Here's the thing. I don't want to call this episode — titled "Gotta Light?" — the most upsetting and confusing and mesmerising piece of television, but I also don't want to be a liar. This hour was disturbing, to say the least. A departure from past episodes, it featured none of the usual suspects, save for the evil doppelganger and Ray (George Griffith). Oh, and there's that brief appearance of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), which seemed to place all the confusing goings-on in some recognisable universe.
We begin with the "death" of the sleazy version of Cooper. Ray — oh, Ray, how could we have doubted you? — stops to take a pee as the two drive away from the federal prison. Note: Characters on television shows rarely go to the bathroom unless something weird is going to happen in the bathroom or during the act of releasing excrement. (See: The final moments of Stranger Things season one, when Will Byers goes to the bathroom only to see the upside down in the bathroom mirror.) Sure enough, when Ray leaves the car and unzip, Cooper grabs his gun from the glove compartment. In the most thrilling moment of the season yet, Ray slides his own gun from inside his jacket, revealing that Cooper's gun is shooting blanks. You guys, it's the end of Cooper! Ray shoots the long-haired Kyle Mclachlan and — yahoo! — no more evil doppelganger.
Or so it would seem.
We don't know what "death" means for the infected Cooper, per se, except that he's now chow for the other demons. We've seen a few "demons," for lack of a better term, on the show so far. They're coated in black and you can usually spot them by the whites of their eyes. When Cooper left the federal prison, a demon (a woodsman?) slunk out just behind our antagonist. When Killer Bob version of Cooper dies, the demons come running, seemingly to feast on the body. They rip him apart with their hands, leaving a bloodied body on the ground. It's nice to have Ray there as witness during this moment — he's visibly perturbed, which tells us that this is Not Normal. Ray is by no means a "good guy" on this show, but at least he's not in cahoots with these folks. ("I saw something in Cooper. Maybe the key to what this is all about," he says on the phone on his way out. It's like David Lynch needed to cover his bases, let us know that the "demon feasting" moment was rather key.)
After a brief Nine Inch Nails interlude — yes, "The" Nine Inch Nails play an entire song — the episode devolves. Utterly. The remaining 41 minutes and 39 seconds are for what seems to be a Twin Peaks prologue. And not a Fire Walk with Me style prologue, either: This is some serious "eons ago" storytelling, beginning July 16, 1945 in New Mexico. I know this because there was a title card.
In this time, there was an explosion, which I count as the Big Bang of this entire universe. After this explosion, the episode turns into what more might be more accurately called a "media art installation" or "film school thesis project" or "epic screensaver" or "what cameras in outer space might see. There are dancing white speckles of light. There are spiderwebs crawling across the screen. There's the cosmos. There's a slimy white being vomiting. (All this is set to "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima," performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic.)
The being seems important, if only because in its vomit is the vision of Killer Bob. The camera lingers briefly over his image before moving on. Is this creature giving birth to all the evil that happens in the Twin Peaks verse? That's what I think, especially because later, a demon called "woodsman" in the credits overtakes the same New Mexico town. The same sequence shows us a gas station or convenience store which
First though, the mysterious giant played by Carel Struycken is, you know, hanging out in what seems to be a lighthouse in the middle of a purple ocean. At said house, he plays a movie on a projector screen. It's the same movie we just saw — explosion in New Mexico, fizzles, blurries, screen saver, you know the drill by now. He pauses the movie when Killer Bob enters the picture, seemingly celebrating. Then, he floats towards the heavens, gold light emanating from his head. The gold light becomes an orb, which then presents Laura Palmer. I get the sense this is supposed to be full circle, but I don't quite know how this all connects.
Then, we're plopped in New Mexico, 1956. There's an egg. It hatches to reveal a slimy frog-beetle. This cannot possible bode well.
What also doesn't bode well is the charming teen couple returning from a school dance. (They are called "girl" and "boy" in the credits, and played by Tikaeni Faircrest and Xolo Mariduena, respectively.) They're having a nice night. This doesn't bode well because this nice night cannot possibly continue. As they stroll their way home, dancing around the idea of a first kiss, those aforementioned demons begin to overtake the town. There's one in particular that seems to be in charge: the Woodsman (Robert Broski).
"Gotta light?" he asks two car-ridden passersby, who are shaking in their boots. He repeats this ad nauseum until they drive away. But he still needs his light! He heads to the radio station, where I guess this is no security because he just walks right on in and murders the receptionist. (Minus one for violence against women, Twin Peaks.)
As the woodsman makes his way through the radio station, we see several people listening to the particular channel: a waitress, a mechanic, and the adorable girl who's made her way home after the dance. (She had her first kiss a minute ago and is wallowing in the joy of it. Shame on you, Twin Peaks for what follows.) When the woodsman/demon takes over the airwaves of the radio station, each of these characters falls over and dies — with the exception of the girl from the date.
It's hard to decide what's been the most gruesome part of Twin Peaks: The Return. Was it the vomit from episode four? Or the ice pick murder from episode six? Perhaps the hit and run. This one seems to take the cake, though, and gladly. When the slick beetle-frog crawled into the mouth of the slumbering girl, I nearly cried. Horrific, I tell you. The credits roll over her peaceful face, which is just goddamn eerie.
Like I said: Disturbing, upsetting, and perhaps a little revealing. Did we just witness the beginning of the black lodge? Possibly. Will the little girl grow up to be Mrs. Lanterman, or perhaps another character in the Twin Peaks verse?
When the woodsman overtook the radio station, this is what he said:
"This is the water and this is the well. Drink full; end is end.
The horse is the white of the eyes, the dark within."
The horse is the white of the eyes, the dark within."
The white of the eyes speaks to the whites of the demon eyes — the only spot of brightness in their dark ensemble and charcoal skin. So, the dark within is what, exactly? The vomit? At the very end of the episode the sound of a running horse plays as the camera pans over the New Mexico ground.
It's enough to make you miss good old Dougie Jones.
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