Did you fall in love all over again with Agent Dale Cooper, Albert Rosenfield, and the rest of the Twin Peaks crew when the show returned in 2017? Or perhaps you discovered it for the first time and are on your third rewatch, trying to figure out just what the heck is going on all the time? Either way, if you’re a fan of David Lynch’s weird little show, or if someone you love is, POPSUGAR has a plethora of gifts to consider this holiday season.
First, some lyrics…
And you may find yourself
Living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself
In another part of the world
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
—Talking Heads, «Once In A Lifetime»
This isn’t a review of Twin Peaks, at least in the traditional sense. Applying a close reading to dream logic isn’t my forte, especially when I don’t have a sense of the dreamer in question. The show constantly rejected direct analysis, not because it was being intentionally obtuse but rather because it constantly asked to be experienced rather than interpreted. That undoubtedly annoyed many, but if you stuck with it long enough to feel OK reading a review of the entire Showtime season, then I guess you felt the journey itself was worth it, even if ultimately the show resisted any type of traditional catharsis.
I don’t envy those that tried to break down the show on a weekly basis: I think the show worked well on an episodic basis (to varying degrees), but it always felt like there would be a totality of experience at the end that would make talking about it as a whole easier than the collective sum of its parts. With few exceptions (the crazy nuclear episodes, the penultimate installment), there wasn’t much in the way of either thematic resonance between the varying storylines or huge forward narrative momentum. And yet, the rhythms of the show always suggested this was going somewhere, even if we didn’t know where nor felt confident we’d know it when we got there.
So it’s appropriate in that sense that we ended the show at what was once Laura Palmer’s house, with a person that was once Laura Palmer. Twin Peaks ended in a familiar setting and a familiar face and yet none of it was familiar. As TS Eliot wrote at the beginning of «Burnt Norton,» the first poem in The Four Quartets:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
Neither Cooper/Richard nor Laura/Carrie knew what the hell was going on. Nothing made logical sense, and yet both could intuit that they were in the «right» place, just perhaps in the wrong time. Much like Billy Pilgrim, the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter-House Five, they were unstuck in time, although Twin Peaks consistently suggested (even in its original run) that our notion of time is itself a narrow window into what’s really transpiring. Our understanding of time moving only forward is a limitation of perception rather than a fundamental truth about the universe. Breaking through that limitation is the only way to break the loop that started when Bob was born inside a nuclear mushroom cloud.
That means Cooper can use a former FBI agent now existing as a teapot in an in-between reality to go back to the night of Laura Palmer’s murder and undo that action without truly providing a «happy» ending for the show. This isn’t a case of rewriting history (and therefore the trauma and struggles of every character we know and care about) so much as shifting the karmic balance. It’s hard to get too hung up on people no longer acting like themselves when the slippery nature of «self» is itself the primary focus of David Lynch’s attention.
Where the last few hours gained their primary power came from the fact that while certain people got their just moral desserts (positive and negative), they achieved those denouements through the sacrifice of Cooper and others who directly wage war with the primal forces that lurk under the surface of society. Ever since Lynch dove his camera under the earth of the ostensibly serene suburban landscape of Blue Velvet and showed the hungry, ugly, pulsating hunger underneath, he’s consistently contrasted the idealized version of America with its ugly underbelly.
To be fair, he’s hardly the only writer/director to do so. But few depict this with such unnerving surrealism. Lynch’s America is vast and wide and has certain hotspots that directly link our world to that of demons, fireman, ancient machines, and energy that Edison accidentally tapped into in the form of electricity. By taking on Blue Rose cases, people like Dale Cooper and Major Briggs sacrificed their place in linear reality in favor of ensuring the evil unleashed during the testing of nuclear weapons didn’t utterly undo everything that we hold dear. Briggs died so Big Ed and Norma could eventually get their happy ending, a romantic sentiment I absolutely did NOT expect to get out of this season.
Cooper, Briggs, and Phillip Jeffries couldn’t protect everyone (Audrey is…somewhere, maybe the dreamer of the show as some have suggested, but in any case not in a good place), but there’s something absolutely straightforward about the way that Cooper proceeded with his mission to save Laura Palmer that cut through the insanity and inscrutability of Twin Peaks on a macro and micro level. This was a show that reveled at times in cruelty, but almost always sought to punish those actions. Twin Peaks wasn’t torture porn but a surreal melodrama in which morality played a crucial and even cosmic part. Everyone that helped Dougie Jones ended up getting rewarded for doing so, and Cooper’s gratefulness for their assistance was shockingly warm and extremely welcome. This was a show in which small-minded mobsters ended up retroactively saving a teenage girl from being murdered in the late 1980’s. They had no way of knowing that, and couldn’t have comprehended it even it were explained to them. But they did so all the same. Individual actions mattered, and that’s why each episode mattered.
Near the end of «Little Gidding,» the last of the poems in The Four Quartets, Eliot writes:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
The evil in Twin Peaks didn’t originate inside the town’s borders, but the story that set off so many things within the TV show did start with Leland Palmer’s abuse of his daughter. The last thing that this season depicts is Carrie/Laura knowing it for the «first» time, at least in the reality created when Cooper crossed the 430-mile mark from the Red Room. But rather than ending a journey, it simply kicks off another one, sending the two careening off into another part of the universe, full of mysteries and magic and tulpas and the inexhaustible depths of the self.
I’m torn about the idea of more Twin Peaks in the immediate aftermath of watching the final two hours. On one hand, once I realized this season would take place largely outside the town itself, I enjoyed its deliberate rhythms, incredible sound design, breathtaking visual palette, and absolutely incredible sense of deadpan humor. I’d feel satisfied were this the end. (On a mundane level, it’s currently my third favorite show of the year. I’ll be writing about my second favorite later this week. Tops? Still The Leftovers.)
On the other hand, the finale suggests that there isn’t a final endpoint for this show so much as another part of the arc of this show’s orbit around reality itself, one that warps and bends around a talking electric tree. There are truly infinite amount of stories for this show to mind from the mythology it’s created. The overly long pauses, the long drives down dark highways, the way the camera would either hold an image for too long or pan so slowly you nearly jumped out of your skin with fear…these hold potency regardless of whether or not Laura Palmer is the focus of Lynch’s world.
I have to imagine this is the last we’ll get of Twin Peaks, but far stranger things (both on- and off-camera) have happened. Best not bet on it. But if you do, there’s one thing to say.
The characters of Twin Peaks have seldom swallowed the oddities of their world without question, but there’s still a moment of laughter to be found in one of them outright asking ‘What the fuck just happened?’ All things considered, a lot did happen and most of the bows were neatly tied by the time our two part finale came to a hypnotic ending. Of course, if you were looking for clean resolutions in a show where a man with a garden glove punches a spherical representation of evil and David Bowie was recast as a talking teapot, you’ve come to the wrong place. This was resolution in the abstract: Sometimes baffling but no less satisfying if you’re willing to put the work in.
A quick reminder: This show is and has always been the story of Laura Palmer. It’s her voice, through past and present, living and dead, this world and beyond. David Lynch has received a lot of criticism over the years regarding his obsession for dead girls and the violence inflicted upon them by a cruel world. No less than Roger Ebert never got over what he saw to be unforgivable misogyny in Blue Velvet, and even this hardcore Lynch fan has questioned the ultimate necessity of some of the violence this season (mostly everything done by general waste of space Richard Horne). Yet credit must be given to Lynch and Frost for giving arguably the most iconic dead girl of her pop culture generation back her voice, time and time again. There was the secret diary, Fire Walk With Me and now this season, where Laura is the sun everything else orbits around. In this finale, we see her story pieced together from flashbacks of Fire Walk With Me to the current narrative, and you can’t help but sense that this is Lynch’s penance. He finally gets to give Laura the story he never got to with the original seasons. Yet he also never lets the audience forget just how she came to be the whodunnit case of the TV decade. We can hear from her repeatedly, see the scars and watch the inevitable and it will always be that: Laura Palmer will always be dead. Dale Cooper can try, but he can’t save her. Sarah shatters the glass encasing that iconic photograph of her daughter, the one that lingers in the opening credits of every episode (and thus ensuring Sheryl Lee’s name is in every closing credit), but it doesn’t free her. There’s a reason her scream is almost as iconic as her face.
Fittingly for a two part finale, this was a story of two halves. The first episode wrapped up things in Twin Peaks, dispatching of Evil Cooper quicker than many had anticipated, and getting the gang together in the sheriff’s department for a moment of unquestionable victory. There were moments of sweet joy amidst the pain. A new Dougie was fashioned to ensure completion of the Jones family; Andy and Lucy got to be heroes of the moment; The real Diane returned to the world, now with a striking red bob haircut and without the potty mouth. And it all happened in the first half hour of the first part. ‘Anti-climax’ isn’t the right term, but it is a stark reminder from Lynch and Frost that there will never truly be an end to this all.
Time is a circle, the future is the past, and no matter how hard he tries, Dale Cooper, as good as good can be, can’t fix everything. We desperately want him to. Even the most hardened Lynch fan can’t help but yearn for truth, justice and the American way. Of course, the America of Lynch is one where malice is barely contained by the postcard friendly sheen of the surface. The most recognizable images of Americana are thrown back at us in mystifying, unnerving ways: The freedom of the open road turned empty and sinister in barely lit nights; The great American countryside steeped in death; The old school motel the gateway to a new beyond. Dale Cooper is the lawman we hope for when darkness prevails, and watching him stride into the sheriff’s department of Twin Peaks, exuding authority from every pore, is satisfying to the point of schmaltzy, and this story can never be truly happy. Strip away the backwards speaking, the diner dancing, the nuclear explosions and the doppelgangers, and we’re left with a very simple story: A dead girl and the man who tries but will never rescue her.
Credit must be given to Kyle MacLachlan, an actor so frequently underestimated by critics and audiences alike. This season, he’s put in some of the greatest work of his career, embodying several iterations of the character that made him famous: Evil Cooper, the ideal good Cooper, Dougie Jones, an unknown man named Richard, and more than I could even count. You see the shifts in the subtlest of moments: The shrug of a shoulder, the tightening of the mouth, a change in his stride. I have absolutely no idea what episode he could submit for Emmys consideration, but this is a performance deserving of all the awards.
Sheryl Lee is also a performer of superb magnetism. Her still face, forever young and innocent, has plagued this world (and David Lynch himself) for decades, so when we see her again, older and scared and not Laura Palmer, it’s a shock to the system. Once again, she can tell her story but she has no idea it’s even hers. After Diane leaves Dale, he finds ‘Laura’ living as Carrie Page, and begs to take her back home. Fortunately for him, Carrie’s in need of a quick escape, with the dead man on her couch still and slowly rotting, because violence will always follow her. Their drive back to Twin Peaks is long, drawn out, mostly quiet and close to agonizing. The build-up cannot pay off, we know that, but the cruelty of seeing Laura return home, only to find strangers in the house who have no idea who Sarah Palmer is, pierces a hardened mind.
It’s the look of grief on Dale’s face that tips it over the edge, if this even is Dale (he’s more stilted and flinty than the effervescent Dale we saw heading back to Twin Peaks in the first place). He’s spent 25 years working, waiting, fighting for this happy ending and it was never going to be (‘What year is this?’ he asks before Laura/Carrie screams and the lights go out). It’s intensely cruel but could it ever have been any other way? Perhaps there’s a timeline where Laura isn’t murdered but would her life have been any safer or happier? Would she have been free from her father or the drugs or the sex or the inevitability of Twin Peaks itself crushing her soul? The fates aligned to create Laura as a way to stop BOB, and whatever the result of that blazing end battle, life still goes on and cannot go back. The cycle may repeat itself but it’s always going to hurt.
I’m sure that ending will be infuriating to some. I can already hear the cries of disappointment from many fans, those who futilely hoped Lynch wouldn’t Lynch out with this abrasive experiment. I understand their confusion — we never did get a conclusion to Audrey’s story, for one — but what we got has given me more pleasure and thought than anything on TV in years.
I was humbled to go back to Twin Peaks. It wasn’t the same but it never could be. I’m not sure I even wanted it to be the same, to be honest. That would have been dishonest.
Here it is, the penultimate episode. Well, technically, there are two episodes left but since they’ll be airing next week as a back-to-back finale, let’s call this our set-up for the big climax. It’s all coming to an end, but boy did this week pay off!
The most important part of an episode loaded with crucial developments was the return of Dale Cooper, original flavour! After sending himself into a coma via a fork in the socket, Dale’s brain seemed to have been given the jolt it needed. So we say goodbye to Dougie, who managed to become the most successful semi-comatose man in the Las Vegas area. I must admit that I’d gotten used to good old Dougie and his surprisingly effective simplicity, but seeing Dale rise from his hospital bed with that determination in his eye and that go-get-em zeal in his voice was as electrical as his adventures with the plug. Twenty five years in the lodge and the weight of the world’s cruelty has done nothing to quell Dale’s goodness, which proves to be hugely encouraging to all, especially everyone he’s helped while in Dougie mode. Now, his true mission must continue, and as he drives his family to the casino and that beautiful theme music plays, it’s as if David Lynch is nodding his head and saying ‘Yes, he’s back.’ Even his goodbye to Janey-E and Sonny-Jim, not his real family but still enough of his to fill his hearts with love, is classic Dale: So optimistic and driven and just enough to break your heart. Janey-E sees some of the truth now but he’s still enough. I’m a little sad the Joneses aren’t travelling to Twin Peaks together, as I imagine Janey-E would be one hell of a partner in his mission, but their final kiss is a moment of true sincerity, and dammit I hope he gets that happy ending with her.
Things don’t work out quite so well for Dale’s long-time secretary Diane. After a text from Evil Dale sends her into turmoil, she tells the agents about the night he came to visit her — ‘no knock, no doorbell’, as per the episode’s title — and the horrific rape he inflicted upon her. After several episodes of seeing hard-ass Diane, with her severe bob and habit of punctuating every sentence with a ‘fuck you’, it’s especially crushing to hear her tell this story and crumble under the force of her memories. It’s stellar work from Laura Dern, truly one of Lynch’s most robust collaborators. Her story continues, through tears and shakes, of the ‘old gas station’ he took her to — one we’re very familiar with — and then she reveals that she’s not herself, quite literally, before pulling a gun on the agents. They’re too quick for her, and their shots send her disappearing from Cole’s Room to the Red Room. We all knew of the two Dales, but the revelation of two Dianes is certainly one we didn’t see coming. With a final ‘fuck you’, her head disappears in a puff of black smoke and soon there is nothing left of Diane but her seed. So where’s the real Diane? ‘Diane’ herself said ‘I’m in the sheriff’s station’, and there is an eyeless woman in one of those cells right now.
Diane wasn’t the only character to die this week, although death remains a hard state to pin down in this world. Hutch and Chantal, Evil Dale’s hitmen of choice, met their fates in one of the episode’s comedic highlights, as their stakeout of the Jones household ends in a typically suburban altercation about driveway privileges, albeit with way more machine guns. As their van slumps to a halt, riddled with as many bullet holes as the deceased drivers, the Mitchum Brothers, suddenly the BFFs of the Jones family, watch from the side in dumfounded amazement. As one of them says with merely a shrug, ‘People are under a lot of stress these days’.
Another one no longer of this world is Richard Horne, who met his end in a flash of lightning as he was sent from this earth while his dad watched with barely a reaction. This was a strange scene to process, partly because Richard Horne was always the absolute worst and deserved nothing but pain, but after so many episodes of build-up, where we were forced to see every horrific and callous thing he did to people, his own family included, his end feels somewhat anti-climactic. Like his cohort in crime Chad being dismissed to the sheriff department’s jail cell with little fanfare, Richard’s life ends with a flash, scream, and Evil Dale’s quip of ‘Goodbye, son.’ Then again, perhaps it’s more true to life that bad men don’t deserve a good ending.
Another favourite returned — Audrey! Yes, she’s been back for a while, but always in the frustrating confines of her home and the never-ending argument with her husband Charlie over whether or not they’re going to get to the Roadhouse. She finally got there, and after a performance by Eddie Vedder, the floor clears for ‘Audrey’s Dance’, and the swaying girl of the diner is back. It’s a little awkward, as if she hasn’t done this for a long time, but soon she is consumed by the rhythm and it’s like she never went away. It’s all a little too neat, and soon a fight breaks out and Audrey begs Charlie to get her out of there. There’s a cut and now it’s a different Audrey, bare faced and in a white robe, staring at herself in the mirror in confusion. Is this a hospital? Is she waking up from the coma caused by the bank explosion? Is she somewhere altogether more sinister, perhaps not herself, like Diane?
This throws a lot of things into question regarding the Roadhouse. If it’s simply a fever dream of Audrey’s, that would explain their ability to get amazing guest performers every week, but what does that say about James Hurley’s time there, or his story? What about this plot with Tina and Billy that has Audrey so obsessed? Or Charlie, who was sent to intensive care with one punch last week? Every week, we’ve seen tidbits of people’s lives through the Roadhouse, usually told through short dialogue scenes of familial strife or relations with bad men. Last week, one woman started screaming in the middle of the dance floor. The Roadhouse seems to have its own complex ecosystem, both a part of and separate from the rest of Twin Peaks. Good times turn into bad, and even Audrey can find solace, if only for a minute.
As the episode wrapped up, the house band played Audrey’s theme, only backwards.
Not long now.
While everyone has been oohing and aahing over the coats of Westeros, another style icon has been subtly giving us Sunday night closet envy: Diane on Twin Peaks. As played by longtime Lynch favorite Laura Dern, Diane didn’t have to be anything more than a quick answer to the question that has plagued fans since the pilot first aired back in 1990: who was Agent Cooper talking to on his tape recorder?
Given her association with Coop, it would have been easy to expect someone as buttoned-up and slicked-back as the agent himself. Utterly professional, enthusiastic, and perhaps a touch eccentric. Instead, the Diane revealed on Showtime’s revival has been a cabaret-styled hellcat with a pack of smokes and a ready «fuck you» waiting to trip off her tongue. That she worked in any capacity for the FBI seems more surprising than an other-dimensional spiral in the sky. She looks like she should be working in an art gallery, not a law enforcement office.
Granted, Diane’s style has been targeted with accusations of «problematic Orientalism» in the past. And while there is an undeniable Asian influence to her costuming, it is far from the only influence. Her mandarin collars reside alongside wide legged pants, leopard prints and sensible flats in one big eclectic wardrobe that owes a debt to librarians, mid-century vintage, and even the occasional Delia*s catalog.
We may have lost Diane, who was revealed to be a warped tulpa somehow created after a violent encounter with Evil Cooper. We don’t know if she’s lost in the Black Lodge, or if we’ll ever see her again. But her attitude and aesthetics will always be an inspiration. Here, then, are some lessons we can take from Diane’s example and use in our own everyday lives:
Never Underestimate The Power Of A Strong Robe
You may not want to entertain FBI agents in a robe. Heck, you may never let another person see you wearing one. But that doesn’t mean your robe needs to be boring. Find yourself a bold, silky style, and enjoy yourself. Not all of our fashion decisions need to be made for the eyes of others. Confidence starts at home.
With Eyeliner, Go Bold
Personally, I have never been brave enough include eyeliner in my makeup routine. My few experimentations were shaky, self-conscious, and immediately removed. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t envy a confident cat eye application, and Diane’s double-winged look is a knock-out, especially when paired with her simple, naturalistic makeup palette.
This Fucking Shirt
Leathery. Structured. Crimson. It’s a statement, but also simple enough to be paired with almost anything. TAKE MY MONEY.
Animal Prints Are Forever
A leopard print coat may not seem to go with anything, but in fact it goes with EVERYTHING. Whether you still have the one you wore in the 90s or you’re cruising the thrift store racks, the only rule to remember is that the faker it looks, the better. Real fur isn’t necessary. Real courage is.
Don’t Be Boring, Even In The Details
Why choose one nail polish color when you can have a different color on each nail? There are lots of ways to coordinate. «Boring» doesn’t need to be one of them.
In Fact, The Details Are What Matter Most
We get it. You have to wear a suit for work. But even a work wardrobe can be distinctive if you pay attention to the details. Whether it’s a perfectly fitted pair of wide pants, a bold pair of flats, a touch of embroidery or a colorful collar, you can be professional and still be unconventional. And best of all, you can be yourself.
Go Bold Or Go Home
When they go grey, we go orange.
And Remember: Fuck ‘Em All
Sometimes the only correct response is a strong «fuck you.»
Nobody ever truly dies on Twin Peaks. There are always other plains of existence to dwell upon before death can finally exact its mission. Laura Palmer may have been murdered but her face was everywhere, from that iconic photo to the Black Lodge riddles to the appearance of her identical cousin Maddy (also played by Sheryl Lee). Even in this new season, Lee is the ghost that hangs over the world, with her face appearing through the mist in the opening credits and her name forever included in the closing credits. The late Frank Silva, none other than Killer BOB himself, is another ever present force in the series thanks to flashbacks. Death isn’t the end for Lynch’s world — really, it just makes you more interesting.
But not even David Lynch can hold off death’s grip in the real world. The season is haunted by the melancholic reality of the passing of both Miguel Ferrer and Catherine E. Coulson, who died after filming. Yet arguably, there is no absence that is felt greater than that of David Bowie, who played Agent Phillip Jeffries in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Jeffries and Cole’s Blue Rose task force, the backstory of which is given in this episode, led them to investigate the less conventional cases of the bureau, but Jeffries went missing while in assignment in Argentina in 1987. Jeffries has been referenced frequently throughout this season: He seems to have some sort of arrangement with Dale Cooper’s evil double, helping to free him from prison, but he also put a hit on him, possibly in order to send him back to the Black Lodge. That’s not going well right now, but for Cole, his memories of Jeffries are much stranger, and just a little bit sillier.
Dreams are the gateway to the truth in Twin Peaks, but that doesn’t mean Lynch can’t have a bit of fun with them. As he explains to Albert and Tammy, Jeffries returned to his thoughts, guided by none other than Monica Bellucci, playing herself. As Cole confesses he had ‘another’ Belucci dream, both looked a tad uncomfortable, which suggests he talks of these thoughts often. Then again, Cole is quite the lady’s man — a delightful self-skewering from Lynch, who once bore the moniker himself thanks to relationships with Isabella Rossellini. The character is Lynch’s knowing wink to the persona of David Lynch: The coffee drinking oddball who delights and confuses in equal measure. Why wouldn’t Cole’s dream guide be Monica Bellucci? He never gets the credit for it, but David Lynch has always been in on his own joke. Aside from Werner Herzog, it’s hard to think of a director so distinctive in his personality and public image who owns it as much as he does.
Of course, this being David Lynch and Twin Peaks, her visit is no mere flighty fantasy. The black and white scene, both hypnotic and unsettling, builds from a casual chat, the kind we’ve all dreamed about having with our favourite celebrity, to Bellucci directing Cole to look behind him, where he sees himself from long ago, talking to Agent Cooper before the dazed Jeffries barges in. This is the flashback to that scene in Fire Walk With Me, and Jeffries’s chilling message holds much more power now that the pieces are all coming together.
Seeing Bowie again, even in that brief flashback, was a moment of unusual clarity. It can’t help but ache a little to see one of the most famous and iconic individuals of our time back on our screens, looking as he always does when we think of him, and then being hit with the reality that he’s no longer with us. Many had theorized that Bowie had filmed some scenes before his death, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, we have the memories, and the episode’s dedication to Bowie hammers that home all the more poignantly.
We have memories, but this week, we also had a ton of plot. When the show wants to, it’s happy to put its foot to the pedal and speed up as desired. Not only did we find out more about the Blue Rose, we also discovered that Diane’s half-sister is none other than Vegas’s finest, Janey-E Jones! Sadly, we don’t seem to be getting the much-coveted Laura Dern/Naomi Watts spin-off we deserve, but it does suggest both women’s fierce allergy to bullshit is a familial trait.
Back in Twin Peaks, Cole and Sheriff Truman have had their talk over the phone, and the connections are being made. Before the return can fully be made, the police department have business to do. Deputy Chad is arrested for his corruption, although his crime isn’t named. He’s just a useless goon who doesn’t even deserve a fun villain climax, so he is disposed of quickly before the true quartet of the department can finally follow Major Briggs’s instructions to Bobby. Deep in the woods, they find Jackrabbit’s Palace, the secret hiding place Garland would take his son for bonding time and to spin tall tales. What they find, in the exact location given at the exact time stated, is stranger than imagined. The eyeless woman from episode four lies naked on the ground, convulsing and barely conscious (although it’s hard to tell without eyes). The portal above them opens, and the (un)lucky one plucked into the black and white realm by the forces that be is Deputy Andy Brennan.
Flung out of space and into the lodge, led by The Fireman (the tall figure previously credited as ????? now has a name), he is shown a series of images, so deftly edited and striking that it may be one of the highlights of the series: Andy sees BOB, the two Dales, the strange figure asking for a light, the visage of Laura Palmer protected by angels, and himself guiding Lucy Brennan to an unknown space. Once he returns to his own world, he immediately takes control of the situation, knowing exactly what the eyeless woman needs and how to protect her. It’s a great moment for actor Harry Goaz, who shifts his stance to convey intense confidence and the kind of forward action not usually associated with kindly Andy. For a town steeped in so many bad men, Andy’s simple devotion to goodness is a shining spot.
Meanwhile, James Hurley, working as a security guard at the Great Northern, hears a strange tale from his excessively Cockney co-worker, played by Jake Wardle. Freddie, who wears a rubber garden globe on his right hand all the time, tells him that the reason he wears it is due to a brief foray into a vortex where he met The Fireman, who then told him to fulfill his destiny in Twin Peaks. That glove gives him incredible strength, so who knows why The Fireman wants him to use it in Twin Peaks. It seems as though he’s the conductor of this incredible plan, whatever it is, between good and evil, and everyone has their part to play. Freddie asked The Fireman why he was the one, and his response was simply ‘Why not?’ There’s no sense to being called into duty. James, who has seen some weird shit in his time, enjoys the story, but whether he believes it or not is another question.
Sarah Palmer is back too, away from the TV and drinking at Elk’s Point. A fellow barfly, clad in a t-shirt with ‘Truck You’ written across the stomach, tries his stuff with her, and her curt refusal to play along is ignored. Watching Sarah’s stiff awkwardness as this creep harasses her with misogynistic abuse and accusations of lesbianism rings so true for many of us, which makes her revenge all the more satisfying, as creepy as it is. I what may be the most unsettling image of the series, Sarah steps back and pulls off her face, revealing a monochromatic void of grinning teeth and reaching hands before declaring ‘Do you really wanna fuck with this?’ Then she lunges for his neck, re-enacting the ravenous nature documentaries she watches on repeat on her giant TV back home. Where Laura Palmer removed her face to reveal light to Dale Cooper, Sarah’s reveals only darkness.
There’s not much left to go this season, and the questions may never be answered. I’ve long since accepted that inevitability, but the journey being propelled forward so quickly this episode offered a tantalising prospect of conclusion. Perhaps that’s its own dream. As Monica Bellucci herself said, ‘We’re like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream. But who is the dreamer?’
I must admit, a lot of my extrapolating on Twin Peaks comes from an impossible position — part hunger, part gratefulness. Even talking about the show as it happens is always done so in tandem with the sheer relief I have at knowing this is real and actually happening. How often does a piece of pop culture you adore — something that shaped you, made by someone who completely reinvented how you even consume film, one that was never given the run it deserves — get given a second chance?
Nowadays, it’s more common than it used to be. This is the post-cancellation age, where the end of every series, regardless of its popularity or acclaim, will inevitably be followed by a petition to save it or pleas to a new network or streaming service to give it another chance. Even then, that does little to quell the sheer miracle of Twin Peaks: The Return being a thing. Do you know what I’d do for a 3rd season of Carnivàle? Or a Murder Husbands focused season of Hannibal? Or more of basically everything Bryan Fuller developed that got cancelled after less than two seasons?
Every critic has their biases — it’s the fun part of the job, as much as the ridiculous assertion of the objective critic remains in the discourse — and for me, this show and my thoughts on it will always be defined by the unbridled joy of being able to watch new episodes of one of my favourite things ever. There are things I can point to in this season that grate — Dr. Jacoby’s Alex Jones-style webcast has gone on too much for me — or irregular pacing issues that could be tightened up — oh, Dougie — but for now, my experience of Twin Peaks is one of discovery and immense patience, the latter of which I have in (gold painted, two coats guaranteed) spades for David Lynch.
That said, let’s get on with the show.
Don’t let the pacing fool you — and I confess, that can be a tough hill to climb — this season has been driven by plot. Indeed, this is a season fuelled by multiple threads coming together in a deceptively simple fashion. That’s never been the show’s driving force, of course. Lynch didn’t even want the show to reveal who killed Laura Palmer in the first place. Back in Vegas this episode, the detectives investigating Dougie Jones’s curious past find out the truth — he IS Dale Cooper, and he DID escape from prison a few days ago — but it’s too ludicrous and impossible to buy, so the evidence is simply trashed. If you’ve ever wondered if David Lynch has ever considered trolling his audience, look no further than that wonderfully blunt moment. Plot does not drive this vehicle, but it’s a welcome essence to a rich stew that demands your utmost attention.
One of the most satisfying elements of that has been the understated, beautifully detailed performance(s) of Kyle MacLachlan. Between the melancholic catatonia of Dougie and the quiet menace of evil Dale, MacLachlan has reminded audiences of his oft-underrated abilities, particularly under the hand of Lynch. He’s really the perfect fit for the auteur’s vision. It’s like he never left Twin Peaks to begin with. Every moment is in tune with this esoteric symphony. After an especially wince-inducing game of arm wrestling, evil Dale exacts his revenge on Ray, the man who left him for dead in episode 8, and discovers why the betrayal took place. Ray has the infamous jade ring, which Philip Jeffries has ordered him to place on Evil Dale. The ring, iconic from the series, can keep the wearer safe from evil or mark them for doom. We can guess what intent was meant for Evil Dale. Another mention of Jeffries is a sad reminder of the absence of David Bowie from this season. Can you imagine how amazing that would have been? I still hold out hope that he filmed something before his death. Mashable certainly doesn’t think it’s out of the ordinary.
As for Dougie, life is going great. The Mitchum brothers now count him among their best friends, leading him in a conga line through his work’s offices to celebrate their new cashflow, and Sonny-Jim has the world’s best jungle-gym to play on (which Lynch films like it’s a rave). The Mitchums’ insurance pay-out doesn’t bode well for Anthony, who now must finish Dougie off for good, but he stops before he can let Dougie consume the poisoned coffee, apologizing to the clueless man in hysterics while he finishes another damn fine slice of pie. Bless poor Anthony, he even spills all to his boss about his corruption and insurance fraud, which Dougie has already revealed. Dale’s still MIA but everything’s coming up Dougie (special shout out to the look on Naomi Watts’s expression of satisfied lust when she drops Dougie off at work in their brand-new car).
Back in Twin Peaks, the diner is doing great business, going so far as to have opened franchises, which have benefitted greatly from a certain pie loving detective-turned-mystical-riddle. That’s great for Norma, but less exciting for old Ed Hurley, the owner of Big Ed’s Gas Farm, who watches forlornly as Norma saddles up to a new man. At least he has company in his booth, as Bobby Briggs knows that pain all too well. For Norma, that new success has come at a price — if you want profits, you have to make sacrifices. As her boyfriend/business partner informs her, the flagship diner that started it all spends too much on ingredients for those iconic pies, but charges too little per sale. You can almost hear Frost and Lynch having this same argument with Showtime when it came to negotiating for this season. Norma hears the argument of «tweaking the profit to ensure consistency and profitability», and the audience are immediately reminded of Lynch pushing back against Showtime’s original plans for a shorter, cheaper season. If you want the foods, you pay for them.
Nadine and Dr. Jacoby have a tender moment together, but now more than ever, Twin Peaks seems like a very lonely place: Bobby and Ed are separated from their long-time loves; Sarah Palmer spends her time alone in her old home, downing vodka and watching the same boxing match repeatedly on her huge TV; and Audrey is trapped in her own sense of solitude, feeling as though she’s always somewhere else. Audrey’s return infuriated many fans in last week’s episode, as the fan-favourite had been absent from the season thus far, and the Audrey we got is a far more bitter, world-weary woman than the diner-dancing amateur detective of the original seasons. She’s frantically searching for answers regarding a bunch of people we’ve never met before, which makes her storyline, as small as it is, somewhat insular viewing.
While she was furious and acid-tongued last week, this week she is shaking with fear and uncertainty, with no idea of what to do or where to go. It’s hard to watch, but fascinating in the possibilities it opens up. This scene with Charlie, her apparent husband but also possible therapist given how he talks to her, feels from another time, and the room they sit in has the retro decor of decades past, right down to the old-school radio. Audrey’s never talked about her family, or possible son Richard, or anything in Twin Peaks we know of from her life, be in Dale or Laura or the bank explosion. Is it possible she never woke up from the explosion, and now she finds herself smothered by an inescapable purgatory of constant infuriation?
The Bang Bang welcomed a musician of a less famous calibre than its recent good run of performers — James Hurley, the ex-boyfriend of both Laura and Donna. Not only is he a headliner in his home-town, he’s singing ‘Just You’, a guitar-waltz ballad he played for Donna and Maddie (Laura’s cousin and exact double). Now, his captive audience includes diner worker Renee (Jessica Szohr), visibly driven to tears with the promise of more from James. At least someone in this town’s finding an alternative to crushing loneliness. For Ed, there’s no ‘you’ to his ‘I’, and his solitary cup of soup as the gas station beneath the end credits plays out as one of the season’s most devastating moments of isolation.
Setting any sort of expectations for Twin Peaks: The Return has proven to be a fool’s errand. You will take what David Lynch and co. give you, and you will be thankful for it. Sometimes you’ll get a «Oh look — Laura Dern is Diane!» reveal… and sometimes you’ll get a dude sweeping a floor for 3 minutes. Them’s the breaks.
The biggest bone of contention is probably Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper, everyone’s favorite Tibet-loving, dream-having FBI agent. The promise of finding out what happened to him after he seemingly emerged from the Black Lodge possessed by BOB at the end of the original series is what drove excitement for the revival in many ways. And for the first couple of episodes, we had our special agent back. Sure, he was sorta weird and loopy and wandering around the Black Lodge, where he’d been trapped for a few decades, but it was Coop! And then… Dougie happened.
Ok, it was funny for awhile. Coop emerged from the Black Lodge through an electrical socket and took his other OTHER doppelgänger’s place in the real world. Cognitively, Coop isn’t really all there — and no one in Dougie’s life seems all that concerned that their friend and loved one can only parrot random phrases and has to be physically led around by dangling a cup of coffee as the proverbial carrot in front of his face. In fact, his wife seems to prefer him this way (maybe it’s his sudden weight loss, or the fact that Coop’s still got it going on).
Watching Coop-as-Dougie bumble through another man’s life, with nothing but strange providence and occasional flashes of muscle memory saving him from disaster at every turn, has been both amusing and exhausting. But with 12 episodes in the can, we’re two thirds of the way through the 18-episode season — and there is no end to Dougie in sight.
So it was a relief that the most recent episode decided to focus on other parts of the story and spare us from Dougie. Sure, episode 12 checked in on him. For 30 seconds. With no dialogue. The blessedly short scene was a marvel of storytelling economy. Dougie’s son, Sonny Jim, leads his «father» out to the backyard to play catch. He throws the ball, and it hits Coop-as-Dougie, who doesn’t even attempt to catch it. That’s it. That’s the whole scene. And it tells us everything we need to know. Coop is still Dougie-ing around in the other man’s life and can’t catch a ball.
Until Coop regains the full use of his faculties, I think 30-second check-ins with Dougie is just about perfect. I doubt we’ll be that lucky, and who am I kidding — Twin Peaks is an experience and I’m here for the whole ride. I’ve sat through jackpots and arm-flailing sex and mouthfuls of pie to get to this point. I’m sure I can sit through whatever else Lynch throws at us. I just hope at the end of it we have a Coop who can throw instead of one who can’t catch.
Let it never be said that David Lynch doesn’t know what people want with Twin Peaks. Granted, he may take his sweet time getting to the things fans are clamouring for, and their ultimate entrance may be somewhat anticlimactic, but he still knows why you’re here. While some grow impatient with the Dale/Dougie show and intertwining segments of plot from Vegas to South Dakota and back to that familiar Washington town, this season has delighted in taking its time and spending much of it with unexpected friends. Agents Gordon and Albert, accompanied by fresh face Tammy, have become a comforting presence as they investigate murder, parallel dimensions and Agent Cooper’s fate (moments made all the more poignant by Miguel Ferrer’s passing). The Sheriffs’ department at Twin Peaks have provided a safe port in the storm that is Washington state’s most unsettling town. Even the mundane suburbia of the Joneses, as frequently punctured as it is by assassination attempts and gangster interactions, offers a sweet contrast to the foreboding darkness, although this week our only glimpse of Dale/Dougie came in a one-sided game of catch with Sonny-Jim (I can’t wait to see what episode Kyle MacLachlan submits for Emmy consideration).
All of this, the lull that it puts viewers into, makes the appearances of old favourites equally surprising and deliberately a bit of a let-down. After much querying, the prodigal Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) finally made an appearance, but the moment felt distinctly anti-Audrey. The mischievous but ultimately warm hearted young woman from the original series is older, more bitter and equipped with a Showtime friendly potty mouth.
It’s not hard to imagine the tough life she’s led since the bank explosion, given what we’ve seen of her probable son Richard’s behaviour towards everyone else in the family (although she never mentions her son during this scene). Her marriage to the newly introduced Charlie (Clark Middleton) is miserable, and she chastises and emasculates him when he refuses to assist her in looking for her missing lover. Eventually, he makes a call to Tina — another person we don’t know — and their one-sided conversation is left as such since he won’t tell Audrey what happened. It’s a frustrating scene, even by Twin Peaks standards, but like the rest of the season, the truth is in the details.
Audrey, a woman who knows a thing or two about missing people, is frustrated by her husband’s excuses and trusts her instinct to guide her, which in this case is her dream of seeing Billy ‘bleeding from the nose and mouth’. If there’s one thing this show believes in with all its heart, it’s that ‘dreams sometimes harken a truth’. This moment, long and often quiet, feels obtuse in the same way the show delights in being so this season: It’s forcing you to invest in people you don’t know anything about, often more so than those you do. The only mention of Billy we’ve had so far this season has been in an earlier episode where a man ran into the diner asking if anyone had seen him. We don’t know a single thing about this ensemble Audrey is so invested in beyond knowing that she cares a lot, reminding us of how life has moved on in the town fans have enshrined in quirky memory. David Lynch wants you to enjoy the show at his pace; Audrey Horne is too keyed up for that.
Elsewhere, the show welcomed back, tentatively, Mrs Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie). Laura’s mother has never had an easy time on the show, between her daughter’s murder and visions of BOB. We briefly saw her in the premiere of this season, drinking and smoking alone in that familiar house, but here we bear witness to her troubled attempts at normalcy in Twin Peaks. Rolling up to the supermarket till with three bottles of vodka, some tomato juice and a carton of cigarettes, she finds herself distracted by, of all things, turkey jerky, and that sets off an unsettling panic that sends her fleeing the store. The bemused teens at the counter can only watch as she warns them, ‘Things can happen. Something happened to me.’
Fans know of the horrors that happened to Sarah, but clearly this a town where things happened to everyone. Hawk knows that as he goes to check on Sarah, and all he can do is offer his help ‘of any kind’ should she need it. Whatever has happened to her in the interim 25 years, we don’t yet know, but the ominous shots of the ceiling fan in the Palmer house don’t indicate anything positive.
David Lynch was never that interested in revealing who killed Laura Palmer in the original series. For him, her death was the red herring needed to get ABC to commission a show about a town full of oddities and the bleakness beneath the kitschy surface. Obviously, that wasn’t what the network wanted and so the killer was revealed, but that basic DNA of his plan permeates this season. For every viewer agonising over a return to the Dale Cooper of old and those familiar interactions, Lynch offers a scattershot sketch of a living, breathing town populated by citizens who must live with strangeness every day of their lives as if it’s no big deal.
Something terrible is happening, and it’s going to happen regardless of how slowly everyone moves, so Lynch is happy to bring proceedings down to a glamorous halt with his beautiful French date and a bad turnip pun. He wants you to enjoy a glass of wine and take in everything around you. After 12 episodes and the knowledge that this all ends in six weeks, impatience can be hard to put aside, no matter how fascinating the journey is. Still, Twin Peaks is forever aware of the wait, but for now, it’s priority is in those small moments of brightness amidst the ever present dark. As Sarah said to Hawk, ‘Certainly a goddamned bad story, isn’t it?’
Violence against women has always been at the heart of Twin Peaks. This is a show singularly defined by its portrayal of the ways in which men, driven by fear and anger, try to justify the pain they inflict on those around them. Evil can be a possessing force — often literally in this case, as demonstrated by the horrific omnipresence of BOB — but sometimes, people are just bad and will use any excuse available to excuse it.
The original seasons of Twin Peaks were populated with abusers, small-time crooks and systemic pain, so it makes sense that such poison would remain permeated through this world, particularly after the revelations of season eight and its operatic vision of the creation of evil. David Lynch’s oft-imitated style is rooted in exploring the inherent oddness of the mundane, and how that can be forced to fester into something terrible if it’s not allowed to be free. The ’50s inspired Americana of Twin Peaks itself was always the aesthetically pleasing cover for the poison of suburbia, with Laura Palmer at its heart as the epitome of the perfect girl for that setting. Of course, so few thought to truly understand the real Laura until after her death, revealing the complexities beneath, yet 25 years later she is still the prism through which this world is viewed. As the Log Lady says, «Laura is the one».
Laura is the perfect girl but also the perfect victim. Then again, in our society, practically every woman is the perfect victim. We see this demonstrated in this week’s episode, the tenth in a nineteen episode run, as Richard Horne violently kills one woman then chokes another. The first woman, the only witness to him running over a child with his truck, seems aware of her fate and prepared accordingly by writing to the sheriff of what she saw, but even in her savviness she remains naïve, and Chad, the lazy creep working at Twin Peaks’s police department, fixes the problem for him. We do not see the murder, but we hear it, as the camera lingers on Miriam’s trailer and her bloodcurdling screams. Afterwards, we are given a glimpse of her body, still breathing but face down and bleeding heavily across the floor, the gas oven open and turned on. The explosion doesn’t need to be shown because that suggestion is eerie enough.
When Richard makes his way to his grandmother Sylvia’s house, she is already weary and wants him gone, but this is a coward who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He chokes his grandmother, demands the combination to her safe and cleans out her home of cash and jewellery before calling her a ‘cunt’. This scene, which feels achingly long in a season with no qualms about taking its time, plays out with Angelo Badalamenti’s score in the background, Sylvia crying on the floor and her mentally disabled son Johnny, who we had previously seen run into a wall and injure himself, futilely fighting against the bounds that keep him tied to a chair. A bizarre teddy bear with a transparent globe for a head repeats the line, «Hello, Johnny! How are you today?» as this all goes on. Few people can include such a seemingly random oddity in a scene like this and make it work, but as Lynch is so skilled in doing, it merely highlights the disturbing pain of violence in the home.
Richard’s parentage is unknown, but it’s not hard to theorise that his mother is Audrey Horne, who has yet to appear on this season. The fan-favourite, played by Sherilyn Fenn, is apparently set to show up sometime in the next few episodes, possibly to confront her shitty son. As for the father… Remember reports from earlier in the season of Agent Dale Cooper having been seen skulking around outside the hospital where she was kept after the bank explosion, or at least someone who looked an awful lot like him?
His vileness is often tough to bear, even for a show that has never shied away from exposing brutality or the supposed innocents who aid and abet in its creation. Lynch has been the frequent subject of criticism over his female characters and his often fetishistic approach to their depiction. With Richard, prior to this episode we had already seen him kill a child and threaten a woman with rape in a bar. We know he’s vile, and that is only confirmed here, but even for a show I am heartily invested in, I couldn’t help but wonder at what point would it be enough. How much of this violence against women and children would we have to see to get the message that this guy sucked?
I’m not sure there is an answer to that. The show is as much about the voyeur who sits back and does nothing as it is about the perpetrators. We also saw Steven, the drug addicted waste of space and husband of Becky (Amanda Seyfried), beating his wife in a fit of rage in their trailer. She’s on the couch, cowering with her hands over her head, and he goes for her throat. It’s clear he’s a weak man and attacking someone weaker is the only way he has to feel like a big man. Outside, Carl (Harry Dean Stanton), plays his guitar but stops when Steven launches a mug out of his trailer window. Carl hears the screaming and Becky’s sobbing. He laments the situation, shaking his head and calling it ‘a fuckin’ nightmare’, but he doesn’t do anything to stop it.
This strange episode of men’s control over women takes a sharp turn back to Vegas, where casino owner Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper) works while surrounded by a trio of near identical blondes in matching pink showgirl outfits, named Candie, Sandie and Mandie. It’s Candie who makes the biggest impression, accidentally whacking Rodney with a remote control as she tries to kill a fly. While this provides a mild inconvenience for Rodney, it leaves Candie broken and sobbing in horror, wondering aloud how he could ever forgive her for what she’s done. It’s funny, and then it’s not. Later, Candie seems to have sunk into a mild catatonic state, having to be yelled out of her stupor to be ordered into action. Perhaps she is brain damaged, or has spent so long as one of a trio that she can no longer remember which one she is (it doesn’t feel like much of a coincidence that all three blondes bear a striking resemblance to Naomi Watts, one of the few women on the show this week having satisfying relations with men as Dougie/Dale gives her a night to remember). Candie definitely seems to be under some level of control from the Mitchum brothers (including Jim Belushi!) but they also spend much of their screen-time being flustered by her odd behaviour, later acknowledging that if they fire her she has nowhere else to go.
The Log Lady knows Laura is the one, and Agent Gordon Cole (David Lynch) too is haunted by her, opening his hotel door to be overwhelmed by images of her. After 25 years of death, Laura Palmer is still the spectre that reminds the ensemble of Twin Peaks that violence and terror are seldom far away. Forget Dale or Gordon or the story’s residents: The man most haunted by Laura Palmer seems to be David Lynch himself.