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.
It's great to be in the know. To have a moment (hopefully more than one) when the veil drops and, per that old song, the mysteries of love (of life) come clear. Part 12 of Mark Frost and David Lynch's revived Twin Peaks opens with just such a scene, as FBI Agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) is initiated into the Blue Rose Task Force by her superiors Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Gordon Cole (Lynch). The references Albert drops—to things like "Project Blue Book" and to people like "Chet Desmond"—will be familiar to any Peaks obsessive who has pored over the original series, the Fire Walk with Me movie, or Frost's 2016 tie-in novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks. But remember that Secret History used most of its word count to set up an absorbing alt-history of the Twin Peaks universe involving aliens and UFOs, only to use its final pages to effectively proclaim the inadequacy of that narrative. Concrete explanations and answers can kill something essential to the human experience—if one knows everything, what is there left to discover, to imagine?
That doesn't mean we stop searching for solutions to the, as Albert calls them, "troubling abstractions." Indeed, the way Tammy and her colleagues get increasingly giddy as the Blue Rose Task Force's history and purpose is laid out speaks to the thrill and the importance of enlightenment. But those abstractions remain, and sometimes, to keep the balance, we have to create them. No sooner have Tammy, Albert and Gordon conferred than they steady their flighty selves and pull the wool further over the eyes of apparent double-agent Diane Evans (Laura Dern). They deputize her, so they say, as a way to more effectively solve the mystery of Special Agent Dale Cooper's (Kyle MacLachlan) disappearance. But it's really a keep-your-enemies-closer type of situation. "Let's rock!" says Diane, giving her assent to the trio's manipulative (but might she know so?) plan, and repeating a line first uttered by the diminutive Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson) in the original series. (Dialogue also written in blood-red cursive across a broken windshield in Fire Walk with Me, from which this scene samples a music cue.) It's at this point you might notice, if you haven't already, that the group is talking in what looks like an Earthly recreation (not exact, but close enough) of the Black Lodge's Red Room. An abstraction of an abstraction?
For every moment of clarity, something inscrutable arises. And any sense that we're now in some kind of narrative inner circle dissipates as the episode goes on. The structure of this first scene—spending a lengthy amount of time on one subject (Tammy's induction into Gordon and Albert's secret society) before seamlessly, yet, in terms of cadence, shockingly switching gears (deceiving turncoat Diane)—is mirrored in several others. Every time you think you have a grip on what you're seeing, Lynch and Frost introduce some element that upsets the balance and forces you to re-calibrate.
And so Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) walks down a grocery store aisle, stocking up on vodka, Bloody Mary mix and Salem cigarettes. Seems like a well-worn routine. But at the checkout counter there's Turkey jerky where the Beef jerky used to be. It's enough to throw her off: "Men are coming!" she screams at the checkout girl (Zoe McLane) and bag-boy (Johnny Ochsner). Sarah talks herself out of hysteria and quickly exits the store. Later, Deputy Sheriff Tommy "Hawk" Hill (Michael Horse) visits her at her home, where we're gifted two new, unnerving views of the ceiling fan under (or within) which Killer BOB (Frank Silva) was said to have hidden. Sarah, looking for all the world like a ruined survivor, faces Hawk down, correctly reading his just-checking-in concern as a pose. (She sees the facts underlying the façade.) A strange sound comes "from the kitchen" and Sarah brushes off Hawk's worry. "It's a goddamn bad story, isn't it, Hawk?" she hisses. She shuts the door soon after. All stories play out in their own time.
And so Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) visits hotelier Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) to inform him about the hit-and-run committed by his grandson Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), and Richard's subsequent attempted murder of only witness Miriam Sullivan (Sarah Jean Long). But the sequence then becomes a tender tribute to Frank's absent brother Harry (Michael Ontkean) once Ben spots the green-tagged key to Agent Cooper's old room, which he asks Frank to pass along "for Harry" as a memento. (A concrete reminder of a moment long gone.) This in turn leads Ben to reminisce, after Frank leaves and secretary Beverly Paige (Ashley Judd) walks in, about an old Schwinn bicycle his father gave him. "I loved that bike," he says, repeating it several times like a melancholic mantra. The memory may be distant (an abstraction), yet the emotions it raises are crystal clear.
And so Albert comes to visit Gordon in his hotel room to relay some information about Diane. (A text exchange—"Las Vegas?"; "THEY HAVEN'T ASKED YET."—with Cooper's evil doppelganger Mr. C.) But he has to wait until a comely French woman (Bérénice Marlohe), who Gordon picked up in the downstairs bar, makes her slow, slinky exit. (And for Gordon to tell a wonderful-terrible joke about "turnips.") The scene is about equally balanced between Gordon and the woman's glee and Albert's irritation—do we want to get on with it (get to the facts) or stay in the sublime moment(s) leading up to the point it's clear is coming…eventually? "Do you realize, Albert," asks Gordon, "that there are more than 6000 languages spoken on Earth today?" (A few hundred of those Babel-ing tongues on Twin Peaks alone.) Another curveball at scene's end, as Gordon notices something off in his colleague's expression. "Albert," he says, tenderly touching the other man's shoulder, "sometimes I worry about you." Cut to Albert, on the verge of tears.
And so Chantal and Gary "Hutch" Hutchens (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth) take out Warden Dwight Murphy (James Morrison), but not in the protracted way hinted at a few episodes prior. Torture is off the table because Chantal is "hungry" and they "passed a Wendy's back there." Two silencer-rifle shots later (one to the back, one to the head) and the Warden is dead. But then his young son (Luke Judy) comes running out, distraught beyond belief. There's a kind of Kuleshov effect when Lynch and editor Duwayne Dunham cut back to Gary spotting the havoc he's wrought. We're primed for a moment of guilty conscience that's quickly dashed after Gary says, colorlessly, "Next stop, Wendy's" and the pair drive off, the boy still screaming.
And so Doctor Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) repeats himself. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie), too. The good, gold-shovel selling doc (nicknamed "Dr. Amp") goes through the same script (and the same take?—meta!), albeit abbreviated, of his incendiary online show from Part 5. Nadine's reactions are eerily similar to that episode as well. But…some variations: "It's working for me, Dr. Amp," she says in-between her familiarly smitten exhales. And Jacoby closes with a fresh rant about politicians betraying their constituents. "The ninth level of hell will welcome you!" he shouts.
And so Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) returns. Seemingly consigned to that ninth level of hell, and her audience with her. If the Tammy, Gordon and Albert scene has the droll charge of revelation, this one doubles down on poker-faced opacity and inscrutability. Easy to glean that Audrey is now lovelessly married to a rich benefactor, Charlie (Clark Middleton), who also happens to be a dwarf. (Another Red Room in the real world abstraction.) But then names that we've never heard—"Billy"; "Tina"; "Paul"; "Chuck"—are dropped with abandon (or at least as much abandon as this ten-and-half-minute corker of a scene will allow). And Audrey and Charlie's evasive and/or profane one-upsmanship ("Why do you put me down for doing my allotted duty in life?"; "You poor fucking thing.") becomes the whole show. Aside from an opening pan across the room, the same three shots (a close-up of Audrey; a close-up of Charlie; a long-shot of Charlie from behind Audrey) are intercut in a maddeningly off-kilter rhythm. Time seems to move and to stand still simultaneously. "Dreams sometimes hearken a truth," says Audrey at one point, though it feels like we're trapped in a nightmare. Mileage will certainly vary as to whether you find the alienation rewarding.
Should the mind wander, and your eyes with it, you might notice the book (title obscured) by the British writer T.S. Eliot on the mantelpiece behind Audrey. In Eliot's uncompleted verse drama Sweeney Agonistes, in the section titled "Fragment of an Agon," the character of Sweeney tells a story that begins "I knew a man once did a girl in—" (Lynch's own Inland Empire revolves around a Laura Dern monologue that starts, "There was this man I once knew…") Sweeney goes on:
"He didn’t know if he was alive/and the girl was dead/He didn’t know if the girl was alive/and he was dead/He didn’t know if they both were alive/or both were dead/If he was alive then the milkman wasn’t/and the rent-collector wasn’t/And if they were alive then he was dead./There wasn’t any joint/There wasn’t any joint/For when you’re alone/When you’re alone like he was alone/You’re either or neither/I tell you again it dont apply/Death or life or life or death/Death is life and life is death/I gotta use words when I talk to you"
Audrey and Charlie, locked in some kind of arcane existential battle, have nothing but their words. Which makes the end of the sequence, after Charlie gets some apparently earth-shattering news on the phone (first line spoken, ten minutes prior: "Okay, I'm tired of waiting for the phone to ring!"), that much more hilarious and horrifying. "You're not gonna tell me what she said?" asks Audrey. Charlie sits there stone-faced, silent. The abyss has to be filled. "You're not gonna tell me what she said?!?" screams Audrey, repeating herself. Silence.
And so the Chromatics return to the Roadhouse, playing an instrumental song, "Saturday," off of Johnny Jewel's 2017 album Windswept, tracks from which have accompanied several scenes in the new series. We return to a familiar booth, seemingly the one where Shelly (Mädchen Amick) and her friends first discussed her uneasy feelings about her daughter Becky's (Amanda Seyfried) husband Steven (Caleb Landry Jones). Where Richard Horne first revealed his psychotic self to the world. And where special guest star Sky Ferreira scratched her underarm rash raw. Two new characters, Abbie (Elizabeth Anweis) and Natalie (Ana de la Reguera), are seated here, drinking Heinekin (fuck that shit) and discussing some cryptic love triangle involving "Angela," "Clark" and "Mary."
We're on the outside again—no idea who or why, though the sense that Abbie and Natalie know of what they speak is ultimately enough. They gotta use words. We don't have to. A friend of theirs, Trick, played by Scott Coffey (one of the rabbit-headed humanoids in Lynch's absurdist online sitcom Rabbits), rushes in with a horror story to tell. He nearly died on his way to the Roadhouse when a driver ran him off the road. "All I see is two headlights," he says agitatedly, coming close to describing the incident that kicked off Lynch's own Mulholland Dr. He steadies himself best he can, then heads off to buy a round for the table. Abbie and Natalie discuss some incident that landed Trick under house arrest, "but he got that behind him now."
"He's a free man again," says Natalie, smiling.
"A free man," says Abbie, smiling.
This is the work of a free man.
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• Part 12 is punctuated by a few short scenes that nicely offset the elongated ones: Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) finally sprints out of the woods in which he's been lost for about ¼ of the series. Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) does an act of kindness for one of his trailer park residents, Kriscol (Bill O'Dell), who's been selling his blood to the local hospital to pay rent. ("I don't like people selling their blood to eat," says Carl. "Keep your blood.") Dougie-Cooper, in the only Kyle MacLachlan appearance in the episode, plays an uproarious non-game of catch with "son" Sonny Jim (Pierre Gagnon). And a battered Miriam Sullivan is shown recuperating from her wounds in a Twin Peaks hospital bed.
• Diane puts the coordinates that were tattooed on the deceased Ruth Davenport's arm into her phone map app. They correspond, unsurprisingly, to the town of Twin Peaks. I'd say that portends something epochal on the horizon. But I've learned, and this episode reminds me, that it's best to scrap the predictions ("You know I don't have a crystal ball") and take Frost and Lynch's singular flights of fancy as they come.
• So…anyone for Wendy's?