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.
Alan: Keith, I am feeling very happy this morning. You know how frustrated I’ve been with the last few episodes and the way they seemed to spend an eternity on Dougie Jones staring off into the middle distance without anyone seeming particularly troubled by his behavior. Well, Dougie didn’t turn up until 36-plus minutes into last night’s episode, and not coincidentally, this was the most satisfying episode of the revival since that gonzo third episode, even though it was its temperamental opposite.
One of the reasons I’ve tended to prefer the original series to most other Lynch projects is the alchemical bond between him and Mark Frost, and the way that Frost’s training as a more conventional storyteller smoothed down the edges of Lynch’s style juuuuust enough to make both the weirdness and the conventionality vastly more interesting. This was the first episode of the entire revival where I could feel Frost’s hand guiding the story along.
Things actually happened this week! And some answers were even forthcoming! The pages Hawk found in the bathroom stall door were, indeed, from Laura Palmer’s diary, detailing the dream she had in Fire Walk With Me of a blood-soaked Annie warning her that Good Coop was still trapped in the Black Lodge. Gordon was able to convince Diane — revealed to be bitter and profane in a way that’s a neat and sad counterbalance to the optimistic do-gooder Good Coop was in the ’90s — to speak with Bad Coop at the prison, and their conversation was even more unsettling than the one Gordon had with him a few episodes ago. Good Coop’s hotel key made its way back to the Great Northern, and between that and the way his FBI training kicked in when Ike the Spike attacked outside the office, it feels like we are tantalizingly close to Dougie turning back into the character we know and love.
The plot had so much forward momentum — at least relative to the last few hours — that I didn’t even mind that we watched a man sweep the roadhouse floor for what felt like the entirety of Booker T & the M.G.’s “Green Onions.”
What did you think, Keith? Were you excited that the story seems to be coming together a bit, or disappointed by the minimal amount of Dougie?
Keith: My official stance on Dougie is as follows: I enjoy Dougie. Dougie amuses me. When it’s time for Dougie to leave the Twin Peaks stage, I’ll be fine with it. And as much as I enjoy this series when it focuses atmospheric oddness, it was still thrilling to have so much happen this episode. Not only did Hawk confirm these were the missing pages form Laura’s diary, we got to read them and observe as Hawk and Sheriff Truman (the other Sheriff Truman) puzzled out what they meant. And we got an extensive conversation between Truman and the trout-loving Doc Hayward (so great to see the late Warren Frost one last time). And we learned that Audrey Horne was in a coma in the ICU shortly after the explosion at the bank and that the Bad Coop might have visited her.
That’s a lot to take in, and we’ve barely touched on Diane, who makes an intriguing reference to a night with Cooper at her place. But as eager I am to find out what she’s talking about, I’m mostly pleased that finally spending time with Diane isn’t disappointing. I don’t know that a different actress would have been able to sell her dialogue, but Dern is so expressive she can make a simple “Fuck you” resonate with layers of meaning. I suspect she knows right away that the Coop she’s talking to has nothing in common with the Coop she knew, and that he’s a threat to the safety of everyone around him. For all her brittleness, she’s shaken when she gives Gordon that strange half-hug after the interview.
When I was considering what Twin Peaks: The Return would be like before we saw any of it, I thought it might play like it was three steps removed from the original series. Maybe the original characters would be lost in the midst of that cast list which seemed to include half of Hollywood. Maybe Laura’s murder would be a distant memory forgotten by most. Maybe it would essentially start over. And good sections of the first six episodes played like it could go in that direction, which might have been intriguing in its own way. But, this week at least, it feels like the past will very much be a part of this new season of Twin Peaks. Which isn’t to say new questions aren’t coming up. Any idea what’s going on with Beverly (Ashley Judd) and Tom Paige (Hugh Dillon)?
Alan: The Paiges seem, from what little we’ve seen of them, to be successors to some of the townies from the original series who either won’t be appearing at all, or may just be appearing briefly. (I wouldn’t be shocked if our only glimpse of Nadine, for instance, was her fangirling over Dr. Jacoby’s show.) The original series was part murder mystery, part supernatural meditation, and part straightforward soap opera: Invitation to Love, but good. That latter component has mostly been absent from The Return, and as I’ve talked about previously, Lynch and Frost have done themselves no favors with how slowly they’ve parceled out information about the new characters — remember when it seemed like Becky was going to be a huge part of the show two weeks ago, only to not appear since? — but there’s obviously tension between Beverly and Tom, as well as chemistry between Beverly and Ben Horne, and if we wind up lingering more inside Twin Peaks’ city limits going forward, I imagine this triangle can get even pointier. (Speaking of Ben, I’m relieved I wasn’t the only one who thought Richard Beymer looked uncannily like pre-beard David Letterman last night:)
Dern was spectacular, as you say. Anyone playing Diane has a lot to live up to, given the way many Peaks fans likely constructed an entire character out of whole cloth when they watched the original series. I wouldn’t have necessarily expected this foul-mouthed cynic with the platinum bob, but she felt instantly real — and perhaps like someone who wasn’t this way until that fateful evening with one Coop or the other. I hope she continues to be involved in the story, and eventually gets to run into Good Coop and Janey-E, and not just as an excuse for Lynch’s two favorite blonde actresses to interact.
Speaking of which, the entire scene involving Janey-E steamrolling the “Detectives Fusco” — a joke I needed to see the closing credits to confirm (all three — played by Dave Koechner, Larry Clarke, and Eric Edelstein — have the same last name) — was a comic delight. It’s amazing how much more I enjoy all Dougie-related scenes when they’re not dominating the episode, and when enough things of interest are occurring elsewhere that I can just appreciate MacLachlan’s deadpan genius and Watts’ nervous energy.
I was also happy to see Warren Frost one more time — albeit in the same bittersweet fashion that’s come with seeing Catherine Coulson and Miguel Ferrer, knowing none were long for this world when they filmed their work here — and am now deeply envious of Frank Truman for having a wood-framed pop-up computer monitor inside his desk. For all that the show has lost in terms of character history by Harry’s absence, Robert Forster’s a better actor than Michael Ontkean, and he brings so much to Frank’s minimalist reactions to Hawk’s explanation of the diary pages, and to Frank hearing such bad news from his brother that he declines to tell Harry about Hawk’s discovery.
Any theories on what happened to the owner of the truck Richard Horne used to run over the little boy last week? Did the first mention of Audrey make you antsier to find out what happened to her in the bank explosion, or was that enough to buy your patience? Do you know which is your spiritual finger? And what exactly is going on with the decapitate corpse being a decades-younger Major Briggs?
Keith: You raise a lot of good questions, Alan. I’m going to address them out of order.
• No, I don’t know which is my spiritual finger. A quick Google search suggests that this is a case of the show inventing its own metaphysics. (Though it did yield this amusing iStock page.) Will it return? Who knows?
• Headless Briggs: I’m not sure about that either, but it’s certainly treated with a great deal of significance. Would this explain why we saw the head of Briggs floating through a star field during Coop’s episode three escapades?
• I was a little confused by the scene of Andy talking to the truck owner. I would suspect his disappearance was somehow related to Red’s circle of influence but, again, who knows?
• I’m as eager as anyone to see Audrey and learn her fate, but I’m fine with the show drawing it out. Honestly, I found this week’s bonanza of exposition thrilling, but don’t you think it was made more so by the time it took to get there? I’m not sure this show has an expert command of pacing — where is Becky? — but I’m there for whatever pace it wants to travel, even if that includes a long sequence of someone sweeping up the road house, which almost seemed there to counter-balance all the info we were receiving, even if it also established that the Renault family is still very much in the pimping business. Hey, there’s a question: any idea as to what Jacques Jean-Michel was referring to? Could that have been a Becky reference? And has anyone seen Billy? Well?
Alan: Is there even a Billy we’ve seen on this show so far? Even in The Return‘s most straightforward hour, there were plenty of moments where I felt like Jerry Horne, looking around the woods for my missing car until it occurred to me that I was just incredibly high.
I’m more concerned by the pacing issues than you are, but if every second or third episode has this level of exposition and plot advancement, while the others feature some of that Lynch magic (whether it involves coin tricks, or just the appearance of The Arm while Good Coop is fighting off Ike the Spike), I will deal. I never expected this to be a structural or tonal match to the show Lynch and Frost made for ABC. Different time, different place, different vision. But this felt closer than I thought The Return might come, especially after all the recent meanderings.
Keith: In short, I loved it. And while I think we’ve established at this point that I would watch an hour of someone sweeping up if shot by Lynch, this reminded me how good it can be to watch a story that’s being pushed along and seemingly going somewhere intriguing. Twin Peaks never gets enough credit as a marriage of Frost and Lynch’s sensibilities, but if it weren’t for both of them bring what they do best to the show, I doubt we’d be talking about it today.