The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

2.6. Who is BOB ?

After Leland's confession and subsequent death, which takes place within the confines of a formerly locked room bathed in artificial rain, follows a scene that takes the men of TP outside, into nature (Lavery, 17.13). They walk "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" (Kimball, 27).

Once the evil seems to be cleansed, the men indulge into a discussion about the cause of Leland's possession, i.e. the quest for a rational explanation of the murder mystery. Of course, the show denies that explanation, and instead stretches the possibilities, widens the canvas, and offers various different viewpoints. With BOB as an evil spirit, the deed is transferred to a higher mode of being. An explanation cannot be found in naming a single individual, as in the classical detective story, but in a transcendent evil that may lie outside of human control. According to their character, the men react differently to the outcome of the murder mystery. The down to earth Sheriff Truman refuses to accept supernatural forces as an explanation. Albert Rosenfield offers the possibility that BOB represents the 'evil that men do'. Both Truman and Rosenfield are agents of the patriarchal male order. They stand for the rational and logical approach. Where Truman denies the reality of the otherworldly, Rosenfield brings the supernatural back to earth, explaining it as the evil inside.

Cooper and Major Briggs are willing to accept supernatural forces, at the same time, however, denying the evil inside of themselves: "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 that language may be repeating" (28). Despite their openminded nature, both Cooper and Briggs share a deep affinity for common middle class values. Both are educated and well-spoken. However, the other sphere of the Black Lodge (or the Red Room) does not function according to their principles. Appropriately, the Red Room does not make sense in an ordinary way; Cooper experiences a reversal of language in that realm. Cooper and Briggs encounter a sign system that they cannot understand. The denial of meaningful language reminds of BOB's attempt to spell his name (ROBERT) by putting letters under the victim's fingernails. Rational language and meaning have to fail when one tries to reach a solution in the world of TP. The letter found under the dead victim's fingernail turns out to be an empty sign.

Cooper is trying to break the code, i.e. the code of a determined sign system. "It is when Cooper can finally read the sign 'BOB/Leland', break its code and the allegory at work, that he can solve Laura Palmer's murder" (Pollard, 301). However, he is again far from understanding the 'bigger game' (Lavery, 19.3), the higher plane of meaning, namely a semiotic system that goes beyond human understanding. Even Cooper's willingness to decipher that code may not be enough:

Laura and Leland Palmer are really no more than one set of 'landmarks' in the evil terrain Cooper is attempting to navigate. Each is only a means by which Cooper can reach its central signified. Their primary function is to be read as signposts, and as such they constitute a contiguous series ... that point towards the source of evil Cooper seeks. (Pollard, 300)

Again, we must realize the ambiguous terrain of the supernatural in TP. On the one hand, it emphasizes Cooper's openness and spirituality. On the other hand, he is endangered of losing himself to a sphere that he does not belong in, both within the diegetic world of Twin Peaks, as well as on a formulaic and narrative level. Cooper has left the confines of ratiocination and detection during his investigation. Cooper has been enlightened by higher forces and as the Giant assures him 'nothing that I tell you will be wrong' (Lavery, 9.27). As with the dream, Cooper must put complete faith in the information delivered to him. In one of his best intuitive moments Cooper is able to solve the crime. Nonetheless, this state of perfection is not always within Cooper. He seems to betray the other sphere, when he uses the evil spirit BOB as a means to purify Leland's deeds ('Would it be easier to believe that a man raped and killed his daughter?'). In this moment, Cooper, as all 'to the books' FBI lawmen, tries again to protect and maintain the order of the middle class.

Cooper reveals instability concerning his psychic gift to connect with a higher sphere and his down-to-earth beliefs in a capitalist society. Cooper is upholding and protecting WASP society after all:

In that desire for universality, Cooper must re-establish the illusion of a non-signifying surface: sign and signifying regime must be naturalized again. In Cooper's world ... there can be no limitless interplay of forces, but only a very finite play of conformity. (Pollard, 303)

Hence, we would have left the reality of the classical detective story, only to get back to another construction by the detective in TP. Cooper's brief contacts with the supernatural might help him to solve the crime, but as I have observed, he is striving for a much bigger aim, namely to restore society into an imaginary state of complete harmony and wholeness: unity, however, can hardly be achieved anymore, especially in a fragmented universe as TP (re)presents it. Pollard summarizes Cooper's mission as follows:

Within the town itself, Cooper' s mission is not merely to restore it to 'normalcy' that existed before Laura Palmer's death. Rather, he would recover for Twin Peaks its innocence, the utopian time before Leland Palmer's usurpation by BOB, before the Bookhouse Boys, the owls, the strange presence in the forest outside of town, or the White Lodge/Black Lodge. Cooper aims at a general, metaphysical purgation, and what he would expunge is not a murder or murderers but universal evil. Twin Peaks needs to be remade, stabilized; its moral boundaries redrawn, and homespun surface restored. (Pollard, 298)

Cooper's involvement with the middle class 'Soap Opera' world will be examined in the next chapter, in order to prepare and explain Cooper's development away from his role as a new detective. We will find that most of Cooper's approaches are moving into an opposite direction, in account of forces that go beyond Cooper's control.

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