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

2.5. Cooper as Protector of the Middle Class

In TP the 'least likely person' turns out to be the killer. Leland Palmer, local lawyer and the victim's father, has been possessed by an inhabiting spirit. This spirit (BOB) escapes into the woods of Twin Peaks and will not reappear in the next few episodes of the show. We will find that BOB is the evil spirit in the woods that the men of Twin Peaks have been fighting for centuries.23 After BOB has left his host, Leland dies, realizing what he did and returning to his old self. The good middle class citizen will be redeemed under the guidance of Special Agent Cooper:

Cooper's high point is his comforting of the dying Leland through spiritual strength that rises above the physical damage Leland has inflicted...Like Van Helsing, he directs the troubled spirit to a godly end: as Leland dies, Cooper tells him 'to look into the light', while cleansing baptismal waters the waters of the jail fire extinguisher system, quenching the 'fire [that] walk[ed] with [him] pour over them both.(Wilcox, 24)

Cooper guiding Leland 'into the light' (Lavery, 17.12) could be regarded as a scene depicting Cooper as a possible new hero, presenting him as an alternative to the conventional male detective:

Transcendental wholeness lies in his comforting lines, a crystalline visual, emotional, and narrative realization of Cooper's Tibetan Method... Cooper's ability to keep 'fear from his mind'...redefines the detective as an adversary of repression and reconfigures his desire as a liberated commitment to the wholeness of life. (Nochimson, 155)

Indeed, Samuel Kimball finds in this scene a clear allusion to the Emersonian transparent eyeball, an imagery that brings us back to Cooper's relation with nature, a relation that, as we remarked, is awakened with Cooper's arrival in Twin Peaks. We might assume that, in another time, Cooper might have been the perfect Romanticist along the lines of Whitman. Nevertheless, he has been influenced, or even spoiled, by consumer society, or as Pollard puts it:

Unlike Cooper...whose aim is to protect middle-class hegemony and perpetuate the illusion of totality, Whitman made a much more sincere attempt at universality ... What Cooper sees threatened is the very community that capitalism created, the very one that Whitman feared. (Pollard, 298)

Similarly, the rescue of Leland is also just a momentary entrance, or a glimpse, into that higher realm. Cooper seems to lead Leland into a transcendental sphere, nonetheless, this is only a momentary action and lacks a thorough understanding of the 'other' territory:

Yet Cooper's attestation is as blind as it is wishful ... 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 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. (Kimball, Genders Spring 93, 23)

Cooper functions in this scene as the shaman who leads Leland into a transcendental light, yet he does not fully understand, or decode, the message delivered by Leland in his confession. When Cooper misunderstands (or ignores) Leland's remark of BOB 'coming inside of him', Cooper ignores the possessive nature of BOB, just as he seems to misinterpret BOB's nature in general. Instead, he behaves as part of Twin Peaks' Puritan middle class community, rejecting the evil in the woods. However, BOB is also part of the supernatural realm that Cooper had contact with. Cooper started to integrate the supernatural into his detectional methods, yet he also keeps to fight or discard this otherworldly sphere.

Kimball remarks that the woman is, again, forced to play a common role in a 'sacrificial victimage', a point of view that would place Laura back into her position as the beautiful dead object, rather than the active subject in Cooper's dream. This points not towards an openminded embrace of another world, but more towards a retreat to conventional and conservative patterns. The repressed is maintained in Cooper's interpretation, the sexual violence implied cannot be named or is denied. Similar as in the dream and vision of the Lodges, Cooper is not completely able to grasp the impact of another world, may it be nature, or the other transcendental sphere called the Lodge. Cooper helps Leland to overcome the horrors of BOB, yet significantly by avoiding confrontation of the truth about this evil force. Here, Cooper is still strong enough to function as an opposing force to BOB, but from that moment on Cooper's strength will diminish. Considering the outcome of the series, the 'baptismal water' that sprinkles over the dying Leland could than also be read as "the biblical last flood" (Jerslev, 184).

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23 In this context BOB can be regarded as an evil spirit who has to been cleansed by middle class, Puritan citizen. As Sheriff Truman explains "'there is 'a sort of evil out there. Something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want, a darkness, a presence - it takes many forms and it's always been there for as long as anyone can remember and we have always been here to fight it' (episode four) ... on the other hand, we have the optimism of Emerson, for whom nature was, always and ever, beautiful, good, sublime, a reflection of the countenance of God- sentiments echoed by the effusive and high-minded Agent Cooper." (Carroll, 293)


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