The world of season 3 is a world haunted by the evil that BOB and Judy have been unleashing since the end of season 2 while Cooper was trapped in the Black Lodge. Malevolent forces have spread like a disease, contaminating everything in their path — a slew of murders, violence, drugs, sickness, and hatred. No part of the USA appears immune from this epidemic that spans South Dakota to Nevada, New York to Odessa.
David Lynch and Mark Frost have found a most original way to represent the omnipresence of this plague: working on a subliminal level with superimposed images beyond what one can naturally observe. What I mean by this is that by playing with the light and contrast levels of the image, it is possible to distinguish latent visual content hidden behind/beneath/beyond the manifest visual content. Lynch also (foremost) being a painter, it’s not surprising that he would hide such clues in plain sight.
Playing with a limited set of archetypal images from the series, these subliminal superimpositions inform every scene of the season. At first, I though they were limited to the opening credits and a few important sequences, but close scrutiny of part 1 and several other moments of the season has convinced me that every shot contains at least one such superimposition. They colour the subtext of the season with dark undertones, as most of the superimposed images represent evil forces from the show (BOB, Leland, Judy, etc.). Working like “visual ultrasounds”, they are constantly there in front of us while we are never consciously aware of their presence. It’s nonetheless possible that on an unconscious level, our brains might be able to distinguish them, connoting the obvious visual elements from the show.
Here are some of the most recurring images used throughout the season:
The amazing thing is that when one starts superimposing these images on top of those already discernable in the show, new hidden images appear, revealed by the new superimpositions. It’s like a puzzle, a slow process of unveiling that brings to the surface hidden secret visual messages buried beneath several layers of decoys. Even rotating the whole image 180 degrees reveals new fascinating paths.
They’ve been used in a variety of ways, most often left as they are presented here, but in some cases they have been diminished, made bigger, tilted to the left or to the right, or flipped horizontally (since so much about Twin Peaks is about mirror images). As I mentioned above, those are only the most frequent examples, others have been used during the season, but with less regularity.
In 2017, while the season was still airing, I had already noticed some of these superimpositions, such as those in the opening credits and in the scene where Albert hands Gordon a picture of Mount Rushmore.
Now, let’s take a look at part 1.
The season begins with an exchange between The Fireman and Cooper, punctuated by the sounds from a gramophone. Mysterious clues are given by The Fireman that don’t yet make much sense at that point in the story. But there’s more to what’s happening here. A careful study of these images suddenly reveals a deep visual subtext.
I understand that not everyone will agree with me, that some people will not see the hidden images I’m trying to reveal , or if they see something, they will not agree with what I see. That’s perfectly fine. I’m not claiming that my decryption is perfect, it’s a process and I might later change some of my choices. Nonetheless, the fact that the proportions match the set of images I’ve listed above and that they make sense thematically speaking with what’s happening at these moments in the season lead me to think that I’m possibly right. Of course, only David Lynch and Mark Frost could confirm or deny this.
Returning to the season’s prologue, it doesn’t take long to discern shapes behind The Fireman and Cooper, visible on the curtains. After a series of trial and error, here’s what I have come up with. Do notice how The Fireman is surrounded with images of Laura, while Cooper’s cloud of subliminal images is more diverse, including notably an owl and Leland sitting in the Black Lodge, conferring something of a parental authority over Laura to Cooper.
It’s highly interesting to closely scrutinize the image with the gramophone, especially in relationship to The Fireman’s warning “it is in our house now”. What do we discover here? Superimposed images of Sarah Palmer and the Palmer house in Twin Peaks. The fact that the season is cyclical, that its end leads directly to its beginning, juxtaposes the last sequence of the show (in front of the Palmer house) with this prologue.
But that’s not all. One then notices Ruth Davenport’s head, pointing towards the left of the image, with the gramophone’s horn planted right in the middle of her forehead. And what kind of sounds emanate from the horn? Laura/Carrie’s shriek that closes part 18, swallowing everything with its waves, extinguishing the electric fire inside the Palmer house. Here too, several shrieking Laura/Carries can be seen, engulfing the totality of the screen in a sonic and visual progression.
In fact, when slightly repositioned in relationship to Ruth Davenport’s, Major Garland’s head appears to be blowing in the horn. This resonates with my claims concerning the apocalyptic nature of season 3. The Major appears to be blowing the famous trumpet of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation. This would explain why he plays such an important role in Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks.
Incredible as it may seem, we are given a summary of the whole season with this first shot, treated by David Lynch like a multilayered painting. This is absolutely astounding! The echo of the final Big Bang/Crunch, the sonic explosion generated by Carrie/Laura at the closing of part 18 ripples in space-time to reach us right from the opening of the season, via The Fireman’s phonograph. This return sets the story into motion, but it also concludes it. It is both genetic and apocalyptic, Brahma and Shiva.
But that’s only the very beginning of part 1.
Once the prologue has come to an end, the first image of the season shows us a mountain in Twin Peaks, close to where Doctor Jacoby now lives. Nothing special apparently about this establishing shot, just a way to signal to us viewers where the action takes place, at what moment of the year, etc. Except that there’s a lot hidden underneath this bucolic surface. Rapidly, some shapes hidden beneath the surface of the rocks and vegetation become apparent, especially the one in the very middle of the image: Laura Palmer herself in the Red Room.
Little by little, other iconic images of Laura reveal themselves all over the image, arranged in a chronological arc from left to right in a colourful rainbow taking us from the beginning of the series to its very end.
However, the most amazing is yet to come. discernible behind this collection of portraits one can guess the presence of something else, bigger and white: the horse regularly associated with Laura throughout the series. Laura IS the white horse.
And last but not least, it’s possible to see two circles crossing each other in the background, drawing the vesica piscis symbol. When arranged like this, so that the lens in the middle is placed vertically, it has been said to be a yoni, a depiction of the vagina, and therefore symbolic of femininity and fertility. This echoes strongly Laura’s role in Twin Peaks.
Part 1 then truly starts and it would take too long to go over each image like I have done until now. I am just going to post the various superimpositions I have discovered to give you an idea of their omnipresence. They really point towards a proliferation of evil in the world of Twin Peaks. No space appears to be immune to their infiltration, including the Sheriff’s Office and the Log Lady’s cabin. You can visualise where the superimpositions have been added by moving the cursor in the middle of the images towards the left or the right.
The first image of the Great Northern is another one that deserves more attention, as it is filled with clues. Here’s a first glance:
But there’s a lot more:
What is this supposed to mean? First, it definitely stresses the importance of Laura/Carrie’s scream in part 18. Once again, we’re only at the very beginning of part 1, and the conclusion of the season is already everywhere to be seen here. Then, Mark Frost’s pyramid from The Final Dossier separates the two peaks of good and evil, The Fireman and BOB. Between them, one finds Major Garland, superimposed over Fat Man, the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. And when the image is rotated 180°, the overwhelming presence of the Fireman is stressed, the bomb falling originating from his head (like Laura). All this probably means that The Fireman has designed The Major/Fat Man as a tool to annihilate the evil in Twin Peaks.
I believe it is necessary here to jump to the conclusion of part 18 in order to stress the role of the bomb. When Laura/Carrie shrieks, she releases the bomb from her mouth, where it was hidden. Its nuclear blast blows Judy’s electric fire from the Palmer house.
Once more, if we rotate the image 180°, we find out that all this was engineered by no other than The Fireman:
Let’s get back to part 1 now:
The parallel between the sex magick sequence between Cooper and Diane from part 18 and the one between Tracey and Sam in part 1 has already been extensively discussed. Yet, examining superimposed images brings us confirmation of the link between the two scenes, as we discover Cooper and Diane superimposed over the machine entrails below the New York glass box. Moreover, the superimposed images clearly play at mixing Cooper and Diane’s faces, something indicating that Diane’s disappearance on the next morning might be because she and Cooper have somehow merged.
Further scrutiny presents us with the inverted mirror images of the Owl and The Fireman:
This image needs closer examination. Laura/Carrie can be added to the various superimposed images displayed above. Several shrieking Carries/Lauras appear to swallow the head and body.
This makes perfect sense as we will see when we take a look later at Mark Frost’s The Final Dossier‘s front page. We’ll see that Ruth Davenport’s head is basically what Mr. C wants, the atom bomb designed by The Fireman to annihilate all evil in Twin Peaks. How so? Take a closer look first at Ruth Davenport’s head on her pillow. The folds in the pillow precisely replicate the shape of the black spot on Mr. C’s card. The antenna overlapping the Major’s forearm is less visible, but nonetheless present as well.
Let’s continue. Here, the body of The Major is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man.
Now, let’s study Mark Frost’s front pages for The Secret History of Twin Peaks and The Final Dossier. What do we see? Superficially, nothing beyond canonical images of Twin Peaks’s Great Northern. But here too, it is worth digging a little deeper.
I haven’t gone further with this image yet, but I’m convinced there is much more to discover. On the other hand, I have examined the first few images in the book, those concerning the dossier left behind by Major Garland, and here’s what I have found:
As for The Final Dossier, on the other hand, I have been much more thorough with the front page. Here’s what I have found:
This grid of triangles over both heads enables us to make the following link:
Once again, the link to the atomic nature of both Ruth Davenport’s and Major Garland’s heads is made clear by the fact that the three triangles point towards their foreheads/hole. They are The Fireman’s atomic head(s).
But let’s get back to the first image, the one with Ruth Davenport’s head, and add the two “antennae” from Mr. C’s card in the position described above in the image when we can see her head on its pillow. When we do that, we start to see similar “antennae” surrounding the head, the result of the crossing of 3 similar “insect heads” in a triangle of sorts (see the three triangles above). The result: a cockroach. And who appears in season 3 who is automatically linked with such insects? Franz Kafka, of course. Proceeding carefully, we finally end up with a monstrous creature with many eyes, the eyes of a multiplied Franz Kafka covering its surface.
But it’s not just the front pages of Frost’s books that use this technique of superimpositions. When one starts examining the images they contain, the same method be can revealed. For instance, let’s take a look at the one depicting the Trinity Test explosion (which, of course, comes from part 8, which might explain the superimpositions here):
At first look, nothing more than a bleak landscape with a “small” nuclear mushroom in the distance. Nonetheless, little by little, one ends up revealing multiple images of Carrie’s shriek all over the image. There’s even one that’s superimposed in such a way that the explosion appears to originate in her mind.
So far, here’s what I have found in the image. There might of course be much more hidden there.
Last but not least, if you’ve always been wondering about Mark Frost’s choice for a Twitter banner (I know you have), this should explain a lot:
Also, take a look at David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twitter pictures:
I guess I will stick to these explorations for now. I have found many other interesting superimpositions throughout the season, but I will save them for a later post. Let me conclude by noting that all these superimpositions truly function as a haunting of sorts. This is evocative of Jacques Derrida’s famous notion of “hauntology” (mixing “haunting” and “ontology”), the idea that the past, contrary to what we might think on the surface, does not always really “pass”, that it still lives in the present (and future) and influences them. The past dictates the future, one could say. Like a repetitive dream/nightmare, (visually) repressed elements haunt season 3. They return, again and again, obsessively. A well-known trope of ghosts in general is their tendency to repeat their actions, to return to the same spots. Season 3 is a very ghostly season and its characters are very similar to ghosts, to spectres, or “revenants”. This is true of the many moments when a character suddenly remembers something that was somehow “forgotten”. It was still there, nonetheless, haunting them below the level of consciousness. This is the case for Dougie Cooper, slowly remembering that he was once an FBI agent. Think of Gordon Cole and his Monica Bellucci dream. Time is dislocated in The Return, not linear — “out of joints”, to quote Macbeth and the ghost of his father. And the perfect illustration of this are the numerous superimpositions added to the surface images of the season, immaterial and translucent as ghosts, neither visible nor invisible, neither present nor absent.