that both of these pairs aired together), then Part 11 is the only episode that lacks a visit to the Roadhouse (if we consider Parts 1 and 18 as standalone episodes, then there are 3 such episodes). What we get instead is Robert "Smokey" Miles at the baby grand in a Vegas restaurant performing Angelo Badalamenti's "Heartbreaking" as Dougie Jones (Cooper) and the Mitchum brothers celebrate securing a $30,000,000 insurance payout with Champagne and multiple slices of a life-saving cherry pie.
Part 12: Let's Rock (Roadhouse Event #10)
Featured Act: Chromatics, "Saturday".
Who: Abbie and Natalie (discussing Angela, Clark, and Mary), Trick, Chromatics.
When: Just after Diane texts the coordinates from Ruth Davenport's arm to Mr. C., indicating Twin Peaks as the site of the coordinates (dark trees take over the screen as Diane stares mystified at the map), and just before the Mitchum brothers, Cooper, and the showgirls conga through the courtyard of Lucky 7 Insurance on the outset of Part 13.
Narrative Intersections: The search for Billy (Trick mentions that "some farmer" pulled him out of the ditch after he was run off the road on the way to The Roadhouse, recalling to the attentive viewer Deputy Andy's interrogation of a terrified farmer back in Part 7 after Andy had tracked the truck that Richard Horne was driving in the hit and run to a nearby farm. After the farmer (Billy?) agrees to meet with Andy later that afternoon, he stands him up.); Richard Horne's hit-and-run of the young boy in Part 6 (using the "farmer's" truck that Chuck--Renee's husband who Audrey told Charlie was "certifiable"--had previously stolen).
Watch Roadhouse Event #10
49:46--Abbie and Natalie discuss Angela's notable absence and potential reasons for it before being rudely interrupted by Trick, the almost-victim of a serious auto accident:
Abbie: "Where’s Angela?"
Natalie: "I haven’t got a clue. She was supposed to show last night. She didn’t show last night either. She
might be with Clark."
Natalie: "Yeah, they been hanging out lately."
Natalie: "Yeah. You look surprised."
Abbie: "Yeah, ‘cause I saw Clark and Mary together here, like, two nights ago."
Natalie: "I hate her."
Natalie: "And Angela fucking really hates her too. What were they doing?"
Abbie: "Like practically making out. Slow dancing and getting real close. Over the in corner, off in their
own world. Lots of people saw ‘em."
Natalie: "Angela is going to go crazy when she gets wind of this. She’s getting really serious about Clark.
He’s been on her for a couple of weeks now. She’s even dreaming about the guy."
Abbie: "Shit. I guess Clark’s spreading it around."
Natalie: "And she’s off her meds now. I hope Clark doesn’t fuck this up. She won’t be able to take it I don’t
Abbie: "Well, yeah, she’s kind of on the edge."
Natalie: "Who wouldn’t be? Losing her Mom like that?"
Trick: "Hey, I almost got fucking killed coming over here. Some fucking ass-eater’s heading toward me on
the highway and runs me off the road all I see is two headlights coming fucking right at me. Then I drove
off the road and almost hit a tree. Some farmer had to pull me out. Man, I’d like to kill the motherfucker
that did that. I need a beer. Obviously (turning to Natalie), you want one too. You want another one (to
Abbie)? Alright, I’ll be right back."
Abbie: "Thanks, Trick." [Trick leaves for the bar.] "Trick’s lucky to be alive, sounds like."
Natalie: "Sure does."
Abbie: "By the way, isn’t Trick under house arrest?"
Natalie: "No, I mean, yeah but, he got that behind him now. He’s a free man again."
Abbie: "A free man!"
53:05--Chromatics perform Saturday (instrumental)
Editor's Note: Though Chromatics performs "Saturday" as an instrumental, the song was first recorded by another of Johnny Jewel's bands, Desire, and includes the following lyrics: "Baby, someone is stealing you at night/tell me it's true/Friday's slow, I know you hate the weather/don't you know it's true/Don't you know/I just can't make it until Saturday/Baby, that look in your eyes won't go away/Maybe, I just can't take these endless rainy days/Don't you know/We can pretend the world is grey/Friday's slow, I know you hate the weather/Don't you know, I love you like no other/Tell me, Tell me, it's true/Oh, won't you tell me/Tell me, it's true/Don't you know, I just can't make it until Saturday/Friday's slow, it's true/Tell me, someone is stealing you at night/Baby, tell me that you'll be alright/Don't you know, I've got a bad feeling about Saturday/Lately, it's true."
Part 13: What Story is that Charlie? (Roadhouse Event #11)
Featured Act: James Hurley, "Just You".
Who: Roadhouse MC, James Hurley, background singers, Renee.
When: Just after Audrey and Charlie discuss going to the Roadhouse (as Audrey begs Charlie to help her, asking if "this is the story of the little girl who lives down the lane" and claiming it is "like Ghostwood here"), and just before Big Ed eats soup from R&R-To-Go all alone and staring out the window of an empty Gas Farm at the end of Part 13.
Narrative Intersections: The love triangle between Laura, James, and Donna (in Season 2, Episode 9, James Hurley, Maddie Ferguson, and Donna Hayward sing "Just You" in the Hayward home; furtive glances between James and Maddie (Laura's cousin-twin) send Donna off in tears); the love triangle between James, Chuck, and Renee (Renee is visibly moved by James' performance in Part 13, and when James greets her in Part 15, Chuck becomes enraged and attacks James, prompting Freddie Sykes to deploy the green garden glove against Chuck and his aggressive pal Skipper); Freddie vs. BOB (the romantic tension between James and Renee is the condition of possibility for the altercation with Chuck that lands James and Freddie in the Twin Peaks Sheriff Station's holding cells and eventually in the showdown with BOB in Part 17).
Watch Roadhouse Event #11
53:12—56:26- MC: "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Roadhouse is proud to welcome James Hurley."
James Hurley (as Renee watches tearfully from booth; we do not see who Rene is sitting with):
"Just you and I together forever in love.
Just you and I together forever in love.
In love we go strolling together.
In love we go strolling forever.
Just you and I together forever in love."
Part 14: We Are Like the Dreamer (Roadhouse Event #12)
Featured Act: Lissie, "Wild West".
Who: Roadhouse MC, Sophie and Megan (Tina's daughter), Lissie and band.
When: Just after Sarah Palmer unleashes her inner-Judy on Mr. Truck You at Elk's Point #9 Bar, and just before a golden-shovel-wielding Nadine Hurley arrives at The Gas Farm to give Big Ed his freedom to be with Norma Jennings on the outset of Part 15.
Narrative Intersections: "Sparkle" drug trade (as Sophie warns Megan about "getting high" at "the nuthouse"); the search for Billy (Megan is alleged to have been "the last person to see Billy" and describes a disturbing sequence of events in which she is at home with her mother Tina (who is dating Billy) and Billy leaps a fence into her yard, runs into her kitchen bleeding from the nose and mouth and then bolts); friction between Audrey and Charlie (Megan's mother Tina--who, like Audrey, is a competitor for Billy's affections-- appears to be the same person who Charlie calls to inquire after Billy's whereabouts, only then to stonewall Audrey on the information he has gleaned from Tina even as Audrey implores him to tell her what she has learned).
Watch Roadhouse Event #12
49:21--Sophie and Megan discuss Billy's bizarre disappearance:
Sophie: "That’s because you’re hanging out at the nuthouse."
Megan: "I’m not."
Sophie: "Getting high in there."
Megan: "Bullshit, I’m not. I’m getting high in my room. Flying in my own room."
Sophie: "Just don’t go in that nut place."
Megan: "Fuck you. Who said I would anyway?"
Sophie: "Nice sweater. Where’d you lift that?"
Megan: "It’s Paula’s."
Sophie: "It’s nice. Have you seen Billy?"
Megan: "No, not for a couple of days."
Sophie: "I heard you were the last person to see Billy."
Megan: "It was so fucking scary. He was in the kitchen with me and my mom. Think my uncle was there.
I’m not sure. Then at the window, we see Billy. Jumped over a fence a six-foot fence, lands in our
backyard, was running like crazy to the back door. And I can tell he sees me through the window and he
has this look in his eyes. Comes slamming in the back, stumbles in the kitchen. I start screaming and I
think my Mom screamed too. And there was blood coming out his nose and mouth. And he goes and
hangs his head in the sink, blood’s just gushing like a waterfall. Then he turns, looks at us, real strange and
all bloody and then he bolts out the back again and we’re like “What?”"
Sophie: "And you didn’t tell anyone?"
Megan: "We—we just didn’t know what to do, I mean, we didn’t know what the hell was going on with him.
I know my Mom and him had a thing."
Sophie: "What? Really?"
Megan: "Yeah, until pretty recent, at least. I mean, I just caught wind of it from time to time. Smile on her
face whenever his name came up."
Sophie: "What’s your Mom’s name?"
Megan: "It’s Tina."
Sophie: "Then he just ran out again?"
Megan: "Yeah, just, like, he was in our kitchen for maybe like ten seconds then he just took off, real fast
and crazy, and after, we see all the blood on the floor, and some on the wall. Took awhile to clean it up.
Me and my Mom. I don’t remember if my uncle was there…"
MC: Ladies and Gentleman, the Roadhouse is proud to welcome Lissie! [performs "Wild West"]
"Are you out there?
To take away my fear?
I haven’t lost my hope even though I am so far from my home.
I’ve been living life on the edge slip and fall if I take one more step.
There’s safety in numbers I guess, but I’m going rogue in the wild, wild west.
Somewhere I stand, there’s a world where you can.
All that you lost you get back and all that you want you can have.
I’ve been living my life on the edge slip and fall if I take one more step
There’s safety in numbers I guess, but I’m going rogue in the wild, wild west.
I’ve been dancing in the moonlight, I’ve been laughing with the firelight
I’ve been living, I’ve been giving, I’ve been living with the firelight
I’ll be fine, fine, I’ll be fine, fine, I’ll be fine.
Oh, oh, oh-oh-oh-oh
I’ve been living too close to the edge, if I fall who’s going to catch me? There’s safety in numbers I guess."
Part 15a: There's Some Fear in Letting Go (Roadhouse Event #13)
Featured song: "Sharp Dressed Man," ZZ Top.
Who: MC; Roadhouse patrons; Renee, Chuck, Skipper and partner; James Hurley and Freddie Sykes.
When: Just after the man with the dog (Mark Frost) reports to Carl Rodd that he saw Stephen and Gersten Hayward engaged in bizarre behavior in the forest, and just before the Las Vegas FBI realizes that they've brought the wrong Douglas Jones family in for questioning. Seconds later, Chantal Hutchens executes Duncan Todd and his assistant Roger in Todd's swanky Las Vegas office.
Narrative Intersections: The love triangle between James, Renee, and Chuck; "Sparkle" drug trade and the search for Billy (on the hypothesis that Billy and the farmer are one and the same, Chuck stole Billy's truck which Richard Horne then used to meet Red about sparkle trafficking before committing the hit and run); Freddie vs. BOB (this bar fight is what lands Freddie and James in jail, thereby putting them on the path of the showdown with BOB at the sheriff's station).
Listen to the sounds (complete video currently unavailable; partial modified video here)
30:50--MC: "Next on the Roadhouse playlist is one of our favorites, “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top."
James and Freddie approach Renee’s table and James greets her:
James: "It’s good to see you, Renee."
Chuck: "You got a deathwish? Cause I’ll fucking kill you! Don’t ever talk to my wife ever."
James: "I was just saying."
Chuck: "Just what?"
James: "I was just trying to be polite…I like her."
Chuck *punching James.*
Freddie: "Oi. You better stop this."
Skipper: "Fuck you punk!"
Freddie: *punches Skipper out; punches Chuck out*
James: "Anybody, call 9-1-1…these guys are really hurt."
Part 15b: There's Some Fear in Letting Go (Roadhouse Event #14)
Featured Act: The Veils, "Axolotl".
Who: Ruby, Two Bikers, Roadhouse patrons
When: Just after Audrey and Charlie argue "on the threshold" about putting on their coats to leave for the Roadhouse, and just before The Dutchman's courtyard is features as "Axolotl" fades out. Part 16 begins with Mr. C. and Richard Horne traveling to the false coordinates where Richard meets his electrifying end.
Narrative Intersections: None are made explicit, but there are several intriguing possibilities. One might wonder whether there are implicit connections suggested to The Farm (the biker toughs look like the sorts of folks who might have worked for the late Boss Renzo, former arm-wrestling champion), to the "sparkle" drug trade (given Ruby's erratic behavior), and--as Peter Dom has suggested--to events in Las Vegas earlier in Part 15 where Cooper's Sunset-Boulevard-induced crawling across the floor and subsequent shock-treatment with the ol' fork in the outlet routine appears to parallel and temporally resonate with Ruby's actions.
Watch Roadhouse Event #14
50:34--The Veils perform "Axolotl":
"I’m glowing bright obsidian
Got me growing six black tentacles
A little nightmarish a little maudlin
Good golly and go get that kid some laudanum
Salvation’s more than I can afford.
Who needs the devil when you’ve got the Lord
Oh, my soul
Who built this heart?
Oh, my God
Now sister Maggie’s coming in fleetfoot
Baby’s got a belly full of black soot
I got the feeling I better just stay put
Ah she’ll love you better
Than any real man could
An accidental amphibian
I’m growing giddy as a Gideon
Another head for the chopping board
Who needs the devil if you have the Lord
Oh, my soul
Who built this heart?
Oh, my soul
Who built this heart?
Oh my God
Oh my soul
Who built this heart?"
50:48-54:18--As The Veils perform, Ruby sits alone in a booth. Two toughs in biker gear approach her table, presumptuously waiting for her to get up and leave so they can sit down. She informs them that she's waiting for someone. They exchange knowing glances, put their beers down on the table, and forcibly remove her from the booth, depositing her on the floor. Ruby sits dazed on the floor as the band performs and the crowd dances. She pulls herself onto all fours and, grimacing as if in pain, crawls into the crowd weaving among the legs of spectators. Without warning, she begins screaming violently as strobe lights flicker, "Axolotl" concludes, and we cut, as the credits roll, to two final shots of The Dutchman's Motel (a long establishing shot with Room 8 in the background, followed by a shot right near the door of Room 8 but looking off to the right across the courtyard).
Part 16: No Knock, No Doorbell (Roadhouse Event #15)
Featured Act: Edward Louis Severson (Eddie Vedder), "Out of Sand"; Angelo Badalamenti, "Audrey's Dance".
Who: Roadhouse MC, Eddie Vedder, Audrey Horne, Charlie, Monique, Angry Man (Monique's husband).
When: Just after Cooper, The Mitchum brothers, Candie and the gals gas up the plane and head off to Spokane, WA for the convergence on Twin Peaks, and just before the Roadhouse band plays "Audrey's Dance" backwards upon the conclusion of Audrey's awakening. On the outset of Part 17, Cole, Rosenfield, and Preston toast the bureau before Cole spills the beans on the secret plan among Cooper, Briggs, Jeffries, and Cole to ensnare Judy--an ancient extreme negative force that Jeffries had been investigating before his disappearance in Buenos Aires.
Narrative Intersections: Roadhouse MC appearance suggests links to Part 8 (NIN), Part 13 (James Hurley/Renee), Part 14 (Lissie/Sophie and Megan discuss Billy), and Part 15 (ZZ Top/James and Freddie Sykes fight Chuck over Renee), Audrey's connection to her younger self in Season 1, Episode 3 where she performed the original "Audrey's Dance" over coffee with Donna, the search for Billy (Audrey and Charlie finally make it to the Roadhouse), the trouble with Audrey and Charlie ("Is this the story of the little girl who lives down the lane? Is it?"), the connection to the Black Lodge (where the Arm repeats the question about the little girl who lives down the lane).
Watch Roadhouse Event #15, Part 1 (Edward Louis Severson, "Out of Sand")
Watch Roadhouse Event #15, Part 2 (Audrey's Dance)
48:39--MC: "The Roadhouse is proud to present Edward Louis Severson!"
"Can’t climb to heaven on the cross
One liar’s promise drained the blood from my heart
Came a message in the dark
Offered the hand of a disembodied man while I still had a chance
But now it’s gone. Gone.
And I am who I am. Who I was I will never be again.
Running out of sand.
I stare at my reflection to the bone
Blurred eyes look back at me, full of blame and sympathy
So, so close
Right roads not taken, future’s forsaken
Dropped like a fossil or a stone
And it’s gone. Gone.
And I am who I am. Who I was that will never come again.
Running out of sand.
Charlie and Audrey walk into the Roadhouse as Severson performs.
"A drunk Octopus wants to fight
Fearful of dreams there’ll be no sleep tonight
Fine at dinner, dead by dessert
Victim or witness we’re gonna get hurt.
Fragile existence with echoes of worth
I can’t stop the bleeding nor the tears from thine eyes
There’s another us somewhere with much better lives
With God as our witness but he won’t testify
Now it’s gone oh
And I am who I am, who I could have been I will never have the chance
Running out of sand
Running out of sand
Running out of sand"
52:17--Severson's performance concludes; Audrey and Charlie receive martinis from the bartender.
Charlie: "Here’s to us, Audrey."
Audrey: "Here’s to Billy."
MC: "Ladies and Gentlemen, “Audrey’s Dance”
Floor clears to allow Audrey to dance alone to "Audrey's Dance".
Cheated husband: “Monique! That’s my wife, asshole!” [runs across the dance floor and attacks Monique's
Audrey runs to Charlie and says “Get me out of here” as electrical charges sound. She wakes up aghast, clad in white, and gazing gape-jawed into a vanity mirror. After an abrupt cut, we are suddenly back in the Roadhouse, where the band is playing "Audrey's Dance" backwards.
Part 17: The Past Dictates The Future (Roadhouse Event #16)
Featured Act: Julee Cruise, "The World Spins".
Who: Julee Cruise, Chromatics.
When: Just after Sarah Palmer goes ballistic on Laura's homecoming photo (as Cooper leads Laura home from the woods just past Sparkwood and 21, only to lose her again to the White Lodge), and just before Mr. C. is engulfed in flames in the Lodge and Philip Gerard generates a new Dougie in his place.
Narrative Intersections: There are intriguing parallels to explore between this performance and Cruise's original Roadhouse performance of "The World Spins" in Season 2, Episode 14.
Watch Roadhouse Event #16
56:54--Julee Cruise performs "The World Spins" as the credits roll:
"Haley's comet's come and gone
The things I touch are made of stone
Falling through this night alone
Love, don't go away
Come back this way
Come back and stay forever and ever
The world spins."
Though David Lynch is infamous for refusing to talk directly about his work, he is often very generous in his willingness to talk about the visioning process through which it comes into being and the source of the creativity that animates his vision, transcendental meditation. In this new interview recently posted on YouTube, Lynch is particularly engaging, in part due to the persistence and enthusiasm of his intrepid interviewer:
Thanks to an illuminating series of questions, we get a solid 25 minutes of David Lynch in his own voice expressing many of his signature epiphanies: that his films are not efforts to say this or that, but rather efforts to bring to cinematic expression ideas with which he has fallen in love; that "diving within" each day through transcendental meditation engenders a transformative happiness that serves as a "flak jacket" against the suffering, darkness, and death of our world; that the social and political relevance of his films grows out of his fidelity to the particular ideas and stories that have captured his imagination and not out of a personal ideological agenda; that attunement to a film's deeper possibilities for feeling and understanding the ideas in play arises in part from not needing to have things pinned down, so that the potency of the story stands higher than its actuality. For those who follow Lynch's interviews or have read his book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, most of these themes will ring familiar.
One intriguing new development here is Lynch's response to a question about the state of Hollywood in the wake of Harvey Weinstein's exposure by the #MeToo movement (at 20:00 in the above video). In comments that are as oracular and meandering as most of what he has to say about "current events", Lynch gives us a window into his view of male aggression toward and sexual violence against women--which he clearly condemns, if not as forcefully as one might hope--as a phenomenon that can be dissipated by transcendental meditation. Lest anyone think that Lynch is just glibly asserting that meditation can ameliorate the world's problems without any basis for touting its potential social and political applications, it is important to remember his transformational work in schools and prisons with the The David Lynch Foundation.
Even so, one might wonder if there is a kind a quietism concerning gendered violence here that invites critical questions about Lynch's preferred stance of ideological neutrality for the sake of maintaining fidelity to the ideas and their stories. On the other hand, perhaps Lynch's personal silence on the matter is an effort to let his art speak for itself to those of us who see in these stories the possibility of a powerful critique of institutional sexism, male aggression, and toxic masculinity even though Lynch himself is not setting out to make it that way. Or perhaps we have something of a "both/and" situation here in which Lynch's personal quietism on the matter both merits critique and enables a certain fidelity to the ideas and their stories that allows the concrete realities of violence against women to present themselves in all their unvarnished horror.
I've written about "The World Spins" before, but I can't get it out of my mind. So it's happening again. This time, though, I'm tempted to change the slant on the title of one of my favorite songs of all time to "The Worlds Spin," because this newest way of seeing through the song has opened a window onto an inkling I've had throughout The Return that the narrative disturbances we've witnessed are less about time travel than about world travel--and possible world travel, to put a finer point on things.
The Return, I think, is not so much about actual changes to the space-time continuum of this world as it is about possible ways that things have been, could be, and are in other places and spaces. Let me explain how this window opened up for me in this particular instance. As usual, it was by being attentive in a certain way to pure happenstance that the possibility revealed itself. One of the most beautiful things about Twin Peaks, in my experience, anyway, is that the possible always, always stands above the actual, whether what is at stake is what we see (or do not see) on screen or what those revelations or concealments mean or do not mean for the series as a whole or for ourselves as its interpreters.
In seeking to compare Julee Cruise's Roadhouse performance of "The World Spins" in Part 17 of Season 3 with her Roadhouse performance of the same song in Part 14 of the original run (episode 7 of Season 2), I came across two unrelated YouTube videos that were serendipitously cut to roughly the same length, each lasting the full duration of Cruise's performance of the song--about 2 minutes and 46 seconds. The fact that the videos were basically the same length hit me right in the ol' Twin Peaks synchronicity bone, and so I opened two browsers and cued up the two videos side by side, starting the Season 2 video (top) about a second or two ahead of the Season 3 video. Here they are, one atop the other:
As I repeatedly watched and listened to them side by side, some things came together for me. It was moving to imagine, for instance, that the old waiter--the Giant/Fireman's this-worldly avatar to whom Albert Rosenfield lovingly referred as Señor Droolcup--was expressing his sympathy to Cooper not just for what happens to Maddy in Season 2, but for Cooper's losing the Laura he delivers from death in the woods near Sparkwood and 21 in part 17 of Season 3 twenty five years later, and for losing the Laura who is Carrie in Part 18, and for losing what feels like infinitely many other Lauras in as many possible worlds.
Throughout the Season 2 video, Cooper has this stupefied, other-worldly, time-out-of-joint look on his face that just seems so much richer and more heartbreaking in light of what we learn in Parts 17 and 18 of Season 3. Watching these clips side by side made it feel to me like "The World Spins" marks a sort of collision or converging nexus of all the possible worlds in which "It is happening again" in different and irreconcilable ways, inexorably, simultaneously, and without ceasing, eternally recurring as the little ball rolls around in Philip Jeffries's figure eight, each new stop on the track yet another aching near miss, another instance of love's refusal to come back and stay forever and ever.
The terrible beauty of this juxtaposition of worlds--different and yet the same--just overwhelmed me. I wonder what you think? Do you see what I see?
Happy Black Lodge Day! For this special occasion, it seemed appropriate to compile a photo-essay of some of the great moments that took place in, around, and/or through The Black Lodge. Though a liminal space and a waiting room from day one, the Lodge was witness in The Return to significant expansions of its original mythology including service as a tulpa factory and recycling plant, a portal beyond just Glastonbury Grove and the Roadhouse to many places throughout the Twin Peaks universe, and--of course--providing accommodation for a new crop of doubled and damned denizens, willing and unwilling. Hope these images help you to savor the day!
TRANSFIGURING OBJECTS: GLIMPSING THE SCULPTED HEART OF TWIN PEAKS IN JASON S.'S *IMPRESSIONS* DOCUMENTARIES
We all know and love the routine despite its tawdriness: the long-awaited collector's edition boxed-set has finally arrived and it's time to debut the special features. We locate the requisite disc, suffer an unsolicited reminder that piracy is not a victimless crime, negotiate an awkward menu or two, click play and then watch, rapt, as an Entertainment-Weekly-caliber documentary delivers waves of moon-eyed, breathless actors or producers or crew members struggling to describe the privilege, magic, and mystery of working with David Lynch. Or maybe some celebrated directors, or show-runners, or otherwise important industry moguls gush for the umpteenth time about how groundbreaking Twin Peaks was for the coming-of-age of televisual media. Or perhaps we wistfully Ken-Burns our way through some backstage photographs taken by Richard Beymer of the oracular director and his cast working their magic. Again.
I love these hagiographic portraits of the people and the world of Twin Peaks as much as the next fanatic. I watch them eagerly, moon-eyed and breathless myself, thrilled to look through any available window into the wonderful and strange world I so dearly cherish. As I watch, though, I can't help but experience an acute awareness of the yawning chasm between the nostalgic adulation of art and the artist that these special features so often indulge and the genuine disclosure of art and the artist that I'm always tempted to hope for from these glimpses "behind the scenes". What would it be like, I have often wondered, if the world "behind the scenes" were disclosed through the probing, imaginative, transfiguring vision of artistic experience, rather than through the nostalgic, wistful, worshipful experience of the fandom or the calculating, measuring, comparative experience of the punditry?
Jason S.'s Impressions: A Journey Behind the Scenes of Twin Peaks comes closer to answering this question than anything I've previously encountered among a boxed-set's special features. In fact, this ten-part series of 30-minute documentary films (brought to us by the cinematographer behind The Art Life) deserves an independent issuing as the full-fledged feature that it is. With gloriously delphic titles like "The Man With the Gray Elevated Hair", "A Bloody Finger in Your Mouth", and "A Pot of Boiling Oil", these films offer what feels like almost unmediated access to the grounding energies behind the world--to the director, actors, crew members, trailers, filming locations, sets and props whose collaborations and collisions bring the world of Twin Peaks so vividly into being.
But if the access offered here feels almost unmediated, close attention across all ten films reveals one grounding energy in particular as especially prominent among the forces at work in the creation of Twin Peaks: sculpture. In addition to lavishing exquisite attention on the sculptural elements of the set and special effects (which are super-abundant--I'll catalogue some of the most prominent examples below), the portrait of the director that emerges is that of the visionary sculptor: the artist who envisions the world and its denizens not in terms of their actual states of being, but in light of their hidden, heretofore unimagined potential.
Like a sculptor unveiling a Venus de Medici from a block of stone stroke by prescient chisel stroke, Lynch's task as a director is to choose his raw materials wisely and to know and appreciate their properties so intimately that he can coax out their strength and beauty while deftly negotiating the inner faults and fissures whose mishandling or exploitation could impede or even destroy the transformation. Through this transfiguring process, an idea becomes a material reality: the thought of a steaming machine, through the shaving and painting of foam, becomes the long lost Philip Jeffries; the character in the script, through a mournful embrace and an agonized whisper into Grace Zabriskie's ear, becomes the inimitable Sarah Palmer. In discussing this intimate process of bringing ideas to life through deep knowing, appreciation, and negotiation with the intricate capacities and flaws of material beings (whether people or objects), Lynch often has recourse to his love of working with wood:
"You've got this idea, and you can see it and hear it and feel it and know it. Now, let's say you start cutting a piece of wood and it's just not exactly right. That makes you think more, so you can take off from that. You're now acting and reacting. So it's kind of an experiment to get it all correct. [...] Wood is one of the greatest materials to work with. There are soft woods and hard woods, and they all have their own beauty when you are working with them. When I saw through a piece of freshly cut pine, the smell of it just sends me right to heaven. I used to chew Ponderosa pine pitch, which is the sap that oozes out of the tree and dries on the outside of the bark. If you can get a fresh piece of pitch, it is like syrup. It will stick to you and you won't be able to get it off your hands. But sometimes it hardens like old honey. And you can chew this, and the flavor of the pine pitch will make you crazy, in a good way. Pine, being a softer wood, is easier to work with and is readily available. When I was young, I did a lot of things with pine. But then, I started falling in love with Douglas fir, vertical-grain Douglas fir. When you varnish a piece of Douglas fir, it has a depth of beauty that is just phenomenal. And then when you put two pieces of wood together, you start realizing that there are so many possibilities. And you learn some tricks along the way." (David Lynch, Catching the Big Fish, 29, 123-124)
Jason S.'s Impressions documentaries do a remarkable job of revealing the sculpted heart of Twin Peaks, both by showing the artist at work, lovingly (and sometimes exasperatedly) molding, chiseling, modeling, and creamed-corn-smearing away on sculpted elements of the set and actors alike, and by calling our attention--in the voiced narrations by collaborator and composer Josef Maria Schäfers--to the elemental importance of transfiguration as a grounding ethos of Twin Peaks (whether we're talking about the show itself or the creative people and processes that brought the show into being).
One of my favorite such scenes finds Lynch on the ground, sculpting the portal-well to the White Lodge just past Jackrabbit's Palace. He has run short on "Fix-All", a plaster-like material that he is using to get just the right texture around the rim of the well, and is chagrinned to learn from a sheepish production assistant that they couldn't procure the requested Fix-All and have brought plaster of Paris instead. Lynch momentarily loses it, as the prospect of failing fully to realize material fidelity to his idea gets the best of him: "Fuck! Plaster of Paris! BULLSHIT! Okay, well mix it up".
It was a genuine thrill to see the sculptural origins of some of the great set-pieces of The Return in these short films: the revelation of Ruth Davenport's severed head, Cooper's plunge in to the Non-Exist-Ent, the hatching of the frog-locust egg, Andy's journey to the White Lodge, the revelation of Phillip Jeffries in Room 8 of the Dutchman's, and BOB's fiery descent into Frank Truman's office floor, to name just a few.
Though there is no substitute for watching the documentaries, juxtaposing stills from Jason S.'s Impressions with stills from the relevant scenes of the finished series offers a fascinating glimpse into how integrally sculpture figures into Lynch's process on set. To wit:
Ruth Davenport's Pillow
Cooper's Plunge into the Non-Exist-Ent
The Frog-Locust Egg
The Portal Past Jackrabbit's Palace
Deputy Andy's Smoke Oracle
The Long Lost Phillip Jeffries
Bob's Penultimate Departure into Sheriff Truman's Office Floor (a.k.a., Bob's Oily Eggy Cornhole)
As these examples clearly demonstrate, Lynch was making art in Twin Peaks not only as a filmmaker, but as a sculptor (the same can likely be said of drawing, painting, and sound-design too, though Impressions places less emphasis on those media). And once the elemental role that sculpture plays in grounding the aesthetic and the mood of the series has been foregrounded in this way, it is exhilarating to return to various parts of the finished product and witness how profoundly Lynch's care and attention to sculpting--not just to the craft of set-dressing, mind you, but to the artistic creation of particular sculpted works of material art that are integrated into the set--contributes to the transcendent, otherworldly, uncanny mood of the show.
As I revisited the series with its sculptural essence (as revealed by Impressions) explicitly in mind, I was astonished to see how often Lynch's sculptures steal the show, whether he is "transfiguring the commonplace" (as Arthur Danto put it) by investing everyday things with "energy of a spiritual nature" (as Joseph Beuys put it) or attempting to materialize people, places, and things from worlds otherwise than our own. What a debt of gratitude we owe to Jason S. and his collaborators for illuminating the sculpted heart of Twin Peaks!
The following stills depict some of my favorite sculptures from Twin Peaks, which--as I assembled them--inspired me to imagine myself wandering, moon-eyed and breathless, through a future exhibition on "Sculpting the World of Twin Peaks" at a beautifully austere gallery in New York or Paris or Prague (maybe Buckhorn?). Which pieces would you add or subtract from the exhibition and why?
Sculpting the Ordinary
Sculpting the Extraordinary
My Twin Peaks collection is embarrassingly extensive, and there are some prizes in the lot. But this astonishingly beautiful limited-edition Tarot deck creatively interpreted and sumptuously illustrated by Benjamin Mackey is now vying for the title of my very favorite Twin Peaks collectible.
For those unfamiliar with the Tarot, the deck includes an introductory essay by John Thorne (editor of Wrapped in Plastic Magazine and Blue Rose Magazine) that briefly situates Mackey's rendering of the deck in relation to Pamela Colman Smith's original illustration of the popular Rider-Waite Tarot Deck. One needn't be a Tarot enthusiast, however, to enjoy the beauty and ingenuity of this deck, which is just beaming with appreciation for and insight into our favorite place, both wonderful and strange.
There are better, high-resolution individual images of each card available at Mackey's website, but the deck as a whole (and all the terrific inserts and bonuses for those who supported the IndieGoGo campaign that made it happen) is so gorgeously done that I simply couldn't resist doing a post on it. Enjoy perusing this incredible piece of Twin Peaks memorabilia that is sure to become a classic of the genre!
Figure one--A Lincoln penny on its way to New Mexico. Among the many mysteries that The Final Dossier doesn't address is the distillation of the orb containing Laura Palmer's essence into a Lincoln penny which is then sent hurtling toward New Mexico, only to be retrieved by a young Sarah Palmer on the night that a Lincolnesque woodsman undertakes a head-crushing murder spree at a local radio station.
The publication of Twin Peaks-The Final Dossier and Mark Frost's battery of publicity interviews with Slate, Variety, and DigitalSpy (among others) have offered some plot-resolution satisfaction for those who desperately craved it while leaving others with a sinking feeling that the delicate "calibration between revelation and mystery" (as Frost calls it) has gone a bit lopsided in the revelation direction.
In his review of The Final Dossier for NPR's Monkey See, Glen Weldon offers an illuminating take on how this delicate calibration epitomizes the unlikely but charmed alchemy that is the Lynch/Frost partnership. Weldon puts the point about as winsomely as I've seen it articulated in print, so I'll just let him speak for himself at length:
As Weldon admits, this clean opposition between Frost-as-narrative-mastercraftsperson and Lynch-as-fever-dreaming-auteur has its limits. But for the sake of following a potentially interesting path cleared by this productive dialectic of "clear storytelling" and "openness to happenstance," let's delve a bit deeper into the question of what our irresistible urge to tell clear stories indicates about the human experience, especially at these stories' outer edges where narrative clarity (if not narrative vision) can be purchased only at the cost of refusing to countenance the abysses of the world beyond finite meaning
Storytelling is what we do--whether in film, fiction, art, or life--to connect the dots and orient ourselves within a world that discloses itself to us as radically underdetermined in meaning and purpose. We need stories precisely because the raw beauty, brutality, and infinity of the naked world are simply too overwhelming for finite creatures to bear. Stories, if you will, are the burning bushes that keep us from being incinerated by the full presence of holiness, or the foot- and hand-holds that allow us to cleave to the sheer mountainside, or the constellations that lend familiarity, warmth, and order to the sublime expanse of space beyond imagination. We human beings aren't very well practiced or confident at being on our own in a world of near to limitless possibilities.
To cope in this vertigo-inducing world of possibilities too excessive to fathom (much less control or even firmly grasp), we seek firmer ground in inherited stories that make this capacious, uncanny, unfathomable world feel smaller, friendlier, and more intelligible. With familiar narratives that have clear-cut beginnings, middles, and final ends, we cut the world to fit our need to belong, to feel safe, to set and achieve clear and meaningful intermediate goals, and especially to render approachable and explicable those indifferent or hostile or ungraspable worldly revelations that would otherwise threaten to unravel the strong and artful but nonetheless ultimately rendable weave of narrative threads that constitutes the swinging hammock of existence we've somehow managed ever so tenuously to suspend over the yawning abyss between an infinitely receding yet inescapably formative past and an infinitely expanding yet inescapably inscrutable future.
From the way I'm talking about storytelling, you'd think we were aware that we are doing it. But most of the time, we're blissfully unaware of the narratives through which the whole wide ungainly world becomes our own little familiar patch of being. We are like the storyteller who tells a story and then lives inside the story, no more capable than the slumbering dreamer of waking up to the limits of our artifice by our own devices. The question "Who is the dreamer?" rings out within the dream only when the seamless, self-forgetful narrative in which we are absorbed as characters is rifted by some disparate element--an irruption or rending of the story whose otherness and irreconcilability with the foregoing narrative suddenly commands our attention, thwarting our continued passive reception of accessible meaning and compelling us to become active interpreters of the ruptured text before us who must somehow either piece together the remnants of the story or learn to live with its discontinuities.
This transition from the comfort of being a a character passively absorbed in the drama to the alienation of being a narrator standing outside it--now with an urgent responsibility to create rather than just receive--is deeply disorienting. But it is also essential to our individuation as free agents capable of understanding and interpreting the world and our place in it. One might even say that we don't have a world at all--that is, a set of open possibilities for understanding and navigating life as the unique individuals we are--until this transition has taken place. That we have a world from which to differentiate our own particular selves and in which to assert and develop these selves is a function of trauma--some irreconcilable separation from the seamless flow of the narrative that gives us the interpretive distance from the story that is necessary for getting leverage on the question of what each of us must do.
Let's call these moments of rupture or emergence of irreconcilable otherness within a narrative instances of "world-disclosure": their job is not to advance the running narrative and keep us comfortably absorbed in it, but rather to interrupt the story and give us a glimpse into the wide, uncanny, unfathomable world that lies beneath--that yawning chasm of possible but as yet undetermined meanings in the face of which we must take responsibility as narrators or reconcile ourselves to abiding in mystery (or, as is often the case, negotiate some combination of responsibility and reconciliation).
A big part of what makes Twin Peaks such a unique and inimitable experience for the viewer is the speed and frequency with which we must undergo this disorienting transition between immersive storytelling and irruptive world-disclosure. Back and forth and back and forth we go, pistons in what Glen Weldon describes above as the "two-stroke engine" that is Frost/Lynch...Lynch/Frost...Frost/Lynch...Lynch/Frost.
In reading Ta-Nehisi Coates We Were Eight Years in Power, I came across a gorgeous stretch of prose on the need for unflinching truth in art that really illuminated the world-disclosive spirit of Twin Peaks for me. Describing how early hip-hop from the likes of L.L. Cool J. and Nas awakened him to the transgressive power of brutally honest words, Coates communicates a transformation he experienced in the wake of ruminating on Nas' "One Love," a song that tells a story in which "Nas and a twelve-year-old drug dealer are sitting on a bench smoking marijuana" and "Nas attempts to advise the younger drug dealer, who routinely carries a gun, how to cope with the violence of the projects." Says Coates,
"His advice is beautiful, which is to say it is grounded in the concrete fact of slavery. That was how I wanted to write--with weight and clarity, without sanctimony and homily. I could not even articulate why. I guess if forced I would have mumbled something about 'truth'. What I know is that by then I had absorbed an essential message, an aesthetic, from Nas and from the hip-hop of that era. Art was not an after-school special. Art was not motivational speaking. Art was not sentimental. It had no responsibility to be hopeful or optimistic or make anyone feel better about the world. It must reflect the world in all its brutality and beauty, not in hopes of changing it but in the mean and selfish desire to not be enrolled in its lie, to not be coopted by the television dreams, to not ignore the great crimes all around us." ("Notes from the Fourth Year," in We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, 88)
Coates is obviously writing about (and from within) a completely different experiential matrix with decidedly different cultural markers and animating conflicts than that of Frost and Lynch. Nonetheless, I found what Coates had to say about the urgency of art's mission to show us our bondage--to force us to confront those dishonest stories to which we remain enslaved--to be powerfully resonant with some of the truths Twin Peaks teaches us about late twentieth-century human experience.
Those who follow Mark Frost's Twitter feed are very much aware of his markedly progressive politics. Indeed, anyone paying close attention to Twin Peaks-The Return will have detected Frost's political edge cutting through into artfully done but nonetheless scathing commentary on gun culture, misogyny, political corruption, police brutality, and the prison industrial complex, among other social ills. It is thus relatively unsurprising to come across passages in Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier--released just today--that give voice to progressive concerns in, for instance, Special Agent Tammy Preston's editorializing on the evils of law and order policing to "increase the prison's client population" (34) or the prospects for "cannabis laws growing progressively less prohibitive" (39). But if Frost's left-leaning politics inevitably shade the narrative from time to time, his open disdain for the sitting President of the United States--while continually on display in the Twitterverse--has been something that we've had to read between the lines of the Twin Peaks universe.
Until today! As an avid reader of political analysis on all sides of the spectrum, I thought I had countenanced every last possible explanation for the President's...shall we say?...unorthodox leadership style: brutal honesty, malignant narcissism, populism, incompetence, early-onset dementia, Bannonesque chaos-mongering, sociopathy, loneliness, self-loathing, childhood abuse, you name it. But until I got to page 77 of The Final Dossier, the most obvious explanation of all had completely eluded me: the President is governing under the nefarious influence of the Owl Cave Ring, which was passed to him by Lana Budding Milford, widow of the late, great Dougie Milford, during a brief fling "on her way up the plutocratic food chain" in New York after departing Twin Peaks in the wake of Dougie's death. Of course!
Thanks to Special Agent Tammy Preston's unparalleled sleuthing skills, we now know that the President has more than just syphilis and racism in common with Thomas Jefferson and more than just resigning in humiliation and infamy in common with Richard Nixon: all three share the prestigious and rare honor of being members of the Owl Cave Ring Presidents Club! You have to read it to believe it! Check it out below!
In reading Daniel Dylan Ray's informative piece on "The Secrets Behind the Music of 'Twin Peaks: The Return'", one paragraph in particular left me slack-jawed. It's the one in which Ray gives Johnny Jewel the floor to describe the nerve-wracking but ultimately transcendent experience of backing Julee Cruise (along with his bandmates from Chromatics) in her performance of "The World Spins"--arguably the most iconic song in the history of the Roadhouse, both for its indispensable encapsulation of the regnant mood of the original series and now for the almost unbearable emotional weight it is tasked to carry in Part 17 of The Return as perhaps the last all-too-fleeting glimpse of the Twin Peaks we once knew before the desolation of Part 18.
Ray's treatment of Jewel's involvement with the performance starts predictably enough with the usual tales of a young artist's temerity about being asked to perform a legendary song with a beloved musical icon in a high stakes venue. Jewel confesses to being "really manic about doing it," citing the song's oddity, long duration, and difficult non-linear composition. He admits to Chromatics' obsessive preparation for the performance, which took the form of playing the song "six to eight hours a day, over and over" for "about a week and a half." And he notes the bands' deep desire to keep the spotlight focused unwaveringly on Cruise: "We were aiming to be shadows." But then comes the paragraph--which I'll cite here at length--in which Jewel flashes the gem that got me dreaming:
"Though Lynch generally let the various Roadhouse bands simply do their thing, according to Jewel, the director did whisper something to Cruise that changed their scene dramatically. “The first take felt very logical, but then after David spoke to her, the second take was insane. The feeling on stage was so incredible. The difference was night and day.” The performance with Cruise proved to be an overpowering one for Jewel. “I held it together at the Roadhouse, but when we left I completely lost it and was sobbing uncontrollably for hours,” he says." (Daniel Dylan Ray, "The Secrets Behind the Music of 'Twin Peaks: The Return'", Pitchfork, September 4, 2017)
The mystery! The intrigue! What in blue blazes could Lynch have whispered to Cruise to take the performance of "The World Spins" from "logical" to "insane" on a sprinting moment's notice, elevating the intensity of the experience to such vertiginous heights that dream-pop's reigning auteur was forced to crawl back from the precipice in a storm of tears following the performance? What did Lynch whisper to Cruise to catalyze this radical transformation of the second and final take of "The World Spins"? And why, if getting a next-level performance of Cruise's song was so urgent to Lynch that he resorted to motivational whispers before the second take, and if (by Jewel's account) he got that dazzling performance and then some--why on earth does Lynch only show us a scant two and a half minutes of a mind-blowing six minute song, and mask those precious minutes, to boot, with rolling credits?
I said above that Jewel's revelations about this transcendent session "got me dreaming," and I chose that language on purpose. In Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, David Lynch shares the beloved story of how Frank Silva's inadvertent failure to get off set before the camera rolled on one of Grace Zabriskie's harrowing Sarah Palmer scenes was the happy accident that gave birth to BOB, the series' ur-villain and the insuperable horizon of evil in Twin Peaks for near to three decades before Judy ret-conned him out of a job. Of this famous example of how his signature combination of intuition and openness to mystery spun destiny from mere happenstance, Lynch nonchalantly observes "So things like this happen and make you start dreaming. And one thing leads to another, and if you let it, a whole other thing opens up." (78)
In pondering Jewel's tantalizing comment, I got to dreaming, one thing led to another, and a whole other thing opened up for me. Obviously, my dreaming about Lynch's whispers to Cruise was decidedly less dramatic and consequential than the dreaming that led Lynch to one of film's most terrifying incarnations of evil; it would be absurd to suggest anything more than a structural parallel here. Nonetheless, my dream gathered some accidental and disparate thoughts and worries that had been scratching about in my mind since the bewildering finale and sutured them into an epiphany: Julee Cruise's truncated performance of "The World Spins" at the end of Part 17 captures the spiritual heart of Twin Peaks: The Return. Allow me to explain by unpacking my dream.
The dreaming began in part because, since the finale, I've been in a heightened state of susceptibility to reflection and wonder about whispering. Part 18 ends with Laura literally whispering into Cooper's ear, but whispering is also a powerful metaphor for secrets and the havoc they wreak on the people who keep them, the people who give them away, and the people who desperately want to be in on them. In The Secret History of Twin Peaks, at the pivotal moment where the recent history of the town of Twin Peaks itself becomes the focal point of the dossier, 'Archivist' Garland Briggs forebodingly tells us that "Moving forward in time, it is important that we learn to distinguish between mysteries and secrets. Mysteries precede humankind, envelop us and draw us forward into exploration and wonder. Secrets are the work of humankind, a covert and often insidious way to gather, withhold, or impose power. Do not confuse the pursuit of one with the manipulation of the other."
Having stewed a bit these past three months over Briggs' words and the interpretive vistas they open on the series, I was immediately intrigued by my own conflicted response to learning from Jewel that Lynch had whispered something in Cruise's ear, and that this whisper had somehow transformed the session. On the one hand, there was this prurient desire to know the secret of what he said to her; and on the other, this gathering sense of wonder as to what mystery might alight from mindfully wandering the path between Lynch's whispers to Cruise and his decision to show us so very little of the transcendent performance that resulted from what Cruise conjured in response. As I began to traverse this mental path, I recalled two other bits of information that, taken together, had spiked my curiosity earlier in the week: the facts that Julee Cruise had reported being "very proud" of her work for Twin Peaks in an L.A. Times article filed before the finale, but was making headlines that very same day for posting vitriolic criticism on social media after the finale of the way her performance was used in it.
Calling Lynch an "emperor" and claiming that she had been dealt with "like trash," Cruise objected both to the truncation of the performance and to what she called its "sloppy" effect, elaborating in comment threads that she experienced the finale as a "slap in the face" and had been treated badly on set as well. My dream gathered in these uncomfortable thoughts--that Twin Peaks (the actual cast and crew this time, rather than the fictional town) maybe isn't just the big happy family I love to read about in interviews with Laura Dern or Kyle MacLachlan, that an artist whose work has profoundly shaped my imagination and brought me abiding joy across three decades might have seriously mistreated--maybe even abused the trust!--of another artist whose work I deeply love (and whose album Floating Into the Night pulled me through the darkest years of graduate school, racking up some 2,800 listens before the iPod that was counting them fell into a toilet). I was momentarily amused that life was suddenly imitating art here in my dream--that Twin Peaks, in actuality and on screen, was threatening to dispel my nostalgia, my illusions, my hope in untarnished personal heroes worthy of unceasing laud and honor. The amusement was fleeting though. The idea that David Lynch might have whispered a misleading secret with the intent to impose power--to get something from Cruise that he needed for his art but that she wouldn't have given him voluntarily had she known his intent was suddenly as unsettling as the idea--raised by David Auerbach in his dazzling "Theory of Cooper, Laura, Diane, and Judy"--that Cooper might be using both Diane and Laura as pawns in a White Lodge sting on Judy.
As often happens when dark thoughts intrude on pleasant dreaming, I got down to the business of drumming up a sublimation strategy for transforming unsettling news into good news. I'd been thinking a lot lately about the controversial "sync" interpretation of Parts 17-18 after watching the synced finale several times and taking hundreds of stills for a recent post on it. In the final moments of the synched finales, something happens that--despite my skepticism of the sync interpretation as a whole--nevertheless was breathtaking to experience: on the left side in Part 17, we see Dale Cooper leading Laura Palmer "home" by the hand, having just saved her from being murdered in an alternate timeline; on the right side in Part 18, we see Laura whispering into Cooper's ear, his visage intrigued but dispassionate. As Cooper leads Laura through the woods in Part 17, the tell-tale phonograph skips and Laura is snatched away screaming, leaving Cooper staring plaintively into the woods at the spot of her disappearance as the trees begin a slow dissolve into Cruise's performance of "The World Spins" in the Roadhouse; in Part 18, meanwhile, we see Cooper's face, formerly at ease, register what looks like deep concern--perhaps even suppressed horror--at the decisive moment in Part 17 that the the red curtains begin fully to saturate the dissipating trees. Back in Part 18, Cooper and Laura fade to black and the "Lynch/Frost Productions" placard appears, unprecedentedly lacking the usual accompanying electrical sounds, thus allowing Cruise's performance to continue unmarred just to the left in Part 17. In the version of the sync that I watched (which has since been taken down), as Part 18 concludes and the screen on the right goes permanently black, Cruise's continuing performance on the left screen enlarges in size until it fills up the full screen, crowding out the space where I had been watching Part 18 just moments before.
The effect of watching the two episodes in sync, especially at the end, at least for this viewer, was the distinct impression that the "true" end of The Return is not what it initially seemed. The final scene is not, as we had feared, Part 18's harrowing depiction of a thwarted Cooper (Richard?) and a shrieking Carrie (Laura?) marooned in a hollowed out and haunted Twin Peaks, nor is our last glimpse of the show a hopelessly bleak tableau of Laura and Cooper still trapped in the Lodge. Instead, we get Part 17's decidedly more hopeful final scene of a resolute Cooper leading a saved Laura "home;" even though they don't make it and Laura is snatched away, the *real* Cooper's last vision of Twin Peaks (and ours) is of those majestic trees dissolving into the Roadhouse, where Julee Cruise sings the soaring words "Love, don't go away! Come back this way! Come back and stay forever!" as the credits roll.
After all this dreaming, I imagined myself ready to assemble all the pieces and reconstruct what must have happened on that fateful day at the Roadhouse--not the fictional Roadhouse that emerged from those resplendent trees, but the actual Roadhouse where David Lynch whispered something into Julee Cruise's ear that transformed the second and final performance of "The World Spins," and on the basis of what we have come to learn since, likely played a role in souring Cruise on the portrayal of her performance in Part 17. I dreamed that Lynch whispered this: "Your performance is the final glimpse that anyone will ever get of the Twin Peaks we know and love. Make it count!" Or perhaps instead of "Make it count!", he adopted the even more urgent language that he used to summon Angelo Badalementi to action for the The Return: "I’ll need music from you, and it’s got to tear the hearts out of people.” (Daniel Dylan Ray, "The Secrets Behind the Music of Twin Peaks").
I'm just dreaming here, but if my dream were resonant with reality--talk about motivation! No wonder Jewel described the performance as going from "logical" to "insane" on a dime! Lynch asked Cruise (in my imagination) for nothing short of an apocalyptic performance--a song to mark the end of a world--and she delivered just that. She probably thought, as I certainly would have, that given her performance's magisterial character and its apocalyptic destiny, it would be prominently featured at the very end of Part 18. Having been told--in some random fan's imagination, anyhow--that this would be our very last glimpse of Twin Peaks, she inferred, as any reasonable person would, that what she would be watching on September 3rd at roughly 9:54 pm eastern time was her own scintillating performance at the Roadhouse--the one that was so beautiful and otherworldly and transporting that it put Johnny Jewel out of commission--bringing down the final curtain on a world that many of us can scarcely imagine life without. Instead, she gets roughly two blurry minutes in the penultimate episode (with credits rolling over her for most of it!) followed by the brutal throat punch of Part 18. I know how I felt when I thought I was going to get six minutes of "The World Spins" ("No Stars" got seven, so it wasn't irrational to hope!) and then got just two. And I know how I felt sitting there nauseated after Part 18 with no hope, no catharsis--just a baffled fallen hero and a woman gutted by abuse that he failed to save. So I can well imagine why Julee Cruise was mad as hell. I was verging on bewildered myself, and--even in my dream--the creator of Twin Peaks hadn't whispered me any secret promises.
Above, I described Cruise's truncated performance of "The World Spins" as "capturing the spiritual heart of Twin Peaks," but perhaps in light of Lynch's stated desire to "tear the hearts out of people," it would be more fitting to say that his decision to abbreviate Cruise's performance is emblematic of the spiritual guts of Twin Peaks. (Or maybe since the series is so absurdly rich in interpretive possibilities, I should specify that it captures just one of the spiritual stomachs in the four-chambered bovine digestive system of Twin Peaks or something; let's just go with "spiritual guts," though). The truncated performance of "The World Spins" that we are so fleetingly shown at the end of Part 17 digests the series down to its nauseating but ultimately liberating essence by demanding that we rise to the occasion of having our deepest yearnings wrenchingly withheld by simply evacuating ourselves of them--letting them go, refusing to allow them to determine the horizons of what we are able to take in moving forward. Since the metaphor is waxing scatological anyway, let's just cinch it up and say that Twin Peaks, in its guts, is a sort of laxative for pent up expectations of the world the protracted retention of which renders us inert, dulls our attention, and creates a toxic environment in the body. For those who can release the need to know the secret of what happened to Cooper, Diane, Laura, Audrey, and Judy, there is the bracing, freeing opportunity to wonder at the grand mystery toward which our anxiety over their unresolved stories points: the irresolution and open-endedness of our own stories.
I still find it deeply unsettling that Cruise was mistreated, and there's probably nothing I would have rather seen come to pass in Twin Peaks than the "insane" six-plus-minute performance of "The World Spins" that turned Johnny Jewel into a sobbing mess. But even so, that transcendent performance that I didn't see--that desperately desired experience withheld from me--got me dreaming, the dreaming led to wondering, and the next thing I knew, something else entirely had opened up and I had spent the better part of a day in the edifying virtual presence of Julee Cruise and her achingly gorgeous music. Let's call it a silver (stomach?) lining.