The very fact that we are talking about word association means we are in a space that was opened up by our practice of word association. The world is a hologram, Albert.
Yes, it’s a great big psychedelic circus ride, isn’t it, Cooper?
— Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, unused dialogue from shooting script.
David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me opened in theaters 20 years ago this week. Booed at Cannes and mostly shivved by critics, Lynch’s exploration of the last days of small-town homecoming queen and future MacGuffin Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) — a prequel to the brilliant-then-canceled ABC TV series he’d created with Mark Frost in 1990 — would eventually make back around $4 million of the $10 million a French film-financing company had given Lynch to make it, although it did big business in Japan. Lynch wouldn’t make another feature for five years. (It was his longest-ever vacation from filmmaking, at the time; it’s now been almost six years since the premiere of Inland Empire, although Lynch has been busy making records with Danger Mouse, selling coffee beans on the Internet, directing Dior commercials, and teaching Russell Brand to catch the big fish.)
Because it was a prequel to a TV series that had alienated all but the Heaven’s Gate–iest members of its cult by the time it was canceled, Fire Walk With Me was probably doomed from the beginning. The fact that it was a graphic and grueling R-rated film about addiction and incest that ended with the brutal murder of its protagonist couldn’t have helped. “[L]ike A Nightmare on Elm Street directed by Michelangelo Antonioni … a true folly,” wrote Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly — and that was one of the better reviews. “It’s not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be,” wrote Vincent Canby in the New York Times. Even noted crap-defender Quentin Tarantino was unimpressed: “After I saw Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me at Cannes, David Lynch had disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different. And you know, I loved him. I loved him.” (You know you’ve made some wrong turns as an auteur when you’re too far up your own ass for Quentin Tarantino.)
In retrospect, though, the hostile reaction to Fire Walk With Me just looks like a market correction. Directors like David Lynch aren’t supposed to have hit TV shows and appear on the cover of Time; they’re supposed to tunnel ever deeper into their private obsessions, even if it means testing fan goodwill and bewildering or annoying everybody else. After ABC pressured Lynch and Peaks co-creator Mark Frost to unmask Laura Palmer’s killer midway through Season 2, Lynch lost interest and wandered off, leaving other people to interpret his vision and keep the soap-opera wheels spinning; hence the curious story lines about Project Blue Book, a mysterious cave painting that prefigured the blast-door map from Lost, and the appearance of special guest star Billy Zane. With Fire Walk With Me, Lynch brought it all back home, reframing the show’s mythology along more traditionally Lynchian lines and casting Laura Palmer as an almost Christ-like martyr caught in a Manichaean struggle between darkness and light.
Does it work if you haven’t seen the TV show? As Lynch might put it, gosh, no. (It’s a prequel, but it bends time and space to wrap up a few stray plot threads from the series — if you’re working your way through the show on DVD, treat the movie like a coda or you’ll be lost.) But that’s what’s fascinating about it — in some ways, Lynch’s most uncompromising and unrelenting movie is the one he made while beating the dead ghost-horse of a canceled soap opera. Let us now appreciate the most underappreciated David Lynch movie that doesn’t involve sandworms and Sting in metal bikini briefs.
Spoiler alert: I already blew the ending in the second paragraph, kind of. Also, this is an essay about a now-20-year-old movie based on a 22-year-old TV series; I’m not exactly ruining next week’s Breaking Bad here. (Skylar dies.) But if you’ve managed to live this long without finding out who killed Laura Palmer — from, like, an article comparing Twin Peaks to Lost or The Killing or whatever — you’ve got a little less than 600 words before I re-unmask the culprit.
1. Movie-geek philosopher Slavoj Zizek (who’s cited Fire Walk With Me, as opposed to the TV show, as emblematic of the “real” David Lynch) is a fan …
2. … and so are the members of Phish, who named a weekend-long 1997 festival “The Great Went” after a line spoken in the film by Canadian super-creep Jacques Renault, and so is Mike Patton from Faith No More, whose Fantomas side project once recorded Angelo Badalamenti’s Fire Walk With Me title theme as creepy baby-makin’ music. Between Slavoj, Phish, and Patton, you’ve basically got a perfect smart-annoying-guy dinner-party guest list right there.
3. 2666, the mammoth final novel by the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, includes a conversation about Lynch’s filmography between a journalist and a border-town motel manager who’s giving him directions to a cyber-café called Fire Walk With Me. This strikes the reporter as odd. “The clerk shrugged and said that all of Mexico was a collage of diverse and wide-ranging homages.”
4. The opening credits roll over what turns out to be a close-up of static on a TV screen; then somebody smashes the TV with an ax. The killing of a television — it seems like a rare moment of obvious symbolism for Lynch, the auteur about to wrap up his series on his own terms. (Analog-TV snow, after all, is how HBO slyly informs you that you’re not watching TV.) But it’s also a clue that this will be a movie in which screens and other seemingly flat surfaces — photographs, curtains, mirrors — are actually porous borders between one reality and the next.
5. The first face we see onscreen is Lynch’s — in profile, casting a Hitchcockian silhouette on the wall, as befits the director who’s run the furthest with the duality and femme-fatality of Vertigo as anyone this side of DePalma. He’s reprising the role he played on the TV series, that of Dale Cooper’s boss, FBI bureau chief Gordon Cole,1 who is mostly deaf despite the two hearing aids he wears, and yells all of his lines in what’s basically an only slightly exaggerated version of David Lynch’s normal speaking voice. “GET ME AGENT CHESTER DESMOND OUT IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA,” he tells his assistant, setting the plot of the movie’s first act in motion, and it’s a bold meta-moment — the director basically shouting “Action!” onscreen.
Pretty much everyone saw Lynch’s decision to play Gordon on the show as proof of his vanity and propensity for self-indulgence. But giving him the part was smart casting: Even after Lynch had drifted away from the show, he’d show up on the show occasionally as Gordon, either in person or as a loud voice on the phone, creating the suggestion that he remained more involved than he actually was.
6. Kyle MacLachlan, who’d worked with Lynch before in Blue Velvet and Dune before taking on the role of Dale Cooper, was reportedly unhappy with the direction the show took in its second season once Lynch split. The movie was announced one month after the final episode of the show aired, then postponed when MacLachlan refused to participate. Eventually someone talked him into returning in an extended cameo. He gave them five days, and you can tell; most of MacLachlan’s scenes take place in an office. Lynch and co-screenwriter Robert Engels rewrote the prologue around Desmond, a hard-nosed Fed played by Chris Isaak, whom Cole sends to the town of Deer Meadow, Oregon, to investigate a diner waitress’s murder with the help of FBI pathologist Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland in one of those great Kiefer Sutherland–plays-an-ineffectual-dweeb turns that nobody ever talks enough about. See also: Melancholia).
7. The victim’s name is Teresa Banks; someone has beaten her to death, wrapped her in plastic, and floated her down a river. All this is familiar: It’s what happens to Laura Palmer one year later, setting the events of Twin Peaks the series in motion. Accordingly, the first half-hour of Fire Walk With Me plays out like a parallel-universe version of the Peaks pilot, set in a dumber, meaner, uglier small town. Twin Peaks at least had a pastoral neo-’50s surface to distract casual observers from its sky-high violent-crime rate and possible proximity to the gates of a place resembling Hell; the locals were eccentric, but they were also generally helpful and nice and weirdly chipper in their eccentricity. The head waitress at the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks was Peggy Lipton; when Isaak and Sutherland visit the Deer Meadow hash house where Teresa worked, they’re greeted, although that isn’t the word, by Irene, an unapologetic battle-ax with nicotine-stained teeth and a kind word for no one. Deer Meadow’s sheriff and his deputy are Central Casting versions of every small-town cop who’s ever stonewalled a J. Edgar in a movie. Everyone else in town just seems addlebrained and weird, as if maybe Deer Meadow’s water table is downriver from a poorly maintained lead-paint factory. It’s hard to explain how discomfiting all this felt, how wrong, if you’d come into this movie expecting an original cast reunion; imagine if The Simpsons Movie had opened with 30 minutes of prelude set in a grim Shelbyville that turns out to be populated by half-lobotomized Homer/Bart surrogates.
7. It always bugged me that the Chet Desmond story contradicted the version of the Banks investigation described in the official and presumably canon Twin Peaks tie-in book The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes, effectively rendering that whole book (which I read about 75 times in eighth grade) non-canonical, but that’s really more my problem than it is yours. If it’s not already obvious, I am the Trekkiest of Trekkies about this stupid show; the only reason I didn’t end up living in my mom’s basement, filling notebooks with fan fiction, never knowing the touch of a woman, is that my mom doesn’t have a basement.
8. Stanley, to Desmond, after a tense showdown at the sheriff’s office, apropos of nothing: “Agent Desmond, I figure this whole office, furniture included, is worth $27,000.” Sutherland is so great in this. (Joe Bob Briggs, 2002, re Sutherland: “Big surprise that the best performance is by … the actor. So far the people in the movie are the director of the thing, a musician, some kinda mime, a gal playing dead, and … a movie star.”) Isaak, who was charming if not totally convincing in the role of Chris Isaak on The Chris Isaak Show, isn’t bad either as Desmond, a detective with (as Cole explains) “his own M.O. — modus operandi.” This means he’s willing to break people’s noses if they give him shit; Chet has nothing on Cooper, the Zen G-man who solves crimes in his dreams. But Desmond does seem to have a gift for reading signs and symbols — at their first meeting, Cole brings along a woman who communicates the key points of the case to him through interpretive dance — and as the prologue wears on, you see him realize, even before it happens, that the crack in this story is going to swallow him up.
9. Also great: Terminally hangdog Lynch regular Harry Dean Stanton, as Carl Rodd, the almost pathologically beleaguered owner of the Fat Trout Trailer Park, where Teresa Banks lived prior to her death. Since she died, Carl has had to escort a veritable parade of law-enforcement types to her trailer, and this has just been a profound hardship for him. “It’s just, like, more shit I gotta do now,” he says, sounding not just annoyed but mournful, long-suffering, just one plague of boils away from officially being the Job of the trailer-park industry.
Carl might be the most miserable bastard in town, which is saying a lot. The Band-Aid by his hairline is stained with old blood; he’s wearing a flannel shirt under a flannel robe and it’s pretty clear he smells like walking emphysema. And now that he’s the proprietor of a trailer park of material importance to a murder investigation, things have clearly gone from bad to even worse for old Carl; you get the distinct impression Carl can’t even sleep at night he’s so peeved by people coming around asking after this goddamn trailer. No one’s supposed to disturb him before 9 a.m. under any circumstance — so says the handwritten sign on his trailer door, which Sam and Chet fail to notice until it’s too late.
The only thing that can turn the tide on the day for Carl is “a cup of Good Morning, America”; he goes to make one for himself, offers some to Chet and Sam. It’s putrid. A filthy-looking old woman holding an ice pack on her face sticks her head through the door of the trailer, then recoils when the agents try to question her. Something about her appearance so distresses Carl that for a minute he slips into a kind of trance, and when he comes back, he has something to say. “I’ve already gone places,” he says to Chet and Sam, as if by way of self-justification, or as if they’ve asked him what he’s doing in a place like this, although they haven’t. “I just want to stay where I am.” Does he know this is a place where people fall through the cracks and disappear? Or has he just chosen this moment to plead his case to God via representatives of the federal government? Lynch’s movies are full of scenes where great character actors pop up to say something weird and then disappear — think of Jack Nance, raving about a dog he has either made up or possibly eaten in Wild at Heart — but none of them radiate sadness this simple.
10. Speaking of disappearing: Back at the FBI’s Philadelphia office, in walks David Bowie — David Bowie! — as “the long-lost Phillip Jeffries,” who enters the story through another two-dimensional rift in reality (he’s invisible to the naked eye, but we see him slip past Cooper on a security monitor). Jeffries says a bunch of crazy things to Cole and Cooper, describes witnessing a congress of supernatural beings in a room above a convenience store — cue flashes of this meeting, with most of the spooks from the TV series in attendance, including the Dwarf and the One-Armed Man. Then Jeffries vanishes, if he was ever there at all. A call comes in from Deer Meadow: Agent Desmond is missing, too. The mystery that’s been set up for us in the first act is collapsing; at this point the movie shifts focus, prefiguring the bifurcated structure of later Lynch films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr., both neo-noirs that rupture and reconstitute themselves halfway through.
11. Cut to the WELCOME TO TWIN PEAKS sign, as seen in the opening credits of the TV show. It’s one year later; Laura Palmer is spooning coke up her nose before homeroom and generally coming undone, after facing years of debasement at the hands of an evil spirit she knows only as “BOB.” Lee, who managed to thoroughly haunt the TV series, is wrenching and phenomenal as the living Laura. Greil Marcus called her work “the most bottomless female film performance of the latter days of the twentieth century — the most extreme, the most dangerous,” and he’s not wrong. She’s playing a child who tries to protect herself by co-opting a language of cruelty and sexual intimidation, bent on destroying her own innocence before BOB can, a lost little girl pinballing between abject despair, femme-fatale tough talk, canny seductiveness, and just straight-up being a monster. Lee is playing a vast range of stereotypes and archetypes here, all of which still seem to have sprung convincingly from one character’s soul; this is, among other things, one of the bleakest, cruelest movie about teenage self-actualization ever made. The fact that Laura dies at the end doesn’t make her any less the hero of this movie; she’s Lynch’s version of Jean Grey–Dark Phoenix from the X-Men mythology, struggling valiantly against an unconquerable evil.
At one point, Laura’s best friend Donna (Moira Kelly, stepping in for Lara Flynn Boyle) drops by Laura’s house at night. Donna’s in little white socks and a sweater; Laura’s smoking, pouring her parents’ liquor, dressed up like Veronica Lake. Donna asks her where she’s going: “Nowhere fast,” Laura replies. “And you’re not invited.” She’s going to a roadhouse where Jacques the bartender will pimp her out to a couple of creeps from Canada; when Laura sees that Donna’s followed her there (“[A]s a testament to her friendship, she will try to catch her friend’s disease,” Marcus wrote), she lets out a sob, then hardens: OK, Donna. Let’s rock. It’s Lee’s galvanic emotionalism that keeps Fire from being just a super-victim origin story (Buffy in grim reverse) or a backwoods-surrealist after-school special; Lynch loves to put his female protagonists through hell, but nobody except maybe longtime Lynch muse Laura Dern has been this raw in one of his films, or conveyed this much shock and terror.
Eventually even her sexpot pose becomes a mask that slips; on rewatching this last week, my favorite part of Lee’s performance became the scene where she’s all messed up on coke and airplane-bottle Jack Daniels, trying to put on stockings in her bedroom while smoking and talking on the phone, a flash of awkward and brilliantly played physical comedy that crops up just before things get really dark. It’s weird that Sheryl Lee didn’t get more work after this, although, on some level, maybe she’d made it impossible for people to not see Laura when they looked at her; when she turns up in movies like Winter’s Bone, it’s like seeing a ghost.
12. They’ll reboot Twin Peaks someday — but not the movie, which is supposedly so tied up in French film-financing red tape that Lynch can’t get his hands on the deleted scenes to restore them for Blu-ray. You couldn’t reboot Fire Walk With Me, because the only person who could play Laura Palmer is Lindsay Lohan circa 2006. (For the lounge-singer role played in both the show and the film by Julee Cruise, I like Lana Del Rey, who’d fit right into the Peaks universe, where we’re supposed to believe that bikers gather in biker bars to listen to ambient torch songs that sound like Brian Eno producing the Fleetwoods, with lyrics by David Lynch.)
13. Maybe it’s an after-school special, but maybe it’s a horror film, honed in on the inner life of one disposable teen. Lynch is definitely working with slasher-film grammar here. The early shots of Laura walking to school conjure the daylight-horror dreaminess and camera-as-stalker moves of John Carpenter’s Halloween; when BOB turns up in her bedroom, violating her girl-world sanctum in search of the secret diary in which she’s chronicled his evil deeds, it’s almost as classic a jump-scare moment as the appearance of the Dumpster Man behind Winky’s Donuts in Mulholland Dr. (Almost: That Dumpster Man shit was fucked up.) Lynch is probably the most influential horror director who’s never made a straight horror film, although I’ve never read anything to suggest that he’s an actual fan of the genre. Diverse and wide-ranging homages. Shrug.
14. Like I said: The movie doesn’t really hold together unless you’ve watched the show, and even then it doesn’t, not fully. But at least for a while — if you were somehow able to discount the overtly supernatural aspects of the prologue — you could almost watch Fire Walk With Me as a stylized and extremely dark psychological thriller about a young girl who’s processed years of abuse at the hands of her father by creating an elaborate mythology that’s beginning to unravel.
Oh, yeah — her dad did it. Somebody’s already told you that, right? Maybe you asked, assuming you’d never care. When Laura sees BOB in her bedroom and runs outside, it’s Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) who emerges from the house next, and the realization nearly breaks her. This version of the story — Leland as a schizophrenic who tortures and kills Laura — would have been too bleak for television; the show built up the idea that BOB was real, an evil spirit who periodically escaped from an afterworld called the Black Lodge to prey on human fear, eventually absolving Leland almost entirely by introducing the idea of doppelgangers and demonic possession. “Harry,” Cooper says to Twin Peaks’ sheriff, Harry S. Truman, when he balks at the supernatural aspects of this explanation, “is it easier to believe that a man could rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?” Case closed — until Fire Walk With Me, where Lynch reopens the question, turning the idea of BOB (which, in context, actually is weirdly comforting) into a prototypical Lynchian where-does-the-dream-end ambiguity. (Is the Balthazar Getty part of Lost Highway just Bill Pullman dreaming away his last hours on death row? Is the first half of Mulholland Dr. just Naomi Watts’s heartbroken couch-wank fantasy gone awry? Etc.)
14A. In his book Lynch on Lynch, Chris Rodley asks Lynch if part of the problem with Fire Walk With Me was that focusing on Laura’s last days made it hard to ignore the fact that this was a story about incest and filicide. “Maybe so,” Lynch said. “Incest is troubling to a lot of people because they’re probably, you know, doing it at home! [Laughs.] … That’s what it was all about — the loneliness, shame, guilt, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest. It also dealt with the torment of the father — the war in him.”
15. Is this the most anti-Canadian movie ever made? Or the most anti-Canadian movie ever made until [thank you] South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, at least? In the Twin Peaks universe, Canada is where cocaine comes from, and where Laura went to work in a brothel called One-Eyed Jack’s; in Fire Walk With Me, Canada is a scummy, strobe-lit nightclub where Laura and Donna get roofied (possibly consensually) and pawed by creepy locals while a band seemingly made up of undead Mojo Nixons plays what sounds like chopped-and-screwed rockabilly at volumes so deafening the scene requires subtitles. It’s still not as bad as a Rush concert.
16. More Vertigo: In a flashback, we find out that Teresa (Pamela Gidley) turned tricks, and that one of the men she was seeing was Leland, Laura’s father. In life, she was a chilly-crisp Hitchcock blonde who shows up to assignations in a scummy Deer Meadow motel in a blouse you’d wear to show rental property in 1963; for a minute we’re in another noir, about a man who starts seeing a prostitute, asks her to set up a party with a couple of her girlfriends, then comes apart when he sees that one of the girls waiting for him in the motel room is his daughter. “I chickened out,” Leland tells Teresa, after he sees Laura; later, we hear that she was blackmailing him before she died. So Leland killed Teresa, we know this; what we don’t know, what Lynch doesn’t give us the comfort of knowing with any real clarity, is whether or not it was BOB who made him do it.
17. I remember seeing this movie in the theater — a big, mostly empty theater — on opening day, and feeling like the depiction of Laura’s downward spiral was something I was enduring while waiting for moments of Lynchian fan-service. It’s there, if you need it: We find out that the Dwarf is the ghost of the One-Armed Man’s arm (I guess), and Laura dreams of Heather Graham, who turned up late in the series as Cooper’s girlfriend, telling her that “The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can’t leave. Write it in your diary.” This is a reference to the final hour of the series, an episode directed and heavily rewritten by Lynch, in which Cooper apparently gets trapped in the creepy alternate reality where BOB lives when he’s not possessing and murdering people.
That finale, by the way, is still the strangest hour of prime-time television ever broadcast. The “Red Room” from the Cooper dream sequence that mesmerized a nation in the third episode of the first season — a scene that flashed in Lynch’s head fully formed when he touched a hot car outside a film lab one summer night, according to Lynch’s transcendental-meditation memoir Catching the Big Fish — turned out to be a real place. Cooper followed his old FBI mentor, who’d kidnapped Graham, through its front door. After that, I’m still not sure what happened. Doppelgangers proliferated — Leland, Laura, even Cooper himself. Upright-bass notes throbbed on the soundtrack, each note like a lava-lamp bubble. Coffee turned into motor oil; jazz vocalist “Little” Jimmy Scott, born with a rare genetic condition called Kallman’s Syndrome, which prevented him from ever reaching puberty but blessed him with a shivery, otherworldly contralto, materialized to sing an orginal Lynch-Badalamenti song about trees.
And, I mean, why not? It’s not as if there was a third season in the cards. (They’d torn the sets down by the time the last show aired — I remember hearing that, knowing what it meant, feeling like someone had died.) But still: This went on for the better part of an hour. On network TV! On the same network that brought you The Father Dowling Mysteries! Meanwhile, outside the Red Room, the soap-opera machinery of Twin Peaks broke down. A bank exploded with Sherilyn Fenn trapped inside; a scene from the pilot episode (Laura’s boyfriend Bobby flirting with diner waitress Shelly) played out again verbatim, as if time itself had unraveled. It’s as if Lynch, who tossed out a script written by Engels, Harley Peyton, and co-creator Mark Frost in favor of an ending of his own devising, tried to make the finale extra-Lynchian on purpose, taking advantage of his last chance to ram some weirdness down ABC’s corporate throat — although it’s possible that this extended hot-car vision was the only ending that made sense to him.
Anyway: In the last scene, Cooper wakes up in his hotel room, surrounded by friends like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, asks after Heather Graham’s well-being — “How’s Annie?” — and then this happens:
Imagine seeing this happen live. Or if you can’t, imagine if Lost had ended with Matthew Fox apparently possessed by the Smoke Monster. The Internet would have gone into core meltdown. People would have rioted. Or started a #TwinPeaksRiot hashtag on Twitter and never actually done anything. But this was TV in 1991. No social-networking platforms, ergo no socially networked outrage. No grassroots #SixSeasonsAndAMovie campaigns, either; no DirecTV reprieves, no IFC or Netflix to bankroll new episodes, no chance of an expanded-universe line of graphic novels starring weirdly drawn approximations of MacLachlan & Co. You kids today, with your entitlement and your recaps and your direct line to Dan Harmon’s man-cave — you don’t know how good you have it.
It’s almost like the whole of Internet TV-fandom was called into being to prevent anyone from ever again suffering the kind of non-closure Twin Peaks fans got from that diabolically open-ended finale — what I’m trying to say is that as a Peaks nerd (no one ever came up with a sobriquet that stuck like “Trekkies”) I came into this movie with expectations no two-hour film could reasonably fulfill. I got what I needed, kind of: Heather Graham confirmed that Dale was stuck in the Black Lodge, and therefore not dead, and (me, in my head, cheering, trying to put the most positive possible spin on this information) that’s why he’s in old-man makeup in all his dream sequences, because his soul has been trapped inside the Red Room for decades, and that’s why he’s smiling beatifically when we see him at the end, when the angels come to take Laura Palmer away, because he’s easing her transition into Heaven!
It wasn’t exactly a happy ending, or even an ending that promised further adventures. Twin Peaks was over, Agent Cooper was in purgatory. I left feeling like I’d been hit by a train. I cried on the bus on the way home. And I never again overinvested emotionally in the outcome of a pop-cultural event. (Yeah, right.)
18. They did explain the traffic light, though. Remember the traffic light? It’s in the pilot — a long, lingering shot of a light changing from red to green, a signal that this was going to be a show where the camera would linger for long periods of time on weird things a normal TV show’s camera would never linger on. And in the movie, we find out why, more or less. The night she dies, Laura goes to meet James,2 the sweet, dumb biker who thinks he can save her. They talk in clichés: “We have everything,” James says. “Everything but everything,” Laura replies. She’s messed up; she mocks James, slaps him. He laughs it off.
He’s played by James Marshall, who was in this, and then in A Few Good Men as Pfc. Downey, and then disappeared, resurfacing years later as the plaintiff in a high-profile lawsuit against the company that makes Accutane. Is there a Twin Peaks curse? Aside from MacLachlan, who’d go on to play Charlotte’s first husband on Sex and the City before returning to Pacific Northwestern weirdness as mayor of Portlandia, nearly everyone who was on this show seems to have vanished. Also, Jack Nance from Eraserhead, who played the foreman of the sawmill? Dead, under strangely Lynchian circumstances — he suffered a hematoma in a fight outside a Winchell’s in Pasadena after telling some guys to “get a haircut and a job,” and died at home later that day. Frank Silva, the prop master whose creepy appearance inspired Lynch to cast him as BOB? Dead. The guy who played the mayor of Twin Peaks and the guy who played the decrepit room-service waiter? Dead and dead, both in 1995, although they were both really old. When Mädchen Amick, who played Shelly, turned up this season on Mad Men as the old flame Don Draper strangles in a fever-dream, I barely recognized her — then I was relieved she was still alive.
James says her name, begging her to stay; she says, “What about this, James?” and gives him the finger. He tries to pull her to him. She says, “I think you wanna take me home now” — coldly. She gets on his bike, then jumps off at the next light. She screams, “I LOVE YOU, JAMES” and runs off into the woods, where — like monsters in a fairy tale — Jacques and a few of his lowlife pals are waiting just a few feet past the tree line, at the mouth of a forest access road, leaning on a red Corvette. Before the night is over she’ll be tied up on a dirty mattress at the conclusion of a really gross four-way log-cabin sex party, which is where her father finds her. In this moment, though, James could easily follow her; instead he stares at the traffic light, waits for it to change, guns it, and speeds off. So the traffic light is Laura’s last chance; the scene gives the shot in the pilot a retroactive dramatic resonance. In a way, it’s the most prequel-y thing in the movie. And it means nothing. Prequels are ridiculous.
19. The Fire Walk With Me soundtrack is noteworthy for its inclusion of David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti’s first attempt at rap music, featuring a Badalamenti vocal so bizarre it apparently caused Lynch to laugh himself into a hernia: “Angelo said, ‘Let me give this a try,’ so I went over all the lyrics with him … and he went in the recording booth … And Angelo came to life in this booth. I was with the engineer, Arty Polhemus, and I was laughing so hard that something exploded. It was like a light bulb blew up in my stomach, and that was the end of my stomach wall.” (Lynch on Lynch, p. 185.)
20. I still don’t have a theory about the monkey that whispers “Judy.” We’re not going to talk about Judy at all. We’re going to leave her out of this.