'Twin Peaks': David Lynch Upstages Nine Inch Nails With Sprawling Nightmare Sequence

Twin Peaks Still Carel Struyckenin - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Showtime

[Warning: this story contains spoilers for the eighth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return.] 

Describing the latest episode of the new Twin Peaks feels like an impossible task. Let's start with the first sequence of the hour, in which Kyle MacLachlan's chilling Cooper doppelganger gets gunned down in cold blood by his former associate Ray Monroe (George Griffith). In the aftermath of the attack, a mob of ethereal humanoid charcoal monsters strolls along and ritualistically stabs Cooper's motionless body multiple times. A few minutes later, after Nine Inch Nails play a haunting rendition of "She's Gone Away" at the Roadhouse (yes, really), a bloodied Cooperganger lurches forward, looking no worse for wear than the T-1000 after sustaining a few shotgun blasts from Schwarzenegger's Terminator. 

And we're not even at the twenty minute mark yet.

Really, the eighth chapter of David Lynch's increasingly experimental revival can most accurately be described in two words: nightmare fuel. It begins with the aforementioned Cooper sequence, picking up where last week's prison escape left off, and ends in dark-and-disturbing enough territory all on its own. Somehow, Lynch and his crew make that tense thriller of a sequence look utterly clean and coherent when held up to the remaining 40 minutes of the episode: a veritable acid trip that completely upstages everything that came before, with all apologies to Trent Reznor.

Seventeen minutes into the episode, the action cuts away from the Cooper of it all, and turns its sights on a new location and even a new time period, according to a handy title card: White Sands, New Mexico, at 5:29 in the morning on July 16, 1945 — the exact same time as the detonation of an atomic bomb. The camera pushes into the heart of the mushroom cloud at a despairingly sluggish pace, slowly bathing the viewer in nuclear hellfire. The next 10 minutes are spent exploring fiery visuals that bubble and burst and break away from view, a series of images that's guaranteed to draw a litany of Stanley Kubrick comparisons.

Things start to get really strange right around the same time things start making some version of sense. For instance, the nuclear blast seemingly prompts some sort of floating, belching hell figure to vomit dark spheres of energy — one of which boasts the face of Killer BOB (the late Frank Silva), already seen earlier in the episode during the Cooper nightmare sequence. There's a sense that the nuclear bomb's explosion somehow brought life to Killer BOB and other creatures from the Black Lodge — maybe even creating the Lodge itself, or at least bringing the place onto the mortal realm's radar. 

After yet another series of disturbing images flutter onscreen, the episode cuts to a small and lonely island in the middle of a purple ocean — not unlike the ocean the real Agent Cooper floated through at the start of episode three. There's a facility atop the island's highest point, and inside, there's a woman and a man...a man who also happens to be the Giant, the legendary Lodge dweller who has already made several appearances in both versions of Twin Peaks. At least, he's sometimes known as the Giant; in the credits, however, actor Carel Struycken is credited as a series of question marks instead. Fair enough, given that the character's actions leave us with a ton of questions of our own.

In any case, the large man occasionally known as the Giant stares at a large theater screen and watches a replay of the hellish atom bomb sequence, pausing when he sees the Killer BOB sphere. The "Giant" then floats up toward the screen, lays backwards and produces some apparent life-forms of his own, including a golden orb that boasts a familiar face: Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the murdered homecoming queen who has always stood at the beating heart of Twin Peaks. The Laura-sphere then shoots through the theater screen and plummets somewhere on Earth, presumably a sleepy old town in the American pacific northwest. It's hard to know exactly what the heck is happening over the course of this entire sequence, but it certainly feels like the show is suggesting that Laura's very existence has its roots in the Giant.

Forty-one minutes into the episode, the time period changes yet again, as 1945 ticks upward toward 1956. Several of the same charcoal monsters from the Cooper sequence start to converge upon a small town in the New Mexican desert, alarming and attacking the locals. A cigar-chomping creature enters the nearby radio station and murders two employees with nothing more than an aggressive squeezing of their heads, then hijacks the broadcast to recite the same disturbing passage over and over again: "This is the water, and this is the well...." Someone else will have to write down the rest, because, well, still too disturbed to revisit that scene.

As if all of that wasn't harrowing enough, the episode ends with one final disturbing image: a massive cockroach creature that recently hatched from an egg in the middle of the desert, finding shelter inside the open mouth of a slumbering young girl, as the credits roll softly.

And. Scene.

Twin Peaks is off the air next week. This would normally be a cause of agony, but honestly, two weeks might be an appropriate length of time to try digesting everything put forth in this most recent installment. If anyone was accusing Lynch of creating a surprisingly streamlined narrative over the course of the first seven episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return (and really, that should be a pretty big if, given the Dougie Jones of it all), then the eighth round in the chamber certainly blew a hole through that line of thinking.

What did you make of the latest episode? Could you make heads or tails of it? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and theories on what the episode represented, whether we just watched the births of Killer BOB and Laura Palmer, what's next for the revived Bad Cooper and more. Keep checking THR.com/TwinPeaks for more coverage of the show.