Warning: Spoilers ahead.
One of my theories about Twin Peaks used to be that fire is evil and wood is good. Wood is the Log Lady's log, the cozy interiors of the Great Northern Hotel (which the one-armed man called "a large house made of wood, surrounded by trees"), the stacked logs on trucks that park outside the safe and comforting Double R. At its worst, wood is also the circle of sycamores surrounding the entrance to the Black Lodge, and the drawer pull in which Josie Packard is imprisoned. Of course, those last two are pretty ambivalent. They're nothing compared to fire, electricity, and scorched engine oil. "Fire is the devil, hiding like a coward in the smoke," says the Log Lady without stuttering.
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But after a few more viewings, it becomes clear that the elements of Twin Peaks are a little more nuanced. It's not that fire is evil and wood is good. It's more that fire is active and wood is passive. Wood is a receptacle for souls like Josie's and the Log Lady's husband, the ghosts of Ghostwood. Wood is a way station and a door. Fire, on the other hand, is a moving thing, a conduit for evil spirits but also, presumably, for good. The smell of burnt engine oil lingers after BOB commits a murder, but oil also opens the door to both Lodges, the evil and the good. Fire activates the map in Owl Cave. Electricity flickers in the Twin Peaks morgue and in Gordon Cole's office and basically everywhere else; it hums above the Fat Trout Trailer Park.
One chants out between two worlds, "Fire, walk with me." Because they do not align with one world or the other. What they seek is assistance, forward motion. Fire is action. Electricity is action. It's not the devil, and it's not hiding. The Log Lady knows a lot, but she doesn't know everything.
This episode, Hawk makes it explicit. "It's a type of fire, more like modern-day electricity," he explains to Frank Truman, pointing to a fire symbol on his Convenient Mystical Native Map. "Good?" asks Frank. "Depends," says Hawk. "Depends upon the intention, the intention behind the fire."
The fire is moving people around this week, usually by means of internal combustion engine. Where is it moving them? Depends upon their intentions, which are rarely simple. Dougie-Coop, still wandering around like a dazed baby bird, may be as pure as it gets in this double-crossing world. For him, the Lodge spirits come out in person and instruct him to buy the pie that saves his life. Fire is taking him somewhere a little safer, into the bosom of the Mitchum brothers. But while that is safer for now, these things tend to turn on a dime. Frank and Hawk have good intentions, too. This week, they're moving toward Blue Pine mountain and that ink-blot owl symbol from Doppelcoop's ace of spades, the one Hawk says "you don't ever want to know about." "There's fire where you are going, Hawk," says to the Log Lady on the phone. Whatever comes next will be active, propulsive, inescapable.
For Becky, whose intentions are grief and revenge, fire comes in the form of a stolen car and a gun. It brings her parents to her, and her to her parents, but not without damage all around. Another car brings Gordon, Albert, Diane, the Buckhorn police chief, and William Hastings to a nondescript yard where Hastings says he saw the Major. Their swirling, contradictory intentions—Gordon's interest in finding the Major, Albert's curiosity, Diane's treachery, Hastings's fear—mimic the electrically humming vortex that roils in the sky above Gordon. When it opens, it reveals three Woodsmen standing on what I've finally realize are the stairs to the room above the convenience store. Fire almost moves Gordon right on out of there, but Albert pulls him back. Hastings isn't so lucky, and a half-invisible Woodsman crushes his head while Diane looks on. Fire may walk you somewhere, but it won't always walk you back.
And then there's the other gun, and the traffic jam: all those engines idling, all those fumes. An exceptionally stony-faced kid named Ralph has accidentally, or maybe accidentally-on-purpose, shot his father's gun through the window of the Double R. Now, they're holding up traffic while Mom has a meltdown and Bobby tries to keep the peace. Nobody's going anywhere, and maybe it's all that fire caught in a holding pattern, but things are starting to get weird. Amid a barrage of honking, Ralph fixes Bobby with a Mrs.-Tremont's-grandson stare. And when Bobby tries to calm down the honker, he discovers that she's transporting…uh… well. She says it's her sick niece, whom she's taking home to have dinner with her uncle. She says she was supposed to be there by 6:30, but the traffic's made them late… Maybe it used to be her niece, but she certainly doesn't look like she expects it to move now.
Where's fire taking us this week? Some dark places. But then again, it always has.
Notes for Peaks freaks of old:
— I rewatched Fire Walk with Me a few weeks ago, just in time for it to be wholly unhelpful for Part 8, so I'm embarrassed I didn't realize before that the Woodsmen have been in the room above the convenience store from way back! I also, uh, didn't really realize it was the room above the convenience store. FWWM has not really been part of my… praxis. I'm fixing it!
— The girl in the stairwell with Steven is Gersten Hayward, Donna's little sister, the one who plays a song for Leland and Sarah while wearing her fairy princess costume.
— Not to victim-blame, but Shelly just has the worst taste in men, doesn't she? I bet she broke up with Bobby as soon as he got kinda noble.
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