Twin Peaks season 3 decoder: Nuclear Bo(m)b

Mushroom clouds and glowing orbs – was this the most experimental hour of television ever to air?


Martyn Conterio


This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks season 3 part 8. For maximum enjoyment, we recommend reading after you’ve watched the show.

As Dorothy might say, “We’re not in Twin Peaks anymore.” Season three part eight is essentially a 45-minute experimental short film inserted into a television show called Twin Peaks. This was Lynch venturing into new realms of batshit craziness. It’s clear now that Twin Peaks is more than a murder mystery: it’s a complete universe. And there we were thinking part three’s opener (Coop emerging from a plug socket) was pretty out there, and part seven’s two-and-a-half-minute scene of a guy sweeping up after a busy night at The Roadhouse was the ultimate patience-tester.

Part eight begins straightforwardly enough, with Bad Coop double crossed by Ray and left for dead. The scene is linked to parts one and seven by the appearance of charred-looking entities (very similar in appearance to the floating dude in the jail cell, who later turned up stalking the corridor of Buckhorn mortuary). These minions of the darkness swarmed around Bad Coop, smeared blood over the body and pulled out an orb with Bob’s face inside it (the Borb?) from an open wound. Ray understandably high tails it.

Lynch then takes us back in time to White Sands, New Mexico and the days of the Manhattan Project (which former Twin Peaks Gazette owner, Dougie Milford, was involved in). The year is 1945. A nuclear explosion goes off in slow motion. If Stanley Kubrick thought his starfield sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey was the ultimate ‘far-out, man’ trip, then part eight is Lynch telling Kubrick, “Hold my PBR, buddy!”

Mark Frost is all about the esoteric and secret history of America and his creative confrère – a practitioner of transcendental meditation – is an artist who gets excited about the mysterious union between intuition and expression. Part eight weds their pet interests in a way we will never forget. For if the nuclear bomb is the ultimate symbol of humankind’s foolishness, it’s therefore the perfect vassal for Bob and the black lodge spirits to enter our earthly realm and get up to no good.

In Twin Peaks mythology, fire is equally important as electricity. The arcane poem spoken by Phil Gerrard/Mike (Al Strobel), “One chant between two worlds, fire walk with me,” lent the prequel its subtitle. “Do you want to play with fire, little boy?” Leland Palmer said in season two episode two, recounting his first childhood encounter with the baddie who possessed his body and soul. Coincidentally, ‘Little Boy’ was the codename for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

In the original (and significantly cut down) Phillip Jeffries sequence from Fire Walk with Me, the Man from Another Place explains in typically cryptic dialogue how they appeared on our planet: “From pure air.” Robert Engels, who co-wrote the prequel screenplay with Lynch, has mentioned in the past how the pair envisioned the black lodge spirits hailing from a planet made of creamed corn (known in the show as ‘garmonbozia’). Again, Frost and Lynch have taken old ideas and re-used them for revisionary purposes.

The scene in which the Giant floats up to the ceiling in a theatre and emits golden specs of light into a trail, forming an orb, is where part eight gets truly weird. Inside the orb is the image of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) as homecoming queen. The orb is sent to the Pacific Northwest via a tube-like funnel and movie screen. Lynch has used orbs before, in Eraserhead, Elephant Man and Wild at Heart, where Sheryl Lee’s Good Witch appeared to Sailor (Nicolas Cage). The screen depicting a starfield, too, recalls the end scene in The Elephant Man. Season three really has been something of a David Lynch Greatest Hits compilation.

In season three part two, Laura Palmer appeared before Coop in the Red Room. As in season one’s iconic dream sequence, she kisses him and whispers into his ear. In season three, however, some unseen force lifted her up into the sky. Coop looks on, astonished. Are these two events directly connected? Has the Laura-Orb been sent off to help Coop defeat Bob and avenge her own death all those years ago? From victim to force for cosmic awesomeness. “I am dead… yet I live,” she tells Coop.

Published 27 Jun 2017

Tags: David Lynch Mark Frost Twin Peaks

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