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.
The best things come to those who wait, and Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) has long been dreaming of the moment that opens Part 15 of Mark Frost and David Lynch's Twin Peaks revival. "I've been a selfish bitch to you all these years," says his one-eyed wife Nadine (Wendy Robie), who's walked a long way—a Dr. Jacoby/Dr. Amp gold, shit-digging shovel slung over her shoulder—to the cash-only Gas Farm that Ed has run for most of his life. She states the obvious: Ed is in love with RR Diner propietor Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton), and she, Nadine, has always stood in his way. Those days are finally over. Ed is reluctant to think of this as anything beyond another of his spouse's manic episodes. But she persists, insisting that, over the course of her long walk, she had plenty of time to change her mind, yet didn't "because this is how I really feel." The journey has only solidified her essential inner truth. "How beautiful is this!" she says.
So very beautiful, and not to be outdone by what follows, as Ed hightails it to the RR and confesses his love to Norma…who rebuffs him in order to meet with her current beau, franchise-fixated businessman Walter Lawford (Grant Goodeve). The song that plays over the scene—Otis Redding's soaring, soulful "I've Been Loving You Too Long"—comes to a reverberative halt, as if Ed's own heart has skipped a terrible beat. But perhaps this is a last bit of limbo as opposed to a cruel finale? Ed closes his eyes as if in prayer, and it soon becomes clear that Norma is actually rebuffing Walter, giving him back all the spinoff RR diners, keeping the original for herself ("I'm happier with just one"), and, personally, kicking him to the curb.
"You're making a huge mistake," says Walter, "and I believe you're going to regret it"—the words of a true non-romantic who thinks love is always and only about big gestures. More often, a small one suffices. Norma puts her hand lightly on Ed's shoulder. The rest takes care of itself: "Marry me," says Ed. "Of course I will," says Norma. Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick), no stranger herself to romantic travails, stands to the side smiling. The Redding song, which has returned in fits and starts throughout the scene, crescendoes. And over a few gorgeously composed shots, Lynch takes us from the micro to the macro, ascending to the sky above, the clouds seeming to dance in rhythm with the lovers below.
This is one of the most optimistic scenes in Lynch's oeuvre, and it's noticeably lacking in the cold, subversive ironies that accompanied, for example, the return to robin red-breasted normalcy in Blue Velvet (1986). This isn't a case of an artist going soft with age, however. And age isn't so much the key to the sequence's emotional pull as it is time—the sense that Lynch and Frost have themselves walked instead of run to this moment. This is how they really feel—deeply, instinctually, sincerely tapping into the flow of these fictional lives, marking the transformative moments instead of forcing them. There's no formula for this; you can only trust that all the creative elements are in the right place at the right time. More and more, the new Twin Peaks seems to be a meditation on, as much as it is guided by, serendipity.
It's more than dumb luck that leads Mr. C. (Kyle MacLachlan), the dark-side doppelganger of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (also MacLachlan), to the "Convenience Store" where the ashen-faced spirits known as Woodsmen reside. It's also the place where the otherworldly denizens of the Black Lodge occasionally meet, in the nonexistent space above the building. Mr. C. is here looking for Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie), the former FBI agent who might very well have ordered a hit on him, and who hasn't been seen since he materialized in the Philadelphia government offices back in 1989 (see Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me).
Mr. C. is led, slowly, through several rooms. A forest fades in and out over the images at certain points, emphasizing the locale's between-two-worlds nebulousness. Some familiar figures pop up: The red-suited Jumping Man (Carlton Lee Russell), who presided over a Lodge meeting in Fire Walk with Me, as well as an androgynous character credited as Bosomy Woman (Malachy Sreenan), who bears a striking resemblance, in a half-formed way, to the elderly Mrs. Tremont/Chalfont (Frances Bay) from both the original series and the prequel movie. (Could this be a spirit in some strange state of evolution like the Red Room's Man From Another Place, who morphed from dancing dwarf to electric tree?)
"I'll unlock the door for you," she/he says to Mr. C., letting him into a room (#8) at the other end of what appears to be a seedy motel courtyard. Inside, Mr. C. is greeted with another evolved sight: Jeffries has become some kind of sentient tin machine (clever, Mark and Dave, clever) that spouts smoke and speaks in a southern drawl (voice actor Nathan Frizzell again mimics Bowie's exaggerated cadences). The main point of discussion—beyond Jeffries' apparent contract on Mr. C.'s life and a series of numbers that seem to be the latitude and longitude of Twin Peaks—is someone the human version of Jeffries referenced back in 1989. "Who is Judy?" asks Mr. C, getting increasingly agitated. "You've already met Judy," replies Jeffries. (Proposed Reddit thread theory, since Lynch does have something of a Wizard of Oz theme running through his work: Judy=Judy Garland=Major Garland Briggs.) Mr. C.'s repeated queries to Jeffries go unanswered and he's soon transported, via telephone, back outside the Convenience Store. There he's confronted by a gun-toting Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), who casually confirms the identity of his mother—Sherilyn Fenn's Audrey Horne—before being knocked to the ground by Mr. C. It's not his time to die, though. "Get in the truck," says Mr. C. "We'll talk on the way."
From here, Part 15 gets, for the most part, mesmerizingly bleak, beginning with a bravura forest freak-out between not-so-lovable loser Steven Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones) and his paramour Gersten Hayward (Alicia Witt). Both of them are high on substances, and he's also very suicidal. As he loads his gun, Steven mumbles about how he's "gonna end it" and how Gersten is "gonna come up with me." He then yammers incoherently about the possibilities of an afterlife: "Will I be with the rhinoceros? The lightning in the bottle? … Or will I be completely, like, turquoise?" This is far from the heavenly vision of Big Ed and Norma, though Lynch and Frost (the latter of whom cameos in this scene as his occasional onscreen alter ego Cyril Pons) aren't offering it as a tough-truth repudiation of the earlier scene. They're more comparing and contrasting two types of existential dilemmas, one evergreen and profound (Ed and Norma), the other tenuous and shallow (Steven and Gersten). One resolves in bliss, the other with a bullet.
A slug also ends the life of Las Vegas kingpin Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) who, along with his assistant Roger (Joe Adler), is murdered by the psychopathic Chantal Hutchens (Jennifer Jason Leigh). As she and her cohort Gary "Hutch" Hutchens (Tim Roth) chow down on some post-assassination fast food, they ponder their place in a country that sanctions many of its own killings, such as the genocide of Native Americans, as well as bemoan the lack of opportunities, of late, to make their victims suffer. "My fun's over when we actually kill someone," says Chantal. "It's no fun torturing a corpse." This is pure sociopathy, but there's some beauty injected into the scene when the duo look out their windshield and Lynch cuts to an image of the nighttime sky, a single star shining in the distance beyond the numerous utility poles. "Mars," Chantal says, though Leigh's tone is so perfectly balanced between the childlike and the cynical that a chill quickly returns.
That's how some people pass the time. Others, like Margaret "The Log Lady" Lanterman (the late Catherine E. Coulson), do their best to come to terms with the past, the present and the inevitable future. New Peaks has been shaded by many actors' absences, or by the knowledge—as in the case of Miguel Ferrer, who plays FBI forensics specialist Albert Rosenfield—that they died soon after principal photography. Coulson is perhaps the most extreme example, as her scenes were filmed while she was in the final stages of cancer. No doubt Lynch and Frost risked exploitation by photographing her in such a sickly state, and yet her intermittent appearances this season have only accumulated in power because the sage mind of the performer and the character she plays is still so clearly evident.
"You know about death," she says to Deputy Sheriff Tommy "Hawk" Hill (Michael Horse) during their final phone call. "That it's just a change, not an end." To the end, Margaret (to whom, in a movingly meta twist, the episode is dedicated) maintains her epigrammatic dignity. Her death is signaled not by literal but figurative means, her cabin lamp, seen from a distance through a window, dimming to black just after Hawk has somberly informed his coworkers of her passing. Lynch has always been fascinated by the freakishness of infirmity, and his work is at its best when his unflinching gaze (on the sick, on the malformed, on those who society at large would consider aberrant) is informed by a distant yet discernible empathy. The effect is truly surreal: We're forced to look at people long past the points of politesse and comfort, and in the process go beyond any exterior grotesquerie, toward the soul, awed and aching, underneath. We're all walking (or running or driving) toward the same destination, though as former Lynch collaborator John Hurt (the Elephant Man himself) once said in a very different context, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, "How much of human life is lost in waiting."
"I'm waiting for someone," says Ruby (Charlyne Yi) to two burly biker dudes in the episode's final scene, which is set, of course, at the Roadhouse. Comedians are their own kind of freak, and it initially appears Lynch and Frost are setting us up for something humorous given Yi's droll career in stand-up, film and TV, and especially once the bikers lift Ruby out of her booth, placing her, hilariously loose-limbed, on the floor. (Perhaps Wally Brando, played by Yi's former collaborator Michael Cera, will ride to the rescue?) No…this isn't that. Onstage, the indie rock band The Veils play a discordant tune, "Axolotl," off their 2016 album Total Depravity. As the song intensifies, Ruby crawls along the Roadhouse floor, looking more and more pathetic as she weaves her way among the patrons' legs. She may be waiting for someone, but they're not coming.
There is, as ever, only one certainty. Not everyone has a Nadine to free them, a Norma or Big Ed to love them, though blessed are those who do. The rest—as Ruby illustrates before the episode's horrifying cut to black—just scream.
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• Welcome back, Agent Cooper? Amid the whirl of incident in this episode is a single scene at the home of Dougie (MacLachlan) and Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts). Janey-E serves her semi-catatonic hubby some cake, which he proceeds to eat very slowly. Then he hits the buttons on a remote control, which turns on a TV showing Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. (1950), a Lynch favorite. It's the scene in which aging silent-film icon Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is leaving her meeting with Cecil B. DeMille (playing himself). "The old team together again," says a deluded Norma. "Nothing can stop us." (A perfect metatextual prism through which to view this Peaks revival.) "Get Gordon Cole," says DeMille, referring to the property master played by an uncredited Bert Moorhouse in Wilder's film, and also, extra-narratively, to Cooper's own boss, played by Lynch himself. That's the memory cue Dougie needs, and he's soon crawling on the floor toward an electrical outlet into which he sticks the non-pronged end of a fork. Janey-E screams as the lights flicker and Cooper/Dougie collapses. This seemingly fulfills the implied prophecy of Part 3 of the new series: Recall that the life-size outlet through which Cooper travels has, at different points, the numbers "3" and "15" above it, likely corresponding to the episodes in which Cooper becomes Dougie and then, here, becomes Cooper again.
• An earlier scene in the Roadhouse, scored to ZZ Top's "Sharp Dressed Man," sees James Hurley (James Marshall) nearly beaten to a pulp by the husband, Chuck (Rodney Rowland, who X-Files fans may recall as Dana Scully's one-night stand from Season 4's killer-tattoo-with-the-voice-of-Jodie-Foster episode "Never Again"), of his crush Renee (Jessica Szohr). Fortunately for James, his green-gloved buddy Freddie Sykes (Jake Wardle) steps in to knock Chuck and his buddy Skipper (Casey O'Neill) to the ground. Unfortunately, they both appear to be catatonic, and James is later informed by Hawk, who arrests both James and Freddie for assault, that both men are in intensive care. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the holding cell that Freddie is put in is #8, the same number as the room above the Convenience Store that houses Phillip Jeffries. James is in cell #7. In the hold across from James and Freddie sits the eyeless spirit woman Naido (Nae Yuuki). Nearby is the beat-up, bloodied drunk (Jay Aaseng) who repeats everything everyone else says (and who I maintain might by the mysterious "Billy" referenced by Audrey Horne). Rounding out this motley crew is the double-dealing Deputy Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello). Presumably everyone will have a role to play in whatever final reckoning awaits.
• Just before he drives away from the Convenience Store, Mr. C. texts "Las Vegas?" to an unknown number, which we know belongs to Diane Evans (Laura Dern), since she received this message in Part 12.
• FBI agent Randall Headley (Jay R. Ferguson) returns briefly to interview one of the 20+ Dougie and Janey-E Jones's in the Las Vegas area. It's clear this isn't the couple he's looking for after his assistant, Wilson (Owain Rhys Davies), tells him they brought their "kids," plural. "Kids-uh!" screams Headley twice before he opens the interrogation room door on the picture-perfect model of a nightmare American family.
• Audrey Horne makes it to the threshold of her home this week, but decides not to leave since she's convinced her husband, Charlie (Clark Middleton), is doing his usual reverse-psychological manipulation. She ends up choking him and cursing him out before the scene abruptly cuts away. Presumably whatever nightmare scenario she's in (be it a coma, an existential dreamspace, a mental hospital, or, god forbid, real life) will soon be revealed. I also want to note that in previous recaps I misidentified Middleton as a dwarf, when he actually stands 5'4", his unique physical appearance the result of a bout, beginning at the age of 4, with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. That's a purely surface fact, and beyond whatever resources Middleton's condition helps him to call on, it has little to do with the complex, unsettling brilliance of his performance as Charlie. It's as if he and Fenn are off in their own strange corner of the Peaks universe doing an anti-romantic comedy riff on Sartre. I can't wait to see how it plays out.
• The end credits roll over two shots of the motel courtyard that Mr. C. walks across to get to Phillip Jeffries's room. If you look closely, just as the final title scrolls up, you'll notice the Bosomy Woman standing there in the shadows. Eeeeeeeek!