The return of Twin Peaks is a lot to process. After each episode, Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall and Keith Phipps attempt to hash out what we all just watched.
Keith: Since Twin Peaks: The Return began, there have been few moments as highly anticipated as the return of Audrey Horne, whose absence has raised a host of questions. Earlier in the season, we learned she wound up in the ICU after her explosive fate at the end of Twin Peaks‘ long-ago second season, and that the Bad Cooper visited there, but little else. She’s maybe Richard Horne’s mother if only because no one else seems plausible, but we’ve got no proof of this. So where is she, we’ve been left to wonder? And what has she been doing?
Tonight Sherilyn Fenn returned as Audrey and instead of answers we got a lot more questions. Who’s this Charlie she’s married to? And what about Tina? And Chuck? And Billy? And is that stolen truck the same stolen truck involved in Richard’s hit-and-run? And if so, why don’t the names match up?
Her scene with Charlie is endless and impenetrable and that seems very much by design, as if the show was intentionally trying to frustrate us. That it ends with Audrey being frustrated that Charlie won’t tell her what shocking news he’s learned while on the phone with Tina. It’s almost as if, after an episode in which so many strands started to come together in an opening scene this week that laid out the origins of the Blue Rose Squad in plain detail, Frost and Lynch felt the need to pile on the mystery (an instinct echoed in the final roadhouse scene that introduces yet another bunch of new characters and their complicated love lives.) For every question answered, two more get raised. Sometimes we get to be the Blue Rose Squad putting the clues together and making progress on the case. Mostly we get to be Audrey waiting to find out what Tina said, yet again.
But for all we still don’t know about what happened to Audrey, it’s still possible to put together a bit of what’s become of her. Always a vulnerable romantic beneath her bad girl exterior back in the original series, she now seems frustrated and tired. She’s coarse where she was once coy. In short, life doesn’t seem to have worked out as she’d planned. Part of what’s made The Return bittersweet at times is seeing what the passing of time has done to what was the town’s younger generation in the original series. Shelly keeps making the same mistakes. Bobby’s become a better person, but also a man haunted by regret. James is… well, I guess he hurt his head. We haven’t seen him in a while, have we? And now Audrey seems like she’s drifted further away from the person she once was than anyone else. Alan, is this what you expected of her return?
Alan: Keith, the Audrey scene felt like Lynch and Frost punishing us for wanting to see her return in the first place. It’s not just that, as you say, she’s coarse and bitter and very far removed from the lovestruck girl who wanted to join the FBI to be like — or be with — Agent Cooper. It’s that it was an endless scene of a character we hadn’t seen in 25 years, and had no context as to her current circumstances, talking with a character we’d never met before, talking about a bunch of other characters we’d also never met. Between that and the roadhouse scene — also featuring wholly-new characters talking about various off-screen characters we’d never met — our creators have either temporarily forgotten anything they ever knew or cared about basic narrative structure, or (far more likely) they’re taking deep pleasure in frustrating and confusing the audience. That was just brutal to sit through — as baffling in its own way as, say, Josie turning into a drawer knob back in the day, but without most of the weird magic that made even that scene memorable and unquestionably Twin Peaks in some way. I’ve been waiting months for Audrey’s return — on top of the years since the end of the original series — and to have it happen in this inscrutably prolonged fashion was not fun, but also not strange enough to compensate for how little we were being told — which has already inspired Peaks fan theorists to attempt to fill in the enormous blanks by suggesting that Charlie is Audrey’s therapist rather than her husband, and this is a ritual he goes through with her as part of her treatment. That feels more of a puzzle box approach than Lynch generally takes (I’d more easily buy it if this was Westworld or Mr. Robot), but the scene itself offered so little, I can’t blame anyone who wants to project more meaning on it than may have been there.
(Conversely, Bérénice Marlohe’s Lawrence of Arabia-length exit from Gordon’s hotel room was amusing in its protraction, and also a nice set-up for Gordon’s show of deep concern for Albert — which doubled poignantly as Lynch in turn expressing the same for the ailing Miguel Ferrer.)