By Tony Beasley and Brandon Wetherbee
Spoilers: If you haven’t watched the first four episodes of Twin Peaks season 3, you may want to watch those before continuing.
The trailers for the return of Twin Peaks were vague. The cast and crew kept their mouths shut about returning to the woods. David Lynch has not revealed any mysteries in interviews. But did one musician know about Agent Cooper’s last 25 years before Agent Cooper did?
Trent Reznor is a longtime collaborator of Lynch’s, and Twin Peaks season 3 sits at the apex of their separate timelines converging closer and closer together. The Nine Inch Nails album Hesitation Marks, released four years before The Return, is starting to look like a map to the now-heavily supplemented Twin Peaks universe. Did David Lynch tell Trent Reznor about the current season before announcing? Did he and Reznor decide that NIN was the soundtrack for the souls trapped in the Black/White Lodge since 1991?
David Lynch doesn’t work with the short term in mind. His first feature film took six years to make. He’s been trying to finance Ronnie Rocket for almost 40 years. When Laura Palmer told Agent Cooper she’d see him in 25 years, she meant it (though, we are closer to 26 years since June 1991, but who’s counting?).
Trent Reznor also doesn’t work with the short term in mind. He is Nine Inch Nails. Every note on every album is the product of one man. Each release has an ironic “Halo,” numbers are assigned as a way to catalog and collect each LP, EP, single, video, etc. When he released the spiritual sequel to 1994’s The Downward Spiral in 2013, Hesitation Marks was a surprising and welcome return to the recently disbanded NIN.
We’re not proposing Agent Cooper is the protagonist of “Came Back Haunted” because of similarities between the artists. We’re looking at the song and video in view of the series’ return because it suddenly makes sense why we watched a monster try to escape from a box on YouTube and cause its viewers to have seizures in the process.
David Lynch directed the video for “Came Back Haunted” in 2013. The imagery isn’t that much different than Cooper floating in and out of a glass box in season 3,episode 2. The explosions aren’t that much different than the explosions seen on the walls of FBI agents in season 3, episode 4. Reznor’s tight, shakey, seizure-inducing close ups are the same tight, shakey, seizure-inducing close-ups of Agent Cooper falling in space at the start of season 3, episode 3. The video looks like the show because it’s supposed to. Maybe most telling is the playing card shown in season 3, episode 2. We have seen that before. It’s the drawing of the demonic creature created for “Came Back Haunted.” The video is a prequel to this season, where a version of that same monster very literally breaks through glass to kill its idle viewers (like BOB breaking the fourth wall, much to the annoyance of fans, to kill Laura Palmer in season 2).
The similarities between season 3 and “Came Back Haunted” are many. The lyrics tell the story of a trapped Cooper. He entered the “mouth” of 12 sycamore trees and “saw some things on the other side” of the waiting room. He traveled down the downward spiral in 1994 with “Mr. Self Destruct” (which could easily be a song about BOB) and eventually, after a stop in the glass box, “Came Back Haunted.” Now, Cooper is Mr. Jackpots.
But in a strange place, with a strange wife, and strange friends. “Everywhere now reminding me / I am not who I used to be.” As much discussion as you could squeeze out of the few lyrics in the song, the track that precedes it may be just as important.
“Copy of a” is the first real song on “Hesitation Marks.” After the 52-second “The Eater of Dreams” comes a progressively louder, layered song about a protagonist that is the third version of an original creation, needs to realize their part and is made up of pieces picked up along the way. It’s vague lyrics allow for interpretation. For the last four years, the song was just an excellent track on an album from an excellent band. Now, it sounds like the actual plot of season 3, episode 2 of Twin Peaks.
It would not be unlike Lynch to bring his creations together. A few years back he revealed that Lost Highway*, a film scored by Trent Reznor, shares the same world as Twin Peaks. So why wouldn’t Reznor be a part of a Twin Peaks that has expanded beyond Washington, and into New York, Las Vegas, and South Dakota? Lynch brought back Mulholland Drive’s Naomi Watts, Robert Forster, and Patrick Fischler, and is bringing back Lost Highway’s Balthazar Getty, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire alumni Laura Dern. His creations relate. And we know Trent Reznor is on the cast list for season 3.
Nothing is coincidence. It may be cosmic, but nothing is coincidence. We learned in Mulholland Drive that Lynch is probably at least the idea of the “man” (who is actually a woman) behind Winkie’s. “He’s the one who’s doing it.” Lynch has been manipulating his universe for 25 years and Reznor is the link between all of these fictional worlds and our real one.
*Fun fact: The Smashing Pumpkins “Eye,” which appears in Lost Highway, was originally written for a Shaquille O’Neil rap song. Shaq has announced a future run for sheriff. Ipso facto, Shaq could work with the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department.