Red drapes. That signature Angelo Badalamenti guitar strum. The statue. Then the familiar Waiting Room at large; three chairs, two lamps, a side table with a small globe-like ornament
(a symbol of our Earth; a toy?). The striking coffee and cream chevrons of the patterned floor (used previously by Lynch for the lobby in Eraserhead). We’re in the Black Lodge.
Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) appears in a chair in a pristine black suit. FBI lapel pin. The older man envisioned in the first Twin Peaks dream some 27 years earlier. His face is inscrutable; a cage of thoughts. How has so much time in the Black Lodge altered his mind? And, as will become pertinent, how does time flow within the Black Lodge?
Across from him we find Phillip Gerard, ‘the One-Armed Man’ (Al Strobel); former partner of BOB and hostile agent of the Black Lodge, now ‘purified’ thanks to the removal of The Arm. He has been and continues to be a benevolent presence and of help to Cooper. That Gerard and The Arm co-exist in the Black Lodge further supports the idea that the difference between it and the White Lodge is nowhere near as simplistic as the polemics of, say, heaven and hell. One is not wholly good, the other not wholly bad.
Still, the Black Lodge has been a prison to Cooper since his doppelganger exited before him all those years previous.
Gerrard appears, for a moment, to be frozen in time; caught in a manner different to Cooper; in his own limbo. Then, he speaks in the established inhuman fashion of the Lodge’s inhabitants – backwards (the actors learn the words backwards, say them, then the footage is reversed and subtitled to give it that woozy, drawn-out feeling).
“Is it future or is it past?” Gerard asks Cooper. Non-linear time has been established in the Black Lodge before. In Fire Walk With Me, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) received a visitation from Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) asking her to add a note to her diary that “the good Dale” is trapped in the Lodge, roughly a month before that event would actually occur. It seems as though Annie was ‘sent’ to Laura from the Black Lodge. She wears the same dress she wore the night of the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, and her nose is bloodied from her encounter with the mad and vicious Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh). When Laura is finally killed in Fire Walk With Me, she is welcomed to the Black Lodge by a young Agent Cooper, who also appears in her dreams about this mysterious place. Laura may very well have some level of psychic aptitude as seen in other character), but the Black Lodge clearly has an adjacent association to time, as opposed to a continuous and linear one.
Back to now; Cooper doesn’t answer Gerard’s question. As The Giant (Carel Struycken) once told him, “Better to listen than to talk.”
“Someone is here,” Gerard advises, vanishing with the sound of a reverse footstep. Cooper senses something. There are odd reverberations. And lo, Laura Palmer approaches, wearing a long black dress pinned with an elaborate brooch. She sits in the furthest chair from him.
For a cast so fond of working together, what a reunion this must have been, especially on the most iconic set associated with Twin Peaks. Cast members have spoken about the strange atmosphere conjured by the Black Lodge, and Lee’s smile toward MacLachlan as she enters this scene seems almost loaded. She beams at him, as though acknowledging that neither of them thought they’d actually be doing this again. It’s a small treat.
From the angle of her entrance it looks as though the statue between the chairs is looking directly at her; she is the focal point of the scene.
Which Laura is this? We have seen ‘good’ and ‘bad’ versions of Laura Palmer in the Black Lodge before (who could forget her murderous scream in the season two finale?). And its worth contemplating whether Laura Palmer would even be in the Black Lodge at all. At the end of Fire Walk With Me, we leave her in the presence of an angel, crying and laughing at the same time, in a scene which suggests ascension. Later, in Part 8, we discover that Laura’s soul was sent to Earth by The Fireman (Struckyen) in a sequence which heavily infers that she is – in some way – a divine entity. It seems as though following her death, Laura would have transitioned to the Black Lodge Waiting Room (this set) and then on to return to the White Lodge.
Now, with that in mind, remember that these places are not separate, mutually exclusive realms of existence. Sequences to come will show us this. Add to that Gerard’s words, “Someone is here,” which absolutely infers an arrival from somewhere else. Laura Palmer – the divine or angelic Laura Palmer – is visiting Cooper. That’s my read, anyway.
“Hello Agent Cooper,” she says, seeming benevolent. “You can go out now.” In the previous, Earthbound scene, Margaret Lanterman (Catherine Coulson) told Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) that “The stars turn and a time presents itself“. The release of Agent Cooper from the Black Lodge appears to be the foreseen event she was referring to.
It is time for Cooper to leave – but what does that even mean in a place like the Black Lodge? Why now? Though Cooper has aged (a by-product of the quarter-century gap in filming that handily coincides with the ‘older Cooper’ as envisioned in his original dream), one is forced to wonder how much ‘conventional’ time the FBI agent has experienced within the Black Lodge. Gerard’s initial question haunts the scene.
Again, Cooper remains silent (has he lived this conversation before?). “Do you recognise me?” Laura asks him. Cooper plays along.
“Are you Laura Palmer?”
Laura replies with one of the signature lines from season one; “I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” This is as good a confirmation as he is likely to get, and also reaffirms the dis-associative relationship this realm has with conventional time. Cooper – used to tricks? – remains unconvinced and asks directly who she is. “I am Laura Palmer,” she says with a slight smile and even slighter nod.
“But Laura Palmer is dead,” Cooper counters.
“I am dead,” she responds, adding, “yet I live.” Given the origins revealed in Part 8, Laura Palmer is the show’s Christ-like figure, sent to Earth and who dies for/because of our sins, whose messianic presence has shaded the life of Agent Cooper, who treats the tragedy of her death as mythic throughout the show. A man of intense moral convictions who sees himself almost as a white knight; she is his eternal damsel in distress.
Laura then raises a hand to her face and… opens it like a door. Behind her face is a bright light. Though it appears continuous, the reverse shots to Agent Cooper appear as though the intense light is flickering in a similar manner to faltering electricity (the importance of which we’ve already touched on here). This action suggests – initially – that Laura is a shell or vessel for another entity entirely, or perhaps even another level of reality. Or else, a being of immense purity. White light is traditionally associated with the peaceful or heavenly when mentioned in the context of the afterlife, but the sound cue and Cooper’s expression in this scene curiously suggest otherwise. There is tension to this reveal, as though something bad as been discovered.
Overall, however, I tend toward the idea that this moment symbolises the ‘good’ in Laura, as it acts in balance to a much later scene in Part 14, in which Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) opens up her own face in a bar, revealing a black void and a menacing mouth that smiles, indicating that she is vessel to malevolent force Judy (the creature seen escaping from the Glass Box in Part 1). These scenes of faces opening are opposites of one another.
Laura closes her face and Cooper seems quite disturbed, though he remains in this seat and asks, “When can I go?” At this Laura rises and walks over to him, mirroring her movements from the season one dream. She kisses him and then whispers something inaudible in his ear. Again Lee’s face suggests absolute delight at filming the scene.
Laura stands again and then faces upward (we’ve never previously seen any ceiling to the Waiting Room set and it remains out of frame). She starts convulsing. Cooper looks up too, appearing confused and afraid. The red drapes billow wildly, evoking upset and discord. Laura starts to scream and she rises up into the air. Lynch has Peter Deming face his camera down and into her mouth and she screams. The angle suggests the POV of someone or something pulling her upward. The image shakes roughly. This is a bad event. A violation. Someone is pulling her out of this realm. From his seat Cooper watches as Laura is wrenched upward and out of the scene, her scream cut off abruptly.
Now, given that we’ve established non-linear time in the Black Lodge, hear me out on an idea.
What if this event is occurring at the same ‘time’ (and I use that word lightly) as Cooper’s successful intervention with the living Laura Palmer seen at the end of Part 17, when he is transported back into the past; the night she died. There, Judy becomes wise to Cooper’s plan to cheat inevitability and makes a move, snapping Laura out of all known realms of existence (something momentarily prefigured by the ‘scritching’ sound that the Fireman warned Cooper about at the beginning of Part 1). Black Lodge Laura’s harsh exit here is part of a greater act of violence being enacted across realities and, as these realities have different relationships to time, appears to happen earlier. This scene then becomes foreshadowing of that later event.
This scene and sequence is not over, but this feels like enough for now!
Next time: The evolution of The Arm