[The following contains spoilers.]
I would be horrified if it was put to me that I am part of the Twin Peaks fan community. I have other things in my life, or at least a few other things. But whilst researching the third episode of Twin Peaks: The Return (subtitled “call for help”), I became entangled in its thick network of clues and symbols. Then I thought that I had found a hidden clue and this discovery left me feeling like a qualified practitioner of Twin Peaks-ology.
It is all to do with the Blue Rose…
The third episode begins with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) being teleported out of the Black Lodge to a new venue. We are perhaps a bit too at home in the Black Lodge now for it to convey what it was once intended to. It currently seems like a quaintly fixed-up hut rather than evoking the sublime terrors of the universe. So heave-ho, out we go! Cooper plummets through space as if he is falling down the Twin Peaks waterfall. The next awaiting tabernacle is far less geographically precise than the Black Lodge. Cooper enters through the window of a dilapidated purple tenement and he can potentially exit by climbing up a ladder and emerging on to the top of a UFO in deep space.
Notwithstanding my inept description, all of this imagery is very haunting. It also seems murkily familiar. There is the same comfortlessness and industrial-noir aesthetic of (the director) David Lynch’s first movie Eraserhead (1977). The lapping waves below the balcony possibly duplicate Vija Celmins’ 1975 lithograph “Ocean.” The space platform is… well, it must be from somewhere. I feel that I must have seen such an image before, say briefly in a documentary about 1920s Surrealist cinema, but that my brain is not wired up cooperatively enough for this memory to be accessible. The space platform makes me reflect upon my inadequacy. It is like a shaking head that pronounces, “you have to go back to Surrealist school, kiddo!”
Two ladies are waiting for Cooper, one after the other. They are both in red. Let’s take the second first. The second will supervise Cooper’s release from this facility, via a portal back into the real world. The actress, Phoebe Augustine, had played Ronette Pulaski, one of the schoolgirl victims in the original Twin Peaks, but the attribution is less certain here. She is credited simply as “American girl.”
The first, Naido (Nae Yuuki), has her eyes sewn up and she communicates through anguished, doglike noises. Cooper’s encounter with her is choppy – there is a constant skipping and shuffling of the footage. Vaguely a mime, it looks like a scene from early silent cinema that has been luxuriously remastered a century later.
Eyelessness is often, as Tychy has previously noticed, the impetus of the horror in the new Twin Peaks. Eyes are repeatedly absent or blown out with bullets in the first and second episodes. The most famous instance of blindness in Surrealism is surely the nifty razor in Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s 1929 film Un Chien Andalou, which is meant to slice open a woman’s eyeball but, through a cinematic sleight of hand, doesn’t. The blindness of Cooper’s first host is an inconvenience that does not prevent her from identifying him and delivering her message.
There is an ominous pounding at a locked door, which echoes the creature’s beating against the front of the glass box in the previous episode. When Cooper makes a move to leave the facility, Naido gets between him and the portal and she luridly mimics the creature’s face-hacking.
Rather than leaving at the wrong time, and potentially suffering the same mutilation as the glass box’s luckless monitors, Cooper should tarry a while and receive his message. Naido is effectively a courier. They go up on to the roof and Naido sacrifices herself by activating a kind of Van de Graaff generator that expels her into the cosmos. This somehow causes an apparition of Major Garland Briggs’ face to appear floating across the universe, boldly going like the Starship Enterprise. Eerily (and perhaps the eeriness redeems the wooden special FX) it is a double apparition since the actor, Don S Davis, had died in 2008. He delivers his message from the great beyond: “Blue Rose.”
Cooper can now leave and he does. He plods back down the ladder, alone, and arrives before the portal again. There is a blue rose on the table beside it.
The 15 on the portal has changed to a 3. Cooper is due to return to the real world at three o’clock. The preference for analogue over digital is presumably significant.
Cooper is reincarnated horizontally. The second lady tells him that, “When you get there, you will already be there.” He is duly exchanged with a doppelgänger named Dougie Jones, who has just finished up with a prostitute in an unsold house in a complex of new builds. Cooper’s brain has been thoroughly fried by his teleportation and most of his performance is thereafter a kind of subdued Ministry-of-Silly-Walks shtick.
The Blue Rose? It features in the Twin Peaks spin-off movie Fire Walk With Me (1992). I decided to google “The Blue Rose” and I immediately came across a blog with the same name. The author recalls reading somewhere that “director David Lynch’s Los Angeles home is on a street named ‘Blue Rose Street’ but I can’t find it on Google Maps… How very mysterious.”
Blue Rose Street? I wondered what a Blue Rose Street would look like – it sounds lovely! Voyeuristically, I also wondered how big David Lynch’s house is. So I googled “Blue Rose Street” and I found one.
It is in Las Vegas. I swooped down using Google Street View and I identified it at once as the street of new builds that Cooper is beamed into when he is reincarnated as Dougie Jones.
Actually, my investigation falls flat here. I was initially, in my own simple-minded way, amazed that this clue was here waiting for me. I went over the street again, however, and I could not, in the end, achieve a positive identification. There is an uncanny similarity between the two streets, with the same style of architecture, the same colours to the houses, and generally the same mountain skyline in the background. But, my mind boggling with derisive garage doors and dancing porticos, I was unable to conclusively make a match.
Hopefully this illustrates how you can ideally interact with the new Twin Peaks, in ways that were just not possible without the internet during the original series.
The mystery of the Blue Rose is, if we are being honest with ourselves, completely inconsequential and nonsensical. Yet if you surrender yourself wholeheartedly to it, this mystery can quickly become a heart-pattering adventure.
I later tried to post my findings on a Twin Peaks forum. I was embarrassed at seeming like one of those guys – (“man, don’t be that guy!”) – who has spent hours on end sitting alone and googling titbits of Twin Peaks trivia. Even more embarrassingly, the forum’s spambot garbled my post, stamping the words “removed link” randomly through the text so that it looked mad and incoherent. It was as if I am too much to be welcomed even by the Twin Peaks regular fanbase. Shattered, I shut down my computer.
The new Twin Peaks episodes themselves end on a song. A different band each night will play us out, accompanying the credits, as in the format of a 1990s magazine programme. The show has chosen not to go the whole hog, with Dave Letterman prancing out at the end and booming, “Howabout that! Thanks guys!” I suppose I will get used to it.
Elsewhere in episode three, there is a beautiful scene that explores the eeriness of the new Twin Peaks and its refusal to behave. Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) convenes with Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz) and their secretary Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson) to review the evidence from the Laura Palmer murder case. Hawk has received intelligence that something is missing from the files. Lucy is soon frightened that it is a “chocolate bunny” from Laura’s personal effects that, during the original murder investigation, she secretly ate.
This is apparently allocated as light relief. We should be bathed in golden Twin Peaks nostalgia, back with our favourite characters and delighting in their ditziness. Nevertheless, rather like with the skipping footage of the lady with the sewn-up eyes, there is a constant irritation and interruption.
Andy and Lucy behave with an almost robotic implausibility – indeed, Andy is now basically automated comic eyebrows stuck on to an ashen-faced mannequin. And the story here is undeniably creepy. Would a police employee really snack on the property of a woman who had been brutally murdered, getting erroneous fingerprints all over the evidence? It adds a definite ghoulishness to the gaiety of the “Doughnut Disturb” sign that Hawk hangs on the door outside the conference room. However much you might want to enjoy this scene, it is ultimately hollow mocking laughter.
In my review of the first and second episodes, I made a rather clumsy swipe (since toned down) at the Spectator’s Peter Hoskin, who takes nostalgia as his starting-point when writing about the new Twin Peaks. Hoskin sees Twin Peaks as “the ultimate study in nostalgia” and he also asserts that, “we could do with a show that takes a hard look at nostalgia in all its forms.” I am of the view that Twin Peaks has finally obtained the freedom to neglect its more comforting, nostalgic function. This makes its comeback exuberant whilst the original was correspondingly oppressed.
There is probably just a difference in emphasis between mine and Hoskin’s approaches. I do not think, from the edgy distress of the “chocolate bunnies” scene, that the new Twin Peaks numbers commenting thoughtfully upon nostalgia as one of its responsibilities. This scene is too dismissive – too blatantly sarcastic – almost like an unkind parody of the original show. If you were searching around for the most relevant available metaphor for this bitter return of classic Twin Peaks imagery, then the “poisonous” vomit of Cooper’s doppelgängers would jump straight up out at you.
There is much road to travel and it could be that when Cooper finally returns to his senses, the show will grow more kindly again. Whether it can ever be the same again is another matter.