I used to say: ‘watching David Lynch is like listening to jazz – it’s not meant to be a logically understood, it’s meant to be experienced.’ I was wrong.

Twin Peaks: the Return is as close a viewer will come to experiencing a coherent Lynchian cosmology. In genre terms, Lynch is a masterful world builder. The world he has built – contra my jazz whiffle –  has rules, however opaque, there is internal logic (though not a real-world logic); it is a universe. There are black lodges and white lodges, there is the land above the purple ocean, there are ways to find them, lose them, get lost in them. There are good beings (The Giant/The Fireman), evil beings, (Killer BOB), and those that guide us through these realms (the one-armed man / MIKE).  There are tulpas (doppelgängers) and ways to make them. There are different realities, different versions of the self in each, and tulpas made to replace the self in some of these realities.

It is a shifting, maddening, elusive world created by Lynch and the jazz comparison holds insofar as it may be experienced as such. But Lynch goes to great lengths to point to certain clues, to say: there’s a method here, in the mouth of this madness. It’s not simply weird for the sake of weirdness.

For example, just two lines from The Giant / The Fireman, at the start of the series (“Listen to the sounds”, and “Remember, 4:30. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”) have spawned countless analyses and theories, explaining how these clues played out. I don’t think anyone has ‘solved’ it, as such, and given Lynch’s famous reticence in divulging any answers, it’s likely no-one ever will. But there are answers out there – sometimes partial, always obscure – waiting to be found.

I have theories, sure, but I won’t vomit them on this page – there are a lot of good ones around already, from people with a lot more time on their hands.

But I will note this: the woman who answers the door in the last scene is the actual owner of the house, in the real world. Now, David Lynch is not the type of man to do anything by accident. This casting confirmed a suspicion I had about the final realm Agent Cooper enters at mile 430. This article, further to this, has some useful insights into the multiple realities of Twin Peaks.

Anyway, rather than trying to solve the unsolvable, I’ll make three observations about the impact of the series.

First, Lynch made everything else on television seem so small. They say we are in a ‘golden age’ of television. Sure, I agree. I wouldn’t have thought it possible for shows as brilliant as The Americans, or The Expanse, or Better Call Saul to be so completely overshadowed. But here we are.

We’re plagued by commentators who yearn for outrage, who serve us petty takes on the latest episode based on the politics of the moment. A tweet summed this up for me said:

“I can’t wait for 18 hours of David Lynch-directed insanity to collide with our new liberal middlebrow TV thinkpiece commentariat.”  

Well, this is what happened when they collided: Twin Peaks ran right over the top. Indeed, the triviality was forgotten for the most part among reviewers, who either treated the series with close to reverence (Rolling Stone called it the ‘the most ground-breaking TV series ever’)  or didn’t even try to pierce the veil of backwards talking giants, thermonuclear creation myths, or black-coated hobos canting evil poetry over a local radio station.

Second is Lynch’s ability to turn the everyday of American life: the diner, the road, the petrol station into something more; into a dark mythology of Americana. As an Australian who does, from time to time, tire of the saturation of American popular culture, I found Lynch’s take on American life compelling, frightening, and something emanating distinctly from the US heartland.

Third is the impact on me as a viewer. I have several clear memories of my response to specific episodes. This rarely happens anymore, the stream of even very good TV washing over me, soon forgotten. I remember how I felt during episode 8 (that Rolling Stone called the ‘most artistically ambitious hour of narrative fiction in the history of television’), how I sat there, unable to take my eyes away as evil was born into the world to the strands of Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Threnody for the Victim of Hiroshima’.

Then there was the two hour conclusion, on the edge of my seat, and everything I wanted to happen, happened. In the first thirty minutes. Then Lynch spent the next 90 minutes erasing it all and fucking with me, you, the timeline. Blood curdling scream, lights out, and me, sitting on the couch, wondering what the fuck just happened.

The longer I sat there, the more I yearned for a sense of normalcy. The real world, not this creeping, surrealist horror that Lynch unleashed, like an atom bomb, into my reality.

So I went to free to air and found a soccer program. A sport I really don’t care for, and certainly don’t know anything about. And watched a long interview with an Australian commentator on player transfers in Europe.

Calmed by the irrelevant minutia, just so I could grasp reality again. Assure myself I was not the dreamer, or the dream.

Categories: Reviews

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