With Me and
The Lost Language of Clues...
Gordon speaks through Lil.
"Break the code, solve the case."
-- Agent Dale Cooper
Twin Peaks was conceived as a series in
which (like The Fugitive before it) the central
"mystery" (Who killed Laura Palmer? Who killed Dr. Richard
Kimble's wife? And what of the one-armed man?) would spin off new
complications, week after week, but would never really be solved -- at
least (in the case of The Fugitive) until the end of the
series. (I like to think of it as sort of the TV series version of
Charm of the Bourgeoisie, only instead of never allowing the
characters to eat a meal, the series would just continually deny the
audience and the characters a solution to the mystery.) But
soon (or eventually, depending on how you look at it), public and
network pressure forced the hand of Twin
Peaks co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and they revealed
Laura Palmer's murderer a few weeks into the second season.
Ratings, critical, and creative ennui set in shortly thereafter, but a year later Lynch released a
feature film (hissed and booed at the Cannes Film Festival) that
promised to go into explicit detail (certainly more so than you could do
on network television in the early 1990s) about exactly what happened on
the night Laura Palmer was murdered.
It was a typically perverse Lynch move --
belatedly rehashing details about a year-old, already-solved murder on a
TV show that had been cancelled by the time the movie was
released. Even more perversely, Lynch and co-writer Robert Engels
began this feature-film prequel with an absurdist prologue that -- in
case you hadn't caught on by know -- pretty much explained the spirit,
and method you should have invoked to watch Twin Peaks in the
first place. (The film -- originally sub-titled Teresa Banks and the
Last Seven Days of Laura Palmer -- was supposedly re-cut before
release; Lynch's full script is available online here.)
Lynch himself reprises his role as FBI Bureau
Chief Gordon Cole, standing in front of a woodsy photorealistic backdrop
in his office that recalls the tropical mural used for trompe l'oeil
effects at the house of Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) in the series.
Gordon, as you may recall, can't hear too well. He is accustomed
to communicating in other ways -- through signs, signals, symbols,
And he expects his agents to speak his language.
"I've got a surprise for you.
interesting I would like to show you," Gordon yells into the phone
at Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaac). When Desmond and
Sam Stanley from Spokane (Kiefer Sutherland) ("Sam's the man who
cracked the Whitman case") meet Gordon at the private Portland airport, they're
treated to a peculiar, ritualistic display of body language by a woman in a reddish-orange dress with
flaming hair to match. Gordon introduces her as Lil, "my
mother's sister's girl." Lil makes faces, blinks, sashays
around, and waddles away.
Afterwards, in the car, Sam asks the
questions that all good Twin Peaks devotees are meant to ask again and
again: "What exactly did that mean?" And Desmond
matter-of-factly ("I'll explain it to you") deciphers a
bizarre series of signs and signals and symbols and omens and clues that
Lil's little "dance" conveyed about the case they were about
to embark upon.
The details don't really matter
much (a sour face indicates trouble with local authorities, one hand in
her pocket suggests they're hiding something, walking in place means a
lot of legwork, tailored dresses are code for drugs, etc.) -- it's the
manner in which this info is coveyed that's important. In its
secret heart of hearts, Twin Peaks is an epistemological thriller
about perception and the ways that we assemble information about the
world around us (see Mystery Without End,
Amen). We humans may be capable of certain higher brain
functions, but Lil's dance conveys information in a sophisticated,
ritualized way that isn't that far evolved from, say, the dances of
cranes. In Twin Peaks, dreams and Tibetan rock-throwing
rituals are just as vital and valid forms of detective work as forensic
science. Maybe more so.
Oh, and the most important sign
was that Lil was wearing a blue rose. But, Desmond says, "I
can't tell you about that."
"You can't?" asks Stanley.
"No," repeats Desmond.
And there we have a little mystery.
The conundrums without answers are, of course, the most
intriguing of all. Suddenly, all the other stuff evaporates from
our consciousness -- OK, drugs, legwork, local authorities, fine. Got
it. Let's move on: What about the blue rose?!? All we ever
really learn about it in the rest of the movie is a remark Agent Cooper
makes to Diane that this is "one of Gordon's 'blue rose'
cases" -- whatever that may mean. I can't tell you.
[For more about the thematic and
geological territory of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk
With Me see the Topography of Twin
Peaks guided photo tour.]
the original script of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me:
That was really something. That dancing girl. (after a beat) What did it
Code. If you work with Gordon you learn that right away.
Code, I've heard a lot about this.
pulls his arm back so that only his fingers come out of his sleeve.
Sort of shorthand.
(missing the humor)
We're heading into a difficult situation.
How do you figure?
I'll explain it to you. Do you remember Lil's dance?
Desmond explains we - INTERCUT WITH:
LIL'S DANCE In slow motion.
LIL'S SOUR FACE
Lil was wearing a sour face.
What do you mean?
Her face had a sour look... that means we're going to have trouble with
the local authorities. They are not going to be receptive to the
BLINKING BOTH EYES
Both eyes blinking means there is going to be trouble higher up... the
eyes of the local authority. A sheriff and a deputy. That would be my
guess. Two of the local law enforcers are going to be a problem.
PUTTING ONE HAND IN HER POCKET AND ONE IN A FIST
If you noticed she had one hand in her pocket which means they are
hiding something, and the other hand made a fist which means they are
going to be belligerent.
WALKING IN PLACE
Lil was walking in place which means there's going to be a lot of
COLE PUTTING HIS FINGERS IN FRONT OF HIS FACE AND SAYING LIL IS HIS
Cole said Lil was "his mother's sister's girl". What is missing
in that sentence? The Uncle.
Oh, the uncle is missing.
Not Cole's Uncle but probably the sheriff's uncle in federal prison.
So the sheriff had got an Uncle who's committed a serious crime.
LIL'S RED WIG
Right, which is probably why Lil was wearing a red wig meaning we are
headed into a dangerous situation. Let me ask you something, Stanley, did
you notice anything about the dress?
The dress she was wearing had been altered to fit her. I noticed a
different colored thread where the dress had been taken in. It wasn't her
dress or she must have lost some weight.
Gordon said you were good. The tailored dress is our code for drugs.
Did you notice what was pinned to it?
A blue rose.
Very good, but I can't tell you about that.
rides along quietly for a while.
What did Gordon's tie mean?
What? That's just Gordon's bad taste.
Why couldn't he have just told you all these things?
He talks loud. And he loves his code.
I see. He does talk loud.