The Peaks of Oz

“There is no place like home!”

Everyone knows these famous words, uttered by Dorothy Gale to the Scarecrow in L. Frank Baum’s 1900 fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as well as in Victor Fleming’s 1939 cinematic adaptation of the book. David Lynch’s love for this universe is evident throughout his filmography, especially in Wild at Heart (1990). Links are also evident in Twin Peaks: The Return, a season that revolves around the notion of homecoming, so central to the Oz saga. It has also been noted that the name of the main opponent in the third season, Judy, might very well be a reference to actress Judy Garland, the star of The Wizard of Oz.

But I believe that the connections between the two fictional realms run even deeper, to the level of the structure of the narrative itself. The Return is composed of 18 parts and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is divided into 23 chapters. As is also the case with several other works of literature (The Odyssey, Ulysses, The Bhagavad Gita,), I have reached the conclusion that Mark Frost and David Lynch have built their story using this preexisting construction as a scaffolding for their own creation. I still have some work ahead of me, but I think I have unearthed clear links between 12 chapters of the book and their corresponding parts of the series. This leaves another 6 about which I’m still unsure, but I hope to decrypt them in the coming weeks with repeated viewings.

In Chapter 1, a cyclone in Kansas where “the same gray colour” is “to be seen everywhere” sends Dorothy’s house a great distance through the air, towards the Land of Oz. By the end of the chapter, still in the air after many hours of flight, she falls asleep. Part 1 of The Return also begins in a black and white environment, in the Fireman’s Palace, which Cooper is about to leave — “you are far away” — to begin his quest in his own version of the Land of Oz, Twin Peaks. It appears that Cooper is Dorothy’s equivalent in this world, at least in the context of season 3, walking on his own path of individuation the way she travels the yellow brick road. This connection between Cooper and Dorothy leads one to wonder: is there also a link between the FBI agent and Judy, Dorothy’s doppelgänger in the real world?

The Council with the Munchkins (Chapter 2) leads Dorothy to meet the Good Witch of the North, from whom she learns about The Great Wizard of Oz and his City of Emeralds, who might be her only chance to get back to her home in Kansas. Before she leaves on her long journey down the yellow brick road to meet him, the witch gives Dorothy a gentle kiss on the forehead: “no one will dare injure a person who has been kissed by the Witch of the North”, she tells her. Then, “the Witch gave Dorothy a friendly nod, whirled around on her left heel three times, and straightaway disappeared”. Similarly, in part 2, Laura meets Cooper in the Red Room, gives him a kiss and vanishes up in the air, in a motion reminiscent of her literary counterpart. Besides, Laura being from the town of Twin Peaks, in the Pacific Northwest, it makes sense to see her play the Witch of the North.

Chapter 3 narrates how Dorothy saved the Scarecrow. Before she accomplishes this task, making her first friend of the trek, “she took off her old leather shoes and tried on the silver ones , which fitted her as well as if they had been made for her”. In the film, these shoes are ruby red, but not in the book. In part 3, when he goes through the transcendental electric outlet that takes him to Rancho Rosa, Cooper loses his shoes in the room where he met Naido. Jade later laces his new pair of shoes, borrowed from Dougie Jones, his Las Vegas tulpa.

It is worth noting that the place where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow is none other than a cornfield: “there was a great cornfield beyond the fence, and not faraway she saw a Scarecrow, placed high on a pole to keep the birds from the ripe corn”. This should probably be made in perspective with the important role place by Garmonbozia/creamed corn in Twin Peaks.

Who might be the equivalent of the Scarecrow in The Return? In Chapter 4, he explains that “my life has been so short that I really know nothing whatever”, and a while later an old crow tells him that “if you only had brains in your head you would be as good a man as any of them, and a better man than some of them”. This very much corresponds to Dougie Cooper, the person he has become after having gone through the electric outlet, reduced to the level of a childlike persona. The clothes he wears to go to work are also reminiscent of the costume worn by the Scarecrow in the 1939 film.

The fifth chapter of the book concerns The Rescue of the Tin Woodman, the second friend Dorothy makes during the course of her trip in Oz. If the Scarecrow lacks a brain, the Tin Woodman misses a heart, something he eventually hopes to obtain from the Wizard. The transformation of the Mitchum brothers from the beginning of season 3 to its ending parallels this quest for a heart. In part 5, the seasons’ equivalent to the book’s fifth chapter, they still have not progressed to this level of compassion that will characterise them later on. They are still heartless casino owners, ready to terrify and beat up their staff at the Mustang Casino.

After the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, Dorothy finally meets her third travel companion, the Cowardly Lion in Chapter 6. The Lion explains: “I learned that if I roared very loudly every living thing was frightened and got our of my way”. Who fits better this description in The Return than Janey-E? In part 6, she finds out about Jade and takes care of the money her husband borrowed from local thugs with her idiosyncratic energy, startling everyone around her to attention. In a later episode, the Fusco brothers even compare Dougie to a dog while Janey-E does, according to them, all the biting.

Chapter 7 is entitled The Journey to the Great Oz. The trip is far from being uneventful, as the book’s heroes must jump over a ditch while under the threat of two great beasts called the Kalidahs, “with claws so long and sharp that they could tear” one “in two”. They almost catch Dorothy and the Lion as they are about to jump, but end up being the ones falling into the precipice. In part 7, Cooper and Janey-E, i.e. Dorothy and the Lion are the targets of an attack by Ike the Spike and only narrowly escape death.

Part 8 is often mentioned as the best / most important segment of The Return. Its links to The Wizard of Oz are clear, especially when it comes to the depiction of the young Sarah Palmer. The episode corresponds to The Deadly Poppy Field chapter of the novel, when Dorothy and her friends find “themselves in the midst of a great meadow of poppies. Now it is well known that when there are many of these flowers together their odour is so powerful that anyone who breathes it falls asleep, and if the sleeper is not carried away from the scent of the flowers, he sleeps on and on forever”. Therefore, it is no surprise that the people of New Mexico listening to the Woodsman’s litany on the radio fall prey to a sudden need to sleep, as if they had been crossing the above mentioned field of poppies. When the young Sarah (Judith) Palmer falls unconscious on her bed, she strongly resembles Judy Garland in Victor Fleming’s movie. There is reason to believe that she might be the dreamer mentioned by Monica Belluci in part 14. The end credits actually roll over her body in her bed, her eyes rolling under her eyelids in the REM (Rapid Eye Movements) of sleep typical of dreaming.

Before that, the moment she arrives on her porch is almost identical to the scene when Dorothy enters her house to protect herself from the oncoming cyclone. The Frogmoth flight to her window pane is also evocative of what takes place outside of Dorothy’s window in the film, notably of the Wicked Witch of the West riding her bicycle in the whirlwind with wings of sort on her back.

I am still uncertain about chapter 9 (as well as chapters 11, 13, 14, 15, and 17). I have some ideas concerning the way they connect with their corresponding parts in the third season, but I still need to reflect further before I commit my conclusions to this blog. Chapter 10 on the other hand, The Guardian of the Gate, most likely evokes the multiple moments in part 10 when a character is captured by the camera in the liminal space between a building and its environment, blocking a door with their body.

In The Search for the Wicked Witch (Chapter 12), we learn that “the Wicked Witch of the West had but one eye, yet that was as powerful as a telescope”, as well as about “her dread of water”. One might wonder if Hutch’s telescopic rifle, with which he kills the Yankton prison’s warden, is not a reference to this power of the Witch? Sarah Palmer’s alcoholism can, as far as it is concerned, be understood as a manifestation of her fear of water.

What takes place in part 18 can also be understood according to this idea: when Carrie shrieks at the end of the episode, she suddenly releases the flow of water / electromagnetic power she had repressed for so long in relationship with her house. This brusk return of the repressed functions as a fireman’s hose, her positioning in front of the house being reminiscent of the way firemen extinguish houses on fire. As a result of her shriek, once the dam of repression has finally given way to a tsunami, the electric fire inside the house comes to an end.

Part 16 corresponds to The Magic Art of the Great Humbug, the book’s sixteenth chapter in which the Wizard finally grants Dorothy’s friends their wishes: the Scarecrow gets a brain, the Tin Man a heart, and the Cowardly Lion some courage. In this episode, Dougie Cooper (The Scarecrow) wakes up from his coma, getting his wits back; the Mitchum brothers (the Tin Man) are acknowledged by Cooper as having “hearts of gold”; and Janey-E (the Lion) finds the courage to say goodbye to her husband, the new version of Dale Cooper on his way back to Twin Peaks.

Last but not least, Chapter 18 bears the title: Away to the South. This is indeed what Cooper and Diane do in part 18, on their way to first the location where they cross over to an alternate reality, and then to Odessa (Texas), where Cooper/Richard finally meets Laura/Carrie. Dorothy learns from the Soldier with the Green Whiskers that “the best thing (she) can do is to travel to the Land of the South and ask Glinda to help her” get back to Kansas. Glinda is the Witch of the South, the most powerful of all Witches. She rules over the Quadlings from her castle on the edge of the desert which Dorothy needs to cross in order to get back home. Two options: (G)linda might correspond to the mysterious Linda from part 18, the sex magick ritual sending Richard Cooper to his final destination, on his way back home; or she might be Carrie Page in her deserted house, ready to leave her artificial life so as to return to Twin Peaks. I find the first option more likely, as it also gives an explanation for who Linda might be, but there would also be a nice symmetry if Laura was the Witch of the North and Carrie the Witch of the South.

As mentioned above, I still need to find correspondences for 6 more chapters of the book, but I feel like, two thirds down the way, I now have a better understanding of who is who in the season. I probably need to figure out who the Wizard of Oz is supposed to be in this configuration (the Fireman?), and also to think some more about what ties Cooper/Dorothy to Sarah/Judy, among other things. As always, I’m impressed by the extreme attention to details shown in the writing of the season’s script, everything being minutely woven to create echoes with other works of art. The many layers of The Return still hide many precious stones within. I now hope Dr. Amp’s shovel will help me dig out more gold in the future!

One thought on “The Peaks of Oz

  1. Enjoyed your thoughts on structural similarities, have noticed other moments throughout The Return that seem to call back to Oz. When Evil Cooper is shot in Episode 8, the woodsmen scurrying and tending to his body is reminiscent of the flying monkeys. Also, there are a few shots when they hike out to Jack Rabbit’s Palace that recall Dorothy and company on the yellow brick road.

    Regardless of the specifics, The Return ultimately feels like the anti-Oz, in that you can’t go home again.

    Liked by 1 person

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