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					Samuel Kimball, University of North Florida

                  Desire, from the Latin desiderare, to long for, investigate,
                  from de- +seider-, sidus star; formed on analogy with
                  considerare, to examine, to observe the stars carefully;
                  sidus, from the Indo-European root sweid-or sueid-, to
                        Adapted from The American HeritageDictionary of
                                         European Roots

                  "Look to the light, Leland. Find the light. . . .”
                        FBI Special Agent Cooper to Leland Palmer in the
                            Confession Episode [2009] of Twin Peaks

                  a blinded vision . . . to be rectified by means of insights
                  that it unwittingly provides.
                               Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight

"Sepulchres of the Fathers”

      At the beginning of his seminal essay "Nature," Emerson declaims
against those who would see not through their own eyes but the eyes of their
cultural forebears, the eyes of the "fathers": "Our age is retrospective. It
builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and
criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we,
through their eyes” (“Nature,” Selected Essays 35). In monumentalizing the
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 2

past, Emerson says, "our age" enshrines its precursors, whose visionary
gleam thereby survives their death. In fact, however, in falling under the
spell of the fathers and giving such retrospective homage to them, the
present age curtails and even endangers the life of its own vision. Thus, such
ennobling remembrance of the fathers is deeply ambivalent, for in
acknowledging their ability to "behold God and nature face to face,” the
children of these earlier generations become dependent upon—beholden to—
the fathers' still living vision. And not only dependent upon but in some
sense entombed by it, since it removes from them a living, visionary sight of
their own. Thus the coincidence of death and blindness on the one hand, life
and revelatory sight on the other. Rather than enhancing their ability to
behold God and nature, the fathers' vision has a blinding and sepulchral
effect; it forces the present age to "grope among the bones of the past":

      Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe to
      the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of
      insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not
      the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods
      of life stream around and through us . . . why should we grope among
      the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into
      masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also.

Not to step into the light of today—a light that gives birth to the "floods of
life [which] stream around and through us," that gives birth to life itself, our
individual lives in particular, and that therefore "embosom[s]" us "for a
season in nature"—is to be not only blinded by the past but buried alive
within it. What is more, not to step into the Emersonian light is to be buried
alive within the very sepulchre of the fathers that by rights should bury
them. And so Emerson simultaneously exhorts and exalts his age: "There
                                                      Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 3

are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and
laws and worship.”

      The demand, in psychoanalytic terms, is Oedipal and evocative of
Freud's argument in Totem and Taboo concerning the origin "of social
organization, of moral restrictions and of religion" in the mythic event of the
primal horde's murder of the primal father (142). Emerson all but says that
the cultural fathers must be slain; their influence must be overcome, can
only be overcome, by laying it to rest through an appropriation of their
authority. Emerson's age has failed, however, to effect this appropriation. In
consequence, the very means by which it would inter the fathers becomes
the means of their ghostly revivification. In the image of the sepulchres of
the fathers, Emerson forces his contemporaries to see that the fathers
themselves have become the sepulchres that entomb the present generation
within the past; their still living vision is fatal. And so Emerson calls for his
age to disinter itself, his own language, particularly in the image of "dry
bones," leading the way. For this image bespeaks his proleptic solution to the
problem of the fathers' otherwise fatal influence: rhetorically "skeletonizing"
the fathers' vision, Emerson reduces it to the literalness of paternal bodies
long dead and buried as they should have been from the beginning.

      The dry bones still rattle, however, and the substance of Emerson's
own rhetoric submits to the originary force of the fathers' priority. In
consequence, Emerson's demand precipitates an intractable contradiction.
According to Donald Pease: "In the apparently revolutionary question 'Why
should we not also enjoy an original relation with the universe?' the 'also'
implies a repetition if not an imitation at work in the very wish for
independence, as if 'our' wish were first the fathers'. Moreover, any attempt
to enact the policy commanded in the ringing exhortation 'Let us demand our
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 4

own works and laws and worship' will inevitably substitute a second nature
or culture for this 'original relation.' The entire paragraph reacts against the
fathers but in a tone commanding enough to be a father's. Consequently
when the tone of the paragraph finally eventuates in a command, it turns out
to be one that demands that 'we' do precisely what we feel compelled not to
do, repeat the desires and actions of the fathers." Thus, "the complex tone of
this passage calls for independence in a way that implicates independence in
the logic of a double bind" (222). This logic inscribes the demand for
independence within the very tradition Emerson seeks to overcome. Emerson
accedes, even surrenders, to the tradition constituted by the fathers' vision
in the very moment of announcing his desire for his age to bury this
tradition. He hands himself over to the fathers in trying to speak in their
stead, for he wants what they have, a poetry and philosophy not of tradition
but of insight.

      Caricaturing the Emersonian discourse about the fathers, David Lynch's
notorious and notoriously parodic television series, Twin Peaks, offers a
counterinsight not only about tradition but about the family scene as the
source of cultural renewal. Twin Peaks ironizes the vocabulary of
transcendental vision in order to expose a certain idealization of masculine
desire in relation to the role of the father. Several strains of American
thought have long centered the viability of the national culture itself in the
values associated with the family. But what happens when the family
becomes the scene of a father’s violent misogynistic compulsions? In
parodying the Emersonian call to come "face to face with God and nature," to
step into the light of "the sun [that] shines to-day, " Twin Peaks provides an
extraordinary canted commentary on the failure of a certain cultural
tradition, particularly in the transcendental optimism and accompanying
moralism of its American incarnation, to account for a certain blinded and
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 5

blinding violence of the father—not the patricidal violence of the Oedipal son
nor his incestuous desire for the mother but the incestuous desire of the
father for his daughter and his infanticidal violence against her person.

"Face to Face"

      Set in the small Pacific Northwest lumber town of Twin Peaks, Lynch's
series begins as an apparently conventional murder mystery with the
discovery of the dead body of the town's celebrated high school beauty
queen. Rocked by her brutal murder and the knowledge she had been raped,
the townspeople are shocked; the ethos of this quintessentially small town
American community is shattered. Family, friends, and neighbors grieve for
the young woman, who seemed to have embodied the very spirit of the
town, and thus they grieve for themselves, as first the local sheriff and then
the FBI undertake to discover "who killed Laura Palmer."

      From the outset, however, the staging of the series—including its
Peyton Place subplots, the paranormal dreams and coincidences that link
"FBI Special Agent Cooper" to the murdered woman, Cooper's
aforementioned Emersonian vocabulary, to which I shall return, the series'
parodic characterization in general, and any number of minimalist, surrealist,
and other avant-garde cinematic techniques—undercuts the supposedly
centering, stabilizing forces of the community's institutions. The law in
particular, marked as a male province, is unable to protect Twin Peaks from
a certain gender-specific violence. This violence is immanent to the men of
Twin Peaks, and yet these men can comprehend it only as if it were a
supernatural force external to the community, only as a species of threat
from "out there. " The parodic and nonparodic elements of the series alike,
often intermingled in one and the same pictorial sequence, function to bring
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 6

this violence into focus while simultaneously underscoring the efforts of the
community to avoid seeing its source.

      One example. In the first episode of the series, the placement of a
photograph of Laura Palmer, a blow up of a high gloss portrait that could
have been out of the school yearbook, in the center of the high school
gymnasium trophy case figures Laura Palmer herself as a kind of trophy, as
if she were a sports event or conquest for the males—from high school
football players to prominent businessmen—of Twin Peaks. In fact, Agent
Cooper soon discovers that she had "led a double life" and had been sexually
involved with many of the Twin Peaks men, including, among others, two old
enough to be her father: the town's psychiatrist, Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, and
real estate developer Benjamin Horne, owner of the Great Northern Hotel as
well as of the brothel, One-Eyed Jack’s, where Laura Palmer had prostituted
herself. However, Jacoby is too much a flake, Ben Horne is too much a
bungling schemer, and both are too absorbed in their respective quirky and
even zany but also feckless, narcissistic self-dramatizing to recognize their
incestuous appropriation of Laura Palmer for their own pleasure. Agent
Cooper accuses Laura Palmer's faithless boyfriend, Bobby Briggs, of not
having loved her, but his moral condemnation applies with greater urgency
to the likes of Jacoby and Horne, especially the latter. When Ben Horne's
daughter, Audrey, adopts the role of amateur sleuth in order to find out
about the circumstances of Laura Palmer's death and pretends to become
one of the hookers at One-Eyed Jack’s, she discovers that the owner makes
it his practice to sleep with each new "girl." In the bedroom farce that
follows, Ben Horne tries to seduce Audrey, who tries to hide and then covers
her face with a mask. When Ben Horne is, according to the conventions of
bedroom comedy, coincidentally called away just at the moment of
unmasking, what would have been the scene of recognition never takes
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 7

place: the father remains blind to the incestuous force and meaning of his
desire, which has been unmasked for his daughter but not for him. Though
the scene thus repeats the primal scene that organizes the series’ first set of
episodes, its burlesque form protects the father and keeps in place the mask
he does not know he wears. Repeatedly molested by her father, Laura
Palmer has seen behind just that mask.

      The entire first set of episodes moves toward the removal of the
father's mask. Thus, the series counterpoints the comic tension of the scene
between Audrey and her father with successively more frightening evocations
of and flashbacks to the scene of Laura Palmer's murder. In the first episode
there is the semiconscious figure of Ronette Pulaski, who, having escaped
from Laura Palmer's killer, is found as she stumbles across a railway trestle,
barely able to walk, in shock, badly beaten up, her body shuddering
involuntarily. Later, in a hospital scene introduced by Agent Cooper and
Sheriff Truman's slapstick difficulty in adjusting the height of two swivel
chairs at her bedside, she lies comatose, connected to intravenous tubes and
electronic monitors, when she suddenly screams in agony as she apparently
relives, still unconscious, the scene of Laura Palmer's murder, her whole
body struggling against the unseen presence of the murderer. In a
subsequent episode the image of her stricken body dissolves into the murder
scene where Laura Palmer, her teeth and mouth covered with blood, screams
as a man savagely stabs her repeatedly and then himself howls.2 The effect
in each case—amplified among other ways by the cuts and dissolves from a
daylight world of apparent safety and conventional moral order to a
nightmare world of shadows and screaming faces, as well as by the
disturbing silence before the equally disturbing bass notes and protracted
tempo of the accompanying off-screen music—is terrifying.
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 8

      The terror reaches an unbearable intensity in the episode that depicts
Leland Palmer's murder of his niece, Madeleine Ferguson, played by the
same woman who plays Laura Palmer. Leland Palmer, a seemingly mild-
mannered local attorney, suffers from a radical dissociation of self and
appears to have been invaded by a kind of latter-day body snatcher, a
certain evil being or agency whose physical incarnation, "Bob," played by a
second actor, cohabits his body. Leland is unaware of Bob's presence, even
when Bob manifests himself and takes control of Leland's person. As Bob or
under the influence of the force which the crazed Bob represents, Leland has
molested his daughter for years and finally murdered her. Not too much
later, repeatedly alternating between his two identities, he kills his niece. It
is difficult to convey the impact of this scene, which unmasks Leland and
shows him as Bob and Bob as him cornering and savaging the victim he has
known all her life, then clutching her to himself and remembering his
daughter—"Laura . . . Laura . . . my baby"—in an agony of tears, only to
become suddenly enraged once again and, wild eyed, ramming his niece's
head against a wall, and leaving his ghastly phallic signature, a certain letter
that he inserts under her fingernail with an X-acto knife. Shown partly in
slow motion with Madeleine Ferguson's cries for help and the killer's lionlike
roaring sounding out at an unnaturally slow tempo and low pitch, a spotlight
on the killer and his victim in the living room of a suburban American house,
the scene repeats within the city limits—it brings home—the murderous
violence that had previously been located on the outskirts of Twin Peaks.3 A
more extensive commentary would trace how the scene's composition and
enframing emphasize the viewer as the off-screen witness to an event to
which the onscreen world of Twin Peaks does not yet know how to testify.
Perhaps it will suffice to say that this scene brings the audience face to face
with the incestuous and infanticidal paternal violence which, even when the
killer confesses, the men of Twin Peaks will not be able to acknowledge but
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 9

will instead cover up beneath a rhetoric blinded by the very light it evokes,
for Leland's signature in Bob's remains unreadable to them.4

"Into the Light"

      Near the end of the series' "confession episode” (2009), Agent Cooper
cradles the dying father of the murder victim. On the floor of the jail cell
where Leland Palmer lies bleeding, having beaten his head against the metal
door, Cooper holds Leland's head in his lap and exhorts this man to seek a
kind of Emersonian light:

      "Leland . . . Leland. The time has come for you to seek the path. Your
      soul has set you face to face with the clear light. And you are now
      about to experience it in its reality wherein all things are like the void
      and cloudless sky, and the naked spotless intellect is like a transparent
      vacuum without circumference or center.

      "Leland, in this moment, know yourself and abide in that state."

In order to know himself, Leland must see with cleansed eyes, and for this
reason Cooper urges him "into the light," wherein he is about to experience
a salvific radiance. Within this light, knowing himself, becoming one with
"the naked spotless intellect" that "is like transparent vacuum without
circumference or center," he is about to encounter his resurrected
daughter—one of the several women, it has just come to light, whom he has
molested and killed—in a beatific vision that will seemingly undo the terrible
violence he has perpetrated against her being.

      Cooper: "Look to the light, Leland. Find the light."
                                                     Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 10

      Leland: "I see it."
      Cooper: "Into the light, Leland, into the light."
      Leland: "I see her. She’s there."
      Cooper: "Into the light, Leland."
      Leland: "She's beautiful."
      Cooper: "Into the light."
      Leland: “Laura?!"
      Cooper: "Don't be afraid." [Leland dies.]

      Under the deathbed tutelage of Cooper, Leland experiences a vision of
his daughter's apotheosis which Cooper's prosopopoeic language causes to
materialize right before his eyes. Face to face with the light, Leland then
comes face to face with the daughter who is no longer dead but radiantly
alive, a daughter who is no longer his victim but a sacred presence, a
daughter who becomes the face of the clear light itself in its incarnate

      The terms of this shared vision between Leland and Cooper evoke the
transcendental imagery of Emerson. "St. Augustine described the nature of
God as a circle whose centre was everywhere and its circumference
nowhere," Emerson writes in his essay on "Circles" (Selected Essays 225).
Thus Cooper invites Leland to participate in what is "like a transparent
vacuum without circumference or center." Coming "face to face with the
clear light," not merely seeing by means of the light but looking to it, looking
into it, seeing the clear light itself, entering into its lucidity and transparency,
Leland answers a call the rhetoric of which repeats the Emersonian
translation by which "all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent
eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate
through me; I am part or parcel of God” (“Nature,” Selected Essays 39).
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 11

Thus Leland, having been brought to the calamitous knowledge not merely of
his mean but of his murderous egotism and of the fatal violence of his desire
associated with it that has led him to his crimes, having been brought to the
extreme of abasement, calls out to his daughter with his dying breath. In
saying her name at the same time that he enters the clear light, for the first
time he sees her clearly; for the first time he sees her in relation to the
absolute radiance of a light that comes from her herself and her egoless
presence. Translated into the light, Laura Palmer is the very medium of
sight, hence of a knowledge transparent to itself. At the end of his life,
Leland Palmer is able to petition his daughter in the name of the light to
which he has been hitherto utterly blind.

      Cooper's Emersonian imagery, however, is profoundly compensatory.
It is "in the woods," Emerson writes in "Nature" just before alluding to the
currents of the universal being, that "we return to reason and faith. There I
feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me
my eyes), which nature cannot repair" (“Nature,” 39). It is "into the light,"
Cooper intones, that we return to ourselves and abide in a spotless knowing.
"Into the light" nothing that has befallen a Leland Palmer— not even his rape
and murder of his own daughter—cannot be cleansed, purified, transformed
by "the naked and spotless intellect"; within this light there is nothing—not
even the broken body of Laura Palmer—that cannot be made living and
whole again, nothing that the light cannot repair. So Cooper attests.

Yet Cooper's attestation is as blind as it is wishful. Indeed, it is blinded by
the very light it evokes. The transcendental light he projects by means of a
quasi-mystical rhetoric does not enable either himself or his fellow officers of
the law, all male, to come face to face with Leland Palmer's desire and what
it might indicate about their own. Thus the aforementioned passage enacts
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 12

an overdetermined blindness, marked sometimes parodically, sometimes
tragically, but nevertheless repeatedly throughout the entire series,
concerning the legal and metaphysical narratives which function as an
invisible cultural mask between masculine desire and its exposure to a
certain kind of light: Cooper and Leland cooperate in effecting a
compensatory apotheosis of the woman whose sacrificial victimage is
repressed through the evocation of Emerson's transcendental faith that there
is "no disgrace, no calamity . . . which nature cannot repair."

What Cannot Be Asked

      Who killed Laura Palmer? More important, why?

      No one, from the FBI and police to the townspeople, asks the second
question of Leland once Leland's guilt is uncovered. Why not? Ostensibly
because everyone, led by Cooper, believes Leland has been the instrument
of a will not his own. When people see the killer, they see and hear someone
who is not Leland; they see and hear Bob, and Bob overwhelms everyone
who comes near him by the vampiric force of his appalling, uncanny
presence. Thus, the Twin Peaks citizens assume that Leland has killed
because he has been possessed by Bob. But why, then, does Bob molest and
kill? What is his motivation? No one ever asks this question of Bob because
he—or it or whatever this eerie presence may be—is too manifestly insane or
evil, too manifestly inhuman, for his motivation to need explaining. In
relation to the fact of Bob's violence, the question of his motivation seems
redundant, adscititious. Bob is evil because that is his very nature; he is the
desire to do harm; he is nothing other than this desire. In other words, he
would seem to incarnate the principle of an absolutely negative motivation,
of motivation in its most unregenerate form. Thus, the question about
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 13

Leland's desire, Leland's want, Leland's need, Leland's violence is displaced
onto a question concerning the nature of Bob's evil being and the scope of
his evil power; it is displaced onto a metaphysical question about the
presence of evil which Bob's terrifying voice in the climactic "confession
episode" would seem to answer.

      In this episode, after Leland has been lured to the county jail and
locked up, Bob immediately appears, ranting and raving, enraged at having
been captured. When he is finally questioned, he has preempted Leland's
voice; when he answers, he boasts of his savage killings. He then announces
that it is nearly time to leave Leland's body. Looking at Leland's hands, Bob
says, first to himself and then to the onlooking policemen: "Oh, Leland.
Leland, Leland. You've been a good vehicle, and I've enjoyed the ride. But
now he's weak and full of holes. It's almost nearly time to shuffle off to
Buffalo." FBI Agent Dale Cooper then asks: "Does Leland know what you've
done?" And Bob responds: "Leland's a babe in the woods, with a large hole
where his conscience used to be. And when I go, children, I will pull that
ripcord, and you watch Leland remember. Watch him." When Bob stops
speaking, he bows Leland's head in silence, and Cooper, Sheriff Truman,
Deputy Andy Brennan, and Deputy "Hawk" leave, clanging shut and locking
the heavy metal door to the cell behind them.

      The motif of children provides the thematic link to the next scene and
serves to emphasize the cross-generational context of Leland's excised
conscience, marked in his X-acto self-signature upon the bodies of his
victims, and in consequence of his unchecked violence. From outside the jail
cell the camera cuts to a scene upstairs, where the sheriff's girl Friday, Lucy,
discusses her pregnancy with Deputy Andy Brennan and Richard (Dick)
Tremayne, one of whom is the baby's father: "I'm going to keep my baby,"
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 14

she announces, and "that's not open for discussion." After the birth, a blood
test of the child will settle the issue of paternity. “It could be you," she says
severely, looking with hard-set eyes at Dick, who appears to be supremely
indifferent to the matter, "or it could be you," her voice and eyes softening
as she turns to the gentle-hearted Andy, who wants the baby to be his.
Nevertheless, any certainty concerning the unborn child's father remains
suspended, the question of paternity framing and being framed by the
question of the father's violently problematic desire. The scene ends with the
camera slowly following the smoke from Dick's cigarette as it rises toward
the recently adjusted smoke alarm.5

      The camera then cuts back to Leland's cell. Outside the cell, Harry asks
Cooper a question which, answered one way, would enable Harry to then ask
about Leland's motives, but answered another way would foreclose such
questioning: "Now this Bob . . . can't really exist? I mean, Leland is just
crazy, right?" Before Cooper can answer, Bob reemerges; his raised voice is
heard from behind the walls of the room in which he is locked as he begins
shouting out an appalling self-apostrophe: "Through the darkness of futures
past, magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds, fire, walk
with me. I'll catch you with my death bag. You may think I've gone insane.
But I promise: I will kill again." Bob's terrible threat seems to confirm both
his reality as an independent being and his insanity the very perception of
which Bob mocks. If the motive for the rapes and murders can be ascribed to
a pathological mind, Bob's incantation answers the sheriff's question:
someone, if not Leland then Bob, is surely "crazy." But if Bob is crazy, it is
absolutely so. His derangement signifies the absolute unregeneracy of his
desire. The urgency of protecting the world from his murderous desire—he
will kill again, he shouts, as if to blaspheme the belief in the preciousness of
human life—supercedes the need to understand the dynamics of that desire.
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 15

In other words, Bob's homicidal self-declaration along with his utter
appropriation of Leland's person render the question of Leland's motivation
irrelevant, and so once again the question is deferred if not, in fact, obviated

      As it is by what happens next. When the smoke detector upstairs goes
off, the jail's fire sprinkler system is activated. As the water douses him, Bob
goes berserk and hurls himself, head first, against the metal door of the
cell—this is how he has killed Madeleine, by ramming her head into a wall—
and then repeatedly beats Leland's head against the metal frame and bars of
the door's window. When Cooper and Harry and the others finally unlock the
door, Leland is lying on the floor, supine, perhaps like a sacrificial offering on
an altar: legs outstretched and stiff, forearms on his chest, hands clutched
together, fingers interlocked. Bob has “pulled the ripcord"; Leland now
remembers, and his memory ruins him. Cooper rushes over and cradles
Leland's head as the baptismal water from the fire sprinklers rains down.
Leland, now himself, now no longer possessed, cries out in an agony of
realization: "Oh, God! Laura! I killed her! Oh, my God! I killed my daughter. .
. . I didn't know! . . . Laura, forgive me! Forgive me! Oh, God! Ohaaa!"
Leland's agony is as absolute, as all-encompassing as is his need for
forgiveness. In the instantaneous recognition of his guilt, Leland is shattered,
and this shattering, which provides a measure of how utterly lost he is to
himself and to his daughter as well as how utterly lost she is to him,
preempts the question of his motivation. For regardless of his motivation, he
has failed to achieve in his murderous appropriation of his daughter's body
and person the solicitude—the care, the responsibility, the reverence—for
another that he now recognizes as his first and last obligation and, equally,
his daughter's first and last, her absolute, due. Regardless of his motivation,
then, he has violated a categorical imperative and in consequence himself
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 16

has lost all right to live. Thus, the sudden knowledge of his wrongdoing
brings him to the limit of what he can bear; his body, indeed his entire
person, is as if it were being ripped apart, and in the space of a few minutes
he breathes his last breath and dies.

      In that brief time, however, he discloses how he came to violate his
daughter and the other women—that is, not so much why but how it was
that he was “made [to] do things, terrible things.” The realization that he
broke Laura's body by breaking into it breaks him in turn; the knowledge of
his terrible wrongdoing breaks into him, as it were, and does so in the same
moment that he regains the memory he had lost of having been "opened"—
broken open or into, that is, molested—as a boy. "Laura, forgive me! Forgive
me! Oh, God! Ohaaa!" he cries out in the name of his God and his victim.
And then immediately to Cooper: "I, I was just a boy. I saw him in my
dreams. He said he wanted to play. He opened me and I invited him. . . .
And he came inside me." In a of parapraxis of the ear, Cooper does not hear
Leland correctly; he misses the implication of sexual assault and responds by
conjugating the wrong verb "He went inside?" But Leland does not correct
him. "When he was inside, I didn't know! And when he was gone, I couldn't
remember. . . . He made me do things, terrible things. He said he wanted
lives. He wanted others, others that they could use, like they used me."

      In the throes of death, Leland remembers his forgetting, and in
remembering he accounts for his actions not in terms of his desire but in
terms of the dispossession of his desire. Having been "opened," he has been
"made”—forced—to do terrible things, as if it were not he who did them but
someone else, someone whose will and desire had replaced his own. "Bob"
thus becomes the explanation for the murder of Laura Palmer, but it is an
explanation, of course, that explains nothing. Bob serves as the name of a
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 17

violent tautology; the question that asks after the reason for Laura Palmer's
murder remains unanswered.

On the one hand, then, Leland’s sexual violence traces back to a violence
done to him, a sexual violence Copper either cannot or refuses to name as
such. On the other hand, Leland’s violence is presented not as his but as
coming from a source only incidentally connected with him. Thus, Leland
remembers the violence done to his daughter, his cousin, and a third
woman, Theresa, in terms of being overcome by an alien force that has
made victims of the women and himself alike. By representing himself as a
victim, Leland separates himself from the source of the violence of which he
has been the instrument. In this way his memory protects him from having
to recognize his desire and its consequences in the violated bodies of those
who have been killed. In this way, too, his memory appears to protect him
from having to recognize in his desire any impulse other than love. Thus,
having loved his daughter, Leland is brought to the brink of despair that he
has not been able to resist the evil force in the form of Bob that stalks the

      His despair, however, underscores his unacknowledged guilt. When he
says that his daughter fought off Bob—that is, died resisting him—he
implicitly contrasts her strength to his terrible weakness. In contrast to his
daughter, who "wouldn't let them in"—"them," because the forms of Bob are
legion—Leland did, and in so doing he became one of the "them," one of the
many Bobs of the world. Leland's recognition that his daughter was stronger
than he was and is returns Leland to himself, but under circumstances where
the self he returns to is guilty beyond all possible atonement. First the
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 18

         Leland: "They wanted her . . . They wanted Laura. But she was
      strong. She fought them. She wouldn't let them in. . . .
         "Oh, God!
         "They had me kill that girl Theresa. And they, they said if I didn't
      give them Laura, they'd have me kill her too.”
         Cooper: "But she wouldn't let them in.”
         Leland: "She said she'd die before she'd let them. And they, they
      made me kill her!"

“They, they made me kill her." This is the perception that will guide the
remaining Twin Peaks episodes in the form of the question, "Where is Bob
now?" But this perception excludes another possibility. If Bob here has
become plural, if he has become they, the plural can become singular, they
can become I. And so Leland cries out his confession of guilt: "Oh, God have
mercy on me! What have I done? What have I done? Oh, God! I love her. I
loved her with all my heart. . . . My angel, forgive me." "What have I done?"
Not they but I; and not why but what. Thus, even when he names himself as
the agent of death, Leland does so in a way that silences the question of his
motivation. Petitioning his daughter in the name of the sacredness he has
violated, Leland assumes an infinite guilt for the infinite wrong of his crimes.
No matter what his desire has been, the agony of knowing what he has done
takes hold of his entire being; Bob—and with Bob whatever it was that led
Leland to rape and murder—is gone. What remains is a person whose
consciousness is presented as being completely given over to a bottomless
remorse, as being utterly divorced from any need or want or concern than
the necessity of acknowledging his daughter and pleading for forgiveness.
No restitution is possible; and yet that is Leland's only remaining desire.
Thus, in conjunction with his astonishing cry for mercy—the dramatic power
of Ray Wise's performance defies description—and his simultaneous
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 19

assumption of guilt, the evocation of his daughter's inviolable spirit comes to
supercede the question of his motivation.

      In the discussion that follows Leland’s death, the question of his
motivation is deferred a final time in a process of collective repression on the
part of Major Briggs, the sheriff, Cooper, Cooper's fellow FBI agent and
friend, Albert, and the silent Hawk. These men are walking along a clear path
beneath a stand of Douglas firs; the entire scene, introduced by a canted
shot of a single tree, is suffused by a golden light, perhaps the same light
Cooper has shortly before evoked for the dying Leland and asked him to
venture into. Among the trees and from within the light, the men reflect on
the meaning of what they have witnessed in Bob's confession and the return
of Leland to himself. Truman offers the remark about Leland that "he was
completely insane." Cooper is not so certain. "Think so?" he asks. In
response to which Albert expostulates: "But people saw Bob. People saw him
in visions. Laura. Maddy. Sarah Palmer." Truman, however, objects to such
mysticism. "I've lived in these old woods most of my life," he says. "Seen
some strange things. But this is way off the map. I'm having a real hard time
believing.” Cooper asks in response precisely the right but at the same time
precisely the wrong question: "Harry, is it easier to believe a man would rape
and murder his own daughter? And more comforting?" To which Truman
responds with a bowing of his head and a quiet "No."

      Cooper's question is profoundly ironic, but in ways he does not grasp
as well as in ways the rest of the Twin Peaks series fails to explore. Cooper
responds to Harry's resistance to the idea of Bob as a demonic force of
possession by invoking and evoking a second resistance—Harry's resistance
to the idea of cross-generational, intrafamilial violence—as if the
unbelievability of murderous incest were sufficient evidence of the
                                                    Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 20

believability of demonic violence. Thus, Cooper's question is profoundly
correct in that it identifies the source of Harry's disquietude: the possibility
that "a man would rape and murder his own daughter" is neither easier nor
more comforting to believe than the possibility that an extrapsychic agency—
Bob—has molested and raped a woman who is not his daughter. Indeed, the
logic of Cooper's question implies that insofar as it is more difficult to believe
that violence arises from an exclusively human source, from an exclusively
human agency, from the uncontrollable desires of a certain person, a father,
for example— insofar as this is the case, to believe that violence arises from
the presence of an evil force independent of its human host is the easier,
more comforting response. And for that reason Cooper's question is
profoundly in error, for it replaces the question of Leland's motivation, and
hence of his responsibility, with a question concerning the nature and the
mode of being of "Bob."

      The rest of the short discussion underscores the ambivalence of this
group of men, who represent both the spirit and the letter of the law and its
enforcement, with respect to whatever and however Bob is, and their much,
much greater ambivalence with respect to Leland. Indeed, their uncertainty
about Bob works to conceal not only their profound disquiet concerning their
fellow Twin Peaks resident, a man and father whose guilt they cannot bring
themselves to say, but perhaps as well their disquiet concerning their own

           Major Briggs: "An evil that great in this beautiful world. Finally,
      does it matter what the cause?"
           Cooper: "Yes, because it's our job to stop it "
           Albert: "Maybe that's all Bob is, the evil that men do. Maybe it
      doesn't matter what we call it."
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 21

      In this brief but overdetermined dialogue, the men manage to talk to
each other in a way that in a few short moments produces an unassailable
collective repression. To begin with, Major Briggs renames the crime in
question "an evil," indeed an evil as great as the world is beautiful. This
implied analogy enables him to universalize a specific act of violence such
that no single person could possibly be the cause of such transcendent harm;
in relation to an evil "that great," the search for causes must seek beyond
us, beyond the human community. Why? The answer comes from the way
Briggs’ analogy enables him to universalize not only Leland's violence but
also Leland's target. The victim is no longer the victim of Leland but of a
transcendent evil; and thus the victim is no longer a single individual, Laura
Palmer, but "this beautiful world" of ours. Here, Major Briggs’ categorical
expansion fails to register the difference between those who have been
assaulted and those who have not. But his failure is the success of the
repression by which, confronted with the specter of the murderous force of
one man's desire, he is able to protect himself from recognizing that desire
as his own. For if his metaphorization of the crime turns us all into victims, it
thereby unites us against a common threat. Where is the threat located?
From beyond our beautiful world.

      In his anxiety not to determine the cause of the molestation, Briggs
provides Cooper with the rhetorical ground—this beautiful world of ours—on
which to stand in solidarity with those around him and fight the great evil
that comes from somewhere out of this world, that comes not from us—not
from men and women, and thus not from men—but from somewhere else.
Acting in the name of the symbolic solidarity Briggs’ metaphor has provided,
Cooper can then adopt a heroic posture and assert, on behalf of all of us who
have been touched, however indirectly, by what defiles the world's beauty (it
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 22

goes without saying that we have all been directly touched by the world's
beauty itself), what it is our obligation to overcome. Cooper thus answers
Briggs in a way that idealizes "our" desire and prevents him from having to
examine as a possible cause of evil the desire of any particular man or group
of men. Major Briggs’ anxiety has become Cooper's confidence.

      To put the matter another way, if Briggs’ question is a wish that it is
indifferent what causes the violence, Cooper's answer denies the wish. The
denial, however, takes the form of an affirmation: in fact it does matter.
Why? Because we must stop the violence, and we can do this, Cooper
implies, only if we understand its source. In its turn, however, Cooper's
affirmation effects a more insistent denial than the one implicit in Briggs’
anxious question. It more thoroughly suppresses the possibility that the
source of violence is precisely among the us whose inviolable integrity
Cooper presupposes. Cooper affirms our ability to fight evil, but his
affirmation depends upon the unity of the us and the exteriocity of the evil
which are precisely what Leland's violence calls into question. The language
of Cooper and Briggs effectively blocks them from being aware of, let alone
exploring, the possibility that Bob is the effect of a repression which that
language may be repeating.

      This repression has yet to extend to Albert and Harry. Harry has not
yet come around to Cooper’s perspective that all of them—the “we" of each
and every community—are alike confronted with an essentially alien force.
Harry understands that Twin Peaks is confronted with a problem that
challenges the ability of himself and his deputies and perhaps everyone else
in the town to understand and control. Until Laura Palmer's death Harry has
understood the law and its transgression in human terms. Cooper is asking
him to understand a type of metaphysical violence, and he balks.
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 23

      Before Harry accedes to Cooper's view, Albert offers what will be the
final suggestion—that Bob is not a mysterious extrahuman agency but the
incarnation of a much more familiar force. In a group of men only who are
struggling to understand a terrifying violence perpetrated by a fellow male,
Albert wonders if "maybe that's all Bob is, the evil that men do." No doubt by
"men” he means "human"—perhaps Bob is the evil that humans do—but
Albert says “men," and the evil in question is first of all a man's violence
against a woman, against three women. In which case it matters all the
more what "we" call Bob Leland's violence, especially if the "we" is not to be
an instance of a male voice protecting itself from its own alienated desire but
an instance of a different voice, a plural voice, a voice of men and women.

      At this point, however, Harry intervenes. Having previously refused
Cooper's mysticism, he now embraces it. Does it matter what we call the evil
men do? To which Harry responds, "Maybe not. But if he was real and he
was here and we had him trapped and he got away, where's Bob now?" This
question, of course, becomes the basis for the plot of the second series of
episodes. In the meantime, it protects Leland Palmer's desire as well as the
desire of all the men of Twin Peaks, the question of that desire having been
doubly or even triply displaced. For the terms of Harry's final remarks among
"these old woods" ask not about the person, the man, the father who has
raped and killed but about the inhuman thing that has taken over now one,
now another, human host and that is loose somewhere upon the world.

"Leaving Me My Eyes"

      "In the woods," perhaps like those Harry has lived in most of his life,
"we return to reason and faith," Emerson says in the passage cited earlier.
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 24

"There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity
(leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair." Something about the
eyes—about vision, especially in relation to the fathers—here needs
protecting against the possibility of irremediable disaster—the possibility of a
certain disgrace, a certain calamity. Emerson's faith in nature, like the aside
its parenthetical hands safeguard, protects itself by denying that possibility;
his vision of the woods functions to leave him his eyes. In the world of Twin
Peaks, however, there is a very specific disgrace, a very specific calamity, in
short a very specific blindness, which nature in fact cannot repair.

      In the woods outside of Twin Peaks, Cooper, Truman, and the others
seek to return to reason and faith as they walk along a form of the path
Cooper has a short while earlier directed Leland to seek. Unlike Leland,
however, who begs forgiveness of his "angel," these men will not now come
face to face with any of Leland's victims nor petition them in the name of
Leland's insight about the father—about himself—as a principal source of
violence. At the same time like Leland, they will not here evoke or be able to
confront the image of the shattered bodies of the women he and others like
him have destroyed. Thus they will neither see the murderous consequences
of Leland's desire nor ask what it says about their own. They will not
recognize the calamitous possibility that desire—if Leland's then perhaps
theirs—is or can be ruinous. The agents of the law are blind to this
possibility, and then again they are blind to their blindness. And nothing in
their conception of "this beautiful world of ours" or "these old woods" will be
able to restore their blinded vision, since that very conception is what blinds
them. On the clear path in the woods suffused by a golden light from a "void
and cloudless sky," the agents of the law do not worry about losing their
eyes as Emerson does. They do not see that, in being unable to behold a
certain truth, they have already lost them.
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 25

      To see their blindness, they would have to leave the clearly lit path at
the end of the "confession" episode and begin to wander in territory that is
"way off the map" of Cooper's compensatory—that is, self-blinding—pseudo-
metaphysical rhetoric. They would have to follow a different track or even
step onto an altogether pathless ground where they would come face to face
with a blind and blinding violence, a violence that traces back to the injured
footsteps of Sophocles' Oedipus and his self-blinding. Having been caught in
the fire that Bob invokes, Leland in fact is caught in the same fire that besets
the Thebes of Sophocles' play. More specifically, he acts out a form of the
infanticidal aggression encrypted in Oedipus the King.

      In that play not Oedipus but Laius—the father—initiates the conflict
with the son. Indeed, Laius pierces his son's ankles and orders that he be
taken to the "pathless hillside" of Mount Cithaeron and left to die of
exposure. Why? Sophocles gives no explanation: the gods have
unaccountably cursed Laius. But if they have cursed the father, they have
perforce cursed the son. Before Oedipus’ advent and then again at his birth,
there is the desire and violence of the gods and the desire and violence of
the human agent of the gods—the father.6

In Oedipus the King, however, Laius’ infanticidal actions are acknowledged
only after he has been proleptically named a victim of his son, only after he
is identified as a victim of a fate Oedipus’ wife and mother wants to but
cannot quite affirm has a divine origin. According to Jocasta:

      There was an oracle once that came to Laius,—
      I will not say that it was Phoebus' own,
      but it was from his servants—and it told him
                                                       Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 26

      that it was fate that he should die a victim
      at the hands of his own son, a son to be born
      of Laius and me. But, see now, he,
      the king, was killed by foreign highway robbers
      at a place where three roads meet—so goes the story;
      and for the son—before three days were out
      after his birth King Laius pierced his ankles
      and by the hands of others cast him forth
      upon a pathless hillside. (ll. 711-20)

Victimized by his son in advance of his son's birth, Laius’ violence is here
able to be seen only from this side of the pathless hillside; that is, Jocasta
reports on his violence only from the perspective of the sunlit road to Delphi,
where the prophetic words of Apollo’s servants do not foretell the violent
desire of the father but rather only that of the son. The servants purport to
bring to light what will be the son's patricidal and incestuous violence. Like
the Theban seer Teiresias, however, they are blinded—by this very light—to
the father's attempted infanticide and its connection to the plague that
jeopardizes the very life, indeed the futurity, of Thebes.

     At the outset of the play, Thebes suffers from a threefold catastrophe
involving all the modes of agricultural, livestock, and human reproduction.

            A blight is on the fruitful plants of the earth,
            A blight is on the cattle in the fields,
            a blight is on our women that no children
            are born to them, a God that carries fire,
            a deadly pestilence, is on our town,
            strikes us and spares not. (ll. 25-28)
                                                  Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 27

Later, the Chorus emphasize that "there are no growing children in his
famous land," for "those children that are born lie dead on the naked earth
unpitied, spreading contagion of death." Framed between these two remarks
is the recognition that "in the unnumbered deaths of its people the city dies"
(ll. 171, 189-81, 178-79). The traditional reading of the plague finds in its
numberless deaths the generalized consequences of Oedipus’ crimes.
According to Seth Benardete, "Thebes has been struck by a plague that
exactly fits Oedipus' crimes, for defective offspring is supposed to be the
consequence of incest" (107). The children of Thebes, however, are not
defective but dead and unburied and hence unmourned. As such they are
uncanny, haunting reminders of the secret paternal violence of the state
against the single son who years before was to have been left to die, also
unpitied and unburied, outside the city's gates. The single son of a single
family, and now the collective children of the collective Thebans. In
identifying the specific violent consequences of the city's plague, the Chorus
have all but named not merely its analogue but its source in an infanticidal
desire that links Thebes’ present to its repressed past.7 In naming three
forms of blight, the Sophoclean catalog alludes to a systematic cultural
decreation which includes forms of violence the Chorus do not here
enumerate, most notably the former king's attempted infanticide, and which
Twin Peaks expands to include a father's molestation and murder of his
daughter. In attempting to kill his son, Laius had initiated a form of
pestilential violence—here associated with the destructive fire of war, of the
war god, Ares—that will return to plague Thebes years later. Prior to this
return of the citywide repression of the father-king's violence, the piercing of
Oedipus’ ankles or feet and his subsequent abandonment to the rocky slopes
of Mount Cithaeron, "which my mother and my father while they were living
would have made my tomb" (ll. 1453-1454), foretells from the other side of
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 28

the pathless hillside the "deadly pestilenence” of a war god—and also of a
king and father—who would have destroyed the child.

      That god—and father—still carries his blinded and blinding fire,
polluting now ancient Thebes now Twin Peaks. From Laura Palmer's diary:
"February 23rd. Tonight is the night that I die. I know I have to because it's
the only way to keep BOB away from me, the only way to tear him out from
inside. I know he wants me, I can feel his fire.8 But if I die, he can't hurt me
anymore." From Bob once again: "Through the darkness of futures past a
magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds, fire, walk with
me. I'll catch you with my death bag. You may think I've gone insane. But I
promise: I will kill again."' Longing to see, Bob incarnates the blindedness of
the person—a man, a father, a Leland—who, face to face with the light,
cannot see in the child other than what Laius sees, an image of death and
the "chance" to turn this death back on the child. Longing to see, Bob
incarnates the blindness of those men who cannot see and who thus cannot
repeat other than the same deadly "future past"—the same deadly fire, the
same deadly pestilence, the same deadly appropriation of the future—which
has left neither the men of Thebes nor the men of Twin Peaks their eyes.

      “What is the rite of purification,” Oedipus asks, for the pollution that
began with the father's violence against the son? "How shall it be done?" (l
99). Striking out his eyes, Oedipus pierces his arthra, a word that literally
means "joints" and translates both eyes or eyesockets as well as ankles
(Benardete 93, 145, note to ll. 718 and 1270). In blinding himself, Oedipus
repeats Laius’ assault against his person—the piercing of his ankles, the
action by which his father would have killed him. Oedipus does so, however,
with a blinding difference. In "darkening" (l. 1273) his eyes he does not
acknowledge his supposed self-ignorance, as has been traditionally argued,
                                                   Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 29

but the self-blindness of his world, for he brings into the light what has been
in the darkness, the infanticidal link between the plague and the father's
violent desire against the son. "This is a terrible sight for men to see" (l.
1298). Oedipus sees and knows what Emerson does not, that men have
protected their eyes in a certain way and that these protections must be
seen through. "Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight
and not of tradition," Emerson asks, his desire here protected by the
ostensible insight with which it is equated. Because if the fathers and the
tradition they inaugurate were to be forgotten, such forgetting would
necessarily abolish what has been this tradition's family scene. And that
scene's violence, Twin Peaks suggests, has yet to be adequately
remembered, yet to be adequately beheld.
                                                             Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 30


           This essay originally appeared in Genders, No. 16 (Spring 1993): 17-35. The
author would like to thank the readers at Genders for their most helpful suggestions
concerning this essay, which he would like to dedicate to Pamela Inez.
           Not long before she and Ronette Pulaski had met two men, Leo Johnson and
Jacques Renault, who had taken them to a cabin, where Renault had tied Laura Palmer's
arms behind her back and then raped her.
           David Lynch’s movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, depicts the events leading to
the discovery of Laura Palmer's shrouded body washing up on the banks of the river at the
edge of the town, a discovery that begins the television series. In the series the audience's
view of the stabbing of Laura Palmer is mediated by the comatose Ronette Pulaski's
aforementioned nightmare, which dissolves into a few limited glimpses of her friend's
terrified, blood-smeared face, a knife-wielding arm, and a pitch black background. In the
movie the scene of the murder is expanded to include a succession of grisly events that
precede it—Jacques Renault's and Leo Johnson's rapes of Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski,
respectively; the peering face of Leland Palmer, who watches through the cabin window and
then lies in wait to kill Renault when he leaves; Leland's forced march of his daughter and
her friend, both hand-tied, through the woods to an abandoned railway car; and finally the
murder itself, this time showing not just an arm but the face and person of Leland Palmer as
he furiously stabs his daughter.
       The realism and surrealism of these graphic scenes work relentlessly to unmask the
father (Laura Palmer is warned about "the man behind [her father's] mask"), to demystify
certain idealizations of his desire, and thus to bring home a certain violence of the home.
           Although Laura Palmer has been molested since the age of twelve up until several
days before she is murdered, she has blocked out the identity of the assailant. Twin Peaks:
Fire Walk With Me dramatizes her appalling recognition that the man who has assaulted her
is her father, a recognition which eludes everyone else in her world. The power of the
movie's recognition scene is harrowing. Sheryl Lee's performance throughout as Laura
Palmer deserves special notice, and nowhere more so than when Laura Palmer becomes
aware for the first time of the answer to her question—"Who are you? Who are you?"—of
the being who has for years stolen into her bedroom in the middle of the night. Facing the
truth about her assailant’s identity in the full light of the afternoon sun as no one else will
be able to do, Laura Palmer cries out a litany of despairing no's that translate her father's
                                                               Twin Peaks in the Rearview Mirror 31

violations: what is should not ever have been. Here, Sheryl Lee's ability to evoke the extent
to which Leland Palmer has attempted not only to possess his daughter but to shatter her
being is astonishing.
           Earlier, as the repairman is resetting the detectors, he says to Lucy, "Another
couple of minutes I'll have this baby up to code." Andy then appears and, looking earnestly
at Lucy, says, "I want to talk about our child, my baby," but then learns that Dick may be
the father.
           According to Thomas Gould, "Aeschylus (Seven against Thebes 742ff) and Euripides
(The Phoenician Women 18ff) both represented Laius' fate as a punishment. . . . The crime
mentioned by some authors is the seduction and abduction of Pelops' youngest son,
Chrysippus, whom Laius had sodomized” (92).
           I develop these remarks in a more extensive reading of Oedipus the King in terms
of the linkages between the plague, the riddle of the sphinx. Lalus’ and Jocasta's violence
against their son, and the name of Oedipus ("'Trouble at our feet': Infanticide and the
Cryptonymy of Violence in Oedipus the King,” in progress).
           As Bob, Leland's desire—represented as Bob’s appetite—is linked to the motif of
oral incorporation. When he kills Madeleine Ferguson, he gnaws at her neck, his mouth open
and teeth bared like a lion. He feasts, in other words, upon one of his "children."

       In his commentary on Freud's notion of the primal horde's murder of the father and
the totemic feast that establishes the taboo against incest, Sundquist notes that "at the
heart of the totemic celebration Freud finds the Oedipal conflict in condensed form." This
“festive observance," however, "even while it celebrates a seizure of authority appropriate
to the advance of the community, suppresses—or rather, represses—the violent and suspect
incestuous desires that have generated that seizure" (xii). Twin Peaks, however, suggests
that this repression is linked to a chain of repressions concerning the cannibalistic analogues
of, again, not the son's incestuous desire but the father's.

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