Black. The new titles have finished playing. We have a moment to ingest the sense of vertigo induced by the swirling chevrons of the Black Lodge. To gather ourselves for the journey.
Fade up and we’re in monochrome. Another floor enters our field of vision. Sinuous, sweeping patterns. It looks soft like carpet. And then feet.
The character previously known as ‘the Giant’ but now comfortably recognised as ‘the Fireman’ (Carel Struycken) sits in a black based chair. The exact environment is unknown to us
though later on we might come to believe it to be the interior of the White Lodge. There’s a subtle cavernous quality to the sound design. Perhaps we are floating in space?
The Fireman addresses Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) who is sat across from him, using the backwards speech familiar from our prior visits to other realms and their inhabitants. Cooper appears cogent in this scene – something we can’t always take for granted – and is evidently still trapped outside of our dimension.
“Listen to the sounds,” the Fireman says and indicates an old gramophone off to the side of the room. Cooper, sat beside a lamp, looks toward the object. A scritching noise is made, insect-like, and we’re into the first of the cryptic clues that for many hours will remain meaningless. The very first scene of Twin Peaks: The Return is actually foreshadowing for the final two parts of the limited series’ run. As I will be going forward, all elements of the show will be discussed. Consider this your first and last spoiler warning.
This noise coming from the gramophone occurs again at the end of Part 17, when Cooper has travelled into the past to change the fate of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). He has her by the hand and is guiding her through the woods. The scritching sound is heard and she disappears. It appears that here the Fireman is presenting it to Cooper as a warning. The fact of his telling tells us something about the Fireman and his relation to time. He can either see through it – a prognosticator – or exists outside of it. Things we will see him do later in the season suggest god-like abilities. These benevolent behaviours also go some way to suggesting that his ‘home’ is, in fact, the White Lodge,
assuming the stories told and believed by Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) and Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) are true.
Cooper listens to the sound and Lynch has cinematographer Peter Deming push his camera in, toward the source. It’s a moment that briefly connects to Lynch’s 1986 feature Blue Velvet that features an ominous push-in on a severed ear half buried in grass. The connection here perhaps being a sense of falling into something, or moving toward a darkness.
“It is in our house now,” the Fireman tells Cooper. An intriguing line. What is ‘it’? The sound? My feeling is that he is instead referring to the entity known as Judy (the sound is linked to this entity). Events in Part 3 do suggest that a dark entity is trapped within their other-worldly spaces. He may also be referring to the Palmer House, where we will ultimately discover a sinister presence coexisting with Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie).
Not for nothing, but the use of the words “our house” and the eeriness of the scene strongly recalls Fred Mason’s encounter with the Mystery Man from Lynch’s 1997 neo-noir Lost Highway.
“It is?” Cooper asks. He speaks normally, though he is still subtitled for us. He looks to the gramophone as he speaks and his tone expresses an element of concern, further underlining the suggestion that a malevolent force has gained egress.
“It all cannot be said aloud now,” the Fireman tells him. This line suggests a few things, and again a sense of confused time is conjured. When, for example, is now? This scene exists completely outside of the remaining time frame of the series (itself trickier than it seems). The line infers a better time. Why? Is someone listening? Are they infiltrated? There’s a paranoid connotation to the scene; a sense of the Fireman and Cooper in cahoots. It’s deftly done, but it sets up the theme of a powerful foe, even greater than BOB/Mr C, who we will get to later.
The Fireman dictating the whens and hows of the situation also lightly reaffirms his position of power in the conversation. He is wise; knowing.
Now, onto the three clues whose import only becomes clear much, much later.
“Remember,” the Fireman says, “430“.
Numbers are often of high importance throughout Twin Peaks: The Return. The most commonly recurring is ‘253’ which we’ll explore when it occurs. ‘430’ ultimately refers to the number of miles from Twin Peaks that Agent Cooper and Diane (Laura Dern) will have to travel in Part 18 in order to reach the gateway to another dimension that they pass into, located beneath gigantic electricity pylons. The Fireman is giving Cooper a kind of co-ordinates here, but as with so many things in Twin Peaks, an element of interpretation and intuition is key.
“Richard and Linda,” is next. For a short while it seemed as though Richard might refer to Richard Horne. Waiting for the arrival of Linda became like waiting for the other shoe to drop. But instead this refers to the events of Part 18 again. Having passed through the dimensional portal, Cooper and Diane assume the identities of Richard and Linda – or rather, these identities assume them. With this in mind, it seems yet again as though the Fireman is giving Cooper warnings. The other-dimension personalities are strong; Diane is fully taken over by hers, and Cooper starts behaving very differently. This ‘clue’ therefore suggests again to prepare for danger.
Finally, the Fireman says, “Two birds with one stone“. This is a little more slippery, a little more open to interpretation. For me, this feels like a precursor to the final confrontation with Mr C/BOB at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station in Part 17 where Freddie (Jack Wardle) does battle with the combined entities. Freddie is the stone, if you will. When this happens, Cooper seems to already know all about Freddie and his magic gardening glove. This scene prefigures that apparent knowledge.
Cooper gives a slight nod and confirms, “I understand”
(something of a comic moment for those of us watching for the first time, baffled). Still, we know that the Fireman’s words have meant something to him. Perhaps, in this state Cooper has some of the same relationship to time as the Fireman, and he can see the future events, however, if this were the case, surely he’d have been prepared for the scritching sound when it occurs at the end of Part 17?
“You are far away,” the Fireman tells him. I personally love the delivery of this line. It speaks of Cooper’s broken sense of place, and the sacrifices he has made in his pursuit of justice and the truth – themes which will perpetuate and only be accentuated as The Return goes on. The line also speaks of the long road ahead – “far away” from completing his goals, perhaps – and its placement upfront establishes a sense of journey to come. The statement is also lonely, and sad; feelings so often beautifully mixed into the world(s) of Twin Peaks.
With a mildly rising sound of wind, Cooper disappears, seemingly fragmented as he is transmitted back to wherever he came from. That we will later(?) find him in the Black Lodge further suggests an inherent connectivity between the two realms. This muddies the waters of the more clear-cut assumptions many place on the lodges as inherently moralistic – ‘good’ and ‘bad’. These simplistic separations suggest two completely separate spheres of existence. That the show connects them throughout The Return speaks of a more complex cohabitation. A trans-dimensional Venn diagram, if you will.
Lynch fades to black and the scene ends…
Next time: Shovels