(Twin Peaks, Season 2 and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
In the late spring, summer, and fall of 1990, everyone heard about David Lynch. All of America’s TV viewers may not have been impatiently waiting to discover who killed Laura Palmer when Twin Peaks resumed in autumn, but anyone who came in contact with news and entertainment media felt like they were living in Lynch’s world.
Wild at Heart’s Cannes Film Festival win was trumpeted far and wide, and Lynch- and Twin Peaks–related articles appeared in, among others, People, US, New York, M, Esquire, Arena, Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Entertainment Weekly, Egg, Video Watchdog, Radio Times, and Soap Opera Weekly. Broadcast journalists Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer covered the Twin Peaks cultural phenomenon, and the hit daytime TV talk show king Phil Donahue devoted a whole show to Twin Peaks, CBS’s series Northern Exposure parodied Twin Peaks, Kyle MacLachlan portrayed Agent Cooper when he hosted Saturday Night Live, and Twin Peaks received a stunning fourteen Emmy nominations. Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer, published the bestselling The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer; the evocative strains of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks music haunted elevators and supermarkets aisles across the land; professional conservative William F. Buckley’s magazine, National Review, featured a cover story called “David Lynch’s Weird America”; and Lynch himself, his face half-lit with red and half with green, his eyes looking in two directions at once, adorned the cover of Time magazine and the feature story “Czar of Bizarre.” And Lynch/Twin Peaks mania gripped foreign lands, especially Japan, where viewers were moved by the show’s air of melancholy, and held mock funerals for Laura Palmer.
Lynch and his art had never before received so much attention, and he was gratified by all the recognition. But he also knew that, since the beginning of his career, a fair number of people would respond negatively to his work, so he tried to be ready for the “tearing down”1 that would surely follow the “building up”2 of his public image. With his formidable powers of mind, Lynch concentrated on “what you’re supposed to be thinking about”: the work that needs to be done.
Domineering Marietta may have melted out of Lula’s life, but her meddling spirit was now trying to keep Lynch from being wild at heart. The Motion Picture Association of America, which assigns ratings to movies exhibited in the United States, would not let the Cannes Film Festival–winning version of the director’s picture be shown here without an X (adults only) rating, which would severely curtail the film’s earning potential: Some newspapers wouldn’t even run ads for X-rated films. High-caliber directors like Martin Scorsese, Paul Veerhoeven, Phil Kaufman, Pedro Almodovar, and Peter Greenway were being told that they had to alter their films to secure a commercially viable R rating. Lynch says that it takes a lot of provocation to get him angry, but issues of artistic freedom really push his hot buttons, for his mission in life is to express his ideas with maximum power and feeling. Still, he knew that he was contractually obligated to provide an R-rated picture for the Samuel Goldwyn Company to distribute, so he artfully set out to do as little as possible to earn his film the stamp of approval.
The ratings board insisted that Lynch rework the scene in which Bobby Peru, twisting and falling from many bullet hits, accidentally lodges the barrel of his shotgun under his chin and blasts his own head off into the sky. The committee objected to the specific visual of Bobby’s head tearing away from his shoulders, so Lynch simply added a puff of shotgun smoke to obscure the few milliseconds in which his villain’s flesh is rent asunder. The image still explodes with the shocking surprise of what Lynch calls Bobby’s “bad accident,”4 but even without the smoke, it would be eclipsed for visceral impact by the censor-approved moment when Sailor takes Bobby Ray Lemon’s battered head in his hands and smashes it again and again against the white marble floor. A moment which fully engages our kinesthetic senses through its use of hands performing a task, and which still, years after it was filmed, causes even some Lynch fans to moan and look away from the screen.
Wild at Heart generated a strongly mixed critical and audience response. Lynch’s themes and aesthetics were becoming recognizable, familiar, and predictable, and since his characteristic fascinations and concerns were too unsettling for many viewers to cope with, he began to be blamed for being David Lynch. Millions celebrated the well-known artistic personalities of Alfred Hitchcock, Jane Austen, and Tom Clancy, but the dark, twisted vein of human psychology and behavior that Lynch tapped into was too disturbing to contemplate. Word began to spread that the film was a harrowingly sick and violent experience, so many moviegoers stayed away. Even some Lynch appreciators felt that the film’s narrative was too fragmented, its characters and their actions too cartoonishly exaggerated: Wild at Heart didn’t flow hypnotically and hint at deep, cosmic mysteries. But other viewers understood that Lynch intended his film to be an aggressively blaring recitation of lurid tabloid headlines, not a softly murmuring, half-hidden mystical text. They felt the director had painted a passionate, accurate portrait of American malaise, and were charmed and moved by Sailor and Lula’s ability to, as Lynch put it, “find love in hell.” Some filmmakers were clearly thrilled and inspired by the movie’s fugitives-on-the-run road trip, it’s lowlife atmosphere and raw-nerve violence and sex; Wild at Heart echoes in the work of Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone, and in films like Keys to Tulsa, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, Truth or Consequences, N.M., Love and a .45, American Strays, and A Life Less Ordinary.
Some commentators, who’d been storing up negative feelings about Lynch’s boundary-pushing art, launched their attacks after Wild at Heart came out. The director was accused of victimizing African Americans, as though it was inconceivable that the knife-wielding Bobby Ray Lemon could be a black man in this Southern tale. And those who could overlook the complex, partly erotic, partly violational nature of Lula and Bobby Peru’s embrace, found it easy to brand Lynch as a cinematic perpetrator of violence against women. Those screaming “Misogynist!” found it best not to mention that, balanced against Lula’s confrontation with Bobby, seven men were killed and an eighth fellow beaten up. And some damned Lynch for indulging himself with “gratuitous violence,” ignoring the fact that the director’s mayhem was integral to the plot, revealed character, and had meaningful consequences for those who practiced it.
Between Wild at Heart’s opening and the start of Twin Peaks’ second season, people exchanged heated words about Lynch, the film brought in lukewarm revenues, and the director released a fifty-minute video called Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted. In 1989, Lynch wrote the lyrics and composer Angelo Badalamenti (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart) did the music for an album of songs performed by Julee Cruise, who, in the Twin Peaks pilot, had tenderly sung, “I long to see you, to touch you, to love you, forever more” as angry bikers and townies traded blows on the dance floor. When, in the autumn of 1990, New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music asked Lynch to stage a live performance piece for them, he called in his two musical collaborators and put on his thinking cap. With only two weeks in which to prepare something, Lynch had to “make stuff up real fast,”5 and this exercise in spontaneous creativity stimulated him to merge aspects of his painting, music, film, and television work into a hybrid world.
As in one of Lynch’s paintings, the structural stage-setting elements would remain unchanged throughout the performance, and the composition he created clearly evoked his canvases. Out of a rusty darkness emerged vertical factory towers left and right; a horizontal pipe, electrical wires, and a high-flying string of black bomber planes spanned the stage; steam and smoke filled the air; and blond Julee Cruise, suspended by a wire 60 feet above the stage, floated like one of the artist’s pale oil-painting stick figures in the center of a murky space.
An echo of Wild at Heart is present in the form of Nicolas Cage (Heartbreaker) and Laura Dern (Heartbroken Woman), who have a painful phone conversation that ends their relationship, as though Lynch was visualizing the downbeat conclusion of Gifford’s book that the director chose not to use in his film. After this sad introduction (“I can’t do it no more, I gotta go”; “Please don’t go, please, please”) we experience the Heartbroken Woman’s inner emotional turmoil as sung by Julee Cruise (Dreamself of the Heartbroken Woman) and enacted by stage performers.
Lynch’s lyrics evoke the violent aspects of his films as the Heartbroken Woman sings “I fell for you baby like a bomb, now my love’s gone up in flames”; “You should’ve shot me, baby, my life is done”; “I hear those sirens scream my name.” As her anguish projects the pain of her lost romanticsexual relationship, a bare-breasted woman wearing only black panties writhes within the prison-bar-like structure of the phallic stage-set tower, and she continues her tormented dance in that symbolic site of youthful American passion, the back seat of an old car.
Lynch is fascinated by darkness, as both a state of physical reality and a spiritual-moral condition, and he often announces its arrival through his characters’ words or his cinematic mise-en-scène. Here the Brokenhearted Woman’s “Now it’s dark,” whispered as she floats alone in the blackness high above the stage, signifies the depth of her grief and depression as she cries in song, “Where are you? Come back in my heart.” In her world of pain, “Shadows fall so blue,” recalling Blue Velvet’s shadowy Dorothy Vallens, the singer of melancholy nightclub songs who was known as “the Blue Lady.” Lynch’s Blue Velvet script emphasized that Dorothy wanted to kill herself and was terrified of “Falling . . . falling so low.”6 Now, suddenly, the Brokenhearted Woman plummets to the stage, as though acting on a suicidal impulse. Some men put her body in the car’s trunk and close the lid (“My heart was stuffed in a trunk”). She has indeed fallen so low, but Lynch knows that light glimmers within darkness.
Interspersed with the Brokenhearted Woman’s sad songs, the director has presented images of regeneration. Michael J. Anderson, who plays the red-suited little Man from Another Place, dancing and talking backward in Twin Peaks, here appears as a red-suited Lumberjack who saws and saws and saws on his log. Another example of surrealistic Lynchian time-stretching, the Lumberjack’s focused concentration is a metaphor for an artist dedicated to his work. But, as Lynch has experienced in his own life, someone disrupts the Lumberjack’s sawing and he retreats from his task, only to come back on stage with a single lit light bulb, showing that his resilient soul and inspiration still glow. And at another point in the performance, a dead deer, raw and red from having been skinned, is brought back to life when some men pass lights over its body, with the Lumberjack shining the biggest and brightest light of all.
The Brokenhearted Woman enjoys a hopeful rebirth to the light when the car trunk opens and she sings an up-tempo number (“I want you, Rockin’ back inside my heart”) accompanied by dancing debutantes and showgirls. And she recounts a happy memory of a woodsy day spent with her man that’s right out of Twin Peaks, or Lynch’s Northwest youth. The couple has a picnic by a lake, walks among the trees, builds a comforting fire at night, kisses and cuddles, feels a wind come up, and hears an owl call. The woman “thought our love would last forever,” but in Lynch’s world the wind can suddenly turn cold, and her song-and-dance number dissembles in panic as the bombers high above the stage start to drop their payload. This setback on the Brokenhearted Woman’s road to recovery exemplifies Lynch’s characteristic bad-things-happen-when-timesseem-good rhythm, and reflects the natural ebb and flow of the human grieving-healing process.
Always able to surprise us, Lynch has his planes drop not bombs, but an array of doll babies suspended on wires, their hair blond, their faces charred black. These infants are both the children that the woman and her departed lover will now never have, and the blonde woman’s own disfigured and scattered sense of herself. But reintegration is still possible, for Lynch shows us one of the dolls with a clear, unscarred face as the woman begins her final song. This doll image appears on a TV monitor as the director once again stresses that there can be a number of simultaneous views of reality.
At the conclusion of Industrial Symphony No. 1, the Brokenhearted Woman’s crisis of loss and sorrow is not over. She still yearns for her love to “Come back and stay, forever and ever,” but she’s able to see beyond the prison of her intimate pain: “The sun comes up and down each day, the river flows out to the sea.” Working through her suffering in her dream, the woman is touched with sudden grace, for the air in which she floats, which once rained charred babies now fills with twinkling silver cosmic dust. Her immersion in this field of shimmering particles recalls Henry in his dust cloud at the end of Eraserhead and John Merrick’s mother in her sea of stars in The Elephant Man, and affirms Lynch’s belief in spiritual transcendence. Even a hell of hurt can pass away, for, as the Brokenhearted Woman sings in her final words, “The world spins.”
The small-town boy from the Northwest who’d been scared of the New York subway had grown into an artist who explored a woman’s emotional agonies on the New York stage. Industrial Symphony No. 1 confirmed Lynch’s commitment to the inner life of his characters: The original title of Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman, Inside His Head, would fit most of the director’s fictions. And this time he made it perfectly clear which parts of his work were waking and dreaming reality (the lovers’ break-up phone talk preceded the Brokenhearted Woman’s dream). Lynch’s first, and, so far, only stage production was well attended (Jodie Foster was in the house) and was received with varying measures of enthusiasm, respectful appreciation, skepticism, and repudiation. The director’s daughter, Jennifer, was sitting in the audience, and heard someone say, “David Lynch should never show his face in public again!”
Lynch did show his face at the Emmy Awards ceremony in September, and he had to make it a brave one, for Twin Peaks lost in twelve of its nominated writing, directing, and acting categories, picking up what felt like token statuettes for editing and costume design. During the evening Lynch gamely commented that since he always enjoyed the theater of the absurd, he felt right at home. Still, it was troubling that the industry which, a few months earlier, said it was eager to travel into Lynch’s imaginative new realms was now content to celebrate programs of status-quo, formulaic mediocrity. Lynch’s visage may have been staring out from the cover of every Time magazine in the land, but maybe masses of Americans were not in sync with the visionary auteur’s unique sensibility.
One part of the country more than any other was on Lynch’s wavelength and eagerly awaited Twin Peaks’ second season return: the Northwest region centering on Seattle. Lynch and his Agent Cooper, Kyle MacLachlan, had both been raised in this upper-left corner of America, and the eerie, chilly wind that crept through the show’s pilot episode and set the atmospheric tone for the series was filmed and recorded in the dark forests surrounding Seattle. Strange small-town characters brooded, and evil denizens lashed out, in this region where more serial killings went unsolved than anywhere else in the United States. And Lynch’s almost religious love of coffee drinking was appreciated in Seattle, where one of its myriad coffeehouses is called The Church of Caffeine and sports a Coffee Saves (instead of Jesus Saves) neon sign. In the period that Twin Peaks rose to national prominence, Seattle’s grunge music scene, with its roaring-chainsaw guitar sound, lumberjack flannel shirts, and screams of teenage anger, torment, and fear, sent waves of raw, evergreen energy thrashing through the pop-culture zeitgeist. At one point, there were more than a thousand rock bands playing in and around Seattle, and some of their names sounded like descriptions of Lynch’s world: Screaming Trees, Malfunkshun, Room Nine, Dead Moon, Deranged Diction, Shadow, Dinette Set, The Throbbing Continum of Dirge, Love Battery, Mystery Machine.
One crisp fall day just before the start of Twin Peaks’ second season, a sleek silver tour bus with no writing on it except for North Carolina plates glided into this Northwest bastion of shredded-metal rock and roll. The bus whispered to a stop in front of Seattle’s Backstage, a funky little club in the blue-collar Scandinavian neighborhood of Ballard, and onto the sidewalk hopped Julee Cruise. Her T-shirt, jeans, and motorcycle jacket were well suited to the capital of grunge, but at her single-performance appearance that night she would be wrapped in David Lynch’s imagination, and wear a pale-blue, angelic dress that perfectly matched her short, Kim Novak– esque platinum blonde 1950s haircut.
With her high, ethereal voice singing of gossamer melancholies, yearnings, and ecstasies, while her body was subdued in a trance of subtle gestures, Cruise’s performance was the antitheses of grunge’s explosively loud, semi-coherent yelp and frenzied stage presentation. And yet many of the young people who flocked in to see Cruise’s show were dressed and groomed as though they were heading for a headbanger’s ball. Cruise’s concert was in no way connected to the ABC TV network, but the presence of the young and the hip in her audience showed that the Twin Peaks phenomenon was luring in exactly the demographic that the television executives were aiming for. Whether or not these eighteen-to-thirty-four-year-olds would buy the sponsors’ products was an open question best left to the bean counters—what really mattered was that, in the six months since Twin Peaks debuted, a cult had formed around the show and the world of David Lynch. So what if the series had lost all those Emmys and was not embraced by plodding mainstream viewers? Their rejection was a badge of honor worn proudly by that select, smart, and imaginative group who absorbed and interpreted Twin Peaks’ most miniscule nuances and shared a sense of community based on their powers of observation and appreciation, and their collective special knowledge.
Julee Cruise’s concert had the aura of a secularly religious ritual. Totemic steaming coffee urns and tall sacks of donuts provided the communion sacraments, and Cruise sang the beloved, familiar hymns of the BadalamentiLynch canon. To hear the ominous and rapturous notes of Badalamenti’s music vibrate the air the audience breathed was a thrilling experience, and Cruise masterfully enacted the shifting moods of Lynch’s lyrics. During the instrumental introduction to one of her sad ballads, some heretic male yelled out, “Hey Julee, why don’t you set your dress on fire?” From the calm center of her being Cruise smiled slightly and said, “Maybe next time” in the slow cadence of the song she was about to launch. The silenced man was not excommunicated: Twin Peaks was a place that tolerated eccentric outbursts, and, lord knows, fire walked there.
Finally, after much anticipation, the opening, two-hour episode of Twin Peaks’ second season aired on September 30, 1990. When Mark Frost had written and directed the first-season finale there was a good chance the show would not be renewed, so he made episode 8 an everyone’s-injeopardy ultimate cliffhanger. Now, in episode 9, knowing that they have twenty-three hours to fill, Lynch and Frost begin to chart the course for their saga’s future.
Fully aware that his audience is dying to know who killed Laura Palmer, Lynch begins his direction of episode 9 in a maddeningly perverse vein, with the shot-and-bleeding Agent Cooper, who’s lying on the floor, having a full five minutes of dialogue exchange with the world’s oldest, and slowest, bellhop (Hank Worden). As in a bad dream, the bellhop seems unable to register the fact that Cooper has three blood spots on his white shirt (which resemble the two eyes and gaping mouth of Lynch’s drawing Three Figures On A Stage and his painting I See Myself). As the director once again stretches time out to absurd lengths, Cooper, though in dire straits, remains true to his character and politely signs the tab for the warm milk he ordered and exchanges the thumbs-up with the ancient man.
Just as Lynch had had visions of Blue Velvet’s standing, yellow-jacketed dead man and Twin Peaks’ Log Lady well before he realized them on screen, he had foreseen a giant interacting with Cooper, and the director has his Giant (Carel Struycken) appear to the wounded FBI man after the bellhop leaves. Along with the Log Lady’s log, Sarah Palmer’s visions, Cooper’s Tibetan rock-throwing divination method and his dream of the Man Form Another Place and Laura in the Red Room, the Giant is another agent who will aid Cooper with knowledge from out beyond the boundaries of Aristotelian logic. Before vanishing, the Giant tells Cooper of three things that will come true: “There is a man in a smiling bag,” “The owls are not what they seem,” and “Without chemicals, he points.”
In the movies, being shot even once in the stomach-chest area, let alone three times like Cooper, constitutes a certain death sentence. (Witness Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense: his single gunshot wound is the strongest early clue that he’s a ghostly presence for the remainder of the film.) Yet Cooper, citing the restorative powers of the will, gets operated on, taped up, and works on the Laura Palmer case for thirty-six hours without sleeping. (Because of Cooper’s multiple middle-body wounds, some Twin Peaks analysts hypothesize that the rest of the series is the dream of the dead FBI man.) The agent’s working-wounded zeal fits perfectly with Lynch and Frost’s conception of Cooper as a man of extraordinary powers of mind who’s a scholar of Asian cultures in which spiritually evolved people can control their own heart rate and blood pressure.
Cooper is, endearingly, both a semi-superman and a fellow who needs a giant’s help, who makes some discoveries through blind luck and is fallible. The three bullets pierced his flesh because he rolled up his bulletproof vest to scratch his stomach. And, as the Giant tells him, “You forgot something.” For one thing, Cooper didn’t find Audrey’s note about her going to the One-Eyed Jack’s brothel, where’s she’s now entrapped, barely escaped having sex with her unknowing father (thanks to a hastily grabbed mask and feigned shyness), and is expected to be ready to service “everyone.” Cooper couldn’t forget the note he never found, but what has slipped his mind is the killer’s name that Laura whispered in his ear in his dream.
Episode 9 underscores Cooper’s harmony with, and affection for, the town’s people and their caring, humane values, He takes the time to listen and give comfort to Ed Hurley (Everett McGill), who’s distraught over his wife Nadine’s suicide attempt. And he does his best to defend his new friends against the relentless sarcastic onslaughts of big-city cynic and forensics whiz Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer), who feels that the townsfolk are at the barnyard level of the evolutionary scale.
As Twin Peaks’ second season starts, Lynch and Frost keep Cooper true to form, but introduce changes for other characters. Laura’s usually sunny and cheerful cousin Maddy shakes with terror when she envisions a red shape spreading across the Palmer’s living room carpet, a foreboding abstraction of horrors to come that’s like the dark cloud shape that drifts across Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette’s living room before Lost Highway’s hell breaks loose. And Leland is a transformed man, his hair having turned white over night (a sign of encounters with the supernatural in The Sixth Sense) and his zeal for singing lighthearted songs has increased to manic proportions. Lynch and Frost, knowing that Leland (while he’s playing host to the evil spirit BOB) is their killer, have him behave like a man possessed even in benign social situations. They cannily link Leland’s debut as the white-haired living-room singer with Maddy’s scary rug-stain vision, thus subliminally prefiguring a stunning future encounter between uncle and niece. And they introduce the theme of Leland’s eventual redemption by having him sing “We’re heading ’cross the river, wash your sins away in the tide, It’s oh so peaceful, on the other side.”
Lynch and Frost show how a powerful metaphysical aura can haunt a concrete object when the wholesome Donna Hayward puts on Laura’s dark glasses and becomes an unsmiling, cigarette-smoking femme fatale type, who Sheriff’s Office Receptionist Lucy barely recognizes when she comes to visit James Marshall in jail. Under the sway of Laura’s darker, BOB-influenced shadow self, Donna exhibits a raw, uncharacteristically animal-like sexual appetite for James, hungrily kissing him through his cell bars and closing her teeth on his finger.
And usually belligerent bad boy Bobby Briggs and his upright, no-nonsense career-military father, Major Briggs, reveal surprising new depths as the father brings his son to the verge of tears when he tells him of his vision. In his mind’s eye, the major had seen Bobby “living a life of harmony and joy,” and by sharing this idyllic prophecy with his son, he is bestowing a loving gift, though the major touchingly remains true to his formal, military-man demeanor by ending the scene with a handshake rather than a hug. It’s characteristic of Lynch’s fictions that the verbal imagery of the major’s happy-family vision is delineated in terms of a household and a homecoming.
In this episode, Lynch and Frost keep alive the poetic sense that the whole town of Twin Peaks is an empty home without Laura, and that her spirit has not settled down peacefully. As psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby surmises that Laura wanted to die, to let herself be killed (an idea that Lynch will fully explore in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), we see her dead, gray-blue face superimposed over his. And young Harriet Hayward (Jessica Wallenfels) recites a poem in which she’s seen Laura off “in the dark woods.”
Audrey, too, is far from home, and all her family clout and impish chutzpah can’t help her escape from One-Eyed Jack’s brothel. Trying to impress Cooper and aid his investigation, she’s gone dangerously under-the-covers. Afraid, and confused as to why he hasn’t come to rescue her (the note he didn’t find), she poignantly prays to the deity she loves with all her highschool heart, “Special Agent, can you hear me Special Agent?” Lynch and Frost conclude episode 9 in an atmosphere of free-floating distress and menace, a mood that is one of Twin Peaks’ key characteristics. This afternoon, Cooper laid out a step-by-step overview of the known facts concerning Laura’s murder, declaring that Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault were her partners in rough sex and drug use, but not her killers, and pointing toward a shadowy “third man” who took Ronette Polaski and Laura to the abandoned train car, where Ronette escaped and Laura bled her life away. Now the midnight hour is dark with something more than night: Audrey prays for deliverance from her flesh-world trap, the Giant troublingly tells the sleeping Cooper that he forgot something, and at the hospital a terrifying vision invades Ronette’s coma.
Anyone needing to be convinced of Lynch’s powers as a filmmaker should take a look at the final moments of episode 9. The director shows us different dread-inducing shots of empty hospital corridors, with no comforting doctors or nurses in sight. Each hallway image has its own distinct, low-level humming sound, and as Lynch’s camera starts to move down one of the corridors and pick up speed, the tone becomes higher, as though the point of view of an unstoppable, space-penetrating force was going into overdrive. This incoming-force viewpoint then glides up to Ronette’s bed and slips into her mind, where she dwells in a house of horror: the ugly black derelict train car in which Laura is being killed.
During the ten hours of Twin Peaks that have led up to this moment we have both longed to see and been afraid to watch the scene of Laura’s murder. When it comes, it has a great impact, for it seems to answer the call of all the sad emotion poured out over her loss at the beginning of the series. The subjective viewpoint of the hallway-penetrating force, which has been our view, becomes BOB racing toward us in slow motion, as Lynch implies that there’s a bit of BOB in all of us. His long hair flaps back from his ears like gray bird wings (“The owls are not what they seem”), and his grimacing-grinning mouth bares the teeth of his bestial appetite. Lynch presents Laura’s murder as a nonexploitive, though definitely harrowing, abstraction. In blackness illuminated by lightning-like flashes, we see short, chaotically random-feeling bursts of imagery: Laura’s ruddy face screaming, BOB raising his joined hands high and plunging them down to strike the body that we can’t see below the frame line. Laura’s now-pale face lying still, the “FIRE WALK WITH ME” note written in blood, BOB tossing back his head to scream-growl three times above his victim, emitting a chilling sound that mixes an animal’s roar of bloodlust satisfied with the pained voices of multiple souls in torment. While we experience Ronette’s nightmarish vision we see her thrashing and screaming in her hospital bed, one of the long line of Lynch’s characters who’s tormented in bed (or in a horizontal position) that stretches back to 1968’s The Alphabet.
By showing us the privileged sight of Laura’s murder, (something that Agent Cooper will never see), Lynch and Frost underscore the savagery of the evil that’s loose in Twin Peaks, and sensitize us to be more afraid than ever of anything to do with BOB. They may not have tied the Laura Palmer case up in a neat bow in the first episode of season 2, but they have shown us her killer—or at least one of his forms. But is BOB such a bad guy? The challenging sport of interpreting Twin Peaks was very popular as the second year debuted, and seasoned Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg insisted that BOB was trying to resuscitate Laura by pounding on her chest.
Greg Olson/ David Lynch/ Beautiful Dark