TP Countdown Day 27: Cooper’s Dream

If memory serves, I have watched Twin Peaks in its entirety twice before this rewatch, not counting the handful of episodes at the end of the series run I managed to incomprehensibly catch while the show was still airing. The first watch occurred after I’d tracked down the VHS set of the entire series. The second watch was after I picked up the Gold Box edition. That edition was released in 2007, meaning it’s probably been about ten years since the last time I watched this show.

Watching it now, ten years older, hopefully ten years smarter, and definitely with ten years of film, television, and other pop culture behind me, I definitely feel like I’m seeing it with a new set of eyes. I’m noticing different things. Enjoying different things. In many ways it’s a whole new show. Which is exciting, and one of the reason that rewatches like this can be so rewarding, I think. It gives us the chance to hopefully find new layers in work we already appreciate.

In the midst of tonight’s rewatch, something new struck me, and it has to do with one of the central concepts of the show.

When I wrote about Cooper’s Dream in the third episode, I talked about how that moment, which wasn’t originally planned, would eventually become one of the central parts of the Twin Peaks mythology, specifically The Black Lodge. There’s no discussion of the Lodge in the first season, and I don’t think it comes up until late in the second season, but by the time we hate that finale, we’re shown, essentially, that the red room from Cooper’s dream and The Black Lodge are one and the same.

What I had forgotten about as I wrote about Coop’s dream is that certain elements of the dream actually come to represent elements of Laura’s death. It’s as if, as Cooper said of his dream, that it’s a code waiting to be cracked, and once done, it would reveal the identity of the killer.

For example, in this episode, we see Cooper realize that the red curtains in the dream were meant to suggest the red curtains in Leo Johnson’s cabin, where presumably he and Jacques had taken Laura and Ronette the night that Laura died. And the little man’s reference to there always being music in the air was a suggestion of the record player in the cabin, locked in an endless loop of Julee Cruise’s Into The Night, presumably since Laura’s death.

But this got me thinking – if those red curtains and other details form the dream are meant to be communicating clues to Cooper, then what does that say of the larger existence of The Black Lodge? When we see those red curtains in the Lodge, we assume it’s because that’s how The Lodge exists. But if the curtain’s aren’t really real and are only symbols, then why do they appear in the Lodge as well as the dream?

I realize this is asking questions of specifics from a creator who prefers to work in abstracts and symbolism, and what the red room meant when it was created might not be what the red room meant when the show closed.

And I guess I bring this up because I’m realizing for the first time that what the red room might mean in 2017 might not have anything to do with what’s come before either. I’m not sure if that’s terrifying or exciting, but that’s the way I feel about a lot of stuff in David Lynch’s work, so it’s par for the course, I guess.

“I just feel I need something to occupy my mind …”

One of the other things I remember being so entranced with, especially during my initial watch of the show, was slow meltdown of Leland Palmer. By the time I watched the show for the first time I had already known that he was the killer, but his emotional breakdown seemed like so much more than just someone dealing with having committed a horrible crime. It really did feel like someone struggling with grief in a legitimate way. One of the thing’s that’s unique about episodic storytelling like this is it let’s you paint a bigger picture of things that really require a bigger canvas to express them, like grief. And I know I’ve said a lot about the way this show portrays grief in the past, but I think it’s worth a reminder every time it comes up.

Leland comes to Ben Horne early on in this episode. Having heard of the arrival of the Icelanders, he’s eager to help Ben close the deal on Ghostwood. He’s eager to do something, anything, to get his mind off Laura. Unfortunately Ben isn’t in agreement and sends him home.

Leland would later return to the Great Northern during a celebration involving Ben and the Icelanders and much of the rest of the glitterati of Twin Peaks. He’s disheveled, of course, but he means well. He only wants to help. At least until Pennsylvania 6-5000 starts up out of nowhere and suddenly Leland begins his sorrowful dance again, shuffling around alone, arms wrapped around a partner who isn’t there, as he sobs uncontrollably.

This leads us to yet another of Twin Peaks’ wonderful moments of darkness and comedy. As Leland struggles with his grief, Ben sends Catherine Martell to dance with him, in the hopes of distracting the Icelanders from the truth of what’s going on. Even as Leland pushes his hands into his eyes to press away the tears, Catherine. begins to make similar gestures, as if this were simply some strange, new dance craze. Ben Horne and the Icelanders soon join along, not knowing that the root of their celebration is one of pain. It’s a wonderful scene, equally heartbreaking and comic.

This week on Twin Peaks …

Almost a week into my rewatch recaps and I’m still not entirely sure what I want to do with these. As much as I want to be able to dive into the deep end of small details that fascinate me, I feel like that will lead me to neglect the smaller elements of the show. And if I spend too much time on those smaller details, I tend to distract myself from digging deep into the stuff that really interests me. So I’m trying something different tonight, and maybe going forward – the above work is me going deep in stuff I found significant or meaningful. Following this will be smaller comments on specific moments of the show. Hopefully I can find the best of both worlds here.

Bobby Briggs was always a tough character for me, I think because when I first watched the show – still in high school – he represented the kind of kid I would have avoided. And easy as it would have been for Twin Peaks to just paint him as your basic drug-dealing jock type, there’s more depth there than that. Over the course of the show he gets to have some really wonderful moments, and this episode’s scene between him and Dr. Jacoby is one of them. Jacoby shows his skills as a psychiatrist (and also, I assume, someone who has some inside knowledge from Laura) by breaking down Bobby’s had shell exterior and getting to the lost little boy that’s inside.

Apparently Hank Jennings used to be the go-to criminal in Twin Peaks and he seems a bit annoyed that Leo Johnson has taken over his previous position, or at least that’s what the few punches he threw at Leo would indicate. I’ll admit that I was never particularly interested in Hank’s story, and I think that might have been at least partly from getting off on the wrong foot with the character – specifically that moment last episode, when he’s talking to Josie Packard, and he just sucks on his weird domino tchochke. I mean, who does that? Fucking creeper.

Audrey’s about to have a bit of run of bad luck. First she’s managed to promote herself to the perfume counter at her father’s department store, by passing her father’s suggestion that she start out in gift wrapping. Audrey is hoping to discover what happens to girls – like Laura and Ronette – who work the perfume counter. She’s not going to like what she finds out. Also, she’s just his episode learned that her dad is having an affair with Catherine Martell, and in a fit of her own grief, has thrown herself into Agent Cooper’s bed, where Coop finds her in the concluding moments of this episode.

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