'It's Not About The Bunny': Reflecting on Twin Peaks: The Return

“A long film with chapters, as opposed to episodes” is how David Lynch sees Twin Peaks, according to co-creator Mark Frost.

Where to start? In season 3, Laura Palmer remains central, her character still framing events and shaping Cooper’s journey. Coop’s obsession continues to mirror Otto Preminger’s 1944 film, Laura, in which detective Mark McPherson becomes fixated on the image of Laura Hunt. The 1944 film, as a result, becomes more about the detective’s fantasy than a coherent murder-mystery investigation. As a result, in both texts, Laura makes her first appearance after she is, apparently, dead.

Other filmic influences on Lynch, including numerous noirs and several films by Jacques Tourneur, remind us again that in moving pictures, the identity of the killer and the details of the plot don’t entirely matter. What matters is style, themes, characters, interpretations – a view very much embraced by Twin Peaks.

However, chapter 8 of season 3, does provide us with a potential origin story for Laura Palmer, and for the demonic entity BOB. Replete with symbolism and stylistic flourishes inviting further parallels between Twin Peaks, Cocteau’s Orphée (1950) and experimental films of the 1940s, chapter 8 builds on a playful disregard for coherence already evident in chapters 1 and 2, where the time and space Coop inhabits are radically questioned, both in sequences in the Black Lodge and what appears to be outer space. 

Chapter 8’s explosive and more extreme avant-garde imagery emphasises allusions to the emergence of evil (BOB) as a result of the 1945 atomic bomb Trinity Experiment, set to the harsh chords of Krzysztof Penderecki’s 'Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima'. It then offers hope in the form of a golden aura created by The Giant that becomes an orb containing Laura Palmer’s face, sent to Earth by Señorita Dido and perhaps then possessing a young Sarah Palmer – if, that is, she’s the 1956 teenage girl we see around the time the Lodge’s evil woodsmen emerge.

Is Laura real? Is she created as, or possessed by, a power for good to oppose BOB? Is she all these things, as BOB is simultaneously an individual representing the evil that men do, a man possessed by evil, and an evil spirit who goes out into the world to gather 'garmonbozia' (pain and suffering) for the spirits in the Lodge to feast on in the form of creamed corn, as happens to Leland, Laura's father, in the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me? If BOB enabled Coop's evil doppelganger and other tulpas to exist, are we offered narrative resolution when BOB and Bad Coop are both sent back to the Lodge, and if so, can they be contained?

Audrey Horne’s appearance in season 3 speaks to further layers of possibility, again already set in play by the influence of Preminger’s Laura. Perhaps season 3 represents a dream or a series of nightmares, or perhaps not. References to ‘Billy’ may be to Billy Zane, the actor who played Audrey’s boyfriend. Are we seeing the world of Twin Peaks, the world of Sherilyn Fenn (who plays Audrey), or the inside of Audrey’s mind, whether in a coma, an institution, or trapped in an apparently loveless marriage?

If season 3 is Coop’s fantasy, what does this mean for Audrey’s representation, and for Laura’s? Is it Coop who’s gone mad (since Laura’s dead, Audrey’s in a coma and Annie’s in the Lodge), echoing Waldo Lydecker’s caustic concern for the detective in the 1944 film: “You'd better watch out… or you'll finish up in a psychiatric ward. I doubt they've ever had a patient who fell in love with a corpse”?
In Preminger’s Laura, the mystery is, as in so many films noirs, the woman. The same appears to be the case in Twin Peaks, but Laura Palmer actively rejects being a mystery in need of resolution. Try as he might, Coop cannot save Laura, any more than he (or we) can solve the mystery surrounding her death and the wider evil that men do.

Does season 3 represent our reality, an alternate reality, more than one person’s inner world, more than one, or all of these? Do we know who killed Laura Palmer, why, or even what she was or is? Are the tulpas real or imagined? Is ‘Blue Rose’ deeply significant or is it Twin Peaks’ answer to Citizen Kane’s ‘rosebud’?

Don’t look to Lynch and Frost for answers. “We've always decided it's best to let viewers make up their own minds about that stuff,” says Frost. The answers lie in thinking for ourselves.

Samantha Holland

Film Listings

Hosted by Dawn Stilwell

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
3-9 Nov | Various times | Showroom | £7.80-£8.80
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in the latest adaptation of this classic whodunnit, playing the famous Belgian detective Poirot, alongside Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman and Michelle Pfeiffer. When one of the passengers is found dead on a snow-stranded train, Poirot must work out who the murderer is before they kill again.
showroomworkstation.org.uk

OXIDE GHOSTS - THE BRASSEYE TAPES + Q&A
Tue 7 Nov | 8:30pm | Showroom | £8.80
Michael Cumming was the director behind the classic satirical comedy 90s series Brass Eye. In this film Cumming gives us an insight into the making of the programme and his working practices. Part documentary, part art film, Oxide Ghosts looks like a must see for fans of Brass Eye. Followed by a Q&A with Michael Cumming.
showroomworkstation.org.uk

ALIEN & PREDATOR DOUBLE BILL
Sat 11 Nov | 6pm doors | Abbeydale Picture House | £9
To mark the 30th anniversary of the cult sci-fi action classic Predator, Abbeydale Picture House will be putting it head-to-head against possibly the most iconic creature from another world, Alien. Doors 6pm, Alien 7pm, interval 9pm, Predator 9:30pm.
sivtickets.com/event/alienpredator

REEL FEMME
Wed 15 Nov | 7:30pm start | DINA | £3 suggested donation
A new night showcasing women's filmmaking, this month Reel Femme screens a number of UK and international short films directed by women on the theme of music. Bar serving alcohol and hot drinks, with background music exclusively by women. Proceeds to local domestic violence charity Vida.
facebook.com/reelfemme