Unpacking David Lynch's Twin Peaks, The Return
His deep dark message is coherent and right on time
Posted Jul 22, 2017
I think that I have figured out the underlying message of the extraordinary television series Twin Peaks, by David Lynch and Mark Frost. Perhaps this is just plain hubris, but let me have a go at making the case. This is urgent now, even more so than when it was first conceived around 1986. The pivotal point is to consider the timeframe. TP was conceived in 1986, pitched to ABC in 1988, premiered on April 8,1990 and then it blew up, and ended with an ugly finale on June 10, 1991. However in that final episode, with astonishing clairvoyance, Laura Palmer tells Agent Cooper, “I’ll see you again in 25 years…” Who could have believed that she would be correct, that a third series would appear on Showtime starting on May, 21, 2017, almost exactly 25 years later?
I understand that thousands of people are mulling this over, but I believe that I have a unique perspective and have solved the riddle that underlies the whole project. The clue to the riddle is revealed in the last half of episode 8, season three, The Return. I now see the entire saga of Twin Peaks, including Fire Walk with Me and The Return as a message in a bottle sent out to the entire world, perhaps too late. Perhaps too densely encrypted. And perhaps Lynch and Frost were not even aware of the unitary message at the time that the show appeared in their dreams. Lynch works with and through dreams, and it is possible that this material was plucking away at his dreams, if not fully articulated in his conscious mind as an agenda. Nonetheless, I can make the case that Twin Peaks is an allegory.
I think that Twin Peaks is a warning about the threat of nuclear war, and that BOB is greed for evil power, cloaked in the swarmy, lawyerly garb of Leland Palmer, a perfect doppelganger of the men in RAND and the Pentagon who planned for indefinitely postponed human extermination based on mutually assured terror. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate evil power. BOB personifies nuclear deterrence. It is an inanimate parasite of the soul and of society, a call to “fire walk with me.” Through fire, or the threat of fire, humankind is to be saved from various theological and nationalistic differences, theoretical differences of opinion or belief that should not merit mundicide. (Mundicide is a word coined by Liu Cixin, the Chinese science fiction author of The Three Body Problem, meaning to kill a world.) However, once possessed, people with BOB have an unquenchable quest for fire and fear.
In 1984, the hands of the Doomsday Clock were set at 3 minutes to midnight. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists considered the risk of nuclear war greater then than any time since 1953, when it was 2 minutes to midnight. The Clock is at 2.5 minutes to midnight right now. So David Lynch and Mark Frost were surrounded both by nuclear weapons and by the peak of the antinuclear movement. June 12, 1982, was the largest nuclear protest in history, in Central Park, New York. They could not have missed it, nor escalating tensions with the USSR.
Yes, in 1987, Gorbachev started the process of glasnost and perestroika, and by 1991, the USSR had dissolved. But the blackness at the hearts of the souls of the exterminators was not removed. The Black Lodge is buried in plain sight at Los Alamos, 14 other major land based command and control centers, and the nuclear subs. The Pentagon and NATO know where Russia keeps their BOB people. The maximum number of nukes was in 1986 – a total of 64.449 (USSR, 40, 149; US 23, 317) By 2017, the total numbers had dropped to close to 15,000 but more countries have nuclear weapons and they are smaller, portable, and considered useable.
BOB lives on fear. BOB is a parasite that cannot have an independent existence, a thought virus. He creates fear and death, inhabiting people who are talented and attractive (like Palmer and Coop). Contrast BOB with the BOOB attack, a well-known feature of nuclear war fighting. B00B is a Bolt out of the Blue, considered to be the least likely scenario. Triggered by a flight of geese or shadows over the moon, one country attacks the other full scale, no holds barred. BOB is also a Bolt out of the Blue. A soul-rotting parasite that turns a man into a monster. BOB likes death and chaos, particularly fear. Despots who behave as though they are possessed by the devil who know they can exterminate even the tardigrades, the toughest animals on earth.
We have hints all along that David Lynch is preoccupied by nuclear war. There is a photograph of an atomic explosion on the desktop of Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, played by Lynch himself. Furthermore, we know that the series came out in 1991, which was the year that the USSR collapsed. Up until that year, the risk of nuclear war was as high as it had ever been since the 1960s. During the time of the production and conceptualization of Twin Peaks, the risk of nuclear war was present in every thinking person's mind.
Twin Peaks, the Return, third in the series, is already pretty strange before Episode 8, but 8 takes the cake as perhaps the most astonishing video in history. It begins normally enough, for a Lynch production, if you consider The Nine Inch Nails normal. At about 20 minutes, there is a black and white screen that says, July 16, 1945, White Sands, New Mexico. Then comes the most extraordinary rendition of a nuclear explosion that I believe has ever been shown in any medium. The background music is Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, composed by Krzystof Penderecki. It is an understatement to say it is profoundly disturbing. I have watched too many videos of nuclear explosions, and this one is way weirder and more detailed than any other.
There are two extremely strange follow ups to the explosion, both in 1956. An insect or amphibian or mutant emerges from an egg in the desert. It begins to crawl over the empty landscape. Then a very dirty disheveled frightening looking man called the Woodsman appears. He says got a light? Got a light? Got a light? And recites a poem that goes as follows:
This is the water, and this is the well
Drink full, and descend
The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within
As he goes into a 1950s town, he squeezes out the brains of every person that he meets. He goes to a radio station, takes it over and begins to recite the poem; each person who hears the poem falls asleep. Finally the creature from the egg that crawls along the dirt and flies into a window where it enters the mouth of a sleeping girl.
After that is a dreamy landscape with a woman who looks like an opera star, apparently named Dido, creating large bubbles that move through the body of a snake like machine. One of the bubbles has the face of BOB, and the other has the face of Laura Palmer. The bubbles are deposited on earth. Good and evil, Laura and BOB.
So here's my interpretation: BOB is nuclear deterrence, stripped of game theory and RAND Suits. BOB is the ultimate evil, a thought virus, a true meme in the sense that Richard Dawkins developed the concept. It can't live independently. Fear craving power, the deterrence meme, holds the entire planet hostage. But it's only a belief system. There is no Deterrent. There are lots of things that deter behavior, but the Nuclear Deterrent is a Santa Claus doppelganger. It cannot operate by itself.
Furthermore BOB prefers a complex nuanced character like Agent Cooper to the merely evil Windom Earle. BOB occupied Leland Palmer for years, a man who genuinely loved his daughter, Laura Palmer, as he emotionally and sexually abused her when he was hijacked by BOB. BOB seems to cackle with delight over making good people do horrible things, much more entertaining than simply adding powers to a sociopath. Thus it is with the people who are planning for nuclear war. Most of them are not sociopaths. They do not enjoy the rain of death they plan. It's a job, and they believe that sometimes you have to do bad things to have a good outcome. I imagine that most of the adults who went to Jonestown did not envision that they would be killing themselves and their children. In the clutches of a deep belief system, people do horrible things while claiming to hold on to their integrity.
A BOB attack is a mental illness that has become an epidemic.
The woodsman says got a light? Got a light? Got a bomb? He puts people to sleep with his death chant, and decants their brains. The military-industrial-academic-complex. The zombies sleepwalk towards annihilation.
Now I've watched episode nine and 10 of Twin Peaks the return and there has been no more allusion to nuclear war or the woodsman, or Dido. But my interpretation of Twin Peaks is that it is a message in a bottle, from David Lynch to the rest of us that BOB is among us. He is the ultimate evil. He lives in fear, he inhabits the world’s leaders, and he may annihilate the earth. I think Lynch and Frost are trying to tell us, stop this madness.