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Twin Peaks - The Return, Part 8 - Review: "Drink full and descend."



More than a week after seeing "The Return, Part 8", I'm sure that it is one of the best episodes of television I've ever seen.

There are two obvious ways with which one can approach discussing this episode. The first is as a thorough exploration of the show's mythology; an origin story for its primary villain, Bob (played by the late Frank Silva). The second is as a sequence of sounds and images that is completely unlike anything mainstream television or cinema has ever given us.

Probably my big observation from this episode - as well as the revival thus far - is that David Lynch and Mark Frost are telling a coherent (if sprawling) story, and doing so in a way that is entirely unique. None of the broad narrative strokes in this hour were hard to decipher, but because of how it was all presented, it had the power to baffle and astound.

This episode, with the exception of its opening fifteen minutes, is one long interlude, an opportunity in the middle of the story for Lynch and Frost to slow the pace way down (while much has been made of the series' slow pace, the last episode or two have been notably eventful), and give more context as to just what the hell is happening.

It's here where the revival has most felt like a TV show, in spite of the fact that so many are quick to praise this episode as a great piece of cinema. While the prior episodes have left me in little doubt that Lynch and Frost did indeed write the entire season as one long script, this episode made me doubt that. This hour felt so singular, with all of it, even the opening and the "The" Nine Inch Nails performance, feeling complete as a whole. While this episode may be fractured structurally, on a tonal and atmospheric level it felt like...well, an episode of television.

As I've mentioned countless times in other reviews, TV is a unique medium because of how malleable it is. Every week a show can reinvent itself and try something interesting, and yet it all can still feel consistent with what came before. The episode as a narrative tool is not utilized enough in this era of "Peak TV", and TV is suffering for it. While I'm unsure if Lynch and Frost had this episode in mind when they were writing the script, it works so well because it feels like a distinct unit, whether it is that way intentionally or not.

An unfair criticism of Twin Peaks, both the original and the revival, as well as the rest of Lynch's filmography, is that it's just weirdness for weirdness' sake, and that he never answers anything. This is especially unfair in the case of Twin Peaks, because no matter how strange it got, it did resolve a lot of the mysteries it set up. With one or two notable exceptions, Lynch is not prone to ambiguity (really, he's just someone who wants to tell cool stories in his own, specific way), and this episode was perhaps the most forthcoming he ever has been.

This episode reveals that the detonation of the first atomic bomb - in New Mexico in 1945 - caused a tear in the boundary between our world and the Black Lodge. In this explosion, the creature that escaped from the glass box in the season premiere gave birth to Bob. Seeing this, the Giant (or, as he's credited, ???????), who's in the White Lodge, sends Laura to our world, as a source of good to counteract the evilness of Bob. The convenience store where many otherworldly entities live, and that Philip Jeffries visited, is located in a small town near the blast site. In this small town in 1956, beings from the Black Lodge called the Woodsmen crushed some skulls and took over the radio station, sending people listening into a trance by saying the following words:

"This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and the dark within."

Then Bob, in the form of a rather disgusting bug, crawls inside the mouth of a sleeping girl, thereby possessing her. Meanwhile, the start of the episode revealed that Evil Coop can't die, at least not at anyone's hands but Good Coop. Ray shoots him, and then the woodsmen come and seemingly remove Bob from him. Soon after, he wakes up.

This is a lot of information for Lynch and Frost to throw at us (probably more than we ever thought we would get). But I think there's something more going on under the surface. Much has been made over the years of Lynch's fascination with contrasting the image of the American Dream with the seedy wickedness that has always existed underneath. After all, Bob, apart from being a supernatural being, has always represented the evil that men do.

This theme as never been more obvious than in Twin Peaks, where coffee, cherry pie, and a possessed man raping and murdering his daughter all exists side by side. Lynch is clearly a believer in the American Dream (just like he believes in good and evil) , but in his work he emphasizes that it was all built upon man's violence. And what could possibly symbolize that better than the detonation of the first nuclear bomb, a weapon that is probably the best representation of humanity's evil and need for destruction? By having Bob literally be born out of that is in keeping with not just the rest of the show, but of much of Lynch's filmography.

But for me, the great joy of watching this episode doesn't come from analyzing plot or theme, but of simply letting the crazy collection of images and sounds wash over me. From the slow zoom in on the explosion to the dazzling series of images that followed - which seemed like a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey's most famous sequence - all set to "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" to the unbelievably loud and specific sound of skulls cracking under the woodsman's hand, this episode was a treat for the senses.

Really, this is what watching Twin Peaks is all about, right? While it may all make some kind of sense and have some great thematic ambition, the genius of Twin Peaks comes in its unique execution, in its expression of a singular point of view. We can talk endlessly about the show's hidden meanings and theorize about what's still to come, but maybe we're better off taking the advice of the woodman to just "drink full and descend."

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