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‘Twin Peaks’ episode eight recap: Nine Inch Nails drop the bomb

When we started running Twin Peaks episode recaps on The Current’s website, we didn’t expect the show would include a scene of graphic violence to a DJ — on duty, no less! A spin of the Platters’ “My Prayer,” circa 1956, is very rudely interrupted by a “Woodsman” (Robert Broski) who looks like a motor oil spill come to life, crushing the host’s head and commandeering the mic to repeatedly recite his ominous message for New Mexico.

This is the water, and this is the well.
Drink full the eyes dark within.
This is the water, and this is the well.
Drink full and descend.
The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.
This is the water, and this is the well.
Drink full and descend.

The message causes all its listeners to fall asleep, among them a teenage girl (Tikaeni Faircrest) who’s just had her first kiss. Her second kiss, of sorts, turns out to be a grotesque winged lizard-like creature crawling into her mouth.

How did we get here? By way of what might be the origin story of the Giant, even the origin story of the Black Lodge itself, or, hell, the origin story of the universe. David Lynch is in high-art mode for the entire episode, after only a short bit of conventional plot development.

That development concerns Mr. Cooper, Agent Cooper’s evil doppelgänger, who’s just been sprung from jail. He’s on the run with his confederate Ray (George Griffith), who turns out to be more of a rebel when he pulls a switcheroo and shoots Mr. C in a wooded clearing that eerily recalls the Black Lodge entrance we saw in the original series. Fallen, the doppelgänger is surrounded by ghostlike creatures in worn midcentury work clothes.

Are they consuming him? Reviving him? Ray doesn’t stick around to find out, peeling off in the getaway car. “I think he’s dead,” Ray explains on the phone as he drives, “but he’s found some kind of help, so I’m not 100 percent. I saw something in Cooper. It may be the key to what this is all about. I told him where I’m going, so if he comes after me, I’ll get him there.”

Sure you will, Ray. Oh, and he’s definitely not dead.

Once the business with Ray and Mr. C wraps up, we get the band introduced at the Roadhouse as “the Nine Inch Nails,” with what the Showtime subtitle writer aptly describes as their “discordant instrumentation.” Lynch gives Trent Reznor and company several minutes to perform “She’s Gone Away,” with lyrics that are apt for what’s about to go down.

17 minutes into the episode, the bomb goes off. As in, the Bomb: the world’s first atomic explosion on July 16, 1945 at the Trinity Site in New Mexico. The explosion is depicted in gorgeously chilling slow-motion black-and-white photography, soundtracked by Krzystof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. The screaming dissonance recalls the Ligeti music used by Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the long central section of this episode bears other Kubrick-like touches as well.

We go inside the bomb explosion, with flashes of light and, later, color. At a gas station, ghostly figures like the ones that surrounded the evil Cooper come and go. A stream of plasma emerges from the head of a mysterious floating figure. Cut to a flyover of a monochromatic ocean (evoking the snowy valleys seen in the 2001 alien encounter), and pan up to a Deco fortress standing atop a cliff.

Inside, the steampunk vibe is strong. A festively dressed woman known as Señorita Dido (Joy Nash) is hanging out with the Giant (Carel Struycken) in a parlor that also features a Dalek-like electric device that starts clanking. That sends the Giant up a vast staircase, where he finds a sort of ballroom screening room. There, he watches film of the atomic explosion as he floats up into the air.

A golden cloud emerges from his mouth (stay with me here), ultimately producing a sphere about the size of a bowling ball. The sphere drops down to the waiting hands of Señorita Dido, who tosses it up into a funnel that shoots it into the screen — now showing an image of the Earth. The ball heads toward North America, specifically toward Twin Peaks. Before she sends it off, Señorita Dido looks into the ball and sees the face of Laura Palmer.

What does it all mean? Well, my first thought was that we were watching the origin story of the Giant — that this is where he gets sucked into the Black Lodge, circa 1945. There’s a gramophone playing in Señorita Dido’s parlor; the combination of the record player and the black-and-white photography were seen in the very first scene of the new season, as the Giant spoke with Cooper in the Lodge.

It seems, though, this might be the story of something bigger. It could be that there’s an even deeper similarity to 2001, with some kind of alien intelligence being alerted by a technological discovery on the part of humanity. In 2001, that was spaceflight. In Twin Peaks, it’s atomic energy. How is Laura Palmer, though, part of this already? She won’t be born until the early ’70s. Here’s a theory: the teenage girl and her beau (Xolo Mariduena) turn out to be and Sarah and Leland Palmer, their offspring cursed from conception.

Catch up with Twin Peaks: The Return

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Twin Peaks episode seven recap: The dark side of the river