Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me.
One of the main complaints any die-hard Twin Peaks fan might have against Fire Walk With Me is that much of it does not take place in our beloved town. Instead, the entire Teresa Banks investigation occurs in a strange, hostile place called Deer Meadow. Despite the pleasant and peaceful image this name might conjure up, Deer Meadow is a rather ugly place, filled with unfriendly townspeople. One could say it is the evil Doppelganger of Twin Peaks itself.
But why is Deer Meadow the way it is? In this article, I will analyze the town, its residents, and the rich symbolism that litters it, hopefully shedding some light on what is going on there.
First, let’s take a look at the diner, Hap’s. There is so much symbolism here, it’s difficult to know where to begin. Hap’s, of course, serves as the Doppelganger of the Double R Diner, making (the late) Hap and Irene potential parallels to Hank and Norma, and Jack, the man Agents Desmond and Stanley talk to, could parallel Ed.
First notice the neon sign outside of Hap’s: It’s a clown face, which ties into the clown (or Sacred Clown) symbolism of Twin Peaks, as well as the recurring motif of electricity. One side of the clown’s face is burnt out, suggesting dualism. It also looks like tears might be falling from the clown’s face. This image reminds me of Laura, trapped in what Lynch refers to as the “suffocating rubber clown suit,” living the party girl life, acting like she’s happy, while in reality, she is being split in two, and inside she is crying.
When the agents enter the diner, they go to the back room, where there’s an electrician working on a lamp, which is sparking dangerously. In a version of the script, Stanley asks Desmond about why there was someone working on a lamp in Hap’s Diner, and Desmond replies that it is due to faulty wiring. Of course, electricity, in the film, is connected to the Dugpas and, therefore, the Black Lodge as well. Notice also the odd, door-like recess in the wall: This implies an opening to the Lodge is present, or perhaps used to be. Sitting in the “doorway” is a man, possibly a lumberjack. He looks remarkably similar to the Jurgen Prochnow lumberjack seen above the convenience store. If this was intentional, it would imply that there is some interference here from denizens of the Black Lodge.
The agents speak to Jack, presumably the manager of Hap’s Diner (since Hap is dead, good and dead). Jack’s name tag reads, “Say
Hello Goodbye, My Name is Jack.” He doesn’t seem to know much of anything about Teresa, and instead directs them to ask Irene. He warns the agents: “Now, her name is Irene, and it is night. Don’t take it any farther than that. No good will come of it.” This is, of course, a reference to the folk song, “Goodnight, Irene.” This reference also comes up in Mulholland Drive, which infamously takes place inside a dream (this is reminiscent of Philip Jeffries’ declaration that “we live inside a dream”), and features an elderly woman named Irene.
In the background, we can see some interesting decor. One item of interest is a tree stump, with two chainsaws sticking out of it (one red, one yellow). Wood and lumberjacks are two recurring motifs in Twin Peaks, especially as we are shown that spirits can reside in wood. The chainsaws suggest the act of cutting. Perhaps this is a place where spirits can cut through, into another dimension? Also, notice the big fish mounted on the wall here. It looks to be a bass, but it could be meant as a reference to Fat Trout Trailer Park. It could also be connected to Lynch’s concept of “catching the big fish,” which means (roughly) searching for profound truths or ideas. In a sense, the agents are looking to catch the big fish by looking for the answer to this intricate mystery.
Then there’s a highly disputed scene: A middle-aged man sitting in the diner gets the agents’ attention, asking, “Are you talking about that little girl that was murdered?” When prompted, the man doesn’t have any pertinent information to offer the agents. Sitting with him is a young woman, who says something to him in what seems to be French. It’s hotly debated among fans what she says, although the most common consensus is that she is saying, “Nighttime is the right time.” This could be a prompt to her companion, telling him to wait until night for something. Whatever she means, the significance of nighttime in Twin Peaks is well-known, as all of BOB’s killings take place during the night. This could be when the Dugpa always strike. After the agents speak again with Irene, the man repeats the line: “Are you talking about that little girl that was murdered?” This could have many interpretations:
One idea is that it has to do with the murder of a “little girl” happening twice: Laura and Teresa. It could also have to do with the distortion of time associated with the Black Lodge. If there is a portal to the Black Lodge nearby, perhaps even within the diner itself, this pair could actually be Dugpas. For whatever reason, Desmond doesn’t want to interview either of them, and no one really acknowledges the French woman.
From Hap’s Diner, let’s visit the Sheriff’s station briefly. Here we see more parallels: Deputy Cliff is a reflection of Deputy Andy, the giggling secretary is Lucy, and Sheriff Cable is Sheriff Truman. The name “Cable” could be interpreted literally as referring to an electric cable, making it another symbol of electricity. On the wall of the Sheriff’s office is a large saw: Another symbol of cutting, as in, “cutting through.”
Next, let’s take a trip to Fat Trout Trailer Park. This is another interesting and very important place. The people here seem harassed, afraid, and disoriented, almost as if they have just woken from a long and terrible nightmare. The superintendent, Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton), has most likely had his run-ins with the Black Lodge.
Mr. Rodd is a fascinating fellow. He seems to be having strange nightmares, which might be robbing him of good sleep (needing to sleep in might be a reason he doesn’t wish to be disturbed before 9am). He appears reluctant to leave his trailer or interact with the tenants. They have left many notes on his door, but he never seems to bother reading them. He is haggard, and there is a band-aid covering some unidentified injury on his forehead. As we’ll discuss momentarily, he might know a little more than he lets on.
Then there is the woman with the ice pack, who wanders into Teresa’s trailer while the agents are investigating it. I would like to note here that in an early draft of the script, this woman was leading Deputy Cliff to where the agents were. It could be that, originally, she had the ice pack because Deputy Cliff assaulted her to get information on the agents (it’s already established that the law enforcement in Deer Meadow is not well-liked by the townsfolk; this could be why). However, it is curious that, once the scene with Deputy Cliff was removed, Lynch and Frost would choose to leave in the scene of the woman with the ice pack, with seemingly no explanation. I believe that, in this new version, it is meant to be inferred that the woman has also been having experiences with the Black Lodge, possibly even BOB himself, and this is the cause of her injuries.
After seeing her, Mr. Rodd is noticeably disturbed. His eyes tear up, and he takes a nervous drag on his cigarette. He seems to think about the electrical pole, the one with the number “6” on it, just outside the trailer. He looks at Agent Desmond, and after much fruitless stuttering, he says,
“See, I’ve already gone places. I just want to stay where I am.”
He looks to Agent Desmond as if hoping he understands his meaning. He doesn’t want to explicitly state what he means, perhaps for fear of being thought of as crazy. Some people believe he means that he has spent time in jail or prison, and doesn’t want to go back. Perhaps he fears being accused of Teresa’s murder. However, this doesn’t completely fit. Why would the woman with the ice pack generate a fear of prison in Mr. Rodd? Why the shot of the pole, traveling up towards the electrical wiring? It would make more sense if Mr. Rodd is referring to having visited the Black Lodge.
Mr. Rodd knows that strange things are happening in the trailer park. Strange beings appearing out of nowhere and attacking residents, electrical disturbances, voices heard out of thin air, bizarre dreams haunting the people in the trailer park, normal people suddenly acting strangely, perhaps other tenants that have disappeared. However, being a very simple man, he doesn’t understand any of this. He only knows what he’s seen, but fears that he is going crazy. He doesn’t want to tell anyone, because a) they might think he’s crazy, or b) it would mean having to acknowledge what is happening, which might mean confronting it, which would cause more trouble for him. Instead, he hides in his trailer and tries to ignore the bizarre nightmares and upset tenants. He has probably accidentally stumbled into the Black Lodge at some point, either in a dream or through a portal in waking life. The experience terrified him. He’s afraid of getting trapped there; he just wants to stay where he is.
Also in an early draft of the script, Mr. Rodd says that he was having a dream of “a joke with no punchline.” Almost immediately afterwards, Desmond and Stanley discuss Deputy Cliff and refer to him as “a clown.” This ties in with the Sacred Clown symbolism that proliferates the movie. Essentially, the symbolism says that the Dugpas are (or are related to) Native American trickster spirits which sometimes use clowning to impart important knowledge to humans, but sometimes also just cause chaos for fun. This is yet another tie between the trailer park and the Dugpas. I would also like to make a brief observation in regards to Mr. Rodd’s name, which always made me think of a conducting rod. Could be another connection to electricity in the film.
And then, of course, there are the Chalfonts. Now, the Chalfonts are, presumably, the Tremonds. They are described as being a woman and her grandson, and they once again have a French surname. As we know from Twin Peaks the series, they are not humans. They seem to be spirits from one of the Lodges, acting in a manner similar to the Man From Another Place and the Giant: Appearing to humans and giving them clues to “help” them catch BOB. (Whether or not they are truly “helping” is a tricky question we will have to save for another article.) We also see a pattern in their behavior: They occupy a space, and take the last name of the people who live there, or used to live there, causing some confusion. Before, they seemed to change reality itself, altering the interior of the home of the real Mrs. Tremond and placing a fake order to Meals on Wheels the lure Donna there. This time, they seem to have waited for the real Chalfonts to vacate their space at the trailer park, then taken their own trailer to occupy that space. These spirits seem to only appear when someone is about to die. They appear to Laura in a dream shortly before her death, then they appear to Donna before Harold Smith commits suicide, and finally they turn up in Teresa Banks’s trailer park before her death. They may simply be appearing to predict a death, as with Harold’s, or they may actually aid in facilitating it, as they seem to have a suspicious level of involvement with both Laura and Teresa around the times of their murders. Or, perhaps they are chasing BOB?
Later, Agent Desmond returns to the trailer park to see Deputy Cliff’s trailer, suspecting the corrupt deputy of having Teresa’s ring, but instead diverts his path. While looking at the electrical pole with the number “6” on it, he hears the Indian whooping call on the wind. He turns around and sees a trailer with its lights on, and heads over. He knocks on its door, but no one answers. Underneath the trailer is a pile of dirt and Teresa Banks’s ring: The one with the green stone and the Owl Cave symbol on it. Desmond reaches for the ring, and disappears.
When Cooper visits the trailer park later, he feels compelled to walk over to an empty space. This is where Desmond disappeared; now, the trailer is gone. We learn that this space was owned by the Chalfonts, which further links the trailer park with the Black Lodge. The space left by the vacant trailer seems to be soaked with engine oil: similar to the entrance to the Black Lodge found in Glastonberry Grove. A glance at Agent Desmond’s car reveals the words “Let’s Rock” have been written in red across the windshield. Of course, these are the first words spoken to Agent Cooper by the Man From Another Place. This would seem to confirm that Desmond has disappeared into the Black Lodge.
But why is all this happening here?
Deer Meadow is riddled with portals to the Black Lodge. There are Dugpas all over the town, mostly unnoticed by residents. However, the trailer park seems to be a hotspot for attacks, particularly near the telephone pole bearing the number “6.” It would make sense that BOB, having had a fixation on Teresa, frequented this area, probably harassing her neighbors at the trailer park.
We’ve seen how much of Deer Meadow is a parallel of the more familiar town of Twin Peaks, and there may be a deeper reason for this than we at first suspect. Deer Meadow represents the dismal bitterness and distrustful nature that Twin Peaks itself might descend into as a result of its victimization by the denizens of the Black Lodge. After many years of torment, nightmares, and living in fear, one could imagine that even a town as idyllic as Twin Peaks could become a grim place, broken by crippling fear, and sacrificing its innocence to suspicion, cruelty and criminal behavior.
Throughout the TV series, we fear our beloved town will fall prey to its dark side: Corrupt business men, drug dealers and pimps all populate the shadows of Twin Peaks. There is a battle, both literally and figuratively, between the light and the dark. Deer Meadow is a town that has been overcome by the darkness.