Lost in the Movies: September 2018

Patreon update #39: Dead Poets Society (+ Twin Peaks for new viewers & more)

Fall is the perfect time to focus on the richly autumnal Dead Poets Society but I'm emphasizing the film for another reason as well. I've recently watched three Ethan Hawke films: Before Sunset and Before Midnight, to finally follow up on the first Before film I covered back in June, and coincidentally First Reformed, in which he plays a Protestant clergyman seized by growing fanaticism. I decided I might as well make this a thing, so I added Dead Poets Society, Gattaca, and Training Day to the mix with plans to cover one a month in chronological order until February. In an admittedly very rambling monologue, I touch on the film's vivid location, its place in the "inspiring teacher" genre, the cringe factor of its romantic storyline, and the ambiguity of Robin Williams' character. For a more jaundiced (and more disciplined) take on the film, Roger Ebert's 1989 takedown is worth reading. Many of his points (and those of the commentators) are quite solid, but I have a soft spot for this film. What are your thoughts on it?

From now on, episodes will be a little shorter and I'll tend to shift between categories each week rather than running through all of them every time.

Line-up for Episode 38


WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: Zama review, The Unseen: La La Land, character bonus: Johnny Horne

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS: my dugpa comments round-up & first time viewer companion

FILM IN FOCUS: Dead Poets Society


Patreon update #38 (Twin Peaks season 3 finale - Listener Feedback, The End of Evangelion, additional listener feedback & more) and preview of Jeffries & the Woodsmen in Fire Walk With Me/season 3

The long break between episodes was still filled with activity, including a Patreon update sharing video "slide-show" versions of an earlier podcast (as well as a couple biweekly previews - the second one, on a couple Fire Walk With Me motifs dragged into season 3 - is featured below). Part of this episode covers those videos as well as other material released during this time - September saw more individual posts than any other month in the site's history. However, most of Episode 37 is devoted to listener feedback, primarily (although not exclusively) for my last episode, covering Parts 17 and 18. Topics include Cooper's responsibility for Mr. C, Lynch as a trickster or naif, and the Doppleworld of season 3, along with surprising - at least to me - revelations about Mark Frost's initial seed for The Return, Sheryl Lee's perception of Maddy, and Sherilyn Fenn's knowledge of her character's storyline. This podcast concludes with the first part of an End of Evangelion essay from my archive series. It was published in 2015, but perhaps has new relevance after The Return's own conclusion.

Line-up for Episode 37


WEEKLY UPDATE/recent posts: Twin Peaks comments from spring 2015 & first time viewer companion, the full archive, added 4 Fandor videos to YouTube, updated The Passion of Anna K. YouTube link

WEEKLY UPDATE/Patreon: 10th anniversary videos, 2nd tier biweekly previews - Get Out & Jeffries/woodsmen in FWWM/s3, ep. 15 YouTube takedown

WEEKLY UPDATE/work in progress: phone videos for Journey Through Twin Peaks, corresponding with viewers on Journey Through Twin Peaks

TWIN PEAKS REFLECTIONS & LISTENER FEEDBACK: responses to my coverage of Pts. 17 & 18 (as well as pre-s3 predictions, Pt. 16, old Twin Peaks episodes, Maddy, comic-con panel, ring in s3, David Learns to Fly, etc)

OPENING THE ARCHIVE: The End of Evangelion (1 of 2)


The Full Archive for Lost in the Movies

Earlier this year, Lost in the Movies celebrated its tenth anniversary. I had been hoping for a while to post a fully illustrated archive featuring a small picture, tweet-size blurb, and link for each of the fourteen hundred posts I'd published over a decade. This approach yielded way too much content for one page so I divided it into thirty chapters; it also entailed way too much work to complete on schedule, so here we are a couple months - and another chapter - later. Recently, I also illustrated a podcast video outlining my history, suggesting my future, and emphasizing particular works in my two most popular categories (Twin Peaks and video essays).

For this post, I've reproduced each chapter's introduction (suggesting the spirit of that period, surveying several trends and topics, and choosing a particular highlight), along with a link to that chapter's page, and links to pages organized by year as well. This archive doubles not only as a resource for my site, but an overview of my evolution across multiple platforms, media, sensibilities, and approaches. Maybe "evolution" is misleading because while growth may be part of this story, the journey has been more of a winding path through the woods than a steady hike up a mountain.

If you're looking to quickly find particular titles or subjects, you can check out my many other directories which are organize film titles alphabetically, chronologically, geographically, and by director, as well as within particular categories like Twin Peaks, video essay, and TV viewing diary (the picture gallery can also lead to some interesting discoveries, aside from being fun to take in on its own terms, while Top Posts isolates what I think is my strongest work). These archive pages, on the other hand, offer a sense of the context from which these pieces arose; they are at least as much about surveying the big picture as they are exploring individual pieces.

Patreon update #37: FREE Public 10th Anniversary Videos and preview of Get Out review

This was supposed to be my week "off" but I thought it would be nice to mark the time by opening up an old podcast episode to the public as a video - in this case, the tenth anniversary episode from July. (You can read more about the episode, including the full line-up/timecodes, here.) I would just add a few illustrations to accompany the audio track. Easy, right? Well...

For those who just want to watch/listen to the part about my plans for the Journey Through Twin Peaks series, I've isolated that here. It's the only part I've shared on YouTube for now (I may add more later):

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: episode directory


This series serves as a friendly companion for first-time viewers of Twin Peaks, meaning they can read about each episode directly after watching - to consider interesting questions, perhaps learn a bit of context, and hear a different and/or complementary perspective - without worrying about spoiling upcoming episodes. This series is not a formal guide that meticulously breaks down the plot and character relationships; it's a far more casual, spontaneous form of reflection, sometimes as short as a paragraph, sometimes as long as several pages, sometimes descriptive of several events, sometimes ignoring the narrative altogether to discuss style or mood.

These entries were originally written as comments on a Reddit rewatch in the summer before the third season was released. They cover each episode of seasons one and two, the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the deleted scenes from the film, and a few other topics (preparing yourself to see the film, my interpretation of the film's ending, and the overall structure of the series). Although there's some controversy over how episodes should be titled, since most people now watch the series via Netflix or other streaming formats, I used that model, citing the pilot as "S1E1" and employing the unofficial titles, chosen by a German TV station in the early nineties, which have somehow become permanently affixed.

After each entry, I share links to my other work on that given episode (noting when they do and don't contain spoilers), including chapters of my popular video series Journey Through Twin Peaks, as well as my 2008 episode guide, my 2015 ranking of episodes, and other comments, essays, or visual tributes when applicable. I have probably one of the largest personal archives of online Twin Peaks analysis, so if you've just stumbled across this site as a first-time viewer, you've come to the right place! And hopefully these short entries are a good starting point on your journey.

(Oh and also, although they weren't published as entries in the first time viewer companion and are generally much longer than these other reviews, my viewing diary for Twin Peaks' third season is also included in this directory since each entry was written without spoilers for the next. In fact, in that case I too was a first-time viewer.)

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The structure of the original Twin Peaks

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

On the thread for a late season two episode, Iswitt wrote the following comment in reply to one of my own (which it quotes at the outset):
This episode really hammers home how unnecessary the entire mid-season stretch was, and it contributes to why people look back at those episodes so scornfully. Now they we've moved on to a whole new set of subplots (aside from Nadine, who we don't see much of in this or the next few episodes), can we say anything from those episodes really mattered?
I see people say things like this a lot, not just in reference to this TV show. There will be a subplot within some TV series that someone happens to dislike and they ask, "Did this matter?" I find this an interesting question. Does it matter in the context of what? The overall series? What you think things ought to be like?
In the case of Twin Peaks, I think people are comparing these middle plots to things that happened in season one and what happens at the very end of season two (Owl Cave, the Lodge stuff, etc.). To me, so what if these middle plots had any bearing on the last few episodes' events? Why is that so important? TV shows that go on for any length time always have certain plots that come, they happen, and then they go away (The Walking Dead is a good, modern example). People often use phrases relating to subplots such as "it didn't go anywhere" or "it didn't matter", but this is entirely opinion based (where's it supposed to go to and what makes it matter to someone?). Obviously I'm speaking as someone who really enjoys the "slump" in season two, so I'm biased, but it irks me that people look at Dead Dog Farm, the Marsh plot or others and say "These plots don't matter. They aren't the Lodge or Laura so they're unimportant."
I disagree. I found them to be a fascinating look at what was going on in and around Twin Peaks as a whole. That's what I wanted out of this show. What is life in this town like? Who are these strange people? The murder mystery and the final sequences of the show are just icing on the cake to me. To me they did go somewhere (or perhaps take me somewhere) and they did matter (I was entertained and I learned more about the town, like I wanted to). So I contend those events did matter, as much as any long-term TV show's plot events can matter (yes, this show did get canceled, but they obviously intended for it to go on longer). To use TWD as an example again, we're entering season seven. Does anything in basically the first 4-5 seasons matter anymore? Go back and watch season two and try to feel like any of it matters. It really doesn't in the context of what's happening now. And that's okay. Pretty much all shows go through this kind of thing, some faster/sooner than others.
This was my response...

That's a great answer to what is a (slightly) more open-ended question than it may have initially seemed. I've actually been enjoying those midseason episodes more than usual but there does seem to be a widespread dissatisfaction with them which I’ve often shared. For me personally, this has something to do with a preference for “film” over “TV” storytelling. There are advantages to both – film usually has a stronger sense of purpose and momentum, reaching cathartic moments that can carry greater dramatic weight, while television can build attachment and investment in a way that a two-hour film usually can’t. Serialized shows attempt to bridge this gap by telling one ongoing story but usually stretching that story out by telling smaller chapters with their own dramatic arcs (sometimes as long as a season, sometimes as short as a single episode).

The tension between those two approaches will be present in any serialized show, but is especially sharp on one which aired on an early nineties network, where the format was also pressured to function on an episodic basis. And it’s especially sharp on Twin Peaks for a very specific reason: because Lynch came from the world of film and Frost came from the world of TV, and their sensibilities (maybe for other reasons too) really, really reflected this. It’s even apparent in the dichotomy of their interest: Lynch, much as he loves all the eccentric characters, repeatedly hones in on Laura and her singular mystery whenever he has the chance, whereas Frost is all about the town as a staging ground for various, perhaps unrelated dramas. Lynch is also a painter, which means he has an eye for the overall shape – the big picture – in a way a TV writer, under pressure to produce week to week and take the story in ever-new, ever-expanding directions, does not.

If you listen closely to Lynch’s seemingly TV-friendly statements about “a neverending story” or “the mystery shifting to the background” it becomes increasingly apparent that he isn't talking about abandoning movie structures so much as taking one part – the middle – and extending it perpetually. This avoids the finality of the ending while maintaining the momentum a fixed endpoint implies. It’s essentially a massive cheat code in which a destination creates a sense of purpose, but that destination is placed so far on the horizon that it allows an unusual amount of immersion in the journey. (And, in terms of the audience of the time at least, it didn't work - they demanded the ending any movie requires but any TV show dreads.) For Frost on the other hand, the narrative model seems not to have been an extension of a middle but a perpetual, interwoven succession of beginnings, middles, and ends in a consistent environment. In other words, something closer to the traditional TV model but perhaps more intricate and inventive than usual (the essay you and Somerton were discussing does a good job of laying this out).

The mid-season epitomizes the crisis in Twin Peaks between these two different, essentially contradictory modes. We could also argue about the effectiveness of its execution, but that’s immaterial to this particular point. These episodes are attempts to create a much looser serialized structure for the show, one which theoretically could have carried it into multiple seasons. There are some big threads that trickle information to us – Windom, the Lodges – while other stories carry the show week to week. Obviously the proposed Cooper-Audrey romance was supposed to form a stronger central axis, but even that would have a different nature than the Laura mystery, more of an in-the-moment sense of discovery than a perpetual hungering for more. My – and others’ – frustrations with this development may partly be due to a preference for more filmic types of storytelling, but I think they are also fostered by the show itself, because it begins very differently.

The pilot of Twin Peaks puts forward a much more cinematic conception: here is this terrible incident that is haunting everything else, and all the events of the story are driven by and/or circulate around this event. To then abandon this story, as the show does at its midpoint, would be a bit like The Godfather veering off to Las Vegas to explore the travails of the Frank Sinatra character (which the Puzo book actually does!!). Yes, a lot of the characters are still the same (although many aren’t, and that’s its own problem) and – other than the Evelyn stuff - the setting remains, but the premise of Twin Peaks wasn’t about characters or setting, it was about a particular traumatic event and its effect on the characters. To abandon the centrality of this event feels like a violation to a lot of us. For others, due perhaps to a greater fondness for TV than film, or a general affinity to a Frost-like narrative conception, or simply some inclination difficult to articulate/pin down, the other aspect of the pilot – its world-creation and fondness for character sketches – outstrips the impact of the narrative device, and is enough to sustain the show on its own.

I think all Twin Peaks fans, wherever they fall in terms of their preferences, should recognize that the show exists in the tension between these two poles. Eventually, it seems, Lynch did win the tug-of-war by changing the final script, creating the feature film without Frost, and even writing the Log Lady intros which frame the show as a single, cohesive work in a way the episodes themselves do not. Now that Frost is involved again, will the show shift back toward his conception (of a universe of stories that needn’t fall within one single frame)? I have my doubts for a few reasons: a) as director, Lynch has a sort of final say, no matter how collaborative he and Frost are as writers and producers; b) the new season was shot in a fashion far more similar to film than TV, suggesting a cohesive, bounded story, however sprawling; c) Frost himself has given statements over the years that place him much closer to the “filmic” type of storytelling than he used to be. We’ll see. For the show as it exists now [prior to the release of season three], questions of quality/execution aside, whether one fundamentally accepts the mid-season episodes will depend on how much that viewer desires an overarching sense of purpose, and how much they are willing to accept that a storyline or event “matters” and “goes somewhere” even if it doesn’t bring us any closer to a dramatic conclusion.

Here is a chapter of "Journey Through Twin Peaks" in which I traced the effect of Twin Peaks on David Lynch's later work (spoiler for Blue Velvet):

Here is the final "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on the original series/film before season three:

I also created a preview for the whole video series with clips from all the chapters:

Want more?

Here's one of the last comments I left on the Reddit rewatch, linking many of my pieces on the series. Since then I have also begun a character series

Having shared my previous work relevant to each step of Twin Peaks, I've left out a lot of material that approached the show/film as a whole entity. (I also have some work treating Lynch's entire filmography the same way but I'll save those for the film threads this sub will hopefully tackle.)
Here are some highlights...
If you are a fan of the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion (and the film The End of Evangelion) or don't mind spoilers for it, here is my side by side video comparison with Twin Peaks. These shows are very different on the surface yet they have a striking relationship.
Just before work on my Journey videos began, I created a screencap visual tribute to Laura & Cooper featuring all the moments they share or in which one is coming into contact with traces of the other:
Last year I made a meme/set of memes to clarify who contributed to the creation of Laura Palmer and how they contributed, as best I know:
On the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks I shared some thoughts on why Twin Peaks was both influential and misunderstood:
Round-ups of other writers
Two years ago, while preparing for a conversation about Fire Walk With Me, I underwent massive research into the show and film and ended up gathering over 100 pieces of commentary from newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, blogs, and videos from 1989 to 2014. I organized quotes chronologically and included links wherever possible. This is a good ground zero for anyone hoping to expand their understanding of how Twin Peaks has been discussed over the years:
Later I revisited the Usenet forums of 1990-92 to recover some of my favorite pieces of Twin Peaks commentary from the time it aired. This is a great look at how viewers responded in real time:
Finally, I went to fans today (on the dugpa forum) and asked them to recall how they had reacted to key moments on the first run-through:
In addition to all of this I have conducted several interviews with authors of Twin Peaks/David Lynch publications or documentaries, only one of which has been linked so far. If you want to explore more, I have created a massive list of every Twin Peaks post - or even fleeting mention - on my blog, from podcast appearances to news updates to image round-ups. Enjoy.

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The Missing Pieces

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

The Missing Pieces: only in Twin Peaks would there be so much fuss over deleted scenes! Of course, they feel like much more than that. The polish Lynch put on these is astounding when you think about it. Not only are they color-corrected and mixed, there is actually intricate sound design at work in some places and the scenes are stitched together to give them a flow that makes this collection feel almost like its own movie.

This is (until season three) the only part of Twin Peaks that I was "present" for the release of. (I was only 6 when TP debuted, and although I was following film releases enthusiastically by 1992, I don't remember FWWM hitting theaters at all.) It's obviously anecdotal but it seemed to me that even in the months leading up to the Missing Pieces the general response to FWWM leaned negative, with its boosters making a passionate but defensive case. And then after this release, the momentum subtly shifted. I think in a way they "legitimized" the movie as if to say, 22 years later FWWM is so important that scenes cut from the movie can become the hyped centerpiece of a box set for the hit TV show. The idea of packaging the film as an essential part of "the entire mystery" also helped greatly.

The scenes themselves I don't think had the impact many expected - it was more that indirect effect that mattered. Fans love watching them, but they remain interesting fragments, tidbits, and hints, not "solutions" that fit the puzzle together much more clearly. I've heard people say the Bowie or convenience store scenes "make more sense" in their extended versions but I don't get that really. I think they still seem fairly cryptic and enigmatic (which I like).

The only scene which really feels like it fills in something of a blank is the one in the Hayward living room. It has the touching angel foreshadowing, it actually explains "I am the muffin!", and it even plants the seeds for something that was in the script but which the Missing Pieces don't even restore (a tilt down from James' motorcycle as it zooms away to reveal Doc's red rose lying at the intersection). Most of all, though, the scene provides something essential: the only place in all of Twin Peaks that Laura interacts with several members of the community (her meetings with Bobby and James are one on one/personal and she barely interacts with Shelly and Norma). We get one more glimpse of this at the end where she briefly speaks to the Briggs but for the most part this is the only place where we see two of Twin Peaks' core strands (the community and Laura) intersect.

For me that was enough to make the Missing Pieces kinda revolutionary: they opened my eyes to the relationship between the movie and show, which had previously seemed like almost totally separate entities. This conception of a "total" Twin Peaks (facilitated by the Entire Mystery packaging too) set me on the course to make my Journey Through Twin Peaks videos and also prepared me mentally for the idea that Twin Peaks could return and continue from both these strands.

I really don't get the idea of a fanedit. I mean, I get it conceptually - I've been stitching together some parts of Twin Peaks for my own purposes in recent months. But I don't get the desire to present this exercise as the "official" or "complete" FWWM. Even in the screenplay, these scenes don't really gel with the Laura narrative and as presented on the blu-ray they feel even further apart. They are quiet, sparsely scored, composed largely of long takes and master shots, and generally feel cut from a different aesthetic cloth - 2014 Lynch rather than 1992 Lynch/Mary Sweeney (who edited FWWM). I think it's good to watch them as part of the saga, but not intertwined with the movie this way, as they can only dilute its power.

That said, they also make a weird afterward/set of footnotes, a bit of an anticlimax after the intense FWWM. I think this may be the first time I've watched them after the film on a full-series watch-through; usually I prefer to place them between finale and film as a gateway between the two worlds. That just flows better for me, building up a crescendo while allowing me to mentally segue from the bustling world of Twin Peaks to the stark horizon of FWWM, offering glimpses/teases of Deer Meadow, the Palmer household, even a few more annotations to the finale, before settling in for a subjective look at Twin Peaks' dark heart. I wouldn't advise this for a first viewing - I think newbies generally find it too confusing/distracting because they know they are watching extracts from a film they haven't seen yet. But for veteran viewers, I say definitely give this method a try on your next rewatch. It's like a collection of short stories circling around the subject of a great novel - or to use one of my favorite analogies for the series, the Missing Pieces allow you to gradually approach the center of a whirlpool before getting sucked right into the vortex.

Want more? Here's my other coverage of the episode:

More for first-time viewers (SPOILER-FREE for season 3)
(but be careful of video recommendations at the end of YouTube videos)

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on the deleted scenes, from 2015:

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: The ending of Fire Walk With Me

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

On the thread for Fire Walk With Me, BaalHammon wrote the following comment:
Rewatching it for only the second time (or third, I'm not sure), I find I'm still not sure what to think of this movie.
I mean I like the first part.
Many people have commented on it being a sort of parody of the series, and it's fun for that, but it's also very eerie, especially the end when Cooper discovers Chet's car with the Let's Rock tag written on it.
The Laura part on the other hand is just gut-wrenching. Lynch has a way to pace scenes with a deliberate sometimes unnerving slowness (the opening episode of season 2 being the most obvious example, but there are many many other examples) and in a way, the last 90 minutes of FWWM feel like that, because of the anticipation of the end we already know.
I actually cried when I reached the final sequence, in part because of Badalamenti's haunting music, but also because I just don't buy it. I don't know what specifically Lynch believes in, but I don't believe in afterlife.
I don't believe that in Heaven everything is fine.
FWWM shows that James cannot help Laura, that Bobby cannot help Laura if he wanted to, that Donna is powerless to save her, and implies that it's the case too for Sarah Palmer (shame that we see so little of her), and the unseen Jacoby.
But if the only glimmer of hope is in the afterlife, it makes it all the more horrible for me.
When I saw Laura smiling at the end I was just crying, and not from relief at finally seeing her freed (as others have put it), but because when years of abuse and trauma culminate in death, that's it.
There's nothing afterwards except the dissonnant serenity of a dead girl's face that seems to be asleep.
To be clear, I'm not saying that movies have to follow my metaphysics views, what I'm saying is how, far from providing any kind of comfort, this final scene just exacerbated in me the horror of everything that I'd just seen before, and I felt an overwhelming sadness which few works of fiction have ever aroused in me.
Apart from that, Moira Kelly is really good as Donna, and though the film is focused on Laura, it also sheds new light on this character, because you realise just how envious she is of Laura, how she wants to be like Laura (and hence that she doesn't really understand Laura). It's not so clear in the series but once you've seen FWWM, Donna makes much more sense, as a character.
Two things that aren't consistent between the series and the film bothered me :
  • Laura's house and the exteriors around the house look nothing like Twin Peaks, it looks like some generic suburb shot in California, and it probably was.
  • Second and worse : in the S2 first episode, Ronette has a flashback of the murder with Laura screaming and Bob hitting her, but in FWWM she gets out of the traincar before it happens.
Also it's kind of weird that MIKE is there at all, that he saves Ronette, and just gives the ring to Laura. I mean if you think he's trying to save Laura, why doesn't he try to do just that ? And if he's out for pain and suffering, why help Ronette escape ? Why does he do anything that he does ?
I mean I guess you can say that he's saved her soul or something like that, but as you may have surmised, I don't find that answer very satisfactory.
This was my response...

Great comment. I think I may have felt somewhat similarly on my first viewing. Though I have always had some form of, I don't know, spiritual inclinations I was very agnostic/skeptical about an afterlife and, more importantly, I think - the notion of any underlying positive order to the universe when I first saw Fire Walk With Me. I even wrote in my first review of it: "But despite what he thinks, the story he has chosen to tell is not about evil as a metaphysical force, or links to the collective unconscious, or anything like that. It's about one very fucked-up girl..."

I wouldn't say I have completely reversed on all of my larger questions, but I'm inclined to see things a bit differently now, in part actually because of the year I spent on Twin Peaks (and little else in terms of media) which led me to some internal realizations/discoveries as well as engagement with ancient texts like the Upanishads. This was the culmination of many years of other factors too, but it's amazing what an impact a show and film (especially the film) can have.

Anyway, we each have our worldviews and it can be hard to "see" whatever a film wants us to see if it clashes with that. I think in a way you hit the nail on the head with the idea that for Lynch, there is something fundamental about Laura's redemption and that after the film he's delivered, it can be hard to digest that turnaround. However, I do think there is depth and commitment to it, it can just take some work to see.

For a long time, I felt the climax of the film was a letdown, and that the angelic ending - while beautiful - may have been something of a tagged-on non sequitur. I don't anymore: I think they, especially the train car (with the angel as the ultimate payoff) are the keys not just to the narrative and theme of FWWM, but the entire Twin Peaks saga. It's a lot to get into, but I'd recommend chapter 25 of my videos (linked above) if you're curious as to how. That's where I was able to make the case most articulately and succinctly. I may come back to this thread to try and rephrase some of that argument though I'll have to move to a computer as this is a lot to type with my thumbs haha.

I think on one level Fire Walk With Me is a psychological portrait of abuse. That's the level I recognized right away and it made a lot of the rest of the film feel extraneous to me. But on another level, the level that not only subverts but also fulfills the show, the film is also a spiritual allegory; this is the purpose of its narrative and why it's not simply a series of painterly portraits (though it would still be great if it was). For all the writers praising (or attacking) Lynch as a postmodernist concerned only with form, and despite Lynch's own refusal to explicate messages or meanings, he has a very clear spiritual ethos shaped in large part by his involvement with Transcendental Meditation (in many ways a highly questionable institution), but also, ahem, transcending the pleasant platitudes of that movement to suggest that the only way to the light is through the darkness.

My advice for anyone who wants to "get" the ending but doesn't buy the tenets of Hinduism (which is, I submit, essentially what Lynch is working with here despite the Christian iconography of angels) is to put aside specific theological questions of afterlife or reincarnation or karma or whatever and focus on the outcome as an allegory for life as it is lived, with the death and rebirth symbolic, involving the realization of fundamental truths and expansion of consciousness. Often times religions just end up being how universal experiences are packaged and sliced off from one another. Laura's pain is extremely real but so, ultimately, is her relief.

Next: The Missing Pieces • Previous: Fire Walk With Me

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: Fire Walk With Me

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

In 1992 a Reagan Republican (you read that right) shifted the hero of his most popular story from a chipper, straight-arrow FBI agent to a traumatized drug-addicted teenage prostitute.

A highly-rated murder mystery, featured on the cover of every pop culture magazine two years earlier, was adapted for the big screen with the victim herself as a star, a gesture so subversive that, 22 years later, it seems preposterous to imagine a True Detective movie in which Dora Lange was the main character.

Sheryl Lee, whom David Lynch had plucked out of complete obscurity to appear as a corpse (she had only theatrical and local Seattle short film credits to her name) wound up carrying a major feature film with one of the most astonishing performances ever recorded on celluloid. (It's a mark of how good she was that despite Fire Walk With Me's awful reception, she received an Independent Spirit nomination - of course, in a just world she would have won an Oscar and gone on to a prestigious Hollywood career...if she wanted it.)

Nothing about Fire Walk With Me's existence makes sense. It's a film that simply shouldn't be there; as offbeat and inconceivable as Twin Peaks itself was, the film makes it look tame by comparison. What Twin Peaks was to TV, Fire Walk With Me is to Twin Peaks.

There are essentially two different groups of FWWM viewers (actually, there are many more than two, but we'll stick with two for the sake of simplicity). In the first group are those who tune in hoping for something like the show, who after spending week after week - 30 episodes in total - with the diverse, charming array of townsfolk like Pete, Audrey, Lucy, Catherine, Ben, Truman, Andy, Ed, Nadine, and so on naturally expect to check in with our pals and are deeply disappointed when we don't. And only about 5-10 minutes of Cooper, the man who carried Twin Peaks on his back? This must be some elaborate joke. The real Twin Peaks: The Movie must be hiding behind this one like Bob behind the dresser, ready to pop out and laugh at us for believing in the reality of a 2 1/2 hour horror film about incest starring a character who was dead the whole time on the series, and whose entire story - including her climactic bloody death - we already know. Not to mention the bizarre half hour prologue starring Harry Dean Stanton and David Bowie, replacing Cooper with the guy from 24 and the guy who sang Wicked Game. As strange as the show got - and that finale was straight-up experimental - it always stayed inside certain bounds, the conventions of a serialized narrative, even as it stretched those bounds past their breaking points. Stylistically, the episodes looked a certain way even when a Lynch (or even a Keaton) went out on a limb: they were methodically paced, featuring long takes and wide master shots, nothing like the quickly-cut, woozy-Steadicam, extreme close-up style of this movie. What's going on? What was Lynch smoking?

I can certainly understand that viewpoint in the abstract, but it's hard for me to understand how they can't see the other side too. The second group, to which I belong, feels like it has tapped into a hidden, crucial frequency. Somehow we knew this world existed all along, also behind every good or bad episode of the show, and especially behind the placid, ominous pilot. Watching this film for the first time, we aren't going a new direction, we are ripping the facade away and staring at what lay beneath the whole time. The disorientation that anyone will feel coming to this film from the show, as we amble along with a series of strangers (aside from Lynch himself), somehow feels right to us, like a dream that has just gotten more intense and accordingly more real. And when the theme music kicks in, over that comforting mountain vista, and then Laura herself walks towards us on the sidewalk, the paradox increases. We've never been closer to home yet we've never felt further away. Everything is different - even Donna. But this tells us not that the film has departed from a gold standard but that before we were hearing echoes and now we've reached the source. Like a visionary (or an acidhead!) walking around their own neighborhood and marveling at the familiar with new eyes, there is a feeling of lost illusions.

Fire Walk With Me gives me the same feeling as the final forty-five minutes of Mulholland Drive. Not deja vu exactly but, as Major Briggs put it, a reunion with the deepest wellspring of our being.

I've never met a character quite like Laura before. I do think the impression is deepened by the way the show builds up her mythology but I also suspect she'd have a similar impact even watching the film cold, at least for me. Somehow Lynch and Lee are able to take us right to the heart of the character without any expository monologues or "revealing" gestures/winks at the audience. We meet her as if we're watching her from outside, the way all the other characters are, but before long we really aren't - we're miraculously in her headspace. More than one observer (James Grey, Mark Kermode, Greil Marcus, David Foster Wallace) has noted that this may be the most empathetic film of all time.

It was despised. I mean HATED. I have never encountered a film that so many critics hated so much. This wasn't the usual snarky, relishing-the-cuts reaction, or the bored/baffled/let's change the subject response though there were aspects of that (they mostly felt defensive). This was rage, disgust, contempt such as has greeted few other films by accepted masters, certainly few this widely. Lynch has never backed away from the movie (when asked about it he says he likes it and has no regrets), but he's also seldom gone out of his way to bring it up. Along with Dune, it was the only film left off his filmography in the book Catching the Big Fish ten years ago, and I recently watched an hours-long Q&A from just a year ago in which every single other film was queried - but not FWWM. When it is written about now, at least by critics or scholars, it is usually in admiring, even ecstatic tones. Since the Entire Mystery blu-ray, I've noticed a majority of fans celebrating rather than denigrating it (before that, anecdotally, it seemed to me that a slight majority were negative).

But it still gets lost in the broader, casual Twin Peaks discussion. I wonder if Showtime will air it next year, when they supposedly will rerun the series? They had better, and not just because rumors, hints, and common sense about what has always drawn Lynch to Twin Peaks suggest that its shadow will loom large over "season three." They had better because Fire Walk With Me is the naked heart of Twin Peaks, and there can be no full appreciation of Twin Peaks without at least taking in what Fire Walk With Me has to offer, Laura's story in all its raw immediacy.

The first line of Twin Peaks belongs to Pete..."Gone fishin'". And what did he - and we - catch?

Garmonbozia: pain and sorrow.

Want more? Here's my other coverage of the episode:

More for first-time viewers (SPOILER-FREE for season 3)
(but be careful of video recommendations at the end of YouTube videos)

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter introducing the film, from 2015 (includes a vaguely spoiler-ish, and graphic, clip from LOST HIGHWAY):

+ And my most popular work, the chapter comparing the series and film:

+ And the chapter on the FBI's role in the film:

+ And the chapter on the spirit world in the film:

+ And the chapter on Laura's character development in the film:

+ And the chapter on the importance of the train car sequence (my favorite chapter of the series):

+ And finally, the very first chapter of the video series from 2014, which I can now share (it included clips from Fire Walk With Me and late episodes):

My original review of the film, from 2008

+ "Critical idiocy on Fire Walk With Me", from 2008

+ 4-part conversation on the film with Tony Dayoub, from 2014

+ Reviewing the film alongside Jacques Rivette's Joan the Maid, from 2015

+ The film on its own (as part of a Favorites series), from 2016

+ Why Fire Walk With Me belongs in the Criterion Collection, from 2017

+ My appearance on a Twin Peaks Unwrapped episode on Fire Walk With Me, from 2016, is one of my many podcasts and/or interviews covering the film; check my Fire Walk With Me label for many more pieces featuring the film (those published after May 2017 may discuss season 3, and those published after August 2014 may discuss The Missing Pieces)

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: Preparing for Fire Walk With Me

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

When Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was released, it got some of the worst reviews of any film ever made. I'm not exaggerating. If there is a film by an acclaimed director that got more vicious notices, I'm not sure I know of it. Whether or not one likes the movie, the volume of vitriol it received speaks to a phenomenon way beyond whether a movie is good or bad. There was a lot going on there.

Today, the film isn't discussed nearly as much as it should be; when people talk Lynch films this tends to get overlooked probably because it's attached to a TV show and people feel the need to watch the whole series before tackling the film, or dismiss it as just a spin-off and therefore presumably not on the level of Blue Velvet or Mulholland Dr.

When the film IS written about today, however, the dominant take has changed completely. Most serious writers about Lynch - biographers, scholars, critical analysts - consider it one of his most powerful, misunderstood works, quite apart from its relationship to the acclaimed show. In LA Weekly/Village Voice, Calum Marsh called it possibly Lynch's greatest film (and keep in mind that an international poll of critics just picked Mulholland Dr as the best film, bar none, of the 21st century, so calling FWWM Lynch's best film period is no small matter). Mark Kermode has a video praising the film to the skies, particularly Sheryl Lee's performance (which he said should have won an Oscar - that's an understatement), and naming it one of the best horror films of the 90s. Yeah, horror film - we'll get to that in a second! Greil Marcus, in his 2006 book The Shape of Things to Come, about art and America from the standpoint of the Bush era, spends an entire chapter raving about the film and especially Lee, analogizing it with classic works of literature and folk songs. James Grey, the director of The Immigrant, considers it one of his favorite films of all time and praises it as the most empathetic film he's ever seen. And so on. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is like the dude from the Dos Equus commercials. It doesn't get discussed much, but when it does the praise is overflowing.

A lot of first-time viewers still stumble over it though, because it's not what they were expecting. I hesitate to even talk about its subject directly, though that cat's already out of the bag for most new viewers (and certainly wasn't a secret when the film was released), but I do have three pieces of advice, which I'll trot out again when the rewatch reaches the finale:

It's a horror film. That's not quite accurate - FWWM spans, and defies, multiple genres, but it helps to know going in that its primary emotional experience won't be humor or romance, but abject terror.

It's nothing like the series. This can be exaggerated - obviously there are many echoes and touchstones - but it can't be over-emphasized. This movie is not about the ensemble, it doesn't follow the soapy format, it mostly jettisons the quirky humor, and it isn't even shot in a style at all like the series, trading slow-moving master shots for Steadicam close-ups. Just be prepared for a radical departure.

Don't try to figure it out. There will be tons of great discussions on these threads about what various things mean, how they relate to one another, dozens of theories and readings and headcanon. That's all fun to do but I think a first viewing of the movie should disregard that aspect completely, at least till it's over and the credits are rolling. Otherwise you'll probably just get frustrated and confused trying to make sense of everything you're seeing. You're not supposed to get it right away - the characters onscreen certainly don't. The best way to approach it is like a dream, just go with the flow of images and sensations and don't ask questions. Take the ride.

Finally, I can't say for certain you'll like the film (in particular, if the film's subject didn't interest you much on the show itself, this may not be your cup of tea - or it may give you a whole new perspective/appreciation, as it has for some). I CAN say however that it's an absolutely crucial part of the narrative, and really must be digested/pondered for any Twin Peaks experience to be truly complete. Like a twist at the ending of a movie, but more in terms of tone & perspective than plot, Fire Walk With Me reconfigures everything you've just watched on Twin Peaks and casts it in a new light.

The comments section below may contain spoilers for season 3.

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E22 "Beyond Life and Death"

These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016.

This is where it comes full circle. First of all in the sense that, just as the mid-season felt strange for shifting so hard from the violent murder of Maddy to shenanigans with the mayor and his brother, now this episode feels strange for shifting from the broad sitcom quirk of Miss Twin Peaks to Lynch's most surreal cinema since Eraserhead. Of course it's also full-circle in the obvious sense that it brings back so many characters, motifs, even lines of dialogue. This makes it simultaneously a deeply-rooted episode and an abrupt break from the rest of late season two, which has been heading in a different, new direction. It's part of what makes the episode so delicious and disorienting.

The Black Lodge sequence is some of Lynch's finest, most arresting work. But even if this episode didn't contain that classic extended setpiece, it would still contain one of my absolute favorite scenes in all of Twin Peaks: I speak, of course, of Dell Mibbler's befuddled shuffle through the bank lobby. There are some scenes in Twin Peaks that scared me once but no longer terrify; dramatic, moving moments that don't quite touch me as they once did; but this scene never fails to make me laugh out loud. After so many season two attempts, some affectionate, some cringeworthy, to wring laughs out of arch eccentricity, this moment just demolishes those lame antecedents. It's perverse, kinda cruel, and drop-dead hilarious.

Beyond the Lodge, there's just so much good stuff in this episode. Especially on an extended rewatch, I can't get over how wonderfully Lynch is able to draw upon the legend of the pilot and early episodes. It's only been 30 episodes (just over a year of airtime, though the production admittedly took two years) - even fewer episodes in the case of some icons - and already that stuff feels ancient, but in a good way: like some fundamental foundation being returned to.

Ronette?! The scorched engine oil? Coop murmuring "The little man and the giant" and "Fire walk with me"? Heidi the waitress, Bobby in his letterman jacket, Sarah Palmer in action once again (accompanied by Jacoby in something close to the outfit we saw back in Laura's funeral episode)? All a welcome return to first principles. Even Audrey, while building on the development she's had since One-Eyed Jack's, seems fresher, more playful than she has in eons, quickly removing the businesslike jacket to reveal one of those good old sweaters.

At the same time, the episode moves forward into brand new territory which extends from the familiar. The best example might be the music. That dark, eerie synth theme that begins before the credits end, as we see Cooper's face for the first time, is called "Dark Woods Theme" (I think). It is quintessetial TP music, only appearing for the first time now but completely dominating the episode (other than the Red Room scenes). Supposedly when Lynch first heard Badalamenti perform this he got really excited and said something like "That sums up everything I feel about the show!"

When Lynch gets his hands on stuff that wasn't really his creation or even feels out of step with his sensibility, he drags it into line. Windom is the perfect example: truly deranged and menacing as he terrorizes Annie. She seems to be in a trance for most of the finale, but those early moments are among her best in the series, as she asks Windom what he's doing, frightened but not broken (in that somewhat flat manner you either find annoying or charming, which Lynch heightens and makes a little more strange) and then begins to recite a psalm.

The Black Lodge is the best example of Lynch performing emergency surgery, fusing his earlier, uniquely bizarre material from the alternate end of the pilot and early season two with the more consciously esoterica-influenced mythology that had developed without much input from him (it's hard to remember, but the first mention of the Lodges isn't until the campfire scene with Coop and Major Briggs, after the Laura mystery has ended). I'm positive others will post the script here - if they don't I'll come back with a link - and if you look at it you'll see how much of that "back to roots" was missing on the page. No giant. No waiter. No Maddy or Leland. Believe it or not, no Little Man! Most shockingly of all, the Lodge wasn't the Red Room but a hodgepodge of locations including a black-and-white version of the Great Northern and a dentist's office!

For all the good work Frost, Peyton, and Engels had done on the show they ultimately let it get away from itself. Lynch is often accused of not being grounded enough, of being willing to fly too far afield but in this case at least the reverse is true. He is the one to remind us where we've been before sending us where we ultimately need to go.

Did he want Cooper to see Bob in the mirror? There's some controversy over this, with suggestions that he and Frost planned this development far ahead while other accounts suggest the decision (like most decisions at this point) was made without him, and even that he preferred to see Coop as an idealized, above-it-all icon (the episodes he directed certainly bear out this interpretation, especially when compared to Frost's scripts, which Lynch sometimes changed to make the detective seem less flawed/limited).

Regardless, it's left to Lynch to paint Cooper's fall and it's a powerful moment, both his confrontation with the doppelgänger in the Lodge and that shocking mirror-smash in the end. The final image exists as a repudiation of Lynch's relieving, often absurdly so, happy endings in his early works - the lady in the radiator hugging Henry, Merrick's mother saying "nothing dies", rain on Arakkis, the mechanical robin, Sailor singing on the car with his broken nose. It foreshadows some of Lynch's much darker film endings to come while also clearing the path for positive endings that will feel (in some cases) more earned and (in all cases, except the melancholy Elephant Man) more tinged by a poignant awareness of what has been lost or suffered to even reach a sweet conclusion.

Was this SUPPOSED to be an ending? That's surprisingly hard to assess. On the one hand, all the writers have said they really didn't expect to be picked up and knew the show was gonna end. On the other, they wrote a script packed with cliffhangers, attempting just as they did with season 1 to force ABC into renewing them out of curiosity.

On the one hand, by the time Lynch stepped up to direct the episode I believe the series was still in its February/March hiatus and therefore it was possible THIS episode wouldn't even air, let alone another season. Some of the actors even felt Lynch added them to the episode so they'd have a chance to say goodbye, and producers suspected that when they aired this strange, abrasive episode for execs it squashed any last chance the show would get renewed. On the other hand, only a few weeks after shooting this Lynch proposed the idea of a feature film, so clearly he didn't feel "done" with Twin Peaks yet, or prepared to accept this as an ending. He says in his book of interviews with Chris Rodley that this was never supposed to be an ending and even proposes what might have happened if the series had continued - we'll see.

For me personally, this has always been really effective as an ending, the perfect kind of open-ended/tragic conclusion that leaves you astonished but recognizing a dark circle has been completed (the show begins and ends with characters gazing in a mirror but now that unity of subject and reflection has been disrupted).

What remains - even before the upcoming series picks up Coop's dark odyssey - is to complete some unfinished business. Or, in the terms of Inland Empire, to collect an unpaid bill. Most of you probably know what the film about. Some of you are probably wondering "Why? We already know that story." But this isn't how Lynch works. We don't "know" something because we've recited facts about it and gathered a forensic report. We know something when we experience it directly, in all its emotional intensity.

See you on the other side of Fire Walk With Me.

Want more? Here's my other coverage of the episode (SPOILER-FREE for season 3):

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on this episode, from 2014:

My original episode guide for this episode, from 2008

These pieces contain varying degrees of SPOILERS for Fire Walk With Me (but are SPOILER-FREE for season 3):

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter specifically on the Black Lodge (closes with a brief clip from Fire Walk With Me after a general outline of the film's premise, mentioning several characters from the series who aren't in the film, as well as which series storylines will remain unresolved):

+ My "meta"/speculative theory about Cooper, Windom and Bob, from 2015 (revolves around the ending of Fire Walk With Me, including my theory about what it means)

The comments section below may contain spoilers.

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