Monday, September 4, 2017

Twin Peaks The Return: The Day After

This is not another recap of Twin Peaks: The Return, just some observations I offer as part of the wonderfully participatory arena the whole TWR has provided.

I enjoyed the whole series, and loved both parts of the finale. I also loved reading all the intellectual interpretations about the huge subtleties within the art.

One of the questions the one-armed man asks in the Black Lodge (two times actually) is “Is it future or is this past?"  That idea is more prescient than Lynch could have possibly known when he wrote it, given the recent nuclear testing in North Korea and our government's heightened rhetoric.  For me, there are 2 real-life touchpoints to the series that will stay with me for a long time.


How eerie that David Lynch’s masterwork Twin Peaks: The Return ends on the weekend when I get a NY Times email alert: North Korean Nuclear Test Draws U.S. Warning of ‘Massive Military Response.

The art-house highlight of The Return—the extraordinary Episode 8—-is Lynch’s meditation on the ever-living effects of Trinity, the July 16, 1945 test of the A-bomb. Born in 1946, his early childhood was awash in “Drop, duck, and cover” taught in schools in the 1950s to prepare Americans to survive a nuclear attack. Children across the country went through actual drills where they methodically hid under their desks, as though that would save them.  Or they filed in neat little 1950s lines into "fallout shelters" in the school.

That anxiety of a nuclear attack seems to have had an enormous impact on Lynch’s young artistic mind. Throughout The Return Lynch brings us the ever ominous evils of electricity and multiple nightmares, including the “Gotta light?” walking incineration who kills all in his path. We get it. Mankind often faces manifestations of pure evil, many of his own doing.

The real-life threat of a war over nuclear war provides a whole new dimension of scary behind the simpler debatable semiotics of our beloved TV series.

The Return finale also made me think of the 1983 TV event that was The Day After, which aired on Sunday night, November 20. It was watched by more than 100 million people, including me. Even so, the possibility of nuclear war did not seem real to me then, so the horror of what happens to the fictional families in Lawrence, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri just seemed like any horror film. [Lynch, by the way, is from Missouri.] Today I fear war over nukes is entirely possible.

The Day After is also notable for the live panel that ABC broadcast from Washington, right after the broadcast.  Ted Koppel hosted Henry Kissinger, Carl Sagan, Brent Scowcroft, William F. Buckley, Jr., Elie Wiesel, and Robert McNamara along with a studio audience.

Koppel opens with: “There is some good news. Look out the window. It’s all still there. It’s not too late yet.”  The panel is highly worth watching.

ABC also opened 1-800 lines with counselors if people wanted to talk to someone after watching the US suffer such destruction.

Like the TV show, which had no clear conclusion, the North Korea situation continues on in all of its evilness.

Gotta light?

Laura Palmer

The finale works its way back to the story of Laura Palmer. As many have said, the whole story exists because a young woman was raped and murdered by her father (possessed by a demon, in order to explain it).

One of the most poignant moments of the finale is Agent Cooper going back in time to the night Laura will be killed. He is “the thing that’s over there in the woods” from the prequel Fire Walk With Me. He stops Laura and takes her hand to lead her away from continuing on to her death.

That moment. That moment of intercession.

The most human of longings: IF ONLY.

IF ONLY someone had been there to stop the violence.

That is a powerful truth in our real world. It made me think of all the women who have been murdered—usually by men—because there was no one there, at that moment, to intercede. We know the names of some of these women because they are in the news, like Katina Vetrano,  raped and murdered while jogging in Brooklyn. But there are countless, countless names we don’t know. I travel alone a lot, and I am super aware of surroundings. I have experienced women dawdle in a secluded ATM area if I enter and everyone else has left, and I have done the same. But it's never, ever enough . . .

In our fantasy story, we don’t know if the intercession was entirely successful. But that’s a commentary on how you can’t mess with time travel. Has Agent Cooper never seen Doctor Who?

Having Twin Peaks: The Return end on Labor Day is perfect. It was a summer appointment for we who stuck with it.  Many are calling “fraud” on Lynch for another incoherent, lazy, over-indulgence that shows he has long lost his magic.

Given the state of the world and our own crass government, I celebrate the artistic expression from a kid from the Show Me state. Long may we all go on Lynchian voyages together.