The Deepest Cut Of All: The White Lodge And The Black Lodge
It’s in season 2 that we begin to learn more of Agent Cooper’s backstory, and understand how it will shape the future of the story of Twin Peaks. The nightmare he’s brought to town takes the shape of Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh). Earle was once an FBI Agent, and Agent Cooper’s partner. However, we learn that some years previously, Earle’s wife – Caroline – witnessed a crime, and Earle and Cooper were assigned to protect her. Cooper and Caroline fell in love, and Windom Earle killed her while seriously wounding Cooper. Earle then spent time undergoing psychiatric evaluation, but escaped, and when Cooper’s in Twin Peaks, Earle tracks him down to torment him. He does this from a distance, by engaging Cooper in a remote game of chess in which every piece lost by Cooper equates to a murder. His first victim is a drifter, but he soon begins to target popular Twin Peaks residents.
It’s Earle’s connection to the darkest part of Twin Peaks that truly opens up the deepest layer of the plot, though – and that’s his past working on Project Bluebook. We learn from Major Garland Briggs (Don Davis) – father of Bobby – that he and Earle worked on the Project, which looked into reports of UFOs and alien communications. As part of that project, the military became aware of a location in the woods around Twin Peaks, known as the White Lodge. Major Briggs had continued to work, unofficially, on this specific area of research, while Windom Earle was removed, due to a deep obsession with the idea of this place.
The White Lodge resides at the heart of all things in Twin Peaks. It cuts to the very centre of the ancient mysticism that permeates the local landscape like a low-lying fog, and is the destination to which all investigative paths lead. While Major Briggs has dedicated his life to finding the White Lodge, Windom Earle is set on gaining access to its counterpart – the Black Lodge – which he believes will make him powerful.
“Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness, called the White Lodge. Gentle fawns gamboled there amidst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air. And when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one’s heart with a desire to live life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue’s sour smell. Engorged with the whispered prayers of kneeling mothers, mewling newborns, and fools, young and old, compelled to do good without reason … But, I am happy to point out that our story does not end in this wretched place of saccharine excess. For there’s another place, its opposite: A place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. No prayers dare enter this frightful maw. The spirits there care not for good deeds or priestly invocations, they’re as likely to rip the flesh from your bone as greet you with a happy “good day.” And if harnessed, these spirits in this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts would offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the Earth itself to his liking.”
The White and Black Lodges have been cropping up in Agent Cooper’s dreams throughout the first and second seasons of the show, and are depicted as being spaces in which the laws of time and physics are distorted. In the Lodges in his dreams, Agent Cooper encounters a dancing dwarf, a one-armed man named Mike, and a woman who resembles Laura Palmer. The woman tells Cooper that she is not Laura Palmer, but she feels like she knows her. In a different dream, a mostly silent Laura Palmer whispers the name of her killer to Agent Cooper, while they sit in one of the Lodges. Cooper also repeatedly receives clues from a giant, and an elderly waiter – both of whom appear to him in his waking hours, but seem to be from the White Lodge.
The most important aspect of the Lodges, however, is the fact that they’re linked to the spirit that has tormented the town – Bob (Frank Silva). He’s a terrifying, long-haired man in a denim jacket, who laughs maniacally and moves strangely. He appears at various points throughout the series, and is repeatedly identified as the killer of Laura Palmer. When the one-armed shoe salesman, Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel), arrives in town, Agent Cooper is unsettled – because this same man has appeared in his dreams. It transpires that Phillip is host to an evil spirit named Mike, who has spent years committing terrible murders with his familiar, Bob. Their homicidal partnership was dissolved, however, when Bob’s bloodlust overtook that of Mike – who sought to redeem himself after seeing the face of God. Mike has since dedicated his time to finding Bob and preventing his murderous behaviour.
We learn that Bob’s true face can only be seen by the gifted, or the damned. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) – mother of Laura – sees him repeatedly in her home, because she’s psychically gifted. When Laura’s cousin, Maddy Ferguson (also played by Sheryl Lee) comes to stay in the wake of Laura’s death, she sees Bob on numerous occasions – but we soon come to realize that she’s damned. Agent Cooper also sees Bob many times, and we assume it’s because he’s gifted – although that assumption is challenged by the devastating cliffhanger at the end of season 2.
In what remains some of the most disturbing scenes ever to grace the small screen, we learn that Bob has been using Leland Palmer as a host, and so Leland is responsible for the deaths of Laura, and Teresa Banks a year earlier. We also watch him brutally murder Maddy. But, it’s not only murder that’s at issue here. The implication is that Leland was abused by Bob as a child while vacationing at his grandfather’s home at Pearl Lakes, and that as an adult, Leland in turn abused his daughter while possessed by Bob. This is the horrific secret lurking just behind the perfect white picket fence.
And so, as the second season progresses beyond the death of Leland Palmer, and into the revelations of Windom Earle and his plans for the Black Lodge, we find that all the themes and motifs that have so carefully been layered through the story of Twin Peaks come together.