Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Return

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Return


This is the fourth entry in 5 Weeks of Fire Walk With Me. Next week I will conclude this series by interviewing Lindsay Hallam, author of a book about the film in the Devil's Advocate series.

Sixteen and a half episodes into Showtime's revival of Twin Peaks, FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) - the unquestioned (if multifaceted) hero of this series, as well as the old one (two seasons, 1990-91) - is speaking to a character who never appeared in the old show yet whose familiarity is taken for granted. Portrayed by a monstrous steam-spewing machine (whose spout Lynch says he regrets; "I wish I'd just made it straight, because everyone thinks it's a teakettle"), and articulated by voice actor Nathan Frizzell, yet visualized in flashback as none other than late pop legend David Bowie, this "Phillip Jeffries" is sending Cooper back to a particular date: February 23, 1989. Cooper's one-armed companion (Al Strobel, Jr.) intones, "Eeee-lec-tric-ity..." - a curious motif for anyone who came to this decades-delayed third season after close study of seasons one and two (in the old series owls, not electrical currents, were the harbingers of spiritual energy between two worlds).

And then our protagonist closes his eyes as the camera pushes toward him, a whoosing sound filling the soundtrack before we realize it belongs to a ceiling fan. Another sound emerges - a motorcycle - and we are faced with perhaps the most important, if infrequently-glimpsed, location in this two-part finale, perhaps in the whole series. It is, we have previously been told (in parts two and twelve), the Palmer family household even though it's a distinctly different house than the one used in the classic first and second season. And then we see actors: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and James Marshall (as Laura and Leland Palmer and James Hurley, respectively); all have been glimpsed in earlier parts of The Return but ow they look much younger, much younger than CGI or makeup could achieve. What's going on here?

This whole passage - the Bowie-initiated time travel, the view of a tall foreboding "Palmer house" ascending from a sidewalk, the actors who've leapt back in time a quarter-century - represents not only a return to the winter of '89. It is a return to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the controversial 1992 spin-off film that was for years left out of many discussions of Twin Peaks, often treated as an odd footnote at best and an irrelevant cast-off at worst. This crucial sequence of the "third season" (as Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost call it, though Showtime's designation The Return remains catchy and telling in its own right) begins with overt references to Lynch's onetime bete noire and concludes with direct immersion into that very work.

For most of the next five minutes David Lynch (who directed only six episodes of the first two seasons, but all of the third season as well as Fire Walk With Me) will play footage from his own movie, with color and score extracted and some new shots (along with a few previously unused old ones) sprinkled throughout. Having promised (or warned) viewers before the season's May premiere that his prequel film would be very important to the new work, Lynch certainly delivers. And yet this time, his Fire Walk With Me ideas are filtered through Frost's own strong vision (rather than reinforced by Robert Engels, co-writer of the film, who came closer to Lynch's own sensibility and was generally more deferential towards him). Frost was not involved at all with the film, but now he has been able to re-interpret its motifs in collaboration with Lynch. How does this impact the prequel project's legacy as well as the new material?

What follows is an exploration of all the Fire Walk With Me references in The Return.


The Woodsmen

The first overt reference to Fire Walk With Me likely appears early in Part 2 when we track away from Bill Hastings' (Matthew Lillard's) jail cell and glimpse a frighteningly still, grinning figure (Stewart Strauss) who vanishes into thin air (except for his head, which floats away before disappearing too). There's nothing specifically like this in Fire Walk With Me, either in terms of action or appearance (this "woodsman" is covered in some kind of grime or soot which renders his clothes and skin a single dusty color). Yet executive producer Sabrina Sutherland, and the credits themselves, trace a direct line of continuity between this figure and the cleaner but similarly bearded and uniformed "Woodsmen" seen in the room above the convenience store twenty-five years earlier.

Those earlier Woodsmen were played by David Brisbin (the ranch owner in Hey Dude, believe it or not) and the German film star Jurgen Prochnow, who receives top billing in the opening credits despite appearing onscreen for less than ten seconds and having no lines. They are little more than background figures in the surreal, supernatural sequence accompanying rogue FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries' rambling tirade, although The Missing Pieces (ninety minutes of deleted scenes released in 2014, which will also be discussed in this piece) feature some additional shots of them. The third season greatly expands their mythology, offering a few more glimpses here and there but mostly centering them in the legendary Part 8, which flashes back to New Mexico in 1956.

We learn new things about the Woodsmen - they crush their victim's heads, materialize/dematerialize with ease, twice "operate" on an orb filled with the spirit Bob (re-used footage of the late Frank Silva) inside the chest of Cooper's evil doppelganger after he's been shot, and seem to inhabit the creepy wallpapered hallways first featured in Fire Walk With Me (more on that in a moment). In the fifties sequence at least - the only time we see their apparent ringleader (played by Abraham Lincoln impersonator Robert Broski) - they are fond of asking "Gotta light?" and hijacking the radio waves to read a cryptic poem that puts listeners to sleep. Frankly, there's a lot to learn precisely because their role in Fire Walk With Me is so minor (there they are also accompanied by an "Electrician," played by Calvin Lockhart, whose role is taken over by another Woodsman in Part 15). Like many Fire Walk With Me motifs, the Woodsmen represent not so much a callback to the movie as a radical expansion, perhaps even a reinvention.

Featured in parts 2, 7, 8, 11, 15, and 17


"Is it future or is it past?"

This line is repeated three times in The Return by the one-armed man (known as Mike or Phillip Gerard, depending on the circumstances). It is first spoken in Fire Walk With Me - and The Missing Pieces - by the Man From Another Place (played by Michael J. Anderson, and often referred to as "the Little Man") during a dream sequence in which Cooper communicates with Laura via the Red Room, despite them never knowing each other before her death - and despite him getting trapped in the Red Room only at the end of the season two finale. Although this line serves as a useful reminder that The Return's many time games have their antecedent in Fire Walk With Me more than the original series, which adheres strictly to a straight and single timeline, "Is it future or is it past?" is also clearly a riff on "Through the darkness of future past" from the "Fire walk with me" poem. That poem, first introduced to the general public in Cooper's dream in season one, was originally conceived for an alternate ending to the pilot which also introduced Bob, Mike, the Little Man, the Red Room, the notion of a room above a convenience store, and the appearance of a still-living and perhaps-not-quite-Laura-herself vision of the dead girl, all concepts that continued to develop and evolve in both Fire Walk With Me and season three. Speaking of evolution...

Referenced in parts 2 and 18


"I am the Arm."

In the original series, the Little Man appears to be the master of the Red Room, initially a dream guide for Cooper and eventually an actual spiritual presence setting the tone for Cooper's trip through the Black Lodge in the finale. Only in the film does the Little Man inform us, "I am the Arm, and I sound like this" (followed by a whooping noise), later touching the shoulder of the one-armed man to emphasize exactly whose "arm" he is. This line is often missed even by people who have seen the movie. So it's bound to be even more confusing for non-Fire Walk With Me viewers tuning in to season three to witness "The Evolution of the Arm" repeat that same line, followed by a slurpy smacking sound instead of the previous whoop. Then again, they might be distracted by the fact that he has "evolved" into an electrified tree/nervous system with a mushy, fleshy brain-like "head" atop its highest branch.

In the first two seasons, the Little Man is never linked to the one-armed man (usually glimpsed as Phillip Gerard, his human host, rather than the spirit Mike, who confusingly has the same appearance as Gerard unless Mike is the Little Man and...well, I digress). The third season follows up on the movie's connection of these two previously distant characters by having them both assist Cooper in his journey back to the physical world and full control of his body. We seldom see the Arm without the one-armed man present too. Confusingly, the first two seasons suggest that, wherever it went, the missing limb was a signifier of evil (Mike's redemption is explicitly tied to his amputation of the tattooed arm); in season three, however, less ambiguously than even Fire Walk With Me, the one-armed man and the Arm appear to have the same, positive, mission.

Referenced in parts 2 and 18


Phillip Jeffries

Jeffries "appears" several times in the third season and is mentioned many more. Arguably the biggest star to appear in all of Twin Peaks, pop legend David Bowie was on track to repeat his part as rogue FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries, ricocheting between different times, places, and dimensions since at least 1989. Unfortunately, Bowie passed away on January 10, 2016, right in the middle of The Return's production; since he'd been ill for a while, fans correctly suspected that he hadn't shot anything, even though other Peaks actors reported that, indeed, his character was intended to play a role. How would Lynch and Frost reshape the story around Bowie's absence? Would he be recast (most fans shuddered at the thought)? Would his Fire Walk With Me footage be reconfigured? Would he be represented in a new form? As it turns out, all three solutions would apply.

Jeffries, who is onscreen for just a few minutes in the feature film, was always a character built around Bowie's presence. While writing the prequel, Lynch's assistant repeatedly asked her boss if they had a part for David Bowie yet. The running joke became an actuality, as it has a tendency to do for Lynch, and when much else was cut from the film, the Bowie cameo simply had to remain - mystifying as it was for many viewers. In The Missing Pieces, Jeffries' scene is greatly extended (the film slices up most of his dialogue, interspersing it with footage from "above the convenience store") and two bookends are added, which will be discussed elsewhere in this analysis. This extended view of an enigmatic character, contextualizing him more specifically, may have particularly stuck with Frost.

In interviews, Frost has cited The Missing Pieces as adding a lot to Fire Walk With Me (a film he is still loathe to say much about, likely diplomatically). He is probably referring to concepts like the Owl Cave ring, the Blue Rose cases, and Jeffries - ambiguous totems in the film, almost more symbolic than anything else, but given greater weight in the deleted scenes to varying degrees. The "blue rose" gets one additional mention, drawing Cooper into its secretive circle, while the ring becomes an appearing/disappearing object from the Red Room and Jeffries becomes more of an individual character and less of an avant-garde device. All of these more concrete variations on the film's more esoteric deployments are echoed in the series.

In that light, The Return's Jeffries often feels more in tune with the Frostian mythos than the Lynchian one. He's a kind of cosmic gatekeeper, facilitating Cooper's passage back in time and engaging in a tense, confused tete a tete with the doppelganger. He appears to be manipulating much of the action: Ray (George Griffith) reports to him via voicemail (and cites him just before he's shot) while Gordon and Albert speak in hushed tones of the mysterious agent, admitting that each of them knows something involved Jeffries that the other doesn't (and thus, implicitly, that Jeffries knows more than both of them). In Gordon's case, he knew Jeffries was hunting for the mysterious Judy/Jowaday; in Albert's case, he knows that Jeffries and Cooper were involving in shady subterfuge in South America which resulted in the death of "our man in Colombia." There's a lot of secret-agent intrigue surrounding this largely offscreen character (suggesting an enigmatic figure at home in one of Frost's favorite shows, The Prisoner); Albert, Gordon, and Tammy regard him as a shadowy presence who went over the edge. Although he can still be used, he is also dangerous and unknowable.

In the third season Jeffries has become a Colonel Kurtz of the Lodge world, a literary antecedent Frost would surely appreciate. (Heart of Darkness, incidentally, was nearly adapted onscreen by Orson Welles, and Jeffries evokes at least two other Wellesian figures - the more unambiguously bad Harry Lime in The Third Man, and the legendary "Mr. Wu" whom Welles once cited as the archetypal "unseen" but much-discussed character, revered by the audience precisely because his presence is withheld so shrewdly.) This mysterious distance is so great that at one point, indeed at his earliest appearance in the season (or rather, "his" earliest "appearance"), we aren't even sure if Jeffries is the actual person Mr. C is speaking with over the phone; the usually assured doppelganger himself expresses uncertainty (as he often will in Jeffries' presence), and the voice differs from the one later used for Jeffries in both flashback and "personal" appearance.

If Frost manipulates Jeffries' aura to suit his purpose, Lynch ultimately anchors the character in his own very personal visual motif. With Bowie gone, the director had to find a visual substitute, and he settled on a metallic bell-shaped device (as fans of Bowie's early music have pointed out, it's a literal "tin machine"), infamously featuring a spout-looking opening through which steam can emerge and coalesce into helpful numerical hints. This leads many viewers to identify the new Jeffries as a "tea kettle," much to Lynch's regret: "I sculpted that part of the machine that has that tea kettle spout thing, but I wish I'd just made it straight, because everybody thinks it's a tea kettle. It's just a machine."

Featured in parts 2 (maybe), 15, and 17; referenced in parts 4, 8, 13, and 14 (see later entry for more)


The outside of the Palmer house

We enter this house - both the onscreen setting and the actual physical shooting location - early in the pilot of Twin Peaks, so why is it listed as a Fire Walk With Me invention? When the production moved to Los Angeles for the series, the house's interiors were rebuilt (and modified) on soundstages, but the pilot never showed an establishing shot of the late Laura's home so Twin Peaks was free to re-imagine what it looked like. A crew sent to pick up B-roll months after the pilot (or else, perhaps, a second unit shooting pick-ups during the pilot's production) photographed a more immediately picaresque locale and this was chosen to represent the outside of the house in Episode 1 (directed by Duwayne Dunham) and thereafter. A spooky tree spreads its branches over an extended lawn, creating the impression that the Palmers are set back from any public street, isolated and enclosed in a haunted house. There's an evocative sense of secluded menace to this image and it's no wonder that this captured the imagination of the show's creators.

Lynch, however, returned to the original building while shooting the film. Perhaps this was merely a matter of convenience; if he was going to be using the rooms inside this house on a tight schedule, why spend the time traveling several towns over just to match the exterior used on the series? Besides, one could rationalize this as the series showing us the backyard while the film stuck to the front of the house (it's a stretch, but dimly plausible, although Episode 15 does show Leland emerging from the house and pulling out of a very Californian driveway - setting up a third version of the exterior). Whatever his reasoning, Lynch in Fire Walk With Me introduces us to a very different vision of the Palmer home: imposing, enclosed, and resolutely unromantic. Gone is the atmospheric sense of space, and the feeling that we as viewers are being seduced rather than dominated. Rather than a stretch of grass and a looming tree, the house faces a clustered street and even what looks like a quasi-cityscape in the distance (in fact, unlike much of the rest of Fire Walk With Me, this scene was shot in Everett, an actual suburb of Seattle that apparently lacks the rural character of North Bend or Snoqualmie).

As is often the case in The Return, when forced to choose between Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me, Lynch sticks with the latter. We see this Palmer home several times - before a few nighttime encounters with a lonely Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), drinking and smoking as she watches nature shows and boxing matches; during an awkward, foggy afternoon encounter between a concerned Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) and a clearly distressed Sarah; on a black-and-white screen inside the Fireman's (Carol Struycken's) mystic space before he swipes it away and sends the evil doppelganger to the sheriff's station instead; during a flashback to footage from the movie itself (we'll get there); and finally, of course, in the closing minutes of the show, when Cooper and Carrie Page (Sheryl Lee again) approach this house (while Carrie, who looks for all the world like an older Laura Palmer, insists she doesn't recognize the residence). At the door - they never enter inside - they meet a middle-aged woman (Mary Reber) who insists that Sarah Palmer doesn't live there, and that they bought the home from someone else. This woman, incidentally, is played by the home's actual owner, who has gone on to become a fixture in the Twin Peaks fan community (even appearing on the back cover of the Blue Rose magazine's recent "Women of Lynch" issue).

Discouraged, the detective and the confused Texan walk down these long steps, steps never suggested in the series but often ascended or descended by Laura and her father in the film and The Missing Pieces (in one of those deleted scenes, Laura waits nervously while her father hesitates and peers at her hiding spot in the bushes - here the location's distinctly scant foliage becomes a horror device). Then, of course, they hesitate. As Cooper points to the ground and mumbles to himself, Carrie stares back at the house and hears, faintly, the voice of Sarah calling for Laura. And then Carrie screams. And then the lights go out. And so this two-story home, looming over steep steps and a sidewalk and a street before it, truly becomes a character in its own right, a malevolent presence with a mind of its own - or rather, a manifestation of the traumatized consciousnesses that have inhabited it for years. This place, which we never saw once in thirty episodes yet whose structure forms the crucible for some of the most formative moments of the narrative in both pilot and prequel, becomes the final image of Twin Peaks before the last, literal curtain call.

Featured in parts 2, 12, 13, 17, and 18


Electricity

Few Fire Walk With Me motifs are utilized as extensively and centrally as electricity throughout season three. Arguably, seeds of this obsession are planted in the old series with flickering lights, thunderstorms, faulty sound systems, and strobes (Adrian Martin and Cristina Alvarez Lopez explored these touchstones in a video essay relying as much on the series as the film). Perhaps this reflects Lynch's lifelong fascination with electrical currents, going back to Eraserhead and especially the never-realized screenplay Ronnie Rocket (whose often quite overt references in season three deserve their own separate study). Nonetheless, it is only in Fire Walk With Me that electricity becomes an explicit theme of Twin Peaks and is linked directly to the spirit world: the figure of the Electrician (Calvin Lockhart) says "Eeee-lec-tricity," in the room above the convenience store, Laura sees flashes of blue light accompanied by buzzing sounds when she demands of Bob "Who are you?" and Jeffries' disappearance from FBI headquarters is accompanied by TV static and shots of electrical wires in the feature and the malfunctioning of overhead lights in The Missing Pieces (which also shows him zapped back to his hotel in Argentina by an electrical burst).

Season three takes this even further, not only by frequently - often explicitly - referencing electricity during spiritual apparitions but by connecting Cooper's return to the world directly to electrical outlets. There's the giant outlet that Cooper is sucked inside when visiting the Purple World (where Naido, played by Nae Yukki, throws a switch on top of a floating cube that seems to reset the number of the outlet from "3" to "15"). There's the cigarette lighter inside the doppelganger's car which glows and crackles as he covers his mouth and nose, seemingly trying to prevent Cooper from re-entering his space. And of course, there's the wall socket that releases Cooper, via a puff of black smoke, into the room Dougie Jones was just zapped out of; later, Cooper will induce a coma (and eventually his own fully conscious awakening) by crawling toward an outlet and sticking a fork inside. Additionally, Mike repeats the Electrician's line, we see a Woodsman connect wires as the doppelganger watches, and Cooper and Diane (Laura Dern) travel to - apparently - another dimension by passing some large pylons.

There are many more uses of electricity in both film and season than can be listed here, but what's important to note is that the introduction of electricity modifies our initial vision of the spirit world in seasons one and two. It hews their presence more closely to the human world, suggesting a measure of human culpability in the summoning and perhaps even responsibility for their existence in the first place (a point further brought home by Part 8's introduction of the atomic bomb as a quasi-origin story - maybe! - for the spirits of Twin Peaks). This goes hand-in-hand with a reorientation of the Twin Peaks mythos away from the dark spooky woods and the owls that represented them. There is, by my count, only one live owl in season three, and it flies over Cooper's head in Las Vegas, not Twin Peaks, its incongruity a reminder of a very different conception of what haunts this world. When Deputy Hawk unfurls his mystical map for Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster), he observes that the black fire is "not a campfire, it's a fire symbol...a type of fire, more like modern-day electricity." Asked if it's good or bad, he replies, "It depends on the intention behind the fire."

Featured in pretty much every part of the season! But particularly parts 3 and 15 - 18...


The Blue Rose

There may be three kinds of Fire Walk With Me references in Twin Peaks - continuations, expansions, and explanations. There are few of that last type, but "Blue Rose" certainly qualifies. In Fire Walk With Me, we see the "blue rose" once (well, technically, three times including flashbacks), an odd item pinned to the dress of Lil, a mysterious dancing girl whom Gordon Cole (Lynch himself) hires to communicate coded messages to FBI Agents Chester "Chet" Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Keifer Sutherland). Chet explains almost all of her gestures to Sam, but leaves the blue rose a mystery: "I can't tell you about that," he informs Sam ("And neither will I," Cooper tells the desperate agent in The Missing Pieces, a bit cruelly). That's it, but the legend of the blue rose grew among fans in the film's aftermath, a visualization of all that was inexplicable about Fire Walk With Me.

Some took this in poetic, almost mystical terms and/or as a meta wink at the audience, Lynch telling us that part of his story would always remain incommunicable; the prominent placement of the motif on the blu-ray boxset in 2014 only reinforced this sense. Others, however, took a more literal approach to the symbol, deciding that it represented an FBI task force devoted to paranormal, supernatural phenomena, much like the real Project Blue Book (a UFO-focused Air Force study) referenced in the first two seasons. As it turned out, the literal fans were exactly right. In season three, Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) - the most down-to-earth agent in both the original series and Fire Walk With Me - informs newbie Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) (while inducting her into this elite squad) that the FBI opened the Blue Rose Task Force as a direct follow-up to Blue Book, taking its name from something a woman in its first case said, referring to a double of herself that disappeared from a crime scene: "It's like the blue rose" (i.e. something not in nature).

Prior to this big scene, "blue rose" is spoken twice under very different circumstances; standing on a strange rickety space station in his passage from the Lodge to (some form of) reality, Cooper witnesses a giant vision of Major Briggs' (Don Davis') head float through the starscape as it intones, "Blue rose." Later, as Gordon and Albert discuss Cooper's (actually the doppelganger's) odd re-appearance, Albert asks, "Blue rose?" to which Gordon responds, "Doesn't get any bluer." Finally, after learning about the task force, Tammy is told about the first Blue Rose case. Quizzed on the meaning behind the term, Tammy muses, "A blue rose does not occur in nature. it's not a natural thing." All of this has Frost's fingerprints all over it - he loves to follow up on mysteries with explanations, reference actual esoteric history, and craft a lore-fueled backstory. Nonetheless, by its very nature, the blue rose itself remains enigmatic and the task force adopting its name only points toward the greater mysteries of this universe.

Referenced in parts 3, 4, 12, 14, and 17


Owl Cave ring

Frost also really loves this ring! In the book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, his very own "look, this is 100% my way of seeing things" project, the ring was featured prominently. Invented by Lynch for Fire Walk With Me as the ornament of an obscure sex worker (Pamela Gidley) living in a provincial trailer park, in Frost's hands it becomes a grand esoteric object recurring throughout American history on the fingers of some of the nation's most notorious citizens. Explorer Meriweather Lewis, occultist/rocket scientist Jack Parsons, and no less than President Richard Nixon (a mere fifteen years before Teresa Banks) all wear the ring not long before their (ill) fates are sealed. Frost's follow-up, The Final Dossier, even suggests that our current Commander in Chief has been spotted sporting the jade jewel, perhaps a bit of wishful thinking on Frost's part, given the destiny of everyone else who crossed its path.

Thus the ring is one of the few Fire Walk With Me motifs that both Lynch and Frost have treated in isolation, offering us two poles by which to measure the ring's presence in their collaborative screenplay for The Return. Whose vision predominates? In the film, the ring can be read any number of ways: as a visual encapsulation of Teresa's mystery (the FBI notes its absence on her corpse and appearance in a snapshot, Chet can't quite reach it before the film freezes and fades, and the one-armed man wears it as he taunts Leland about Teresa's murder), as a conduit between two worlds (the Little Man intones "with this ring I thee wed" and holds it aloft in Laura's dream, while it appears in the palm of Laura's hand after Annie delivers a message from the Lodge), and as a signpost of the wearer's doom (both Teresa and Laura wear the ring before they are killed, so things don't look good for the nurse, played by Terese Xavier Tinling, who snatches it off Annie in a deleted epilogue).

Arguably, and to my mind most interestingly, the ring also accompanies awareness and power. Lynch scrupulously avoids showing the ring on Teresa's hand (hidden by Leland's body and then an ice tray) until after she has begun to piece together Leland's identity and even pose a threat to him. Notably, when she holds her left arm in front of her while a murderous Leland races towards her, we can see that she's not wearing the ring. This too feels consistent with a positive reading; Teresa's death is a moment where the power shifts back toward Leland whereas Laura's death is in part a choice she makes to avoid Bob's possession. Even in Annie's scenes, another character receives the ring alongside her cryptic message about "the good Dale": a visual complement to the verbal information. In The Passion of David Lynch, Martha Nochimson notes that, unlike the ceiling fan, the ring is a circular figure of stillness: perhaps for Laura it signifies a greater order outside of her suffering, something of which she's slowly becoming aware.

Here is where the ring appears in season three: the slovenly Dougie is wearing it just before he is zapped into the Lodge and replaced by a frazzled Cooper; a wounded Ray shows Cooper's doppelganger the ring and says that Jeffries wanted him to place it on the doppelganger's finger before killing him (evil Cooper tells Ray to put it on his own finger and kills him once he does); a revived Cooper asks for and receives the ring from a vision of the one-armed man in the Las Vegas hospital; and Cooper places the ring on his doppelganger's hand when he arrives in Twin Peaks to find his double recently deceased. Following several of these sequences, the ring is set on a table in the Red Room by the one-armed man. What we do have here, suggested by both Fire Walk With Me and The Secret History, is a connection to death/disappearance and the Lodge. The Return strongly implies that if the ring is placed on an individual before they leave behind their physical existence, their body (or spirit represented as a body?) will appear inside the Red Room (where, it isn't particularly implied but it makes sense to deduce, their spiritual contents can be collected by the beings who inhabit this space).

Dougie is zapped to the Lodge without actually dying (he disintegrates in the Lodge, and the ring slides to the floor); Ray is killed and appears in the Lodge while his corpse remains behind (the ring itself disappears from the earthly body); the doppelganger dies and then, with the ring on his finger, both ring and body vanish (when he burns in the Red Room, we don't see the ring on his finger). So there isn't exactly a consistent pattern here. This elusive but aesthetically balanced depiction of the ring feels very much like a Lynch touch (and indeed, the ring's functionality only really makes sense if we consider it in light of the very Lynchian concept of garmonbozia). On the other hand, the limitation of the ring to doom and transportation, with no real sense of a deeper thematic pregnancy, feels more like Frost's sense of narrative utility than Lynch's instinct for painterly symbolism.

Featured in parts 3, 13, 16, and 17


Numb arms

In both the film and the third season, a numb left arm is related to the Owl Cave ring. The Hap's waitress (Sandra Kinder) in Fire Walk With Me tells the FBI agents that "just before her time," Teresa's left arm went numb. She assumes this was due to drugs, but considering Teresa wore the ring on her left hand, we're inclined to blame Owl Cave rather than cocaine. And sure enough, in The Return, the only numb arm belongs to the original Dougie Jones (Kyle MacLachlan again), who just happens to be one of the few characters wearing a ring. Does the power of this supernatural device weaken the limb closest to it? This notion also connects back to season two, in which the triumvirate of Cooper, Pete (Jack Nance), and random-lady-eating-pie-in-the-diner all lose control of their shaking (right rather than left) hand as a Lodge opening approaches (earlier, the agoraphobic Harold, played by Lenny von Dohlen, undergoes a similar physical trauma when he tries to leave his home). So that's it, right? The arm is numb when its hand wears the ring, signifying an imminent demise and transportation to the Black Lodge.

Well, not exactly. Look closely on when we actually see numb arms in Fire Walk With Me. Glimpsed briefly in a flashback to her murder, the terrified Teresa's left arm is gripped close to her chest, held by her other hand to suggest it is numb...but she is not wearing the ring. Earlier, in both deleted and included scenes, Teresa's hand is quite active while she wears the ring, brushing her hair and picking up the phone to call Leland, and it seems significant that one item that initially conceals the ring from our view, before she starts to realize Leland's identity, is an ice tray. Later, we see Laura lift her limp left arm with her right hand, just before she turns to see Annie in her bed. Only afterwards does the ring appear in her clenched fist...which is held outright with no difficulty, her left arm clearly not numb anymore. In fact, throughout the film, the numb arm is contrasted rather than coupled with the ring. So this appears to be an area in which The Return offers a simplified interpretation of phenomena from Fire Walk With Me that, unfortunately, compromises the rich complexity of the earlier work.

Featured in part 3


Garmonbozia

The numb arm, like the owl hooting and flying overhead in Las Vegas for a few seconds, seems mostly like a cute wink to fans rather than the fleshed-out development of a motif. At first glance, this appears even more true of the blink-and-you'll-miss-it nods to everyone's favorite "pain-and-sorrow-packaged-as-creamed-corn" mythos. Creamed corn, by the way, is introduced in a brief scene during season two but only in Fire Walk With Me does it receive this distinctive name - and very particular spiritual association. Garmonbozia is mentioned twice in Fire Walk With Me, first by the Arm during the meeting above the convenience store (overlapping with a cut to a tray of creamed corn), and then by the Arm and the one-armed man in unison, while confronting Bob in the Red Room near the end of the film (the subtitle for this dialogue follows the word with a parenthetical "pain and sorrow"). The word is never spoken in The Return but we glimpse at least a couple references to it: as the doppelganger throws up in his car, his vomit seems to consist of a mixture of putrid creamed corn and engine oil, and Hawk's map includes burnt corn which he describes as "fertility, but black, diseased or unnatural...death."

Mr. C's violent barfing seems self-explanatory, maybe a bit indulgent - are there any ramifications from his expulsion of pain and sorrow he's devoured for twenty-five years, because his character seems largely to carry on just as capably after this, despite a temporary physical setback? Hawk's description, however, suggests more potential for the concept, since he also warns that if the fire (electricity) and corn symbols are combined, you get black fire. There's an idea here: garmonbozia as fuel, which could appeal both to Frost's Midwestern background and political interests (ethanol as a perpetual local campaign issue, connected to the larger geopolitics of energy) and to Lynch's fascination with mechanics in general and cars in particular. This potentially goes beyond the notion in Fire Walk With Me of corn/suffering as an end in itself. What is the "black fire"? Is it just a form of perpetual sustenance for the dark spirits, or is it a way for them to build some larger combustive power, a kind of spiritual bomb to match the power of the human's atom bomb - or a form of transportation that can take them further than they've been before (or back from whence they came, remind us of Robert Engel's claim that the Lodge creatures were from a planet of creamed corn and wanted to find their way home)? Perhaps, despite the elusive brevity of its references, garmonbozia is quite important to season three after all.

Referenced in parts 3 and 11


The FBI in Philadelphia

Before Fire Walk With Me, there's little reason to presume that Gordon Cole, Albert Rosenfield, Dale Cooper, and the other agents we meet in Twin Peaks are headquartered in Philadelphia. There are really just three clues that prepare us for the sight of the Liberty Bell in the film. Onscreen, we learn that Cooper's traumatic experiences with Windom and Caroline occurred in nearby Pittsburgh (well, same state at least); offscreen, we probably know that one of Twin Peaks' co-creators considers Philadelphia a spiritual/imaginative birthplace for his sensibility; and, in the pilot, Cooper quips the following throwaway line: "As W.C. Fields used to say, I'd rather be here than Philadelphia." (In fact, Fields - who often made fun of his birthplace - told Vanity Fair that he wanted his epitaph to read, "Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia," although the intent was similarly insulting.) It's likely that middle reason - Lynch's years as an art student in Philly - that inspired him and Engels to shoehorn the very out-of-place metropolis into the otherwise rural, Northwestern milieu of the feature.

The Feds will spend most of their Return screentime visiting Buckhorn, South Dakota (with some additional time in another part of the state, Washington, D.C. national headquarters, the Twin Peaks sheriff's station, and an airplane). However, they are re-introduced to the plot in Philadelphia, as Gordon oversees a hilarious array of evidence ostensibly related to a politician's murdered wife (he dubs this puzzle "the Congressman's dilemma"). This is where Gordon, Albert, and Tammy receive news of Cooper's re-appearance, and we return to the location after their first trip to Yankton, as Albert attempts to bring Diane on board (though it's never made entirely clear, it is heavily implied that Diane lives in the city as well). This is clearly where this crew works out of, a perplexing fact given that Gordon has apparently been promoted to Deputy Director of the entire FBI. Given the amount of time this eccentric commander spends on a decades-old cold case of personal interest (and how much of that investigative time is spent chatting about esoterica in South Dakota hotel rooms well-stocked with wine), I suppose it's entirely consistent for the Bureau to allow him to maintain his headquarters far from the national capital. Maybe he just pretended not to hear them when they told him otherwise.

Featured in parts 3 and 7


Buenos Aires

Although deleted from the final film, Fire Walk With Me initially incorporated another very-far-from-Twin-Peaks location: Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Agent Jeffries checks into a hotel, asks for Judy, is informed that a lady left a note for him, and then is dramatically zapped onto a stairway in front of a bellboy and maid. This exotic segue was finally presented to viewers as part of The Missing Pieces which, as already noted, Frost seems to have paid more attention to than the theatrical cut. In fact, here we have the first Fire Walk With Me motif on this list that exclusively belongs to deleted material (although Jeffries' South American sojourn is suggested by his very tourist-y outfit). Aside from a Parisian dream in the new season, this is the only time Twin Peaks travels outside of the United States or Canada - aside from all the extradimensional stuff, of course. Indeed, given the absence of almost any international visitors in the new episodes, one could even argue that late Twin Peaks is actually more parochial than early Twin Peaks, with its Norwegian or Icelandic investors and Hong Kong criminals.

However, the third season does tiptoe toward globetrotting once or twice. We see Buenos Aires twice in The Return and apparently Showtime provided a more accommodating budget than CIBY Pictures (or else shooting on digital in 2016 is much more flexible than shooting on celluloid in 1991) because this time we get drone shots of the cityscape instead of just a colorfully decorated lobby in Seattle. We're also shown a mysterious room - it looks like a secluded basement - and a small beeping metal box inside a wooden bowl in that room. After two visits to this location, the box spontaneously crumples up and we never head south of the U.S. border again. Whatever the hell that gesture means is beyond the purview of this guide (although patrons can hear some further musings on the subject amidst my rewatch of Part 5).

Featured in part 5


Fat Trout Trailer Park

The presence of scuzzy mobile homes in Fire Walk With Me was designed to set the impoverished Deer Meadow apart from the more prosperous Twin Peaks, but the third season presents a more sympathetic, (mostly) positive vision of trailer park life and even incorporates this explicitly un-Peaksian location into the town itself (a helpful "new" is tacked on to the Fat Trout sign to assure us that the series is aware of this geographic shift and isn't simply trying to retcon the setting). In the film, and especially deleted dialogue from the screenplay, Fat Trout is as a nexus of desperation and/or despairing surrender. One resident, face caked in dirt and ice pack held to her eye, approaches a doorway, trembles and turns away; another pleads for hot water and is offered Valium instead. Given the film's fondness for juxtaposing particular Deer Meadow and Twin Peaks people and places - more obvious with the sheriff's station and the diner - many read Fat Trout as the flip side of Twin Peaks' Great Northern; a dismal place where locals are trapped instead of a travel hub where tourists pass through. In season three, our view of hotel life is limited to Ben (Richard Beymer) at his desk and the basement where James, now a security guard, checks on a mysterious noise, so any sense of contrast with Fat Trout is essentially elided.

Instead, Lynch and (probably especially) Frost use Fat Trout to incorporate a more marginalized community into the fabric of Twin Peaks. Mickey (Jeremy Lindholm), a resident who hitches a ride with the park's proprieter Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton), speaks of his wife Linda, who is disabled, implicitly a combat veteran, and struggling to get government benefits she is owed. Kriscol (Bill O'Dell), an aging man hobbling on a cane, periodically visits a hospital to donate blood so he can pay his monthly rent. Bill, Carl's driver, helpfully transports residents and visitors alike - even responding to Carl's homemade whistle - and former local news reporter Cyril Pons (Frost himself) now makes his home in Fat Trout. Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried), daughter of familiar Twin Peaks stalwarts Shelly (Madchen Amick) and Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), lives in the park with her abusive husband, further erasing the contrast between Deer Meadow and Twin Peaks. Although the residents themselves sometimes strike a shabby appearance (Mickey pulls his pants up by hand as he races toward the van and Cyril's hodgepodge outfit is a long way from the newsroom's polished professionalism), the park itself is tidier than it once was - and admittedly a bit less visually striking. Most notably, the owner's personality has shifted although he still doesn't like to be woken up too early. And even there his warning is now properly mounted on a sign rather than scrawled in marker across his own trailer's door.

Featured in parts 6, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 15


Carl Rodd

With age, Carl's time limits have grown more stringent: "DO NOT EVER DISTURB BEFORE 9 AM...EVER" has been re-designed as "9:30 AM (NEVER BEFORE!!!) - 5:30 PM". Otherwise, however, he appears to have mellowed. When the FBI agents encounter him in Fire Walk With Me, Carl is comically grouchy, his beleaguered stature in the world a source of arch mirth rather than compassion. His most famous line - "I've already gone places, I just wanna stay where I am" - speaks as much to the weariness required to settle for Deer Meadow as it does to the disturbing things he must have witnessed in those other places. He's likable but one-note, a note that Harry Dean Stanton plays beautifully, meant to suggest a colorful character briefly encountered in life's journey rather than someone we spend any significant time with. The Return, on the other hand, gives Carl room to grow - or rather for the viewer get to a wider view of his what he has to offer.

Perhaps Lynch, now seventy, is more interested in philosophizing about community and the passage of time or perhaps Frost, playing a role in Carl's development for the first time, is primarily responsible for Carl's wise old man status. Likely the shift is due to both. Inside Fat Trout, in addition to a gentle, plaintive rendition of "Red River Valley," Carl offers a ride to Mickey and Shelly (when she comes looking for her daughter), money to Kriscol, and and a concerned ear to Cyril as he explains what he saw in the woods (one of the park's other residents, likely on drugs and gripping a gun). It's outside of the park, however, where Carl plays his most significant role. Having grumbled to Mickey about his need to escape Fat Trout and apathy toward life ("Not much I got to look forward to at my age, Mickey, except the hammer slammin' down"), we now see Carl sipping a cup of coffee and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of a leafy park in the center of town. He smiles as a little boy (Hunter Sanchez) skips past, playing a game with his mother (Lisa Coronado)...and then later he hears two terrible noises: the sound of a car slamming into something, and the even more horrific scream of a distraught woman.

At the nearby crosswalk, Carl discovers the previously joyful parent wailing in grief, clinging to the body of her bloody, flattened, lifeless son. As he gazes compassionately at the woman he sees a hazy yellow shape emerge from the spot and rise skyward, where his eyes follow this aura until it disperses. This vision casts that Lynch-penned Fire Walk With Me "...I just wanna stay where I am" line, added while shooting with Stanton, in a new light (helped by Frost's book, which features a possible alien abduction when Carl is a child). What happens next however is entirely a function of Carl's evolution in season three: he leans over, places his hand on the sobbing woman to comfort her, and looks into her eyes with the weary wisdom of a man who's seen all life has to offer and has no answers but only an understanding to offer back.

Featured in parts 6, 10, 11, 12, and 15


The #6 Utility Pole

Immediately after the hit-and-run scene with Carl, indeed working as an enigmatic button to the scene, we cut to a shot of a wooden utility pole. This is not the first time we've seen this pole in Twin Peaks (and it won't be the last); confusingly, however, the pole was initially shown in the Deer Meadow version of the Fat Trout Trailer Park, so how did it cross the state with Carl?! The numbers are the same (on many utility poles, these numbers are coordinates which is certainly interesting in the context of Mr. C's obsessive quest for a set of coordinates) - a big "6" below a smaller "324810." Whatever the onscreen implications, and despite the fact that Deer Meadow and Twin Peaks scenes were all shot in the same area, look closely and you can see that Lynch shot two different poles.

If this leap through space is confusing, that's nothing compared to the final time we see this pole. In the finale episode of season three, Cooper visits a Texas neighborhood and notices a utility pole across the street from Carrie Page's house with the same familiar numbers on it. Hmmm. There's certainly something Lodge-adjacent going on here. In the film (as in season three), we first see the pole in an odd, seemingly unmotivated cutaway from Carl, immediately after the resident with the ice pack over her eye wanders up to his door (this shot precedes his famous line). As the camera pans down the pole we hear the faint sound of the Little Man's Native American war whoop. When we see the pole again nearly thirty years later in The Return, the shot moves up instead of down and the whoop is replaced by crackling electricity, whose implications we've already discussed here. The pole is also featured in Andy's vision inside the Fireman's palace - but if you look at the background, it's definitely Carrie's pole in Texas rather than Carl's pole in Twin Peaks. As I said...hmmm.

Without really being able to pin down exactly what the pole signifies, we can see why it's used as a spiritual signifer at all. The two greatest conduits for otherworldly energy in Lynch's Twin Peaks are wood and electricity, and the utility pole connects both of these elements. (A third great conduit, owls, is very much a Frostian feature and notably absent from both Fire Walk With Me and The Return). Since wood is associated with nature and electricity is associated with civilization, a utility pole also serves as a bridge between two worlds - suggesting that perhaps the significance of the spirits in the first place is not so much as something entirely outside of human experience, but as a connection between the familiar and unfamiliar realms. And with Part 18, we literally see the pole as one of the few links between two alternate universes.

As for the numbers, Lynch's obsession with numerology indicates that these choices aren't accidental (and if they are, we all know what he thinks about coincidence). When you add up the top numbers they equal eighteen, which reduces to a nine. Nine is obviously a flipped six...further compounding the idea of a portal between two, perhaps mirror-image, worlds. The most basic research indicates that in numerology both six and nine indicate compassion and love, but the six focuses this concern on immediate family and community whereas the nine extends this concern to the entire world; one could say nine's concerns are global. A numerology site reports that despite being the most harmonious number, "when 6 falls into discord and disharmony, it becomes possibly the most destructive and dangerous of all numbers. Beware of a cynical or angry 6 -- she is a merciless wolf in sheep's clothing."

Featured in parts 6, 14, and 18


Annie's message: "Write it in your diary"

There is one link between Fire Walk With Me and The Return that Lynch hinted at decades before the third season was a glint in anyone's eye. In the Lynch on Lynch interview with Chris Rodley published in 1997, the director is unusually effusive on this topic. "Although I don't really like talking about things, I've got to say this one thing about that scene - where Annie suddenly appears in Laura's bed. This is before Laura has been murdered, and before Coop has come to Twin Peaks. Annie appears, filled with blood, and wearing the exact same dress that she's wearing when she was in The Red Room with Cooper in the series - in the future. She says to Laura, 'The good Dale is in the Lodge. Write it in your diary.' And I know that Laura wrote that down, in a little side space in her diary. Now, if Twin Peaks, the series, had continued, someone may've found that. It's like somebody in 1920 saying, 'Lee Harvey Oswald', or something, and then later you sort of see it all. I had hopes of something coming out of that, and I liked the idea of the story going back and forth in time."

Well, finally, Twin Peaks the series did continue, and sure enough, a new Sheriff Truman and good old Deputy Hawk study this missing page from the diary (Hawk finds it at the end of the prior episode, hidden behind the door of a bathroom stall, and it's suggested that Leland slid it in there when he was brought in for question a quarter-century earlier). The passage reads, "They've never listened to my cries and I didn't want them to anyway. But there's this - This came to me in a dream last night.... 'My name is Annie. I've been with Dale and Laura (me??!!!). The good Dale is in the lodge and he can't leave. Write it in your diary' - that's what she said to me." It's a fantastic moment, not only for the follow-through after decades of promise, but for the way it presents a familiar scene in Laura's own words (I love the lower-case "lodge" and the perplexed "me??!!!" - of course that would be a part of Annie's strange message that Laura fixates on, even if years later the cops are more curious about how she heard about Cooper, a man she never met).

Somewhat surprisingly, however, the fanservice-y moment is also a bit of a non sequitur. Yes, Frank Truman eventually indicates to Gordon Cole a suggestion that there are two Coopers, but what is ultimately done with this information? Not much; the FBI and the Twin Peaks sheriff's station ponder its significance, but mostly just witness the eventual reveal of two Coopers without much benefit from the foreshadowing (the only person to act on this knowledge is Lucy, and she learns it from a phone call rather than a diary page). This, I suppose, is as much a comment on the nature of the doppelganger storyline as anything else: it's a MacGuffin that helps propel the series along but is not resolved through careful set-up and pay-off so much as by a blatant deus ex machina (or rather, god in the glove).

More significantly than a narrative marker, the diary serves as a thematic shift in The Return's use of Fire Walk With Me. I have been discussing these motifs in the order they are introduced in the third season and it's only now, a little over a third of the way into the new episodes, that we reach our first direct link to Laura's role in the film (the closest we've come is the Palmer house). From this point on, close to half of the remaining Fire Walk With Me elements will be Laura-adjacent rather than linked to the Lodge mythology, Jeffries, or Deer Meadow. It is interesting that so much of what The Return borrows from a movie focused almost exclusively on Laura Palmer...is not actually related to Laura Palmer. As she was in the original series, Laura becomes a significant absence rather than a dominant presence although now it's an absence tinged with a deeper knowledge.

Referenced in part 7


Laura in Donna's doorway (footage)

Ten episodes into the third season, we finally see the Laura of Fire Walk With Me. This is one of the few times we see Laura at all in the series; she appeared inside the Red Room in Part 2 (a mysterious, initially calm presence then violently yanked away) and her familiar homecoming photo, aside from introducing each episode, has been glimpsed on the sheriff's conference room table in Part 4 and inside a glowing gold ball in Part 8. But this Laura is the all-too-human Laura we met in the film: not a mystical being but a traumatized teenager. The context is that Gordon Cole hears a knock on his hotel door, and opens it to find a gigantic vision of Laura's face, tears streaming down, as she shakes and sobs in slow motion. The vision eventually fades, leaving Albert in the doorway, but Gordon is shaken and never tells anyone what he saw. If the once-abstract mythological elements shoehorned into the season (often, it seems, by Frost) tend to be pinned down to a particular meaning, this reference to the drama of the movie (quite clearly a Lynch touch even to the point of casting himself as its recipient) is explosively mystifying.

The footage itself comes from the scene in the film when Laura shows up at Donna's (Moira Kelly's) door. She's just watched her father emerge from her house after catching Bob in her bedroom, and this is the first time in the movie that she is confronted with the true identity of the terrifying stranger who has abused her five years. It's a quick scene in the movie (Donna reassures her that she's her best friend and brings her inside) although Lynch extends it in The Missing Pieces, bringing her inside the Hayward home for a long scene with the family before sending her off again. In fact, it's quite possible Lynch added the scene to the story after rewatching the footage while assembling those deleted scenes (a project that took place early in the secretive writing of season three). It's one of Laura's most vulnerable moments and by boldly thrusting us into the middle of a story that otherwise has little to do - or little to obviously do, anyway - with Laura's arc in Fire Walk With Me, Lynch reminds us that this hidden trauma remains a bedrock of all Twin Peaks.

The moment also serves as a kind of momentary subconscious surge for another trauma that will confront Gordon, as a weeping, stuttering Diane admits to him that Cooper raped her. The delivery of both actresses is remarkably similar but whereas Laura - at least in that moment - receives comfort from her friends, Diane is eradicated by her colleagues. In neither case, spectral nor physical (until it too becomes spectral), will Gordon be able to do anything to help this fleeting female figure before she fades away.

Featured in part 10


Chet Desmond

"Gordon suggested an agent by the name of Phillip Jeffries to head the squad," Albert tells Tammy just before recruiting her to the Blue Rose task force. "He soon recruited three others: myself, Chet Desmond, and Dale Cooper. Perhaps you haven't failed to notice that I'm the only one of that group who hasn't disappeared without explanation, which has led to a certain reluctance on Gordon's part to bring new blood into the fold." This is the only mention of the FBI agent who carries the first twenty minutes of Fire Walk With Me; although Chris Isaak had a contract with Showtime at the time of season three's production, and fans eagerly anticipated a surprise cameo, we never get to see him after he reaches for that ring underneath the Fat Trout trailer. This single reference is perhaps most significant for the shadow it casts over John Thorne's famous theory that the Deer Meadow sequence is Cooper's dream; that Cooper is the one who conducted the Teresa Banks investigation and has only substituted Chet Desmond in his own sleeping mind while re-living the experience. While the theory always allowed for Chet being a real FBI agent outside of Cooper's dream, the idea that he's a real FBI agent who also happened to disappear under mysterious circumstances seems like a bit too much of a coincidence even for Twin Peaks.

Referenced in part 12


Jeffries' visit to Philadelphia (footage)

Having inserted the Laura footage into Part 10 for a few seconds, The Return now incorporates its second of three direct flashbacks to Fire Walk With Me, this time for a bit longer and with a few more alterations (the last flashback will open the floodgates and also monkey things up much more). While recounting a dream to Albert and Tammy, Gordon remembers the visit that Jeffries paid the Philadelphia office in 1989 and we see the actual sequence repeated, desaturated and with a new voice dubbed in for Bowie. Oddly enough, while the dying singer granted Lynch the use of his image in the third season, he demanded that his voice be re-dubbed because he didn't like the Southern accent he employed at the time. A disappointed but respectful Lynch followed through, and when the episode finally aired fans noticed that Bowie's vocal replacement seemed to re-word the line when Jeffries points at Cooper: instead of "Who do you think this is there?" as he asks in the film, we hear "Who do you think that is there?" in the episode. In fact, this is not a new variation - as I only just realized, The Missing Pieces uses the latter reading; for this flashback, Lynch samples the take from the deleted scenes rather than the one he used in the theatrical cut.

While referencing this scene, triggering the re-use of footage, Gordon describes this as "the day that Phillip Jeffries appeared...and didn't appear." Most of the sequence is not featured; the emphasis is very much on Jeffries' question, which both Gordon and Albert had apparently forgotten. "That's really something to think about," Gordon marvels, having recently heard from the sheriff about indications that there are "two Coopers." We see a bit of this footage again when the doppelganger visit Jeffries in the next episode. In both Part 14 and Part 15, Jeffries' visitation is placed in 1989 - but according to Fire Walk With Me itself, this is incorrect. Jeffries shows up in Philadelphia in February 1988, shortly after the FBI's trip to Deer Meadow, not February 1989. Why the mix-up? Well, both the screenplay and the footage as originally shot place the scene after Laura's introduction in Twin Peaks, a year after the Teresa Banks case. While editing, however, the scene was placed before Cooper's follow-up visit to Deer Meadow, and well before the "One year later..." title that sets up the Laura storyline. This is a much more logical and aesthetically-pleasing placement of the scene, but when assembling The Missing Pieces, Lynch reverted to the screenplay order (or close to it, anyway), placing the Jeffries deleted scene after Cooper's talk with Sam about Chet's disappearance. Whether Lynch just forgot his rearrangement, or decided that locating all the big past events in 1989 was more efficient, there's now a discrepancy between the film and the third season - or at least the characters' memories in the third season.

Featured in parts 14 and 15


Angels

Having just observed that the Jeffries flashback is the second of three samples from Fire Walk With Me, with the third reserved for the end of the series, I have to acknowledge that technically that's not quite true. Later in that same episode, Andy receives a vision (part of a larger montage) of the still image from Laura's portrait combined with footage of the angel presiding over her in the Red Room sequence at the end of the film. It's worth noting that although we see two angels in this shot, they aren't the two separate angels presented near the end of Fire Walk With Me; the angel who hovers over Ronette has long hair and the short-haired angels in this tableau are doubled, flipped images of Laura's own angel from the ending. What to make of this? First and foremost, it's just a striking image that the painter in Lynch uses in a pared-down, almost medieval, religious fashion to record Laura's climactic salvation. The use of two angels also indicates a kind of security. Flanking Laura on both sides they suggest that no matter what her character (or variations on her character) undergoes in the new season, her climactic transcendence can not be undone. Then again, some viewers have speculated that the black-and-white parts of Andy's vision are fixed and unchangeable, while the color footage is more malleable depending on Cooper's eventual intervention in the past - which indicates that the angels can be taken away.

featured in part 14


Hallway above the convenience store

Wait a second. Is this hallway above the convenience store? The location isn't entirely clear in Fire Walk With Me. We are introduced to the room above the convenience store (referenced all the way back in Cooper's dream of the first season) as an actual space when Jeffries says "I've been to one of their meetings." But the walls of that room are bare and it's really only the decrepit nature of the decor, the wooden flooring, and the appearance of the grandmother (Frances Bay) and grandson (Jonathan J. Lepell in the film) in both locations that suggests a link between this space and the hallway we see later, in Laura's dream. Yet for years fans tended to assume that these two locations were connected, and The Return finally confirms this supposition: the doppelganger pulls up at an ephemeral convenience store, follows a Woodsman up the stairs to a metaphysical space and emerges in that same hallway we saw in Laura's dream (this time, more Woodsmen rather than Tremonds greet him). The space is extended further in the third season as both the good and bad Cooper ascend a staircase which leads to a motel courtyard (we glimpse this same staircase, decked out with Woodsmen, when Gordon has his spiral sky-vision in South Dakota). The wallpaper, incidentally, appears to be the same - much more worn-down - as One Eyed Jack's. Though it's fun to read into this (maybe as a link between a spiritual and criminal "underworld"?), quite likely the wallpaper was left over from season two when Lynch was shooting the film, and practical utility coincided with aesthetic affinity.

featured in parts 11, 15, and 17


The Jumping Man

Here's a figure barely glimpsed at all in the third season - I clock his screentime in the familiar red suit and white, long-nosed face mask at about a dozen seconds. And even in Fire Walk With Me, where his deeply unsettling introduction leaves a profound impression, he's onscreen for less than half a minute (The Missing Pieces adds another thirty seconds to his total). Yet given the implications of his appearances, particularly in season three, this spirit is an incredibly crucial part of the season. Let us count the ways... In Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces, the Jumping Man (Carlton Lee Russell) is present at the convenience store "meeting," leaping around in the corner of the room, hopping up and down on a box and gnashing his teeth (in the film's cut of this sequence he's the first element from this hallucinatory vision to bleed into the Jeffries sequences, and indeed the first boldly supernatural, aggressively surrealist motif to force its way into the movie, period). In The Return, when a Woodsman pulls an electrical switch for the doppelganger, the Jumping Man flickers for a few seconds (if you look really closely, Sarah's face is stretched over his), and then he pops up again descending the staircase just after the restored Cooper has ascended it. Is that it?

Not exactly. When Sarah removes her face in the bar, a thin, conical object pokes out for a few frames - the Jumping Man's nose? Most significantly of all, when a cryptic radio message from the Woodsmen puts a young girl to sleep in 1950s New Mexico, a strange frog-bug crawls into the room and eventually, inside her mouth. Take a close look at this creature, which we've already seen leaping to the girl's window on strong hind legs, and you'll notice it has a long, pointy nose. Contextual clues suggest what Frost's novel The Final Dossier confirms: this girl is a young Sarah Palmer. If the Jumping Man is an eerie, inexplicable terror (along with the Woodsmen and the Electrician, one of the few all-new spirits) in Fire Walk With Me, The Return converts him into a spiritual linchpin: almost certainly a spirit possessing Sarah the way that Bob possessed Leland. And there's more...there are also suggestions that Sarah is possessed by, or linked with, Judy/The Mother/The Experiment - the creature we see vomiting up the egg which will hatch the frogbug in Part 8? Perhaps the Jumping Man is actually a Ju(mping La)dy.

featured in part 15 and 17, referenced in parts 8 & 14


Judy

And now, we're finally gonna talk about Judy. For twenty-five years - and whatever the in-world math or the gap between the series' season two finale and season three premiere, it was almost exactly twenty-five years between Fire Walk With Me's and Part 1/2's Cannes debuts - "Judy" was the official last line of all Twin Peaks. Whispered by a monkey just before a slow-motion shot of Laura's corpse being unwrapped and the wordless sequence of Laura's angel blessing her in the Red Room, this cryptic name inspired numerous theories and extensive digging into the genesis of the concept. "Judy" is mentioned only one other time in the film, when Jeffries stumbles into the FBI headquarters and states, infamously, "I'm not gonna talk about Judy. In fact, we're not gonna talk about Judy at all, we're gonna leave her out of it!" (Just as with his "Who do you think this is..." line, The Missing Pieces/Part 14 contain a different take of this dialogue, in which Jeffries never says the last part of the line - "we're gonna keep her out of it!")

In The Missing Pieces, Jeffries proceeds to tell them, "Judy is positive about this," at which point the snarky Albert replies, "I thought we were gonna leave Judy out of this." There's also a deleted scene in the Buenos Aires hotel where Jeffries approaches the desk clerk and asks, "Do you have a Miss Judy staying here by any chance?" (They don't, but the concierge does have a letter for Jeffries left by a young woman.) According to Engels, the name "Judy" originated from a shout-out to his sister-in-law and was originally intended to be Josie's sister. In addition to noting the Wizard of Oz reference (Twin Peaks itself namedrops Judy Garland in one episode), many interpreted Jeffries' reference to the mysterious woman as an indication that she was a victim of Bob, a young woman he was obsessively investigating before he disappeared, much like Agents Desmond with Teresa and Cooper with Laura. And from this, some (myself among them) wondered if Sheryl Lee would be cast as Judy in any continuation. After all, Lee's first follow-up character to Laura was named Madeleine, an explicit reference to Kim Novak's character in Vertigo. The name of the other character she played in that film? Judy, of course.

The Return avoids Judy for almost its entire runtime with two exceptions, both linked to Jeffries' line in Fire Walk With Me: Gordon recounts his dream which includes a flashback to that scene, and there's another flashback when the doppelganger visits the Jeffries machine. Following that second flashback, the doppelganger asks the Jeffries machine "Phillip, why didn't you want to talk about Judy? Who is Judy? Does Judy want something from me?" to which Jeffries responds, "Why don't you ask Juy yourself? Let me write it down for her." He produces a string of smoky numbers and when the doppelganger presses the point, Jeffries answers cryptically, "You've already met Judy." Then the two-part finale opens with a long monologue in which Gordon suddenly places this mysterious name at the very center of the Twin Peaks mythos. In fact, after two years (and thirty episodes) of nonexistence, twenty-five years (and one film) of cryptic marginality, and three and a half months (and sixteen episodes) of studious near-avoidance, this "character" became so crucial to fans' conceptions of the show that almost every single grand unified theory since the finale has hinged on the suddenly-central Judy. What did Parts 17 and 18 present to elevate her stature so profoundly? First, Gordon informs Albert and Tammy:
"Before he disappeared, Major Briggs shared with me and Cooper his discovery of an entity. An extreme negative force called, in olden times, 'Jowaday.' Over time, it's become 'Judy.' Major Briggs, Cooper, and I put together a plan that could lead us to Judy. And then something happened to Major Briggs. And something happened to Cooper. Phillip Jeffries, who doesn't even exist anymore, at least not in a normal sense, told me a long time ago he was on to this entity. And he disappeared."
Well now. This is quite the info-dump although it tells us almost nothing about who or what Judy really is, except to embody (or disembody?) her as an amorphous spiritual concept rather than a human being. There must be more, right? Indeed there is. Before sending Cooper back in time to the night Laura died, Jeffries announces, "This is where you'll find Judy." In Part 18, Cooper - now transported to what appears to be an alternate-universe version of Odessa, Texas - drives past a diner whose name catches his eye. He enters Judy's Coffee Shop and, after a violent confrontation with some patrons, gets a missing waitress' name and address from her co-worker which leads him to Laura lookalike Carrie Page. And...that's it. Retroactive interpretations of Judy as the looming big bad for all fifty hours of Twin Peaks, speculation that she owns this alternate universe and that Laura is used as a human atomic bomb to destroy her, all essentially stem from exactly a minute of dialogue and a few seconds of a sign glimpsed from a car window.

To be fair, there's arguably more than just this material to fuel the supposition (and of course even if that was it, the import granted to Gordon's monologue certainly encouragess the viewer to look for Judy under every corner of the narrative). When Gordon speaks of "an entity," "an extreme negative force" that characters are looking for and who is coded as female, our minds are naturally going to drift back to a few earlier moments in the season. The "American Girl" whom Cooper encounters in the Fireman's tower in Part 3 tells him, "My mother's coming!" as something knocks ominously on the door to the room they're inside. And when a monster, billed as "The Experiment Model" in the credits, shows up in the glass box in Part 2 before attacking poor Sam and Tracey in New York, it has what looks like a female figure; a similar-looking creature, billed as "The Experiment," floats inside, presumably, the atomic bomb cloud in Part 8, where its stream of vomit includes many eggs and a Bob-bubble. That latter incarnation has slight horns on its otherwise featureless head, which ties it to the shape drawn on the doppelganger's playing card in Part 2, Hawk's map in Part 11 ("You don't ever want to know about that"), and a rounded version of both the owl symbol from the cave and ring and the the pylon that Cooper and Diane pass while entering an alternate reality in Part 17. And the former, slightly different Experiment head - a white mass with a gaping black maw - looks like what we see beneath Sarah's face in the bar in Part 14.

In The Final Dossier, Frost writes that Jowaday was an ancient Sumerian deity (an invention of the author, not an actual mythological presence) who - if she ever mated with Beelzebub - could birth the antichrist and the end of the world. If Jowaday possesses Sarah, and Beelzebub, a.k.a. Bob, inhabits Leland, what does this say about Laura? Let's pull back for a moment. Gordon - let alone anybody else - never, ever says Judy is evil. As Miriam Bale observed on Twitter shortly after the finale, "There are two types of electric charges: positive and negative." Aligning with this reading, in Part 17 the Jumping Man - whom the bar unmasking links to both Judy and Sarah - is shown descending the staircase that Cooper has just ascended and later in that episode, Sarah attacks Laura's picture, perhaps as a counterforce to Cooper's willful intervention in the past. Lynch's cosmology - personal and aesthetic - is obsessed with balance and if The Return is an unusually masculine work for late Lynch, it makes sense to have an important but nearly unspoken feminine presence underlying everything, whispering what it's really all about even as the surface story distracts us. Twin Peaks already has a symbol for omnipresent evil in Bob, and it doesn't need to add another one - certainly not a female one in a narrative whose central organizing theme has been violence against women.

To echo Mr. C, who is Judy? So far, the only answer I've found which links all of her direct and indirect references is not the she is an ancient Sumerian god, or the locus of all evil in the Black Lodge, but that she is a symbol of trauma, which has always been the hidden heart of Twin Peaks. The literal last word in Fire Walk With Me and the elusive object of pursuit for a clueless Cooper in The Return, Judy has been with us all along.

referenced in parts 14, 15, 17, and 18


Laura's last night (footage)

As already noted, despite its many scattered references to Fire Walk With Me and Lynch's stubborn pre-credits insistence that Laura remains central to Twin Peaks, The Return mostly avoids the character who anchored the film and the first half of the original series. The back half of Part 17, however, rectifies this purposeful oversight as we are thrust directly into the defining incident of the entire story cycle. Cooper informs Jeffries that he wants to be sent back to February 23, 1989, and there follows a dramatic fade to the unforgettable ceiling fan. From there, converted into black-and-white just like the Jeffries flashback, the episode replays much of Laura's last night as shown in the film: she flees her house on James' motorcycle, talks with him in the woods, and eventually leaps off his bike to flee into the woods again, alone. Of course, this time, there are some significant tweaks applied to the original footage. Aside from the monochrome presentation, all music is removed: dialogue and ambiance dominate the soundtrack without any dramatic underscoring. The sequences also includes a few "new" shots, obviously filmed back in 1991 but never shown until now, not even in The Missing Pieces: an extra second or two of Leland's eyes shifting as he scowls in the window, Laura clinging to James on the back of his bike, and some lengthier shots of Jacques, Ronette, and Leo waiting for Laura in the woods (the wide shot may actually be from the film, but with Laura digitally removed).

Most crucially, of course, James' and Laura's long, dramatic conversation in the forest is combined with shots of Cooper crouching in the foliage, watching her. In one of the most clever interventions, and one of the best-ever examples of the Kuleshov experiment, Laura's scream (apparently unmotivated in the movie) is intercut with Cooper, implying that she was startled by the sight of him hiding behind a tree. Soon after this, everything changes: Lynch shot a whole new scene with Sheryl Lee in her old costume, pausing to cry and be rescued by Cooper before she is supernaturally yanked away while her scream echoes again. This builds on what he created in Fire Walk With Me, while obviously putting a whole new spin on it. The use of this footage is a truly fascinating phenomenon; Harley Peyton, a writer on the first two seasons, has suggested that this whole idea was Frost's, rather than Lynch's, conception. If so, it's perhaps the only time in season three that Frost makes direct reference to something that's in Fire Walk With Me rather than The Missing Pieces.

For Lynch, this offers a poignant opportunity to return to his old material; has any director ever been presented with such an experiment? I can think of films in which an auteur screens their old material as a movie-with-in-a-movie (Vincente Minnelli utilizes The Bad and the Beautiful in Two Weeks in Another Town, Ingmar Bergman incorporates a comedic short shot for The Devil's Wanton into Persona, Jean-Luc Godard and Agens Varda have definitely sampled their own earlier endeavors in documentaries, and I suspect there are many other examples escaping me for the moment). But I'm hard-pressed to recall a filmmaker re-using, let alone altering, their existing work in a fashion this bold and profound. More than anything else in the third season of Twin Peaks, this gesture underscores Fire Walk With Me's importance. Lynch, always dismayed that the show's viewers overlooked the movie, has now forced a confrontation with this material in the boldest fashion possible.

featured in part 17


The Chalfonts

In the final moments of season three, a stranger greets Cooper at the door of the Palmer house. She is named Alice Tremond; the Tremonds - a mysterious grandmother and grandson (Austin Lynch) - are introduced in the second season of Twin Peaks, not the film (although they reappear in it). However, in Fire Walk With Me the Tremonds get a new name for some never-explained reason: Carl Rodd tells Coopers that two Chalfont families in a row, one of them a grandmother and her grandson, lived in a particular space in his trailer park, and the credits confirm that the Tremonds and Chalfonts are one (or two) and the same. And in Part 18, when Alice is asked who owned the house before her, she asks her husband and reports his answer back to Cooper: "Chalfont, a Mrs. Chalfont." If there was any question about whether Lynch was re-using the name as just a cute reference, or trying to indicate something more important, this is settled by the use of the double name (only made possible by Fire Walk With Me). That said, the uncanny significance of this gesture probably has more to do with episode 16 of the series, in which a different stranger (Mae Williams) answers the Tremonds' door when Cooper and Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle in the series) knock on it. It's the house itself, not so much its inhabitants, that underscores The Return's debt to Fire Walk With Me in its final moments.

referenced in part 18


Additional references

There are also several images or aspects of The Return whose debts to Fire Walk With Me are more indirect. (By the way, if I overlooked anything, let me know and I'll update the post!) In Part 2, the Laura whom Cooper sees in the Red Room opens up her face to reveal pure white light. Although not explicit, this feels like a nod to Laura's fate at the end of the film, in which she is bathed in a more flickering light, watched over by an angel - we get the sense that she has attained some sort of spiritual enlightenment. (When Lynch interviewed Sheryl Lee in character as Laura in the Between Two Worlds feature on The Entire Mystery blu-ray, he had her allude to this as well, with the line "And then I saw what it was. And it was so beautiful. I was awake.") Another feature of the Red Room, its occupation by the one-armed man (who has suddenly become the location's prime mover and shaker as far as Cooper is concerned), was only introduced near the conclusion of Fire Walk With Me; up until then, we'd seen the Mike-possessed Phillip Gerard in Cooper's hospital dream space or out and about in the physical world. But when Leland/Bob parts the curtains after killing Laura, he is confronted by the one-armed man and the Arm sitting side by side, demanding garmonbozia. And then in Parts 2, 4, 6, 11, 16, and 18 of the third season, the one-armed man - who, just as in the film, always seems to be his Mike self (even though The Return only bills him as Phillip Gerard) - is present in the Red Room and usually linked to the Arm (or in this case its Evolution).

Part 5 features a couple shots that reminds us of Fire Walk With Me even if the connection is not explicit. In one, a blissed-out Becky tosses her head back and gazes up at the sky in druggy wonder. Numerous viewers instantly wondered if she would become the new season's Laura Palmer. Not only was she blonde, young, beautiful, and - in classic Lynchian terms - "in trouble," but this image very much recalls an overhead shot of Laura on Donna's couch in the film (although Laura is more sorrowful in that sequence). Near the end of that same episode, the doppelganger is allowed to make a phone call from prison and he stares right into the surveillance camera as the warden watches with some of his associates - calling back to the way Cooper stared into the surveillance screen (and then ended up briefly watching a double of himself) in the FBI headquarters just before Jeffries showed up in Fire Walk With Me. Sounds as well as images stir our memories, with musical cues introduced in the movie scattered throughout the third season. One that come to mind is the jaunty "Deer Meadow Shuffle" (first featured as Chet flies to Oregon) when Ike the Spike is arrested in Part 9. Another is the ominous, distressing "It's Your Father" (first featured when Cooper discovers the "Let's rock" graffiti on Chet's abandoned car) when Diane says "Let's rock!" in Part 12 and later in the same episode when Sarah spots the turkey jerky in the grocery store and begins to have a nervous breakdown. That more extensive use recalls a different moment in the movie, from which this track takes its title: the one-armed man confronts Leland and Laura at a stop sign and begins screaming at them over the sounds of a revving engine, honking horn, and barking dog.

Incidentally, that confrontation was filmed at the same intersection where Richard runs over the little boy in Part 6. We are reminded of a clue Lynch offered for Mulholland Drive - "An accident is a terrible event ... Notice the location of the accident." In this case too, a dramatically violent act from one part of the narrative echoes a more subtly traumatic incident from another part (and again both scenes involve characters in cars). A similar phenomenon may be taking place, albeit in a more slippery fashion, in Parts 15 and 17, when Lynch returns to a motel courtyard first introduced in Fire Walk With Me. In that film, the location appears as the Red Diamond City Motel where Leland goes to have sex with Teresa Banks. The Final Dossier offers Frost's perspective on The Return's version of the motel, which for all intents and purposes could just be an entirely different place that happened to be shot at the same real-world location (hence its inclusion here rather than its own entry). He calls it "the Dutchman's Lodge," a seedy criminal hotbed in Montana that was shut down and later burned in the sixties although Ray suggests Jeffries resides there (in Part 13, he tells the doppelganger he can find Jeffries at "the Dutchman's" and is shot before he can explain what it is). And indeed in The Return, this motel is an explicitly metaphysical space, accessed through the convenience store and then the hallway above the store. In one of the motel rooms, both Coopers meet with Jeffries (we see the motel location again during the end credits of Part 15). There's a bit of this spiritual touch in Fire Walk With Me, as Leland stalks away from his last encounter at the motel: the grandson, wearing the Jumping Man's mask (without eyes and a twig poking out from its brow), leaps out from the bushes and dances around the parking lot before disappearing.

Most significantly, however, Fire Walk With Me presents the motel as the site where - in a sense - the entire narrative of Twin Peaks is initiated. When Leland arrives at this motel for one of his rendezvous, he discovers that his own daughter is one of the prostitutes Teresa has invited for an orgy. This moment not only torments Leland with a sexualized vision of Laura (something he's usually compartmentalized into a carefully-guarded part of his psyche), but also inspires Teresa to blackmail him, leading to both her and Laura's murders. When the Coopers visit Jeffries, he is ensconced in the same room that Teresa appears to exit when she startles Leland and sets the plot wheels in motion. What does this mean? Is Jeffries' function as a plot engine himself (about as literal a deus ex machina as you can get) what places him in this room? Does Lynch himself have a purpose here, or does he just like the association? It makes sense to conclude on such an open-ended note because many of the connections between Fire Walk With Me and The Return share this nature, the sense that we are collecting fragments of an intangible dream...slight yet durable filaments connecting two world.

No comments: