The eighth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return takes us closer than ever before in the series or the film to the realm of video art. There is hardly any dialogue in this episode and most of the action operates on a purely audiovisual level, underlined by a mythological/metaphysical framework that gives structure and meaning to the whole. As we will see, some of the elements I have pointed out in my previous posts (the importance of the Manhattan Project, the symbolic role of the egg, etc.) start to come together to give a cohesive vision of what to expect next in the series.
Apparently, everything starts in 1945, in New Mexico, with the explosion of a nuclear weapon in the middle of the desert. The camera flies directly towards the cloud of the atomic mushroom and gives us a look at the chain reactions happening inside, tearing apart the very structure of matter and producing explosion after explosion in what looks very much like a star cradle within a cosmic nebula.
Here is what David Lynch has to say about ‘worlds within worlds’: “What is kind of incredible is that there are, like quantum physics now says, ten dimensions of space and one dimension of time – that’s what they’ve come up with. Ten dimensions of space – what does that mean? There’s a field of relativity, it has a surface, and it has depths. There are, like they say, worlds within worlds within worlds, just unbelievable stuff going on in the field of relativity. And that’s all real interesting, but as Maharishi says, that’s only the ‘market-place’. You go through the market-place, and it’s real interesting, but there are lots and lots of chances to get waylaid and even go backwards and get lost, get in trouble. Maharishi always says, capture the fort, and then all the territories are yours – so get to the palace, get to the palace – and then you own all that you survey. ‘Get to the palace’ means transcend, get to the deepest level“. (in David Lynch: Interviews).
Quantum physics and the General Theory of Relativity are at the root of mankind’s mastery of nuclear energy. Without these developments in contemporary physics, we would never have been able to master the generating powers of the sun down here on earth – we would not have been able, like Prometheus in Greek mythology, to steal fire from the gods in order to use it for our own goals.
In episode 6 Sonny Jim Jones was seen reading the Hardy Boys book The Secret of the Old Mill perhaps because of the role of Elekton Controls, a missile-development company in the narrative. The company is under threat from foreign powers that wish to stop United States missile development. Was this a subtle way to introduce us to the theme of nuclear weapons?
Whatever the reason, it does seem though that this “theft of fire” has had dire consequences for us: it has triggered a chain reaction of its own in the Convenience Store (the place above which the Lodge entities had their meeting in the film), with a growing agitation of a group of “woodsmen” who look like they are made of coal; it has also triggered a vomiting reaction in a cosmic deity that regurgitated a gelatinous thread of matter replete with eggs as well as a placenta-looking envelope containing the face of BOB.
This in turn triggered an alarm in a citadel (or is it the ‘palace’ mentioned by Lynch above?) that stands above an ocean (of consciousness, according to the Maharishi) in which the Giant and a lady called Dido live. The bell-looking piece of machinery from which the alarm comes is highly reminiscent of the one seen on the top of the cosmic raft on which Dale Cooper has to climb during episode 3. Dido’s name might once more be a reference to Greco-Roman mythology and to the queen of Carthago, famous for her love affair with the Trojan general Aenas (remember that Troy was the name of Laura Palmer’s horse).
It is hard not to read the nuclear explosion as a creation myth of sorts, one that explains the interest shown by the various otherworldly entities depicted above in the affairs of our planet. The actual regurgitation by the oviparous and amphibian looking white skin entity of something akin to “frogspawn” (a gelatinous mass of frogs’ eggs) is reminiscent of a birth sequence. This progeny appears to be sent into space (inner or outer) at random, in the hope that one at least of the many eggs will survive the trip. This is indeed what happens a few years later when one of the eggs finally hatches in the desert and gives birth to a hybrid creature mixing amphibian and insectoid elements.
A few weeks ago, I dedicated a post to the question of eggs in Twin Peaks (here). I also wrote an article about the Manhattan Project (here). It is interesting to see the two notions brought together with this episode, the laying of the eggs resulting directly from the detonation of an atomic bomb – this bringing together of creation and destruction is reminiscent of the role of Shiva, the “destroyer and transformer” within the Trimurti, the Hindu trinity that includes Brahma and Vishnu. It seems to me that this all relates to the notion in Vedic philosophy of Hiraṇyagarbha, the ‘golden womb’ or ‘golden egg’. This egg is supposed to be the source of the creation of the universe: “After Mahāprālaya, the great dissolution of the Universe, there was darkness everywhere. Everything was in a state of sleep. There was nothing, either moving or static. Then Svayambhu, self-manifested Being arose, which is a form beyond senses. It created the primordial waters first and established the seed of creation into it. The seed turned into a golden womb, Hiraṇyagarbha“. (Wikipedia)
The idea of the golden egg is also related to alchemy, of course, and its quest for the transmutation of base metals into gold as well as the Philosopher’s Stone and the Elixir of Life. The ‘world within a world’ that contains the transcendental ocean of consciousness and the Giant in his palace appears to exist inside a golden egg/pearl connected to the many fires resulting from the nuclear blast.
The Giant and Dido seem to be monitoring the situation of the universe from their “palace”, while listening to slow atmospheric music from the same gramophone seen at the beginning of the first episode (the one with the sounds that Dale Cooper heard, which I argued could be the quacking of a duck – the laying of a new cosmic egg, giving birth to a new universe, seems to support my theory about the provenance of the sounds). The electromagnetic detector bell resonates when it senses the nuclear blast on planet earth and the Giant immediately examines the situation on a cinema screen, watching a film (‘a film within a film’) that depicts the very same images we have just seen during the episode.
This somehow connects us once again to the theme of surveillance that is so prevalent in this new season of Twin Peaks and to the thinning of the various membranes between levels of reality. I recently pointed out the reflection of a video camera from David Lynch’s team in a mirror, in a scene when Sarah Palmer is seen watching television at her place (here). This situation brought elements from our world into the fictional realm. Here, in this episode, one could argue that it’s the other way around: the Giant actually breaks the fourth wall, the performance convention in which an invisible, imagined wall separates actors from the audience. He stares in the direction of the camera for an extended amount of time, behaving as if he can see us viewers in front of our TV screens, examining us one by one. It’s difficult to know where fiction ends and where reality begins in this universe.
After having watched the “newsreel” on the cinema screen, the Giant rises up in the air, defying gravity, and opens up a golden orifice with his mind (reminiscent of a seashell or a vulva) from which exits a golden/amber globe with the image of Laura Palmer inside. If the seashell connection is correct, this could be a reference to the famous painting The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli (in this painting, Venus is depicted as the pearl of a giant seashell) – in my book Twin Peaks: Unwrapping the Plastic and on this blog, I have repeatedly underlined the links between Laura and Venus in the Red Room.
Dido sends this globe to our planet via a golden device attached to the ceiling of the theater room in which the action takes place. This process is reminiscent of an insemination of sorts, our planet resembling a giant egg on the screen, fertilized by the globe sent from the golden device.
This globe should be considered in the context of various crystal balls seen in The Wizard of Oz. Lynch’s appreciation for this film is well established and is regularly referenced in his own work.
It seems that the process of sending the Laura Palmer globe to our planet was something of a counter measure, a response to the nuclear detonation in New Mexico that liberated the various woodsmen/coal miners from the Convenience Store as well as the eggs & BOB from the cosmic entity. The Giant and Dido appear as positive forces trying to right the wrong with this action, to somehow “own” again all what they survey from the palace, to use Lynch’s image featured above.
Could these eggs be linked to what Mr C wants so badly? Is it possible that they are indeed connected to the Egyptian idea of a winged egg named Kneph, as I argued in my post about ducks? What is certain for the time being is the fact that the egg that hatched in New Mexico contained a winged creature, one that parasited/fertilized a young woman fallen in a deep artificial sleep.
In passing, I cannot help noticing a certain similarity between the back paw of the creature and the tiny hand used by Dr. Amp/Jacoby during his podcast…
As far as the woodsmen/coal miners are concerned, the episode seems to connect them to the Convenience Store, around which they gravitate as electrons in fury. If this store is our world, where they feed and get their energy from, the fire within resulting from the nuclear explosion (see the smoke coming out of the store) might be understood as a light attracting such parasites.
Their look, that gives the feeling that they are made of coal or of dust, connects them both to the inside of the planet (and possibly to the various hollow earth theories I have listed previously) and to the nuclear fallout from the explosion, to the dust produced by such blasts.
As a consequence, they might very well be radio/active (as Dr. Amp/Jacoby?) and this might be why they seem to parasite both consciousness and sound when they appear. This might also be why the coal miner fallen from the sky (a fallen angel of sorts, connected to the moment when Gordon Cole whistles Rammstein in front of a nuclear mushroom in his office?) goes straight to a radio station to broadcast his mind altering lullaby.
It is important to notice that this sequence is yet another cryptic reference to alchemy. The four elements are indeed clearly present at this moment in order to create the hypnotic influence from the (literally) radioactive coal miner: air (“on air”), fire (“got a light?”), earth (the coal miner himself) and water (airwaves).
In 1992, Mark Frost and David Lynch created On the Air, a short lived TV series that also had to do with electromagnetic waves, those of television.
The cyclical and hypnotic radioactive poem recited by the coal miner is likely connected to the “ocean” of the collective unconscious (akin to the “oceanic feeling” described by Romain Rolland in 1927) in which he drowns his listeners, electromagnetic wave after electromagnetic wave, untill they fall asleep. He speaks to their unconscious because he himself appears to be coming from this part of our psyche, the one we normally repress when we are awake. The role of the white horse in this context is related to the fact that the animal is regularly attached to the role of a psychopomp, a guide for souls from our reality to other worlds (generally the afterlife). It seems that in Greek mythology, it has a close link with water, understood as the border between the world of the living and the great beyond.
Many more things could be said about this fascinating episode, notably about Mr C and what happens to him at the hands of Ray, but I have to close this post for now. Let’s hope that the rest of Twin Peaks: The Return proves to be as challenging as what we have just experienced.
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