Home / Arts & Life / ‘Twin Peaks’ Season 3, Episode 8: White Light White Heat

‘Twin Peaks’ Season 3, Episode 8: White Light White Heat

At the start of the hour, before the journey into the past, I jotted down in my notes that the shot of stark headlights on a pitch-dark American roadway in the middle of nowhere is a classic Lynch image, at once familiar and terrifying. But that was a good 10 minutes before Lynch went full “Eraserhead,” transporting us to an otherworldly dimension wherein an humanoid figure belches out a viscous stream of ominous ovoid shapes.

I’ll try as best as I describe what I think literally happens in this week’s episode. There are, essentially, five segments:

1. After being set free from a Black Hills jail, the Bob-possessed evil Dale Cooper doppelgänger known as “Mr. C” tries to get his confederate Ray to pass along information he needs. Instead, Ray shoots him, in a seemingly vacant wilderness. Almost as soon as Mr. C falls to the ground, a gaggle of soot-covered shadow-men — like the ones we’ve seen haunting the police station in Buckhorn, South Dakota — surround the fake Cooper and revive him by touching his body all over, as the shooter peels off in the car, screaming.

2. Nine Inch Nails reunites for a gig at the Twin Peaks roadhouse, where they play “She’s Gone Away” for about five minutes.

3. In the flashback to White Sands, we see the explosion, and during the multiple surreal scenes that follow, we see what appears to be the face of Bob escaping from that aforementioned humanoid creature (which may dwell within the atomic blast itself). We also see the shadow-men scurrying out of a nearby gas station.

Looking for Something to Watch Tonight?

There are more than 1000 suggestions for what to stream over on Watching, The New York Times’s TV and movie recommendation site. »

4. In another “Twin Peaks” netherworld a woman listens to distorted passages of old-timey jazz on a loop, until an alarming sound summons the Lodge’s Giant, who then ambles into a screening room to watch the White Sands test. When he gets to the part with the face of evil, he pauses the film and floats up to the ceiling, where a golden glow begins emanating from his head. The woman wanders in and watches that glow form into a ball, which contains the face of Laura Palmer. She kisses it and sends in through a tube, before it drifts to Earth.


Robert Broski in “Twin Peaks: The Return”

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

5. In the longest and most densely packed sequence, set in 1956, one of the shadow-men from White Sands terrorizes a small town in the New Mexico desert, first scaring passing motorists by asking, “Gotta light?” in a gruff, inhuman voice. He then makes his way to a local radio station, where he crushes the heads of a receptionist and a DJ, and delivers a repetitive monologue into an open microphone that begins, “This is the water, and this is the well.” Meanwhile, a sweet-looking teenage couple finishes up a date with a pleasant walk home, during which they awkwardly confess their feelings for each other and share a chaste kiss. When the girl crawls into bed, a strange insect creature — which we previously saw hatch from an egg that looked like one of the ovoids vomited up by the mushroom cloud — crawls into her mouth. And the closing credits roll.

Maybe I’ve been immersed in all things Lynch to much over the past several months, but I didn’t think that any of the above is as opaque as it seems. If I had to interpret what it means, I’d say that we just witnessed something like the origin story for the modern saga of good versus evil that “Twin Peaks” has been telling since 1990.

I think we saw mankind setting loose forces beyond its control with the introduction of potentially civilization-destroying weapons in 1945. That test blast may have been what brought Bob into the world, and thus re-engaged our celestial overseers. But as is often the case with the way the universe works in “Twin Peaks,” nothing happened instantaneously. The darker elements took root gradually, while the warriors meant to combat them — like the spirit of Laura Palmer, or the various non-malevolent forms of Agent Dale Cooper — slipped into the world in ways both clumsy and imprecise.

This is one of the most provocative ideas from the original series that these new episodes have been carrying forward: this sense that even the most well-intentioned humans are incapable of interpreting and acting on the messages coming from the gods, who neither think nor communicate as we do. That’s why the dark side keeps winning out — except on rare occasions when someone as completely unselfconscious as “Dougie Jones” just blindly follows the directions from above, winning slot machine jackpots and brilliantly analyzing insurance documents along the way.

It’s because of this disconnect between what the immortals are saying and how the humans are responding that it seems inadequate to reduce this hour to a simple explanation. Some things may make more literal sense before the series is over. (For example: Was the bug that crawled into the teenage girl’s mouth the Bob egg, or the Laura egg?) But for the most part, Lynch would probably rather we not engage with this episode with our conscious, puzzle-solving mind. It’s better to take it in as an experience: to be awed by the beauty of the pictures, and stunned by the inventiveness and passion with which Lynch distorts and destroys them.

Considered that way — as something to see and hear, and to react to on a primal level — this hour is phenomenal. “Twin Peaks” is off next Sunday, which is a shame in a way, because this episode probably didn’t do a lot to keep people invested in the show’s various mystery plots for the next 14 days. But for those who are just enjoying being fully immersed in Lynch’s head space, this week was a wonder. Just think: At any given time in the days ahead, we could flip past Showtime and this episode could be airing. That’s like a miracle.

Extra Doughnuts:

• Beyond Nine Inch Nails (who performed easily the most violent song yet among this season’s typically more dreamy roadhouse numbers) this episode features two key pieces of music: Krzysztof Penderecki’s elegiac “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” and The Platters’ “My Prayer.” The latter is, in its own way, a solemn remembrance of human loss. (And here’s an odd coincidence: One of the original and longest-running vocalists in The Platters is named … David Lynch.)

• If you were excited by the avant-garde visions of this week’s “Twin Peaks” and want more experiences like it, there’s a whole world of experimental cinema out there to explore, from underground pioneers like Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage to more modern practitioners like Martin Arnold and Janie Geiser. I recommend trying Peter Tscherkassky, whose films “Outer Space” and “Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine” turn found footage into an assault on the senses.

“Outer Space” Video by noisewarfare

Continue reading the main story

About admin

Check Also

Hear the Best Albums and Songs of 2023

Dear listeners, In the spirit of holiday excess and end-of-the-year summation, we’re about to make …