Twin Peaks Recap is a weekly column by Keith Uhlich covering David Lynch and Mark Frost's limited, 18-episode continuation of the Twin Peaks television series.
Much of David Lynch's work is about regression, or regressiveness, about people who are most comfortable when indulging (really, hiding behind) their baser instincts. An acid-jazz saxophonist with murder on his mind might take refuge in the body and soul of a teenage delinquent (Lost Highway), or a midwestern girl who has played and lost the Hollywood game might concoct a candy-colored dream-life in which she finally attains Tinseltown stardom (Mulholland Dr.). But these escapes always prove to be traps, and cyclical ones at that. What goes around comes around. What has happened before will happen again. Even Blue Velvet's Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), finally liberated from her abusive sexual relationship with Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), "still can see blue velvet through my tears." The pain of reality drives innumerable Lynch characters to chase the simple pleasures of fantasy, but many of them fail to realize that, because of their regressing (both conscious and unconscious), they've built a prison for themselves.
"What is this, kindergarten?" asks the dead-eyed, villainous Mr. C. (Kyle MacLachlan) near the start of Part 13 of Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks revival. He's talking to a room full of alpha-male criminals who look and sound like they've stepped out of some primordial, testosterone-infused bog. After a pause, he takes the insult to a baser place: "Nursery school?" he jeers. This is the puffed-chest prelude to an arm-wrestling match between Mr. C. and gang leader Renzo (Derek Mears, a kind of Michael Berryman on steroids), the outcome of which will determine the fate of Ray Monroe (George Griffith), last seen almost-but-not-quite murdering Mr. C. in Part 8.
Everything about this sequence is, ahem, over the top, including the wall-size surveillance monitor that the gang members stare at to observe all the comings and goings from their Montana-based hideaway. (Montana, Lynch's childhood home state—another regression.) Easy to think that Mr. C., the fleshly perversion of Special Agent Dale Cooper's dark side, will take out Renzo with a quick flex of his Killer BOB-infested biceps. But he has a point to prove first. He lets Renzo come close to winning a time or two before revealing his total physical and mental control over the situation. "Let's go back to starting positions," says Mr. C., after moving Renzo's arm around without an ounce of effort. "It's really much more comfortable." Renzo's never been bested and so can't stand the thought of losing. The best he can do, per Mr. C.'s taunt, is to go back to the beginning before any of this happened. In Lynch world, that's possible, though it tends to mean you start down the same tragic path again, on and on ad infinitum. Only death closes the circle, so Mr. C. breaks Renzo's arm and gives his opponent a good face-collapsing punch.
Ray is his, and before Mr. C. puts a bullet in his criminal colleague's brain, he gets some information out of him—both the coordinates that, we can presume from one of the Diane Evans (Laura Dern) scenes in Part 12, lead to the town of Twin Peaks, and the name of the man, Phillip Jeffries (the former FBI agent played by David Bowie in Fire Walk with Me), who apparently wants Mr. C. dead. Ray also has one of the green Owl Cave rings that he was going to put on Mr. C. so he would be transported back to the Red Room. Since Ray is on the losing end of this deal, it is his corpse that's conveyed to that otherworldly limbo, where the ring is then picked up and set atop a familiar pedestal by the One-Armed Man (Al Strobel). Renzo's gang watches most of this on that oversize monitor. From their ranks steps Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), who, upon seeing Mr. C., appears to have some flicker of recognition. (Daddy? There I go speculating again.)
Meanwhile in Las Vegas, Dougie Jones—the simple-minded manifestation of Cooper's good side—is having a grand ol' time, celebrating, via conga line, with his boss Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) and the delighted-beyond-belief Mitchum brothers (Robert Knepper and James Belushi). Unbridled joy can be its own kind of regression: The $30 million richer siblings see no problem throwing around Montecristo cigars and BMW convertibles, not to mention a gym set to end all gym sets (with its own Tchaikovsky musical accompaniment and a very Lynchian moving spotlight that seems to have no source) for Dougie and his "wife" Janey-E's (Naomi Watts) child Sonny Jim (Pierre Gagnon). "Look what you've done," says a beaming Janey-E to her husband as their son runs and jumps around his new plaything, "Sonny Jim's in seventh heaven."
But how long can heaven, by itself, last? Viewed from one angle, the whole Dougie arc is a lengthy joke about a half-man who inspires bad people to accidentally do the right thing. His naiveté is unnerving. And those with guilty consciences can't help but impute concrete motives to his behavior and profound meaning to his every mimicked word. In this installment, it's Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), Dougie's two-faced colleague at Lucky 7 Insurance, who finally breaks. Tasked by Vegas kingpin Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) with finishing Dougie off, Anthony procures a poison, aconitine, from a contact, Detective Clark (John Savage), at the Las Vegas police department. He puts the powdery toxin in Dougie's coffee, but falls to bits after Dougie (still forever craving cups of joe and cherry pie) pokes at some gleaming substance on Anthony's collar, then repeats the tail end of Anthony's phrase ("Dougie…there's your coffee") back to him ("…Your coffee").
Soon Anthony is spilling his entire criminal history to Bushnell and Dougie, and promising to make things right. A mistaken interpretation of Dougie's actions and words leads to Anthony's confession. And it feels now like this pattern could go on forever—good Coop on one side of the country unintentionally righting wrongs while evil Coop wreaks savage havoc elsewhere. But it's all hollow repetition—a regression, a trap. People are made up of conflicting impulses that cannot be separated and compartmentalized. At best we maintain balance, at worst we go violently askew (and then, hopefully, right the ship). But try to break a man down into only his best or worst self and something critical is lost.
And so to Twin Peaks, the place to which Agent Cooper (in all his forms) is inextricably tied. Where, indeed, he contemplated his own regression in the original series—renouncing big city life for a douglas fir-scented country existence (live that cliche!). Part 13 makes clear that Cooper's absence is being increasingly felt, even if most of the residents can't yet give voice to it. "This is Existentialism 101," says Charlie (Clark Middleton), the dwarf husband to Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), who is even more on edge than in her lengthy love-it-or-hate-it (count me in the "love it" camp) first appearance in Part 12. "Well, I'm not sure who I am," she says, wildly, at one point, "but I'm not me." It's a rare moment of clarity that Charlie quickly counteracts: "Now, are you gonna stop playing games," he calmly threatens, "or do I have to end your story, too?" This is yet another indication that there's a god-level force at work in the town, something keeping the residents running in circles, and that much more easily since Agent Cooper, the necessary counterbalance, is off having his own extraordinary existential crisis.
But plenty of people can stay static all on their own. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) continues her slow-death cigarettes and vodka binge, all while watching an old-time boxing match that's playing on some eerie kind of audio-visual loop. Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) appear to be occupying their own timelines, their various plot threads—his discovery of his father, Major Briggs's, secret message; her haltingly anxious relationship with her daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried)—nonsensically jumbled given what we've already seen in prior episodes. (Recall, however, the words of the One-Armed Man to Cooper in Part 2: "Is it future or is it past?") And Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) has a most-meta conversation with her current beau/lawyer Walter Lawford (Grant Goodeve) about the various "franchise" spinoffs of the RR Diner. Seems the Twin Peaks original is lagging because, as Walter says, "you're spending too much per pie and not charging enough." Norma tries to argue the importance of organic ingredients and the love that goes into each pastry. "Norma you're a real artist," replies Walter with Faustian slickness, "but love doesn't always turn a profit." Money—the ultimate "safe" haven.
Then there are the Hurley men—James (James Marshall) and, finally!, Big Ed (Everett McGill, emerging from a decades-long retirement). In an initially gleeful twist, the younger Hurley turns out to be this week's musical guest at the Roadhouse, singing the song, "Just You" (penned by Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti), that he rehearsed twenty-five years prior with a smitten Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Laura Palmer's look-alike brunette cousin Maddy Ferguson (Sheryl Lee). The elation of the callback quickly subsides, though, when you see there's a faux Donna and Maddie (Kelsey Bohlen and Rachael Bower) onstage with James doing backup vocals. The gulf of time suddenly becomes apparent. In the audience, the woman, Renee (Jessica Szohr), who James has a crush on, moves through all manner of emotions, from bemusement to embarrassment to heartache. James is publicly recreating a private moment from decades before and it feels like a simulacrum. Yet its hollowness is moving precisely because of the sadness conveyed—the sense that this is one of the few happy remnants of a life that never reached its full potential. Sometimes all we have are the shards.
And Ed. Oh, Big Ed. Still pining for Norma, and still helpless to do anything about it. The casual way that he's reintroduced (sitting with Norma at the RR) and then, once Walter shows up, is pushed to the side (sheepishly offering to move to another booth) stings deeply. And the way that Lynch and cinematographer Peter Deming keep him blurrily visible in the rear of the frame throughout the subsequent Norma/Walter conversation pricks even more. All these years and the same hangup remains, the same trap ensnares. Big Ed also gets the episode's final devastating scene: He's sitting alone in his Gas Farm, slurping some soup-to-go from the RR, watching forlornly as the traffic passes his Cash Only business by. If you look closely, you'll see that, at one point, his dim reflection in the plate-glass window doesn't match his body movements. It's trapped in its own kind of odd loop—a premonition, a warning, a soul screaming out? Ed appears to notice it. Then he pays it no mind.
Better the devil you know.
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• Among the other Montana hideout henchman, I'm particularly fond of the towering hangdog Muddy (Frank Collision), who smugly explains the arm-wrestling rules, and the nerdy accountant (Christopher Durbin Noll) who considerately asks Mr. C., after he gets the upper hand on Ray, if he needs any money. I also suspect that several of these performers (many of them bearded) have already played Woodsmen on the show, which would be a nice, subtle doubling of the series's earthly and immaterial worlds.
• Ray's last words to Mr. C. are about Phillip Jeffries's likely location: The Dutchman's. "I know what it is," says Mr. C. Still hoping against hope that Lynch got a last secret cameo from Bowie in here somewhere.
• The Detectives Fusco (Larry Clarke, Eric Edelstein and David Koechner) return for some Keystone Koppery involving Dougie Jones's prints, which belong, of course, to all versions of Cooper. But the detectives laugh at the very notion that the simpleminded Dougie is both an escaped convict and a missing FBI agent. So they each make a $1 bet as to whether the crumpled report can be tossed, nothing but net, into the trash.
• Great to have John Savage (an old reliable who's been in everything from Bad Company and The Deer Hunter to Salvador and The Thin Red Line, among many others) in Lynch's rogues gallery. The poison, aconitine, that he recommends to Anthony Sinclair, has some interesting background in both history and literature. Cleopatra poisoned her brother with it so she could secure her son's place on the Egyptian throne. And it's utilized by a character in Oscar Wilde's short story "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime" (1891), as well as one in James Joyce's magnum opus Ulysses (1922).
• A brief scene involving Mr. C.'s assassins-for-hire, Chantal and Gary Hutchens (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth), driving past Utah apparently exists so the two can make ill-informed Mormon jokes. Sure, I'm all for that.
• High on the list of "Twin Peaks moments I cackled like a buffoon at": Dougie smacking face first into the glass entryway of his office building. I also love the way he says "coffee" ("caw-FEE!") to Anthony like the decrepit Great Northern waiter Señor Droolcup (Hank Worden) in the original series.
• The RR scene between Norma and Walter has an unearthly underscore to it that I believe is "Eastern European Symphonic Mood No. 1" from Dean Hurley's 2017 ambient album Anthology Resource Vol. 1. Hurley has collaborated with Lynch for over a decade as a sound and music supervisor, and many of his spectral compositions are featured in the new Twin Peaks.
• Nadine (Wendy Robie) reconnects with Dr. Amp, a.k.a. Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) after he drives by her drape store ("Run Silent, Run Drapes"—still amazing) and spots one of his "gold, shit-digging shovels" hanging in the window. They have some semi-flirtatious banter, Nadine acting the fan and Jacoby the not-so-humble celebrity. ("It's us against them," he says.) Then he tells Nadine about the last time he saw her, seven years prior, when she was scrambling to pick a potato up off the supermarket floor—a surreal segue that still manages to speak to how far Nadine has come. She's perhaps one of the few Twin Peaks residents to really make a success of herself, or so it seems.
• Audrey describes the home she can't leave as "like Ghostwood," referencing both the labyrinthine forest that surrounds Twin Peaks and the development project that her father, Ben (Richard Beymer), tried and failed to get off the ground in the original series.
• I love the sculpture on Big Ed's desk: a fake bear head, below which is a bell and the words "Bear With Me." I'm sure that's not Lynch and Frost directly addressing their more impatient viewers.