Warning: Major spoilers up to Episode 8.
For years, we’ve been left to wonder about the origin of BOB, the spirit of pure evil at the centre of Twin Peaks’ Manichean cosmology. Now we know. In 1956, in the New Mexico desert, BOB was born from the radioactive fallout of Trinity, the first-ever nuclear test that took place a decade earlier in 1945. In other words, while there still seems to be an element of the supernatural at work, BOB is to some extent our own creation—a Frankenstein monster formed out of humankind’s most destructive impulses.
It’s a revelation so poignant, and so unexpected, that it’s hard to believe we’re really witnessing it. Part of the thrill of the original Twin Peaks was that we knew we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg—that an entire cinematic universe lay beyond what we caught onscreen. That universe was hinted at in tie-ins like the spinoff movie Fire Walk With Me and the recently-reissued Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, penned by Lynch’s own daughter Jennifer, but many questions—in particular, the origin of BOB and the Black Lodge—were left unanswered.
For those of us who have spent hours (or days, or months) theorizing specifically about the nature of BOB, “Part 8” is quite unexpectedly the answer we’ve been waiting for, and it comes through a cinematic device that Lynch has only rarely employed in his career: the extended flashback. When Ray blasts Bad Cooper to the brink of death with a couple of bullets to the chest, a zombie-like horde of ghost drifters arrives to swarm the doppelgänger and patch his wounds. Somehow, this event triggers a kind of telepathic connection between Ray and BOB-as-Cooper, leading Ray to become a fly on the wall for BOB’s monochrome origin story in 1950s New Mexico.
Over the course of this flashback, we learn these ghost drifters are the mutant victims of Trinity, and one of many forms that BOB can take simultaneously. A leader emerges from the pack, an unlit cigarette in his mouth, his voice unnaturally booming. He appears in the credits simply as “Woodsman,” and whether he is a fallout survivor out for vengeance, Satan out for corruption, or a little bit of both remains a mystery.
What we do know is that, being BOB, he relishes crushing the skulls of the staff at the local radio station he hijacks, before then reciting a cryptic chant over the airwaves that makes everyone listening fall asleep. His incredibly grotesque counterpart, a mutated half-frog, half-beetle parasite, takes the opportunity to creep into the mouth of a young girl in love, and the stage is set for something even more nefarious. The fact that the credits roll right over the girl’s sleeping face suggests to me that Lynch and Frost haven’t finished with us yet—that “Part 9” will show us exactly what happens when BOB’s monstrous insect-frog usurps this girl’s quiet country life and wreaks havoc on her world.
Leading us into this period setting is a spectacular, kaleidoscopic sequence that seems to constitute Ray’s journey through time into BOB’s past, a visual tour-de-force that begins with the Trinity explosion and concludes with the launching of what can only be described as a “Laura-Palmer-infused space egg” towards earth. There are clear echoes here not only of Stan Brakhage’s paint-on-film experiments, but also of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and its collision with the black-and-white world of postwar New Mexico makes this the most memorable episode yet of a show that has flouted conventions at every turn.
I had the stray observation while watching “Part 8” that this section of the series was probably also the most expensive to make—and that Showtime agreeing to produce it may have been part of the reason Lynch returned after walking away from the series in 2015 due to budgetary constraints. As far as I’m concerned, the extra hassle was more than worth it.
Next week: “Part 9”