Major spoilers for episode 8 of “Twin Peaks: The Return.”
Besides being one long, Lynchian visual experiment, this week’s episode of the “Twin Peaks” revival also may have just given us the origin of just about everything — specifically BOB.
And it starts with a nuclear bomb.
A large, black and white photo of a mushroom cloud has been prominently featured in Gordon Cole’s office since the start of the season, but in episode 8, it came to life. A title card shows us that the explosion took place on July 16, 1945 at 5:29 a.m. History buffs will recognize this date as the moment of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon.
“Trinity,” as it was called, was part of the Manhattan Project, in which the United States developed nuclear bombs. The test was conducted in what is now known as the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, around 35 miles away from Socorro. As can be expected from the world’s first nuclear test, it awed the scientists involved.
These were the trials that eventually led to the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Subsequently, the composition that plays over this sequence in the episode is called “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” by Krzysztof Penderecki. A “threnody” is a song that’s composed to pay tribute to a dead person and when hearing the full arrangement performed for the first time, Penderecki, the only thing he could think of was Hiroshima.
The test site is now known as a historic landmark and is marked with an obelisk that looks similar to the tower that appears in the center of the endless purple ocean, which we see after panning into the cloud itself (although I might be looking too hard into things).
Also inside the cloud we see a white, feminine figure which is named in the credits as the “experiment.” It’s been floating around “Twin Peaks” since Part 1, where it appeared in a glass box in New York City before tearing apart two young people.
The destruction of one thing leads to the creation of another. At the Trinity test site, scientists found trinitite, a green-tinted residue. In “Twin Peaks” we see the creation of BOB.
Something that looks like an umbilical cord snakes out of the experiment. While many things which look like eggs float out, a floating bubble with BOB’s (Frank Silva) head also appears.
This is touched upon later when we go to the aforementioned tower, which houses a woman in vintage garb named Señorita Dido (Joy Nash) and the man we’ve come to know as The Giant (Carel Struycken). He watches a movie screen of the explosion and sees the BOB bubble. He then floats up to the ceiling, where a sparkling yellow cloud emerges from his head. A yellow bubble floats downwards, where Dido catches it. We then see the face of Laura Palmer in the bubble before Dido releases it into a gramophone, which in turn sends it down to Earth.
We cut to Aug. 5, 1956 outside an unnamed New Mexico town where one of the eggs hatches. A creature that looks like part frog and part fly emerges and slowly walks away.
Meanwhile, smoke-covered men that have been appearing this season (and which we now know are called Woodsmen) come out of the darkness and slowly walk towards the town. One descends onto a radio station, kills the two people manning the post, and hypnotizes the town into a slumber with a creepy poem he repeats over and over: “This is the water. And this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.” What that means is anyone’s guess.
In another part of the town, a young girl listening to the radio falls asleep. Soon after, the creature jumps in through her window and crawls into her mouth.
So what does all this mean? Forgive yourself if you felt overwhelmed by this entire episode since there’s a lot to unpack. But from what we gather, David Lynch was depicting the birth of BOB and the central conflict of “Twin Peaks.”
There’s the symbolism behind the nuclear bomb, which can signal the end of one era and the beginning of another, or of death and birth. In this case, it looks like it was the birth of BOB, who sprung from the experiment. Those in the purple ocean tower were alerted to the situation, where they created a contingency plan — Laura Palmer.
We know from “Fire Walk With Me” that Laura was able to resist BOB’s advances to take over her body by putting on the ring. It’s unclear why BOB wanted to become Laura as well. In a familiar sounding scenario, BOB was seen climbing in through Laura’s window, just like the creature that spawned from the egg.
BOB is an entity of pure evil who feeds off the pain and fear of humans. Members of the Black Lodge, including MIKE, have been working to control BOB, signifying that he’s too dangerous for even the Black Lodge.
But when did Laura get released to Earth? The timeline is a bit off, although linear, straightforward time doesn’t exist in “Twin Peaks.” According to “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer,” she wasn’t born until July 1971. And it’s unclear who the girl we see in the town is and what happened to her after the creature climbed into her mouth, so the incident might not be related to Laura at all. We also don’t explicitly know what the creature is. Given the apparent cooperation from a Woodsman, BOB would be the logical guess — but it’s also possible that it’s the Laura Palmer spirit sent down by Senorita Dido being implanted in Sara Palmer.
But there might be one connection. One Twin Peaks resident was stationed at White Sands during the time of the test: Douglas “Dougie” Milford, the publisher of the Twin Peaks Gazette. According to “The Secret History of Twin Peaks,” he was also at Roswell when the UFO crashed and later worked with the government — including Gordon Cole and Phillip Jeffries — on secret missions involving the sort of supernatural stuff that has always been at the center of “Twin Peaks.” Dougie was also involved with Project Blue Book (the U.S. government’s attempt to find the White Lodge), which you’ll recall Major Garland Briggs being a part of in the original series run. You can read more about Dougie Milford’s surprisingly complicated past here.
Let’s also not forget the convenience store that was shown in the middle of all this in an extremely trippy shot in which a number of Woodsmen could be seen milling around inside and outside it. Presumably this is the same convenience store that MIKE and BOB lived in, before MIKE “saw the face of god,” chopped off his own arm and dedicated his existence to stopping BOB. We also saw the store later, briefly, when the New Mexico girl found a penny in front of it before she and her friend walked to her house. What the store has to do with anything else that happens in the episode is unclear, however, because we don’t even know where it is — the title card for the part with the girl just designates the place as just the desert of New Mexico.
So this could all be connected and could actually make sense. We could also be reading too much into it. This is also only part 8, after all. We still have 10 hours to go before we see the series’ conclusion and hopefully learn the secrets behind “Twin Peaks.”