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Ill winds blowing over a half-baked rainbow

AMC
The disappearing rainbow on the wall of Jimmy and Kim's law firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – I admit that it was a little eerie this morning, after sharing my recent “rainbow”-related revelations with a colleague, that I actually saw a rainbow appear minutes later over my house – as a light rain fell and the sun shone on this disquieting summer morn.

The rainbow, as viewed from the offices of Red Dirt Report. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Disquieting? Well, that has more to do with the current state of the world, I guess, but as I noted in yesterday’s Dust Devil Dreams post, “Cornfed rubes,” I mentioned how there seemed to be overlaps between three shows I’m watching – Twin Peaks: The Return, Better Call Saul and Manhattan – and the serious nature of current events and how they stem from the Manhattan Project and Trinity test of July 16, 1945 in the New Mexico desert.

I sensed I had more to say on the topic and this would be a multi-part post. But I wasn’t pushing it, the clues seemed to be finding me.

Starting off with Manhattan, in that first episode, we see newcomers to the secret, nuclear city of Los Alamos, New Mexico, struggling to make sense of things, while in the midst of a super-secret environment, rife with paranoia.

This episode is set in July 1943 – approximately two years before the detonation of the atomic bomb at Trinity – and Liza Winter (Olivia Williams) is talking to the soldier about the corn in a very learned way, her being a botanist and all. The soldier replies that while her husband might have a brain the size of Kansas … she likely does not. This is one of several allusions to the state of Kansas, one that when I lived there was using the tourism slogan “Land of Ahhhhs,” a play on L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a story which begins in Kansas before a tornado (with gale-force winds) whisks Dorothy Gale “somewhere over the rainbow” and to the Land of Oz.

Later, a female character in Manhattan recalls that “there’s no place like home,” Dorothy’s mantra in hopes of returning to her home and family on that Kansas farm. Many wives of the men working on "The Gadget" want to go home, be it in New York or Kansas or wherever. Anywhere but windy, dusty, dirty Los Alamos, New Mexico.

This being 1943, the cinematic version of The Wizard of Oz had been released only four years earlier, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy.

In Twin Peaks: The Return, in the most recent episode, Part 13, Dougie/Cooper’s son, the mute Sonny Jim Jones, is given a “magical, mystical” gym set in their suburban Vegas backyard, there on Arthurian-esque Lancelot Court.

As Haunted Screens blogger Marisa C. Hayes noted, “Sonny Jim’s bliss is undercut by the dark sky and strange meandering spotlight, not to mention to oddball presence of Cooper as Dougie.” All the while, Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Swans” is playing, which is from Swan Lake.

The blogger writes: “Central themes and motifs in Swan Lake include: birds, water, visions, transformation, forces of lightness and darkness (sometimes within the same character), as well as multiples and a quest to return to one’s original human form following supernatural trauma. The entire premise of the ballet is a woman trapped in a looped cycle, doomed to remain in a state of duality indefinitely (until she and the prince end the curse through death), reminiscent not only of Laura Palmer’s story, but of the various loops and strange temporalities we’re currently experiencing in The Return.”

But taking us further, to the rainbow-and-Oz links in this particular scene, the Unwrapping the Plastic blogger (Hayes’ husband) writes: “Dougie Jones’ own backyard has become a(n) (audio)visual proof of that same cyclicality of time, Ourobouros style. Sonny Jim’s new gym set (courtesy of the Mitchum’s brothers), highly reminiscent of the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, is indeed shown to us with the music from Swan’s Lake in the background.

Unwrapping the Plastic adds: “The fact that the gym set was installed in the back yard is also of importance. One can never insist enough on the central role of gardens (of all types) in the world of Twin Peaks. These (secret) gardens are to be understood as safe places where the Jungian process of individuation can take place and they are modeled on the Garden of Eden (the fountain taking here the place of the rivers that were thought to flow in this mythical place).  Once more this can be read as a return to the beginning of Times, to the place of innocence where mankind is originally supposed to come from according to the Bible.”

And then there is the overt rainbow symbolism in AMC’s excellent Better Call Saul, a prequel series leading up to the events in the popular Breaking Bad series (2008-13).

Talented-but-troubled Albuquerque, New Mexico-based lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) is trying to distinguish himself from his older, established attorney brother Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), while also one willing to cut corners and take chances - many to his detriment.

Deep down Jimmy (who will transform into Saul Goodman, leaving Jimmy behind) wants to be his own man. Independent. And he doesn't mind being "colorful." He leaves a solid gig at a Santa Fe law firm so he can work with his girlfriend and attorney Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), a native of a dead-end, nameless small town on the “Kansas/Nebraska border” and who is a fan of the Kansas City Royals (according to a T-shirt she wears to bed), a team in a city on the magical line of 94 degrees west longitude (The Stilwell Enigma, which links with another aspect to Better Call Saul in an upcoming post, incredibly enough). Jimmy, you may recall, is also a Midwesterner, originally from the Chicago area.

When they move into a former dentist’s office, a brightly-colored rainbow is painted on the wall of the law office. It reflects their joy of working side-by-side and yet being able to be attorneys in ways that best suit their personalities. 

Note the "double rainbow" effect with the ceiling, in Better Call Saul. (AMC)

But that would not last forever. Not even very long at all. And we all know how important rainbow symbolism is in sync analysis, not to mention The Wizard of Oz.

In the first episode of season 3, Mabel, the rainbow begins to disappear, as Jimmy paints over it. Part of it, anyway.

Half a rainbow? Don’t you want to keep going until you do the whole thing?” asks Kim.

No. If you’re done, I’m done," replies Jimmy.

You know, your clients see to like that rainbow. Think they’re going to miss it?” asks Kim.

Wait til they see what is going up next. They’re going to love love it. You’re going to love it.” says Jimmy.

Yeah? Should I be worried,” Kim asks.

Nope," Jimmy says with confidence.

But not all is well with Jimmy’s world, as anyone familiar with Breaking Bad can attest. We see flashforwards of Jimmy’s sad, black-and-white life in Omaha, Nebraska (also along that 94 line, roughly – and where “The Wizard” in Oz originated from. Remember his "State Fair" getaway balloon?) 

Reddit noticed the rainbow symbolism in Better Call Saul, sharing some of my same thoughts: "As the rainbow is painted over, the color/hope of Kim's ABQ world is slowly diminishing. As in the movie, "there's no place like home" and maybe Kim winds up back in Kansas/Nebraska, ironically where Jimmy/Gene is now living in that black and white world."

The winds are always blowing in the New Mexico desert of Manhattan. In the New Mexico desert of Better Call Saul. The numerous, New Mexico and west-of-the-Mississippi locations in Twin Peaks: The Return.

They are ill winds, however. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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