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

4. The Supernatural Gothic

Through the darkness
Of future past
The magician longs to see.
One chants out between two worlds
Walk with me.

The One-Armed Man (Episode Three)

In this chapter I will return to the supernatural element in TP. In chapter two, I observed how the new detective in TP tries to find other approaches and methods to find 'Truth'. The contact with the supernatural element in dreams and visions has been of central importance for the detective. However, towards the end of the series, the Cooper character is pulled seaward by the Earle revenge plot, a storyline that I tried to define as a Gothic Soap Opera. On the narrative level this means that the return of the past has its revenge on Cooper. The Cooper character is pulled back into a more conventional frame of story-telling, a frame that not only causes a temporal confusion, i.e. the intermingling of past, present and future, but also a shift towards another formulaic paradigm, i.e. the Gothic. Elements from the past intrude into the present and will thus influence future events. This plot development will also be central for Cooper's final failure in the supernatural center of the show, the Black Lodge.

Cooper is weakened by his emotional instability as a character within the narrative. Yet, in terms of genre, the new detective hero turns into a traditional conservative figure who resembles the model of the gothic hero. We have to keep in mind that Cooper's final contact with the supernatural sphere happens under altered circumstances. His openminded approach for the otherworldly sphere of the subconscious and the supernatural will now turn into the opposite. In the Black Lodge, the actual realization of Cooper's Red Room dream, the new detective will fail, as he is not entering his subconscious mind as an open seeker. Instead, his behavior resembles the blind actions of a Gothic hero, or, in his attempt to make sense, the rationale of the traditional male detective.

In the first part of this thesis [the analysis of the classical detective story] we distinguished between the inner, i.e. the society with its bourgeois and middle class aspects, and the outer elements, i.e. both the natural and unconscious forces of the secret woods. Secret worlds are highly important when we try to define the Gothic in the show. On the one hand, Gothic includes secret passageways, maskings, incest, family relations etc.; elements that lead back to the aforementioned 'inner' sphere; yet the 'outer' side, the unlimitedness of the secret world, works as a frame and a controlling force. The middle class world of TP has been identified as a televisional stage, on which the Soap Opera is acted out. Everyone in Twin Peaks is a split self, everybody has double identities and appears to play tricks on other characters. The infinite doubling of the show TP reaches a climate within the sphere of the Black Lodge. With BOB in its center, the Black Lodge represents the ultimately repressed element denied by (American bourgeois) society.31 This realm is about to take its revenge, first on the postmodern society and, finally, on its hero protector, the detective Dale Cooper.

The Lodge is a gothic place for its own right. With the opening of the Lodges the town of Twin Peaks becomes unstable. The setting of TP has been compared with the setting in the classical detective story. In its geographical seclusion, TP seems to resemble the traditional isolated small town. Yet, TP is also the epitome of middle class life. With the introduction of the Gothic, it appears as though an unknown element would forge its way back to the surface. Gothic elements are persistent within the TP narrative, but it is only when the reality of the Lodges becomes overt that the 'Supernatural Gothic' invades the town; then Twin Peaks is "in danger of no longer representing the middle class but the chaos beyond" (Pollard, 303).

In a Gothic fantasy, the Gothic world overwhelms the human world, for no character can understand, or stand against, its evils. The detective challenges the encroachment of its terrors, the disorder brought on by crime and the monster in the shape of the criminal, returning the world to order and stability. (Day, 53)

Towards the end of the TP narrative, Cooper has arrived at the entering point of the ultimate mysterious center in TP. In midst of 'Ghostwood Forest' lies the gate to the supernatural sphere of the Black Lodge. Here, Cooper tries to find an explanation for all of TP's mysteries. Here, he will again face the dead female victim from the Palmer murder case. Here, he will encounter the killer BOB who seems to embody a 'return of the repressed'. Here, Cooper will also be confronted with his own past and with deeply hidden fears. But, unfortunately, Cooper will not enter this supernatural Gothic world as the new and unconventional ZEN detective who displays a persistent openness and readiness for mystery. Cooper is not the new detective hero anymore who returns the middle class world to order and stability.

We found that Cooper experiences a decrease in his detectional abilities, as well as a weakening in his role as a protagonist. Entering the Lodge, Cooper has been reduced to the role of a participant within the Gothic Soap Opera world. As such, he resembles a Gothic hero who appears basically as a helpless character, unable to understand or stand against the evils of the Supernatural Gothic realm. Cooper has turned into a middle class hero himself, incapable of grasping a higher reality. In contrast to Cooper entering the town of TP, he does not enter the Lodge with a "readiness for mystery" (Nochimson, 145). Instead, the motivation to set foot in the Lodge comes from Cooper's involvement with the Gothic Soap Opera plot. Thus, it seems that Cooper is destined to fail in his overall mission.

I will now observe, how Cooper acts and reacts within the supernatural sphere of the Black Lodge. Hereby, I will stress his encounter with the female element and his confrontation with BOB, the ultimate evil character in TP.

back top next

31 Here we are, once more, confronted with a striking parallel to Poe's employment of denied forces having their revenge on society. Cawelti states that "Poe's ... version of the Gothic fantasy shared with his detective stories the theme of hidden guilt. Both coincided culturally with the decline of the old regime and the rise of the middle class to social and cultural dominance." (Cawelti, 102)

The Detective in 'Twin Peaks' - Content
David Lynch main page

© Mike Hartmann