GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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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.
TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: ASTONISHING JUXTAPOSITIONS FROM THE FINALE SYNC OF TWIN PEAKS PARTS 17 & 18
Many of you have probably already encountered Alex Fulton's scintillating article for Medium, "Episodes 17 & 18 of Twin Peaks: The Return are meant to be watched in sync," in which Fulton builds on an inspiration gleaned from yrevglad's Reddit thread, "A TRIUMPHANT ENDING...PRESENTED IN A LYNCHIAN WAY," to present us with a breathtaking series of serendipitous juxtapositions that come to light when one watches Parts 17 and 18 simultaneously. Fulton makes a compelling case that approaching the two parts of the finale in this way is interpretively fruitful and even potentially transformative of what many experienced as a bleak "end" to The Return in Part 18. Though I was deeply skeptical at first, I came away with the conviction that the synchronicity of these two episodes is a veritable feast for Twin Peaks lovers, from those who engage the show primarily intuitively as a personal emotional journey, to those who love to puzzle over the intricacy, consistency, and deeper meaning of various plot lines, and everyone in between. The ride is all the more mind-blowing when you marinate your narrative imagination in a little David Auerbach sauce first. Whether the parallels that unfold between these two worlds were intended for us by the show's creators or a glorious cosmic accident, they are deeply compelling and thought-provoking (all the more so, I think, if they came to be without help).
Though Fulton's take on the synchronicity between Parts 17 and 18 is a great gift, there are two aspects of his presentation that make it difficult to grasp the full weight of the juxtapositions he invites us to consider: first, the synced screenshots are shown one on top of the other (which subtly suggests to the brain that the top image happened first, making it a bit more difficult to size up the two images simultaneously as two parts of a singular moment); and second, many of the screenshots are very dark (which makes it difficult to eek out some of the more exciting details revealed in the juxtaposition of events from the two parts of the finale). Fulton himself acknowledges the difficulty of presenting his case in the format of an online article and encourages readers to experience a synced viewing of the episodes for themselves--a task that admittedly takes a bit of doing to set up.
Within a few days, luckily, the internet had done its black magic and YouTube disgorged a glorious near-to-HD but not-long-for-this-world rendering of Parts 17 and 18 synced up side by side, titled "Twin Peaks: The Return Finales Synced-Richard & Linda Edition." I am forever grateful to the mystery video maverick who cut these together into such an exceptional viewing format, as well as to my good friend and fellow hawk-eyed Peaker Jim MacGregor who spotted the video in a timely fashion and sent me a link to it before it inevitably went non-exist-ent (though gluttons for punishment can still subject themselves at least temporarily to the Judy of all spoilers-a video of all eighteen episodes in sync complete with (cacophonous!) sound). Through some technological miracle, I was able simultaneously to stream the Richard & Linda edition from my iPhone to my smart tv *and* take photos of the video on the big screen with the selfsame phone as I watched--a feat perhaps magisterial enough to overcome even Lucy-level skepticism of cellular technology. Pretty good night for simultaneity, to say the least!
The images that follow are stills I took from that remarkable viewing, an experience that I hope will become much more widely accessible to and discussed by Peakers everywhere. My aim here is modest; I don't seek to add anything to Fulton's original take on the synchronicity between Parts 17 and 18. The task is merely to present this gallery of stills as a supplement to his interpretation that enables us to see some of the juxtapositions a bit more brightly and in a horizontal alignment that makes their simultaneity a bit easier to take in. Though these images can't do the experience anywhere close to full justice, they can at least give us a provisional window between two worlds as we scroll downward through these interlaced adventures to their fitting conclusion in Julee Cruse's performance of "The World Spins".
Sitting in a Hitchcock chair about two feet from the television absorbed to the point of almost total effacement in my Sunday evening ritual of re-watching Twin Peaks to indulge a second soak in its radiance and collect favorite stills for THE GLASS BOX, I learned something about myself: I am simply not capable of producing a "hot take" on the finale. Frankly, I didn't even try--the prospect felt perverse somehow, like Skyping in from your soulmate's deathbed to a jumbotron at a truck and tractor pull to regale an arena full of strangers with an impromptu eulogy. That's a little hyperbolic, admittedly, but some experiences are just too personal to get all chatty about in public without taking a few deep breaths and collecting oneself first.
A kind reader called "beduggles" noticed my reticence, correctly inferred the reason for it, and gently acknowledged it in a comment on a previous post: "Left speechless by the finale I see :)" Indeed, beduggles! Precisely so! I'm grateful to the intrepid beduggles for eliciting from me the following (lightly edited) reply, the writing of which helped me both to understand why I've been a little slow on the draw this time around and to articulate what's been percolating in the meanwhile toward the end of a less shell-shocked, more composed GLASS BOX treatment of the final two hours of our long-awaited, much-beloved sojourn back into the world of Twin Peaks:
"If you've done me the kindness of reading other posts, you'll know that mindfulness--the state of living in the moment without being stolen away from present experience by regret over the past or anxiety over the future--has been a recurring emphasis in THE GLASS BOX'S coverage of Twin Peaks. Living in the present these past five days has included enjoying my son's ninth birthday, beginning the academic year, and being cast into awe by the finale. So, in an attempt to mitigate regret over not being the first to log a hot take on the big finale and anxiety over the question of when I will get around to logging a significantly colder take, I decided just to sit with it for awhile. I'm really glad to see, though, that you checked in looking for something, because I took almost 300 stills of the final two hours and have a working title for what I hope will be one of my better posts: "Who Is the Dreamer? The End of Ends and the Inception of Unceasing Wonder in Twin Peaks". Here's a teaser: it dips back into some of the Hindu and Jain influences of Twin Peaks-The Return, suggesting that the Jain Doctrines of Relativity provide a useful point of reference for understanding the question "Who is the Dreamer?" not as a puzzle to be solved through wily deduction of a singular "who", but as an invitation to the infinite, joyful exploration of the myriad complementary and conflicting perspectives on the narrative woven into the fabric of Twin Peaks. It will surprise no one that I loved the finale. There's no such thing as fulfillment without lack, so to experience fulfillment and lack in such rapid succession, side by side, making us to feel so poignantly what we already know but work so hard to forget, especially when we attempt to escape into beautiful stories...speechless, indeed. For now, anyway."
I've just woken up from a terrible beauty of a dream, and I need to summon and remember it--to observe it in daylight--before I can hope adequately to process and articulate what it might mean. Now that I am finally awake, here're some of the things I vividly recall from the dreamscape of my own personal Twin Peaks. Perhaps revisiting these things will prepare me for the task of expressing the inexpressible in finally engaging the finale in writing sometime very soon.
1. I dreamed of places that made me feel foreboding terror and profound yearning at the same time.
2. I dreamed that in mindfulness there are no dead ends or red herrings, but only glorious windows into beautiful and terrible worlds.
3. I dreamed that wise people are custodians of modest places that shelter love and caring for others.
4. I dreamed that modeling entitlement to power over the world makes children callous, sick, and lonely.
5. I dreamed that sex is deadly, transactional, absurd, and harrowing and that women do all the work.
6. I dreamed that death doesn't care what I think about its timing or alleged narrative proportionality.
7. I dreamed that time is indifferent to my hopes but still willing to dazzle me at every moment if I have the eyes to see.
8. I dreamed that shame, self-loathing, and low emotional intelligence don't mix very well with ready access to firearms.
9. I dreamed that the self is a multitude of strange and conflicted forces gathered in precarious tension.
10. I dreamed that seeing the face of G-d leads to a transformed life of service to vulnerable others.
11. I dreamed of portals to other places.
12. I dreamed that the aftermath of violence is ferociously beautiful from a distance and then felt I had tumbled into darkness.
13. I dreamed that it's a world of truck drivers.
14. I dreamed incessantly of the long lost Philip Jeffries.
15. I dreamed that home isn't always where the heart is.
16. I dreamed of gorgeous humming neon tempting me to make bad decisions in the vain hope of intrigue.
17. I dreamed that five ecstatic minutes can be stretched across five months while only gaining resonance.
18. I dreamed that there are some serious duds in law enforcement.
19. I dreamed that-for heaven's sake!-do *not* fuck with accountants!
20. I dreamed of an enchanted world where mundane things pulse with the majesty and malevolence of transcendent things.
21. I dreamed that similar things are not the same; there are dire consequences for confusing a Venus de Milo and a Venus de Medici, for instance.
22. I dreamed that there are many, *many* more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.
This summer has been nothing short of magical. My favorite television show of all time came back with a sublime vengeance after a 27-year hiatus, transcended my wildest dreams and most rigorous expectations, and enveloped me in a dazzling community of fans and fellow sojourners from all over the world whose daily comments and posts on various fan pages have added as much mystery, joy, and laughter to my life as Twin Peaks-The Return itself.
Then, my little hobby writing project--a private Twin Peaks journal of sorts that began as a mindfulness exercise to help me write faster and more feelingly, unencumbered by the perfectionism and self-loathing that can sometimes hamstring my professional writing process--morphed into a fledgling website that has been visited over 100,000 times since I made it public on May 24, 2017. As a phlegmatic academic working in a field whose professional journal articles have a pitiable average readership of 8-10 people, I couldn't have been more surprised and delighted that THE GLASS BOX found such a large, diverse, and enthusiastic readership. That people have devoted their precious time to perusing and engaging my scattershot but deeply-felt impressions of this strange and wonderful show feels miraculous. It's fair to say that writing has never been so much fun nor have its rewards been so immediate!
The end of the transcendent Twin Peaks summer of 2017 is drawing near and many of us are taking stock of the embarrassment of riches we've received from the greatest filmic event of our lives. For me personally, no work of art I have previously encountered has moved, stretched, inspired, delighted, or disturbed me as much or as often as Twin Peaks-The Return. I'll never forget this summer, not just because it will burnish into one of my most cherished memories, but because I know that I'll be reaping the considerable rewards of living daily with its invitations to cultivate a life of ready joy, deep compassion, critical reflection, and heightened attention for years and years to come.
In celebration of a magical summer and the decidedly unlikely success of THE GLASS BOX, I've assembled a collection of some of your favorites and mine from the past three months of watching in wonder together. Some of these posts racked up more "likes" than others (whatever the blue hell that means), but what they all share in common is that each struck a chord with at least one fellow Peaker, eliciting a comment or inquiry that really deepened or challenged my outlook on the show or what I had written about it. Click the photos below to revisit the posts, and thanks so much for reading along and sending your impressions throughout the summer! This certainly isn't "Goodbye!", as I suspect I'll have even more to say once we have the whole trajectory of The Return in splendor before us. But it seems like a good time, with the grand finale just a few days away, to take stock of what we've seen so far and prepare to be dazzled, come what may!
1. The oil and corn one. It got onto Reddit somehow and lots of people clicked on it:
2. The Roadhouse one, written before Audrey's dance complicated matters still further:
3. The one that was just a bunch of photos because I was too shell-shocked and slack-jawed to comment:
4. The one that goes on for awhile about why it's good to hang in there with tough stuff:
5. The one about men behaving badly:
6. The one about beauty's trapdoor into goodness and truth (lucky for lazy-ass aesthetes like me!):
7. The one about following the light:
8. The long-ass fire one that didn't get a lot of attention but remains one of my personal favorites:
9. The long-ass one about Phillip Jeffries:
10. The one about CrAzY Part Twelve:
BONUS--The one about the episode that fell from Televisual Platonic Heaven:
Did I miss any of your favorites? Anything you'd like me to tackle on the way into the finale? I'm taking requests!
On traditional measures of what people seek from televisual entertainment, there is little denying that the viewer satisfaction quotient skyrocketed and went astronomical this week as the sixteenth installment of Twin Peaks-The Return delivered no fewer than five major, long-awaited narrative developments--any one of which could have carried an entire episode--that virtually cleared the stage for a spectacular final reckoning between Cooper and Mr. C. in the two-part series finale next week. In a scintillating if scant hour's time, we witnessed two of the series' most vile villains vanquished, a double-agent with a troubled history unmasked, and two of the series' most beloved characters "finding themselves" after seemingly interminable somnambulant wanderings in the existential wilderness. Moreover, all of this was executed with such poetry and panache that even the most hardboiled of long-suffering fans had little choice but to stand up and cheer. It's fair to assume that this astonishingly good hour raised impossibly high expectations of the series improbably higher.
The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca has some provocative advice for those with high expectations: "Cease to hope and you shall cease to fear." His point seems to be that the more attached we get to longing for certain outcomes, the more susceptible we become to allowing fear to take the helm of our lives, robbing us of the joy of living in the present. When our hopes are raised, our fears ascend in equal proportion: the more desperately we desire a certain outcome, the more fearful we become that it will not obtain. In this state of fear, the precious attention that we ought to lavish on each passing moment is dissipated--disseminated between the regrets that accrue to unrealized expectations past and the anxiety that attends to pining for their future fruition. Seneca's advice is difficult to follow at all times, but it's especially hard when prospects are looking good for the achievement of something you really, really want to happen.
I have to admit that Part Sixteen got my hopes up for a happy ending, and--as Seneca predicts--the advent of this hope has put me somewhat on edge. I typically try to enjoy life as it comes along, and I've intentionally approached The Return from the beginning without expectations so that I could relish each and every beautiful second, come what may. As a result, it's been a wonderful and mysterious ride that has helped me to cultivate present attention--to find intrigue in languishing bouts of childish scribbling on insurance paperwork, hilarity in unnervingly far-fetched arm-wrestling boss battles, and beauty in the rich details of Audrey and Charlie's interactions and surroundings, whatever and wherever it turns out that they "actually" are. To my surprise, the disciplines of attention I've been cultivating in watching The Return seem to have increased my daily joy in attending to the present details of my own circumstances as well. There is a kind of glow and a certain hum to things that I'm noticing more often and relishing more deeply, sometimes even to the point of tears. (Especially when "Shadow" is playing, which is often these days.)
As the events of Part Sixteen unfolded before me, I felt positively ecstatic. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never felt so intensely good watching a television show. This feeling was more like the deep, sustaining, soulful good one experiences while watching one's child succeed at something she loves or being in the right place at the right time to help someone in trouble out of a jam. Now that some distance is gathering, I worry in retrospect that maybe Part Sixteen raised my hopes too high--so high, in fact, that I'm tempted to wonder if this episode wants to teach me something about the risks of heightened expectations. In that spirit, I'll take the warning and celebrate some of the great moments in Part Sixteen below as a means of letting them go, loving them for what they are while taking care to remain open to whatever wonders follow in their wake, for good or for ill.
Richard Horne's Shocking End
For some, Richard Horne's death might have seemed mercifully quick. One can perhaps be forgiven for willing a more protracted demise for a man who has been nothing short of loathsomeness incarnate: an incorrigible misogynist, a molester and probably a rapist, a drug-runner, an unrepentant child killer, a would-be murderer, a man who would--and did!--quite literally beat up his own grandmother. Even so, can we imagine a more poetically tragic end for poor Richard? Here is a young man seeking to exorcise the demons of a fatherless life by going full bore into toxic masculinity only to meet his untimely death serving as a disposable tool of his own father's rapacious greed, with nary but a smirking "Goodbye, my son" to mark his departure. That his own father got a wry chuckle from Richard's toss-away death somehow achieved the impossible in me--instead of the catharsis I was expecting Horne's inevitable death to be, I felt empathy for a person I had come to hate with burning fury.
With a Daddy who makes Darth Vader look like Mr. Rogers, Richard Horne never had a chance. That his final act would be a fireworks show ignited by dear old dad and witnessed by his drug-addled great uncle through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars is about as tragically fitting as it could be.
Hutch and Chantal's Final Accounting
Merciless psychopathy is tough to play for laughs. But Hutch and Chantal made it look easy week after week, as these Wendy's gorging, Cheeto-gobbling yokels with gaping holes where their hearts should be took out Mr. C.'s trash. That these two stone killers met their destiny at the trigger-happy hands of a representative of Zawaski Accounting Inc. makes perfect sense: where there is evil, there is usually inordinate love of money; and where there is inordinate love of money, there are always dutiful managers stacking it up and eliminating those who wish to take it by hook or by crook (or in this case by an automatic handgun with an extended magazine).
This grisly end to the Hutchins family was all the more fitting in view of Hutch's observance of at least mild regret over an outstanding fiduciary obligation to a deceased friend. One way or another, we all end up paying our debts.
The awakening of Special Agent Dale Cooper after his fantastic journey back to Earth and his protracted purgatorial sojourn in the life of Dougie Jones is one of the greatest moments in television history (where he now keeps elite company with himself in Part Three, his Doppelgänger's inhabiting spirit in Part Eight, his Doppelgänger's arm-wrestling triumph over Renzo in Part Thirteen, his Doppelgänger's visit to the Dutchman's in Part Fifteen, and etcetera). And his immediate reclamation of the signature combination of poise, grace, confidence, goodness, and near-to-omniscient command of the circumstances facing him and those he loves that compelled us all to fall hopelessly in love with him 27 years ago is almost too much to bear. I cried. Maybe you did too?
Picking up on the previous discussion of the connection between hope and fear, I can scarcely imagine having a deeper televisually-oriented hope than that Special Agent Dale Cooper will win in the end. As a result, I can scarcely imagine having a deeper televisually-oriented fear that he will be sacrificed somehow or--far worse--ruined by his quest. I suspect it would be an excellent test of mindfulness to have to witness his demise (again!) and bear it with resolve, dignity, and gratitude for his life. I also suspect it is a test I would miserably fail, notwithstanding my openness to facing it.
Diane's Double's Denouement
When Diane turned to face a rain-drenched Albert on that fateful night at Max Von's Bar, I was overcome by a nauseating sense that things wouldn't end well for her. And they certainly didn't end well for the woman at the bar. But perhaps the silver lining is that the woman at the bar was Diane's tulpa and not Diane herself. Do the futures of Janey-E or Naido hold the keys to redemption for the real Diane, if ever there were such a person? I hope so, but I also fear the opposite.
If the real Cooper and the real Diane ever meet again in this world or some other one, it's hard to imagine a more stable foundation for rekindled intimacy than the rare shared experience of having involuntarily delegated existence to a manufactured version of oneself from whom one must eventually reclaim being in order to be made whole. Or maybe this experience isn't all that rare after all, given that cultivating genuine vulnerability after the hard work of dismantling one's façades is pretty much the foundation of every intimate relationship.
Is there a word for inhabiting the past in such a fearless way that nostalgia is outstripped into the resolve for future travels along old paths previously obscured from one by naivety, wistfulness, or lack of vision? (I mean, Heidegger had a word for it--vorlaufende Entschlossenheit--but I'm looking for a better known, less nerdy word.) Everything about this scene was uncanny and I've never felt so blissfully in tune with not-at-home-ness. From the graying grunge-era rock god crooning us rapt about running out of sand to a brunette bombshell of a certain age clearing the floor to push a decades-old dance past its limit into a transgressive epiphany, the magic of this scene was cast through the jarring juxtaposition of memory and mortality, as if the audience had been furnished rose-colored glasses to observe the rapidly narrowing temporal abyss coming to swallow it whole.
Audrey's awakening (if that's what it was) presents us with some fascinating and unsettling prospects for the finale. Is the Roadhouse a real place, a psychic projection, a combination of both, or perhaps all of the above? And now that Mr. C.'s minions have all gone away--Darya, Ray, Duncan Todd, Richard Horne, Hutch, Chantal, Diane's tulpa--can one be blamed for fearing the worst, that perhaps Audrey is being summoned to serve nefarious purposes dreamed up by the man who paid her a fateful visit in intensive care so many years ago when coyness and saddle shoes were her only protection?
What will be will be. Let us embrace it with resolute gratitude and wonder!
Beauty is often a harbinger of goodness and truth, as I've observed in a previous post. And there is certainly no shortage of beauty in Twin Peaks-The Return. For a time, Cooper's journey through the non-exist-ent to the violet world in Part Three was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen on television. Then, the journey through atomic fire in Part Eight came to occupy the top spot. And now Mr. C.'s journey into the dark heart of The Dutchman's has become a serious contender for the most beautiful of them all.
For me, being enveloped in beautiful images and sounds lifts the veil of the ordinary, enabling me to transcend the natural skepticism and atomistic thinking of "practical" day-to-day life where we are constantly assaulted by the need to predict, control, and consume discrete objects, as if the world were just the sum total of the individual things rattling around in our narrowly construed field of vision--the objects that allow us to get a foothold in a world of near to overwhelming experiential possibilities. When beauty lifts the veil, there is a vulnerability--a naked exposure--to the all in which in which particular things have their individual being and meaning as collective participants in a great mystery. This is why--after a particularly intense experience of beauty--we often find that our vision is transformed upon our return to the ordinary world. Where once we saw merely disjointed objects arrayed for our conspicuous consumption, we now see things enveloped by a breathtaking mystery.
This truth and the feeling of deep, world-transforming goodness that follows in the wake of an experience of revelatory beauty came home to me in an astonishing way during Mr. C.'s journey to confront Phillip Jeffries. As Mr. C. crosses the threshold of door 8, he enters a room facing a wood paneled wall with an old steam radiator in the right corner.
In the middle of the wall is a prominent amber stain that--in my heightened state of awareness of the whole--immediately but atmospherically illuminated the present experience in the light of the atomic blast from Part Eight. As Mr. C. gazes at the wall--a perfect symbol of the ordinariness of everyday experience--it begins to peel away like a veil obscuring a great abyss, and Mr. C. finds himself in the presence of something extraordinary.
The straightforward importance of this scene is Mr. C.'s confrontation with the Judy mystery: Who is Judy and what does s/he want of him? We get the sense that Mr. C. is staring into the abyss of his own origins, vulnerable for the first time (we've witnessed so far) to the existential need of knowing who he is rather than the pedestrian wanting for things and objects to dominate, which he has thus far understood as his destiny.
But I am less interested here in the straightforward importance of this scene as a moment on Mr. C.'s journey than I am in its holistic importance for the unfolding of the mystery we are experiencing both in this episode in particular and in the series as a whole. And what we are shown as the veil rolls back over the abyss and the room returns to the ordinary wall and the radiator behind door number 8 is astonishingly illuminating of both the individual episode and the entire series.
What we find in the combined image of the veil and the abyss is nothing short of breathtaking: in my heightened state of consciousness, something deep within me chose to experience it as the sacred alchemy of Laura Palmer hovering above an atomic blast, enveloped in the Fireman's protective spirit, converting the devastation into a radiant log that is turning gold. There is fear in letting go, to be sure, but there is infinite, radiant, transformational beauty there too.
Here are twenty of my favorite still images from this exquisite painting come to life, including the startling tableau above of this sacred alchemy. What do you see in these images? How do they illuminate for you what lies behind the veil? And how do they bring that glory back into renewed vision of the everyday?