Saturday, May 12, 2018

Part Six: The One Armed Man

Notes on Twin Peaks

~ a chronological examination of the tv series and film ~


I am progressing through this series so very, very slowly. In the span since the last post, both Mark Frost's the Secret History and The Final Dossier,  as well as the entire Twin Peaks: The Return have come and gone. (Not to mention, personally, two re-watches of S3 and the constant rotation of the soundtrack in my apartment.)

In the current flood of online writing and discussion about Twin Peaks (much of it really good and perceptive, in my eyes), I'm not sure how much interest a commentary on the fourth episode of season one could garner, but I think I'll continue with these anyways. I've got a lot of posts partially written, and in the end I don't think writing & reading about Twin Peaks is about decoding the enigmas of the show, I think it is a way to mentally remain in the atmosphere of this world, once the narrative has come to a close.

Reading through commentaries and forum threads in the past months, I can see that the one thing that is not needed is a complete recap of each episode, there are many podcasts that do just that. I've also noticed how sharp the attention is of so very many viewers, during the run of The Return, I felt like there was a hive-mind forming each Sunday evening, decoding the surface mysteries of the show quickly and with ease.

What I think might be more interesting is hearing individual reactions and idiosyncratic interpretations to all we have seen, so I will try to focus on writing about things that I hadn't necessarily heard before. S3 is so vast & complex, I might try to intersperse small posts on The Return between these posts on early episodes,

I notice in Twin Peaks a dynamic similar to other Lynch movies, similar to Kubrick's films as well: there are all sorts of incongruities and odd details woven into the story, they leave you vaguely baffled & confused on the first viewing, but as they sit with you, you start to make connections, and they morph into fascinating little puzzles. I think Kubrick hinted somewhere that one reason that his films were so puzzling & mysterious is that that all these incongruous elements force the viewer to engage and work with the material, and that is what gets these nebulous ideas to sink beneath the skin.

I noticed this with Mulholland Dr. especially, these puzzles put you into the role of detective & investigator, and it's interesting that the protagonists of these films are playing detective as well (Betty Elms, Jeffery Beaumont, Donna and Audrey, etc.) However, as you develop your own take on all these little puzzles, they never really seem to fit together and explain everything, eventually all these threads come loose again and you are left again with these deeper, un-graspable mysteries, as confused again as you were on that initial viewing, something like Cooper on the street in front of the Palmer house at the series' close.

I'll try if I can to burrow into some of those deeper mysteries.

71) Log Lady Introduction

Even the ones who laugh are sometimes caught without an answer: these creatures who introduce themselves but we swear we have met them somewhere before. Yes, look in the mirror. What do you see? Is it a dream, or a nightmare? Are we being introduced against our will? Are they mirrors? I can see the smoke. I can smell the fire. The battle is drawing nigh.
The introduction to this episode seems like it is the idea of the doppleganger: the being on the other side of the mirror, somehow both identical to you and your opposite, familiar to you and entirely strange, who forces you become aware of the parts of yourself of which you were unaware you were avoiding and repressing.

Mirrors can be terrifying. I've been told that meditating on your image in a mirror can bring about psychedelic effects, and have heard warnings that you shouldn't attempt it if you've had issues with mental health. I remember as a child, after seeing a movie of Alice Through The Looking Glass on tv, I couldn't bring myself to look at the bathroom mirror for some time, I would climb out of the bathtub on the far side, and crouch down below the mirror's height to exit the bathroom.

Also in this introduction is this fire and smoke that Margaret Lanterman warns about throughout Twin Peaks, and it is related to the confrontation with these beings on other side of the mirror. I think this develops as key theme of Twin Peaks, something related to the perils & danger of integration.

I can't remember the source of this idea, I think it was from a commentary on Dostoevsky's The Double, that the reason why stories about meeting a double of ourselves are so disturbing is that they describe, in a dreamlike narrative form, our actual situation in this world.

We think of ourselves as individual beings at large in the external world, and we are largely unaware that what we take to be the external world are representations created by our own minds. What we experience as 'outside' us, as the other, is an unconscious reflection of ourselves, and carrying aspects of ourselves that we don't want to admit or see.

72) Sarah's Had Two Visions


A new photo has been set out, the shattered picture-frame glass is gone. Or is this the same photo? There is a red-brown discoloration at the bottom, over the word "Queen" -  maybe a bloodstain from Leland's hand?

The One Armed Man begins with a debriefing scene, as the previous episode did, when Cooper related the contents of his dreams over breakfast. Here Sarah Palmer describes her vision of the grey-haired man and, at Leland's prompting, the necklace that's been unearthed.

Andy is sketching the iconic image of BOB - although if you compare it with the "Have You Seen This Man poster", it looks a little different, especially around the hair line. Also interesting, Cooper had said in the previous episode that it was Hawk that had sketched a picture of the man Sarah saw. I wonder what happened to that depiction of the figure in Sarah's vision?

Sarah begins her description: "It is night." Something unnerving about the plain phrasing of that. Jack, in the entrance to Hap's Diner speaking to Chet Desmond, has a very similar cadence. I reminds me of Frank Booth: "Now it's dark." Also of Dan's "half-night" in Mulholland Dr.  In all cases it seems like a descent is implied, down where things outside of normal waking reality can emerge.

Update: How to view Sarah now, in the original series, having seen S3 and having read The Final Dossier?

She doesn't seem possessed to me in this series - she seems like a woman who is stressed & troubled by the semi-conscious awareness of things she can't bear to face. Maybe the possession is, at this point, is more a way for Judy to observe the unfolding of events in the Palmer household, rather than affecting Sarah's behavior at this point.

Along the same lines, I take Leland's possession to be only partial, with BOB being one alien fragment that has gotten inside the house of his personality & being. There are moments when his normal, ordinary persona is in control, and he is likeable & kind, there are times when he is entirely possessed by the figure in the mirror and he is a monster. And there are other times when his ordinary persona seems to be vaguely aware of the reality of his situation and he seems to be on the edge of breaking down.

I think there is a progression to these possessions as well, and eventually the dark parasite hollows out host's personality, as BOB says in Arbitrary Law, there is nothing left but "holes" where the person once was. I wonder if this isn't what we see of Sarah in S3, the woman we know in the original seasons is almost entirely gone, though there is maybe a flicker of her presence in that grocery store scene, scared & confused.

73) Out and Around Town

The One-Armed Man shows us two new local exteriors, the Timber Falls Motel and the One Stop Convenience Store. We will see Horne's Department Store in the following episode. I love the feel of these imagined places. For instance, just this shot of maid wheeling her cart outdoors under this canopy of trees gives me that feeling of the local spirit of place, the genius loci, sort of reminiscent of road-trips taken in years gone by. (I hope somehow franchise businesses fade away, and every motel, diner, coffee shop & hardware store has to be created separate & anew.)

Hawk has located Philip Gerard down to Room 101 at the Timber Falls, we last saw Gerard disappear in a piercing blue light at the end of a hallway at the hospital, on the way to Oxygen Storage and the Morgue. Hawk always seems to be connected to the deepest aspects of this Blue Rose case, of which Philip Gerard is at the very center.

Gerard is remarkably congenial; despite the gunshot outside his door and the intrusion into his motel room, him shirtless and in a towel, he seems at ease, eager to supply the footwear for all Truman's "departmental needs," and entirely unperturbed when Andy ruffles through his sample case.

His friendship with the veterinarian Bob Lydecker is, to me, particularly heart-warming.  There something about the sincerity in way the line is delivered: "just about my best friend in the world." Bob, despite his skill & professional status as a veterinary doctor, has gotten himself into an altercation in Lowtown, and is currently in a coma. (The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer details Bobby having been in particularly bad drug transaction occurring in that area of the town of Twin Peaks.)

Details of memory seem to perplex Gerard: he's never seen the man in the police sketch, but "he kind of looks like someone, doesn't he?" He lost his left arm in an car accident, driving from Memphis to... somewhere. Asked about the tattoo on the right arm, he becomes agitated: it had read "Mom" (though his voice is quite nasal here, it almost sounds like "Bob".)

Something about the way Gerard combines both insistence and uncertainty in his answers to Cooper and Truman reminds me of an experiment commonly covered in Psych 101 courses: "split brain experiments", conducted on patients whose corpus callosum had been severed to reduce the frequency & severity of the epileptic seizures.

I'm not knowledgeable in the anatomy of the brain, but as I understand it, the corpus callosum is a group of nerves that allows communication between the right and left hemisphere, and in these patients it had been severed, basically to prevent electrical storms from passing from one half the brain to the other.

For the most part, these patients can function normally, but under specialized conditions, an odd phenomenon could be observed. I believe what researchers did (in one version of the experiment) was to isolate the field of vision from each eye, left and right, from the other. They would allow the eye that was connected to the half of the brain that dealt with language to see the word "SPOON", but allow the hand that was connected to opposite half of the brain to hold a fork. When asked what was the object the patient was handling, the patient would answer "spoon", as that was what the verbal faculties of the brain had experienced.

Regardless of the details of the actual experiment, the part that interested me was that, when the patient was shown the discrepancy to both eyes, that the object was a fork but they had said spoon, the patients always had excuse why they were mistaken: they heard the question wrong, they did in fact name the utensil correctly, etc. The discrepancy was never left as an unknown, the brain would patch together a story to explain it.

That phenomenon, of the brain's unwillingness to admit that it is not unified, that its various parts provide conflicting information about the world at large - I feel this has significance for all of us, not just those with severed corpus callosums. Neuroscientists have identified a mechanism, sometimes called "The Interpreter" or "The Dictator," which weaves the input we receive into manageable narratives, but not necessarily reliable & truthful ones, inventing details details or motives as necessary to allow the story to hold together.

I think of the corpus callosum experiements when Gerard answers "Mom!" and breaks out in tears.

Is he upset because his misses his mother, or is he engulfed in confusion because the Fire Walk With Me tattoo was never a part of his knowledge & awareness? Was the drive from "Memphis to... uh, somewhere" a subconscious invention, created because Philip has no memory of seeing the face of God and the amputation of the arm?

Once again, for me at least, it raises the issue in Twin Peaks of a divided psyche, fractured into parts that are not aware of each other, and of the pain that ensues, separated from being whole.

Andy remarks on Gerard's case of sample footwear: it's all for the right foot.
Always a concern for right/left limb control. Gerard is missing his left arm.
Much more on this to come.

Update (1): I had written this piece before reading The Secret History, and I was shocked to see that the corpus callosum made an appearance in the archives!

The Secret History of Twin Peaks, p. 213

Frost's backstory to Jacoby's red/blue glasses is that they were the finished result of his "optical integration system." Jacoby's theory was that the red lens over the right eye would "slightly suppress" activity in the left/logical hemisphere of the brain, and the blue lens would do the same for the right/intuitive hemisphere. Somehow, by decreasing activity in both halves, the activity of the callosum would increase, and the patient would "experience increased integration between the two spheres [...] encouraging the two sides to work together."

It's kind of a strange theory: why would suppressing the activity of both hemispheres cause them to integrate? Maybe callosum, the bridge & gateway between is overwhelmed by their over-activity? But if the halves are out of balance, wouldn't inhibiting one while activating the other tend towards harmony? One might think that red (like fire) would heat up & activate the left/logical brain, and blue (like water) would cool the activity of the right/intuitive brain.

The idea reminds me of a tarot card, Temperance, where one interpretation has it that: the Angel pours water on a lion (cooling the passions?) and sprinkles flame on the eagle (animating the spirit?),  and thereby balances and tempers the psyche.

Another question: is role of the corpus callosum to integrate the hemispheres? There is a book on this subject of the divided brain, Iain McGilchrist's The Master and His Emissary, (which I have not finished reading) which I believe argues that the callosum also plays a large role in inhibiting communication between the two hemipsheres.

In McGilchrist's theory (I think) the two halves of the brain experience the world in radically different ways, which are synthesized by unconscious processes for our normal conscious awareness. These two ways of organizing the world are very alien to each other and this is a constant tension in our beings, and if we were to descend below this synthesis and experience the clash between these modes, it would be very disturbing & unsettling.

Again, I haven't finished McGilchrist's book, but I think it could shed a lot of light on the themes of Twin Peaks, the White and Black Lodges, and Cooper's experiences in the Red Room.

Jacoby also writes that wearing the red and blue lenses together "does tend to give "reality" a slightly purple tint." I can't help but be reminded of that beautiful shot in the Pilot, where we are introduced to Major Briggs, and the purple seas the Cooper descends to in S3.

Update (2): Regarding Gerard's bursting into tears about the 'Mom' tattoo: Juli Kearns, in her excellent analyses of the new season of TP makes the observation that, having seen the new episodes, the fact that there is some ambiguity of whether the tattoo on the lost arm was the incantation of "Fire Walk With Me" or "Mom!" has some fascinating & disturbing new implications.

You can read through her vast & complex analysis here:

74) Hank's Domino

Norma attends Hank's parole hearing to testify on his behalf. I like the contrast of her purple outfit to the wood paneling behind her. I always find this scene heartbreaking, it seems to cement the end of her relationship with Ed.

The episode ends with Josie receiving a very well-executed sketch of Hank's domino key-chain. Dominoes are an interesting object to focus on here. It connects neatly into the series' interest in symbol-sets, like playing cards and the Tarot, dominant themes at One Eyed Jack's and of Windom Earle's pursuit of "The Queens".

Domino tiles are an import from Asia to the West, and we know from later conversations between them that Hank has Josie's Chinese heritage front and centre in his mind. Many have theorized that the number of the domino, 3, may relate to the number of people Hank has killed: the vagrant, Andrew Packard, and an unknown third person (?)

The domino also seems to weave in the idea of mirrors, doubles, internal separation: visually the tile is a display two of the same thing on either side of a divide.

75) Audrey & Donna

Donna and Audrey have a conversation in a washroom at the high school -- despite their differences, it seems they will collaborate in their investigations of Laura's death, except that this narrative thread seems to have been abandoned here, never to be picked up again. Donna's investigation moves forward in collaboration with James & Maddy, while Audrey progresses as a hopeful understudy of Agent Cooper, leading her away from her high school peers towards her undercover placement at One-Eyed Jack's.

At the moment I can't even think of a conversation between Donna and Audrey occurring again until late in the series, when Windom Earle collects the various "queens" together at the Roadhouse, and connections between Donna & Audrey arise in questions surfacing regarding the relationship between Ben Horne and Donna's mother, Eileen Hayward.

On a fashion note, Audrey's hair, her moss green sweater and pencil skirt are absolutely on point in this scene. Also, those red stripes on the stalls behind her - originally they reminded me of an EKG screen readout (I pictured them in the Calhoun Memorial Hospital, where Jacques, Dr. Jacoby, Shelly and Pete will soon reside), but now they strike me as being, obviously, stylized depictions of the Twin Peaks mountains.

76) An Invitation to Love, Updated

The next scene finds Lucy rapt in an episode of Invitation to Love.

There is some amusing confusion regarding the relevant details for Truman's question, "What's going on?" Lucy relates the details from Invitation instead of real-life information pertaining to the sheriff's station.

In the soap opera, Emerald is seducing Chet, who is Jade's husband.

This installment of Invitation centers on Emerald (wearing a string of emeralds) who seems to be the dark side paired to her twin sister, Jade. Last we saw of Invitation, the patriarch Jared was contemplating suicide, but apparently the good sister Jade convinced him to carry on.

Emerald is trying to seduce Chet, Jade's Husband, in an effort to steal possession of the Towers away from Jade. Interesting that Emerald's boyfriend (a definite Hank look-a-like) is named Montana, which is also Maddy's home state. "Montana" is written onto the deer painting shown in Lonely Souls, before Maddy's death. The doubling theme is yet another connection, with Jade/Emerald in the soap and Maddy/Laura in Twin Peaks at large.

Most interesting to me though is the emphasis on the green colour of emerald, which will gain importance later in the series, and, I think, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. 

And, of course, in the The Return as well: Jade returns the key.

77) Investigating Jacoby

Cooper's interview with Jacoby begins an adversarial tone, the camera alternating between shots of them at either end of the table, but the character of Jacoby is shifting, I think, away from the perverse & creepy psychologist we are introduced to in the pilot.

At this point in the series, Jacoby is still definitely on the list of suspect characters, especially as he fits in so well with all the "J" related red herrings from the beginning of the series: Jacoby, James Hurley, Jacques Renault, Leo Johnson.

When I first trying to puzzle out the fixation on the letter J early in the series, I couldn't make much of it: I wondered about its position in the alphabet, but since in Lynch's earlier works, the numbers 7 and (later) 9 seem to be the most significant,  "J" being the 10th letter of the alphabet didn't seem like much of a fit. After The Return, the number 10 has gained some significance, and, even if it most likely wasn't intended, all this searching around for "J" names at the beginning of the series gains some eerie & ominous overtones as the series ends focused on Judy.

Jacoby's comments on the map behind him and on "the problems of our entire society" highlight for me a parallel between the characters of Jacoby and Cooper: they both use the culture of a society exotic to them to orient themselves in modern times, Hawaii and Tibet, respectively.

And, in the theme of thematically significant clothing, his sleeves have a print of seafaring maps on them. His sweater has a pattern of alternating black and white squares. In the scene proceeding this, as Truman enters the station on his way to meet with Cooper and Jacoby, Lucy is wearing again that piece of jewelry (a brooch I guess you'd call it) that she wore in the Pilot, which looks to me like an angel hovering above three lights, red, yellow and green.

The scene is dominated by the discussion of sexuality: Cooper wants to know if Laura's problems were of a sexual nature, who the third man is who had sex with Laura on the night of her death (How does he know there were three men? From the diaries? Was there DNA analysis at that time?) Jacoby's language is kind of disturbing: Laura had secrets he coudn't penetrate, when he is asked if he had sex with Laura, he exhales and takes a long pause before answering "no."

The three men in the room discussing Laura's sexuality raises the question: is there an element of lurid fascination woven into their interest in this case? On one hand, its somewhat matter-of-fact that they would focus on this, its definitely an element to finding the perpetrator of the crime. On the other hand, there is also this idea of collective guilt for Laura's death that Bobby raises at Laura's funeral. Laura was abused at home, but also used by many others, Ben Horne, One-Eyed Jacks, Jacques and Leo. (Laura's participation in all this adds a troubling undercurrent to the narrative, very similar to Dorothy Valens in Blue Velvet, probing the psychology of how guilt and desire are woven into victimization, and of how one could ever get free of the whole tangled mess.)

Woman in trouble.

The difference, maybe, between Jacoby and Cooper is that Jacoby seems willing to introspect regarding the darker aspects of himself, and he seems to acknowledge that he shares in some of the unwholesome attraction to Laura that led all these older men in Twin Peaks to treat Laura the way they did. That impulse towards honesty & self-inquiry might prefigure his message in The Return: "dig yourself out of the shit." I wonder if it is Cooper's failure to acknowledge to these elements in himself that has something to do with the fracture of himself in the season two finale, and all the shadow self of all his virtue is set loose within the world as Mr. C?

"My own personal investigation, I suspect, will be ongoing for the rest of my life." That line too gains poignancy after The Return, contemplating Cooper lost in an alternate timeline, still trying to rescue Laura.

78)  First Owl

The end of the episode has the first shot of an owl, perched above Donna and James, who are in the woods checking to see if the half-heart necklace is indeed gone, as in the vision of Sara Palmer.

"Laura used to say her mother was kind of spooky." - Donna

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