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.
"Finally," says the One-Armed Man a.k.a. Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel) about midway through Part 16 of Mark Frost and David Lynch's Twin Peaks revival, right after a certain FBI Special Agent returns to the world of the living. It's been 13 episodes since we've seen full trace of Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), though even then he wasn't entirely himself. (Being trapped for 25 years in the otherworldly Black Lodge has a way of tempering certain personality traits.) Now, however, he's "one hundred percent" (in his estimation, anyway), and there's certainly plenty of giddy pleasure to be had watching the energetic, Boy Scout-like Cooper of old take charge. But that presumes that this is the Dale Cooper of old, and it quickly becomes apparent that that's not the case.
"And I am who I am/Who I was will never be again" sings this week's Roadhouse musical guest Edward Louis Severson a.k.a. Eddie Vedder, performing his new ballad "Out of Sand" and summing up Cooper's strange two-and-a-half-decade-long spiritual journey. Yet that's not just a micro view, but a macro one, a guiding ethos for a series that could have relied on easy callbacks—could have, indeed, given us that Dale Cooper of old (physically weathered, certainly, but none the worse for wear philosophically) and deployed him as the fond memories of both creators and fans dictated. Instead, Lynch and Frost make Cooper's "Return" (as the revival is subtitled) the thematic and emotional spine of the new season. And they recognize that a return to one's core self is not a regression. Time still passes, and moving inward doesn't mean you stop moving forward.
The most gleeful moment of Cooper's newfound consciousness, next to his stand-up-and-cheer exit line "I am the FBI," comes when he acknowledges, without hesitation, Sonny Jim Jones (Pierre Gagnon) as his child. It would have been easy to negate the entire Dougie Jones arc by playing the amnesiac card, or by having Cooper so consumed with his necessary return to Twin Peaks that he ignores the people who have acted as his waystations and guiding lights between worlds. Instead, the moment Sonny Jim enters the hospital room to find his "father" awake, Cooper gives a wry smile and pats the spot next to him on the bed, to which Sonny Jim delightedly runs.
The rest follows from there. There's not a moment of Cooper's pilgrimage that he does not recall, and it's only right for him to pay tribute. He shakes the hand of his insurance company boss Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) and says, "I will not soon forget your kindness and decency." (This simultaneously plays as a loving, lightly veiled salute from Lynch to his first mentor, the painter Bushnell Keeler.) He recruits the Mitchum brothers, Bradley (James Belushi) and Rodney (Robert Knepper), to protect his family and fly him to Twin Peaks, making sure to tell them that he knows now and will always testify to the fact that they both "have hearts of gold." (Amy Shiels's charmingly ditzy Candie seconds Cooper's motion with a hilariously chipper "They do. They really do.") And right before embarking on the sure-to-be-treacherous final part of his journey, he pulls aside Sonny Jim and "wife" Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) for a teary goodbye. "You've made my heart so full," he says, before promising (and not emptily) that he'll soon be back. "I'll walk through that red door and be home for good."
"Whoever you are," replies Janey-E, "thank you"—the tenderest line-reading by a tough-cookie character whom Watts has gifted with so many shades. Her at once lustful and reverential glances at Cooper during their drive to the casino are a particular highlight. Yet there's something about their farewell moment that attains a special kind of transcendence, perhaps because it's been so slowly built toward. This is the payoff to Cooper/Dougie's essential integrity, an emotional epiphany surely informed by Lynch's own devotion to Eastern religious practices in general and Transcendental Meditation in particular. Live your best life and the universe will respond in kind.
But there's a devil in us, too. Or, in Cooper's case, a devil outside that needs to be brought to heel. The demonic Mr. C.'s (also MacLachlan) sole appearance this week is in the company of Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) as they both arrive at a remote spot corresponding with two of the three sets of coordinates relayed to the doppelgänger Cooper by mostly disloyal subordinates. Mr. C. tasks Richard with climbing a nearby rock, where the exact latitude and longitude converge. And who should be watching from a distance but Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly), who has happened upon the scene, and is still so stoned out of his mind that he observes Mr. C. and Richard through the wrong end of his binoculars (which occasions a gorgeous oval POV shot).
Lynch and Frost enjoy such views askew, as they delight in throwing wrenches into the narrative works, coming at revelatory plot information (even the most seemingly obvious twists) in singular ways. Richard Horne—thus far built up as a baby-faced psycho in the vein of Blue Velvet's Frank Booth—is shockingly (quite literally so) dispatched once he walks into the coordinate convergence point. (His convulsing, elongated shadow, projected onto the nearby hills by Mr. C.'s truck spotlights, is one of Lynch's most striking images.) And while we're still reeling from that turn of events, along with the implication that this was a trap expertly avoided by doppel-Coop, Mr. C. casually drops the nugget that plenty of viewers have long suspected: "Goodbye, my son"—a seeming confirmation, given a complementary disclosure in Part 15, that Richard is the progeny of Mr. C. and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn).
Ah, Audrey. Secrets are coming to the fore, and hers is a real doozy. But we should backtrack first and talk about another enigmatic Peaks gal—Diane Evans (Laura Dern), Cooper's audio diary confidante, who, while sitting in the bar of her hotel in Buckhorn, South Dakota, receives a text from Mr. C. that says, ": - ) ALL." It's easy to glean, from the violence of her reaction to the text, that something horrible is about to happen. And Lynch expertly milks the tension as Diane sends off her own set of coordinates to doppel-Coop, checks the revolver in her purse, and slowly ambles her way to the room upstairs where Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (Lynch) and his colleagues Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) are waiting.
Diane's long walk (which recalls some of the eerie Rammstein-accompanied tracking shots from 1997's Lost Highway) is scored to a reprise of the Lynch-remixed Muddy Magnolias song "American Woman," which originally backed Mr. C.'s first entrance in Part 1. The weight of the horrible connection between the two characters is evident without a word being spoken, though Diane is about to unleash a confessional torrent on Gordon, Tammy and Albert. She tells them she's ready to talk about the night, many years before, that Cooper came to see her. "…he just walked in," she begins, the start of a captivating monologue that builds in fervor and terror as she describes a seemingly loving encounter that ended in rape and a life-altering supernatural encounter at an "old gas station" that is quite clearly the Woodsmen-occupied "Convenience Store."
This sequence might be a lost aria from Inland Empire, in which Dern guided viewers through three hours of surreal, oft-improvised vignettes. The setup here is more classical—a performer playing brilliantly, scriptedly to camera, with only a few cutaways to her three scene partners for emphasis. But the punchline is indelibly out of this world as Diane pulls her gun, is shot by Tammy and Albert, and vanishes into the ether. She materializes again in the Red Room, sitting opposite the One-Armed Man, and offering a final, defiant "Fuck you" before breaking apart like MacLachlan's Dougie did in Part 3. Having finally been revealed as another "tulpa" or "thoughtform" creation, the veracity of her story comes into question. How much of Diane's tale of woe was, to use the One Armed-Man's word, "manufactured" (whether by Mr. C. or Lynch and Frost) for effect?
Everyone is wearing masks. Even good Cooper's jaunty charm and can-do attitude seems, at times, like a pretense, one that can only be resolved (into the true mess of humanity) after he comes face to face with his sentient dark side. For now, it's Audrey Horne who has a reflective moment of clarity after she and her husband Charlie (Clark Middleton) finally arrive at the Roadhouse. So this is her real life after all? Not so fast. While she and Charlie sit at the bar, clinking their martini glasses after an uncivil toast, the Roadhouse MC (JR Starr) announces the next number: "Audrey's Dance." The patrons clear the dance floor, and Audrey looks momentarily confused and put-upon. Then a familiar Angelo Badalamenti composition—one that Audrey dreamily swayed to in the original series—fills the air. She's suddenly transported. She closes her eyes, slinks into the spotlight and starts to weave with the music. A girlish grin occasionally blossoms on her face, and the camera swoons with her every movement. Yet the editing is fragmented, suggesting that Audrey is trying, futilely, to recapture a moment of lost youth as opposed to creating something new.
A bar brawl erupts, breaking the spell. Audrey runs to Charlie, grabs him and says, "Get me out of here." Suddenly, the Roadhouse vanishes. Audrey is standing in a white room, looking at a much more disheveled version of herself in the mirror. Electricity hums threateningly, and the terrified look on her face speaks volumes.
"Who I was will never be again."
MORE SLICES OF PIE
• While Cooper, Janey-E and Sonny Jim are safely at the hospital, their house on Lancelot Court sees lots of action. Uncomfortably intimate redneck assassins Gary and Chantal Hutchens (Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh), dressed as house painters, stake out the place, observing as Special Agent Randall Headley (Jay R. Ferguson) and his frequent punching bag Agent Wilson (Owain Rhys Davies) knock at the door with no answer. Later, the Mitchum brothers come by with some food for the refrigerator. ("Looks like a fucking circus parade," says Chantal as the brothers and their pink-dress-clad showgirl entourage amble up the walk.) Just as an increasingly irritable Chantal gets down to her last bag of junk food, a local man (Jonny Coyne), credited as "Polish Accountant" and driving a car emblazoned with "Zawaski Accounting. Inc," approaches their truck and informs them they're blocking his driveway. Gary and Chantal none-too-politely tell the guy off, after which he calmly gets back in his car and rams into them. (Shades of the road rage sequence with Robert Loggia's Mr. Eddy in Lost Highway—Lynch understands impulsive anger better than most.) The guns soon come out on all sides and the torture-obsessed Hutchens's meet their bloody demise. Death can come so unexpectedly. And so absurdly.
• The actress who plays the doctor who discharges Cooper is Bellina Logan. She also played a desk clerk at the Great Northern in the fourth episode of Season 2 of the original series, sharing a few scenes with Richard Beymer's Benjamin Horne.
• The end credits this week roll over the Roadhouse band as they play "Audrey's Theme" backwards.
• An Audrey theory, half-jokingly proposed: Might she be the "dreamer" Monica Bellucci spoke of to Gordon a few episodes prior and might all we've seen (this season, and perhaps prior) be the world she's imagined? I somehow doubt Twin Peaks is gonna pull a St. Elsewhere.
• "I'm in the sheriff's station," says a distraught Diane near the end of her monologue, pointing Gordon, Tammy and Albert toward Twin Peaks's law-enforcement hub, which is sure to play a large part in next week's two-hour finale. Hard to believe the end is near. See you soon for one final go-round.