It Is Happening Again: The New Twin Peaks As Ritual

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Should Twin Peaks, the cult TV show that ran in the early 1990s, really have been brought back 25 years later? And if the answer is yes, was the reason to finally solve some sort of mystery or crime, to come to some sort of Ultimate Answer…or was it simply the ritual of doing it all again, of evoking all these icons and symbols, the callbacks, the “stunt casting” chock full of meta-textual meaning.

And by calling it a “ritual,” I mean no sort of negative commentary in regards to the quality of this new Showtime version (continuation) of the series. But as our pop-culture becomes more and more about such “callbacks”—sequels, reboots, revivals, even CGI-generated avatars of deceased actors—it has to be noted that these “re-enactments” have a sort of magickal (and yes I’m going to use the version with the “k” at the end of it, fuck it) power to it.

The following will have spoilers through episode 4 of the Twin Peaks revival.

twin-peaks-season-3I’m not a Twin Peaks expert, but I’m under the impression that, at least on the surface, the murder of Laura Palmer has been solved. Now, there is a deeper question as to the nature of the evil that seems to have pervaded the town of Twin Peaks and some of its inhabitants—and how that all tied in to larger esoteric notions.

Well, after watching the first four episodes of Twin Peaks Season 3, it seems that David Lynch is really really really concentrating on the esoteric notions of this equation.

You get the feeling watching these episodes like Lynch got complete and total creative freedom over this particular iteration of the series, and he was just going to like throw in every dreamlike crazy motherfucker thing he had in his kit and just “went” for it. This is the TV equivalent of like when Alan Moore suddenly turned the comic Promethea into a detailed treatise on high magick. And so you’re either going to really love that aspect, or you’re just going to watch all this with your jaw hanging open; or, like me, both.

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Dale Cooper trapped in the Red Room

So the basic plot is: at the last episode of the original Twin Peaks, it seemed that Agent Dale Cooper was “possessed” by the spirit of the evil Bob. Now it’s 25 years later, and basically there is an “Evil Dale Cooper” running around with long hair and dirty hands and pointy shoes. Meanwhile, the “real” Cooper’s soul is trapped in the Red Room at the Black Lodge (which, for those not familiar with the series, is a sort of metaphysical “limbo” area where dream-stuff happens and spirits hang out. Almost like the Land Of The Dead).

Now, I originally thought that this was a straightforward possession, coming to the horrible conclusion that Bob has been basically using Cooper’s body to commit all manner of heinous crimes and perversions all this time.

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“evil” Dale Cooper (Bob)

BUT:

It turns out that there was an evil doppelganger of Cooper (who I believe was in the series, in the Red Room) that Bob “possessed” (or something like that) and that took Cooper’s place in the “real world.”

BUT:

There was also some sort of other version of Cooper that was “manufactured” to live a dopey, ordinary life in the suburbs and be sort of like an “alibi” for Bob. This version of Cooper is called Dougie Jones, and is slightly overweight & has some grey hair; sort of like if Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Cooper, was an ordinary guy of his age and not a Hollywood star.

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the three Dale Coopers

At some point, the “real” Cooper (getting confused yet?) is told in the Red Room that he must go back into the world; sparking a whole series of really weird, somewhat psychedelic shamanic-type experiences including exiting a strange room into what looks like a small “island” floating into space, talking to a ball of flesh hanging from a tree, having his head suddenly disappear (shades of Eraserhead, of which there are several allusions to in this series so far), and being sucked into what looks like a light fixture.

You know: basically, applying the High Weirdness of the imagery in Eraserhead to Twin Peaks. That’s exactly what it is.

And while there are actual “new” crimes being committed in the town—including a gruesome murder that leaves an “androgynous” body (you’d have to see it to understand what I mean, and it’s so chock full of esoteric symbolism) in its wake—the main thread of this series (at least so far) is Cooper’s journey.

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The way I see it, you could almost say this story is about the journey of Dougie Jones. He’s this kind of banal, ordinary guy who gets stroke symptoms and suddenly transforms into Dale Cooper—the “hero” Dale Cooper, this guy with slick jet-black hair, the suit, etc. This is roughly equivalent to the person who has a sudden spiritual awakening & can no longer identify with their former life. And so Dale/Dougie is sort of operating like a newborn child (or a stroke victim, or a person with a head injury) as he acclimates to this new life.

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But there is also the “shadow” version of Dougie—his repressed Self—running around. And so this is going to end up being a battle between these two sides of the human that was Dougie: the “angel” and the “devil.”

All this focus on Cooper’s struggle sort of relegates Laura Palmer to the role of “magickal totem”—which she kind of was before in the previous series, but not to this extent. At one point, she visits Cooper in the Red Room—and it’s this really emotionally impactful scene, because we realize “It Is Happening Again.” Laura Palmer has been “evoked.” Scenes that Lynch built in 25+ years ago in the original series have seemingly “anticipated” what was to follow, as if there was a larger “plan” at work here this entire time.

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is it future or is it past?

And Time itself becomes the issue: “Is it future or is it past?” Is the past even past? Cooper himself seems to be “stuck” in the shifting streams of time, untethered. The past continually is evoked—one actor after another from the original series has their “moment”—almost for just the sheer sake of doing it; as part of this large ritual where the entire time period—those early 1990s years—gets replayed. Some actors look old and/or are unrecognizable. Others are literally dying as the show was being filmed. And still others—like the reference to character Phillip Jeffries, played by David Bowie—seem to fill the scenes with their absence.

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There is so much more here to unpack, in just these first four episodes: a mysterious glass box that manifests something that looks an awful lot like an alien when exposed to sexual energy; the fact that the guy who played “Shaggy” in the Scooby-Doo movies plays a character here and looks shockingly old (making me feel fucking ancient); the metatexual resonances of the identity-bending Mulholland Drive‘s Naomi Watts playing the wife of Dougie Jones (not to mention the kid from Looper playing his son); and the long, tonally bizarre extended scene at the police station that ends with an indescribable monologue by Michael Cera (!) in a Marlon Brando “Wild One” outfit (!!) that you will either think is brilliant or might drive you to cancel your Showtime subscription.

And so: it is happening again. What is Lynch’s “end-game” here? Or is it just that we all simply “float on”—that, as Evil Coop tells Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself), “I’ve never really left…”

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