Twin Peaks Recap: I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds

Carel Struycken as The Giant, Joy Nash as Senorita Dido. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime
Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

Part 8 Season 1 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 5 stars

The first nuclear explosion looked small, from a distance. Everything horrible looks small from enough of a distance: the destruction of a life, a country, a world. The cloud bloomed like an electric flower over the nothingness like creation in reverse, life going out instead of coming in.

The code name of the first nuclear test was “Trinity,” a word plucked by Los Alamos physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer from the works of John Donne, one of the greatest metaphysical poets in history. The way Oppenheimer described the naming process is Lynchian in the extreme: “Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love. From it a quotation: ‘As West and East / In all flat Maps—and I am one—are one, / So death doth touch the Resurrection.’”

On July 16, 1945, somewhere in the empty desert of White Sands, New Mexico, a new sort of death touched the world, one previously reserved for acts of god. The ability to drop death like a pin on a map, to spread its horror like a biblical flood across the earth, unmaking everything it touched. If a miracle is something so divine that it surpasses understanding, then what is its opposite? Something too terrible and too human to be believed.

Later, when Oppenheimer — now credited and condemned by history as the father of the nuclear bomb — described his reaction to the first mushroom cloud of the atomic age, he quoted from another great work of literature, the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” What would the explosion look like from another world, if someone were watching?

Extraterrestrial forces has always lurked around the edges of Twin Peaks lore, from its strange abductions to the secret signals of Major Briggs, whose decapitated body now lies somewhere in South Dakota, and whose face we last saw floating through outer space during Cooper’s journey out of the Red Room.

If aliens came to Earth through the great and vast nothingness of the universe, how would they find us and why? For years, Stephen Hawking has tried to dissuade humankind from attracting the attention of otherworldly visitors, warning that nomadic aliens would likely descend upon Earth to siphon off whatever resources they could extract before discarding our planet like a husk and moving on.

When Evil Cooper finds himself double-crossed by Ray Monroe and at the wrong end of a bullet, we see ghostly, grey-faced men come shambling out of the distance, tearing at his prostrate body with a terrible hunger. Hasn’t that always been the M.O. of the Red Room, whose inhabitants subsist on garmonbozia, on human pain and suffering? If this is what you feed on, how brightly would the dawn of nuclear death shine for you, no matter how small and far away it was?

In New York, we saw a strange grey figure appear in the glass box — someone was waiting for it, someone knew it was coming — before it tore its way out and through the bodies of two people. After the nuclear blast, we see a strange grey figure (credited as Experiment) scream a long grey cloud that contains the face of Bob, while a song called “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” plays in the background.

Cut to a convenience store flickering like a stop-motion video as figures walk in and out over what seems like days, weeks, even years. In Fire Walk With Me, the lodge spirits met in a room above a convenience store — in the future? the past? both? — to talk about their interactions with our world. It was where the Man From Another Place announced, “Everything will proceed cyclically.”

Elsewhere in the great theater of things, the Giant watches the blast on a newsreel and sings a cloud of gold, which forms into a bubble that contains the face of Laura Palmer. Is this how it started, the push and pull between good and evil that was as big as everything and as small as a town?

Also, Trent Reznor is here.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the Roadhouse is pleased to present the Nine Inch Nails” is not necessarily a phrase that I expected to hear on Twin Peaks, in this or any other episode, but sure, why not? “She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone away,” croons Reznor from behind his sunglasses, which has always been the story of this show.

In 1956, an egg in the sand opens in the New Mexico desert, and something crawls out, fluttering, beneath the moon. An older couple in a car is stopped by a grey-faced man who ambles towards them with a cigarette. “Got a light?” he asks over and over, as the wife screams until they wisely drive away.

He is asking for a light. They came because they saw the fire.

When that fails, he lurches into a radio station playing a song called “My Prayer,” and asks the woman at the counter for a light shortly before he crushes her skull in a single hand. He proceeds to the booth, asking again for another light, and finding it again in the brain matter of the KPJK DJ that he spills across the floor.

He grabs the mike to send a little message of his own to the radio listeners of New Mexico: “This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and the dark within.”

A white horse, you may remember, appeared to Sarah Palmer shortly before the deaths of both Laura and Maddy. It is a revelation straight out of Revelation: “I looked and beheld a pale horse: its rider was named Death, and Hell followed with him.” The Log Lady too, had her own apocalyptic warning: “Woe to the ones who behold the pale horse.” Woe too to everyone in listening range of this radio signal. They start dropping to the ground, one by one, from the waitress at Pop’s Diner to the mechanic in his garage.

After a teenage couple takes a long, sexually tense walk home, culminating in a kiss, the fluttering insect thing makes its way inside through a crack in her window, and finds her asleep. It climbs inside her mouth, its small five-fingered foot slipping between her lips. Is this how they feed, by first feeding us? Drink full, and descend.

Twin Peaks Recap: I Am Become Death, Destroyer of Worlds