It's been made clear at this point that Twin Peaks is singularly uninterested in doing anything other than its very, very own thing. Showtime basically gave David Lynch and Mark Frost a carte blanche green light when it came to the newest iteration of the landmark series, and the results are...once again, more or less unlike anything that we've ever seen on TV before.
Which is kind of insane, considering that the last several months have seen more than just one or two examples of stuff that's "more or less unlike anything that we've ever seen on TV before." In a time where television shows are given an unprecedented amount of freedom to be impressionistic and experimental, Twin Peaks threatens to redefine what it means to be impressionistic and experimental on TV, letting loose a sprawling, tangental narrative whose scope spans dimensions and decades alike. This new, 18-part iteration of Twin Peaks makes it clear that Frost and Lynch were given the go-for-it 100% of the way, as everything from the episode count to the story's fiercely patient unspooling so far makes it clear that this is a story being told exactly the way its tellers want it told. All of this makes Twin Peaks: The Return blow right past a property that makes one go, "Holy shit I can't believe this exists!" — the way a show like Hannibal or Legion might — and straight into "Thank the LORD some exec had the good sense to let this exist" territory.
It's really the kind of show that could only exist in this age of storytelling-focused television, where it's more and more common to see season length structured around the needs of a show's story, as opposed to the boilerplate 23-episode extravaganza that used to be SOP for a television narrative. Lynch has mentioned that Twin Peaks: The Return is meant to be consumed and considered as a single unit: an eighteen-hour movie that, again, wouldn't exist if Showtime hadn't had the good sense to let Lynch and Frost just do what they wanted to do.
And doing it they are. Part 8 (or, "Gotta Light?") brought us once again on a trip to Another Place, this time taking on a decidedly Kubrickian bent as Twin Peaks potentially gave us the origin of BOB's incursion into our world, along with some of our most extended peeks at the White Lodge yet. After a brief car ride with Evil Coop that ends with his death and resurrection, Twin Peaks takes us back to 1945 New Mexico, apparently indicating that this entire saga finds its beginnings linked to the Trinity Nuclear Test. What follows is as impressionistic and as unconcerned with ease of interpretation as anything else Lynch has ever done, and it's also — as has been pointed out over and over again on Twitter for the last several hours — one of the more impressive moments of TV that we've been given in a year already full of some impressive TV moments.
My personal interpretation? It seems like that testing of the first nuclear weapon opened some sort of rift between our world and the Another Place to which the Black and White Lodges serve as "waiting rooms." (This would be the "Another Place" that the Man from Another Place — aka MIKE — and presumably BOB call home.) After the Trinity Test we saw The Experiment (credited with the same character name and actress as the figure that showed up in the glass box earlier in the series) throw up what looked like a big stream of garmonbozia, within which BOB was embedded. One assumes that this seed is what years later hatched into that disgusting frogroach that crawled around until the Woodsmen were able to show up and prime a host with their fucked up radio broadcast. In response to all this, Twin Peaks gives us one of the most extended looks we've had at the White Lodge, where the Giant and his matronly cohort create a golden orb with Laura Palmer's face in it that they send on down to earth.
Reading it all written down like that makes about as much sense as the actual viewing experience, but as usual Lynch's gift lies in his ability to craft seemingly-abstract visuals that still make an impressionistic, almost emotional sense to the viewer. Not that Twin Peaks: The Return isn't relentlessly patient: it is. Scenes hang and breathe for as long as Lynch wants them to, and abstract imagery is given more than enough time to bore its way into the viewer's subconscious.
"Part 8" deepens both the mythology of Twin Peaks and its fascination with the corruption of small-town Americana: consider the way the Woodsmen terrorize the motorists, or the way (what we can assume is) BOB in frogroach form crawls into the mouth of that sleeping Midwestern little girl. Consider the way The Woodsmen — apparent harbingers of BOB and/or the darker parts of Another Place — hijack the radio to broadcast the message which apparently primes a human host for possession by BOB. They turn a symbol of 1950s-era Middle America joy into a conduit for their fucked-up TS Eliot poem, causing many small-town folks to pass out as they tend to their small-town lives.
Frost and Lynch have always been fascinated with the corruption of All-American values, and "Part 8" ties this fascination to an interestingly political/ideological starting place. The White Lodge/Black Lodge/Another Place mythology has always made heavy use of Native American religious iconography and symbolism, so it seems only fitting the learn that the Twin Peaks mythology seems to be implying that the US government's nuclear curiosity is what wound up unleashing its more fucked-up inhabitants on humanity.
At this point, there's nothing else to do but see where things are going. Frost and Lynch have made it pretty clear that their vision expands further than anything anybody expected. Twin Peaks: The Return has been an appropriate combination of the familiar and the unknowable, in its structure, in its visuals, in its mythology, in just about every possible way. And that's the Twin Peaks we know and love.
Oh, and also...
• I'm interested to learn more about what the Laura Palmer Golden Orb is all about. Did the White Lodge decide to send Laura Palmer to Earth as a response to the nuclear test and its unlashing of BOB into the world?
• The Woodsmen are fucking insane. From the way they look to the way they sound.
• Twin Peaks: The Return features 100% more head crushings than the original iteration, which is something I did not particularly expect. (Hell, I did not expect basically any of this.)