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, late in “Part 13,” Norma’s business partner boyfriend Walter (played by Eight Is Enough alum Grant Goodeve, a casting choice so kitschy it’s a wonder he wasn’t on the original show, even if he was on Northern Exposure around the same time) gives her a hard time for insisting on using the best possible ingredients for her famous pies, when the other Norma’s Double-R franchises are making more of a profit with cheaper ones. “You’re an artist,” Walter tells her. “But love doesn’t always turn a profit.” Norma claims she’ll consider his input, but you can tell she has no interest in ruining the experience and traditions of the original place, including her reluctance to put her name on the Twin Peaks location.
Did this scene play to you, like it did to me, as Lynch commenting on his insistence on doing things his own way, even if it’s never as consistent or as profitable as an artist working with a similar recipe might be able to be?
Certainly, the latest chapter was just as shaggy as the last few have been, and the first one where my “Lynch is editing scenes together at random” theory seemed to have solid proof. The Dougie scenes take place the morning after his night of partying with the Mitchum brothers to celebrate their insurance windfall, as seen two episodes back, and Janey-E notes that Dougie has been gone all night with the brothers, yet last week’s episode featured him playing catch in the backyard with Sonny Jim. And the Norma/Walter scene — which also features The Return‘s first appearance by Big Ed Hurley — has Bobby talking about finding the metal cylinder in his father’s house earlier that day, in scenes depicted way back in the ninth episode.
Do you feel this episode — which brought back Jessica Szohr as James Hurley’s love interest Renee (last glimpsed briefly at the end of “Part 2”) which reintroduced Big Ed in very late in the game, and which still isn’t offering up any explanation for Audrey’s predicament with Charlie — was one that justified all the wonky pacing and emotional curlicues?
Keith: For all the apparent time traveling involved this week — we also saw Shelly call Becky and arrange for her to come down to the diner with no payoff; I won’t be shocked if we get that scene in the next episode — I thought this was a really compelling episode. Howard Hawks once described a good movie as “three great scenes and no bad scenes” and I think that this would meet that definition thanks to the arm-wrestling match, Sarah Palmer’s spooky boxing screening, and Anthony’s tense coffee with Dougie. And there was plenty going on between those big moments. It was great to see so many Hurleys in one hour, from Big Ed to Nadine to James. It seems a little late in The Return‘s run to move the spotlight in their direction, but it worked. Big Ed’s not happy. Like Bobby, he’s clearly pining for a Double-R employee who’s moved on. Nadine, on the other hand, seems like she’s found peace thanks to cracking the silent drape runner problem and Dr. Jacoby now giving her a regular pipeline into the truth. I don’t know what to make of James, but I loved how that scene kept taking on new meaning as it went along. First it was just James reviving the season two song he sang with Donna and Maddie. Then we got a shot of a pair of back-up singers who could be that pair’s spooky doppeläangers followed by Szohr being moved to tears by the performance. It’s quite a moment.
Norma’s scene with her business partner/boyfriend brought to mind the Treme plotline where Janette, a talented chef, lent her name to a corporate restaurateur and found she’d given away part of her soul in the process, and not only because both involve restaurants. That felt like a bit of meta commentary as well, but the line that really made me start thinking beyond the apparent reality of the show came from the continuation of Charlie’s argument with Audrey when Charlie says “Are you going to stop playing games or do I have to end your story too?” Audrey’s reply — “What story is that, Charlie?” — gives the episode its title. So… what’s happening here? Last week you alluded to some far-out theories about Charlie and Audrey’s relationship, but they don’t seem that far out now, do they?
Alan: No, they do not. Potential Charlie theories: 1) He’s a therapist in a particularly extreme form of immersive therapy for Audrey, in the same way that Dr. Jacoby once encouraged Nadine’s and Ben Horne’s respective regression fantasies in season two ; 2) He’s running some kind of elaborate role-playing exercise for wealthy people, and is losing patience with Audrey; or 3) He is some kind of godlike figure controlling everything, whether he’s connected to the Black Lodge or not. I would lean towards the first theory myself, but it still — unless we’re now assuming that another season is in the cards, and maybe has been all along — frustrates me that Lynch is showing even less interest in pacing than usual. He quit the project briefly because he wanted to make 18 hours instead of the original plan of 10; as great as pieces of The Return have been, nothing I’ve seen through the first 13 hours suggests it needs to be this long, and I think it would be a lot easier to focus on the genius parts if they weren’t surrounded by so much flab.
At first, I laughed at the idea of a winner-take-all arm wrestling match — perhaps PTSD from too many afternoon cable viewings of Over the Top — but damn if the execution wasn’t so great that it almost instantly ceased to be a joke. The members of Renzo’s gang watching much of the action (Bad Coop’s arrival, and then his interrogation of the wounded Ray) on a giant floor-to-ceiling TV monitor recalled the two doomed twentysomethings staring at the glass box in The Return‘s opening hours: they are viewing some weird mirror version of the show, where Cooper and everything else isn’t quite right. And you’ll note that this is where Richard Horne has fled, which means we may soon find out if the theories about Bad Coop raping and impregnating a comatose Audrey are correct.
Thanks for reminding me about the boxing scene, which gave me a tremendous case of the creeps once I realized the TV was repeating the same 15-odd seconds of the telecast over and over again, without Sarah bothering to do anything. Something is happening in that house, and she barely knows or cares, trapped in a loop like the one she’s watching, only hers involves booze and cigarettes rather than a fighter being knocked down and shaking himself off. On the other hand, I would say the scene with the Detectives Fusco — here clarified as brothers, rather than three coincidentally-named cops — goes against the Hawks “three great scenes, no bad scenes” formula. There’s just a lot of stuff that Lynch intends as comic relief — including Dougie much of the time — that either never worked for me this time around or stopped working for me through sheer length and repetition, and these knuckleheads ignoring the violence elsewhere in the police station, and dismissing the fingerprint match on Dougie as an obvious mistake, rather than calling Gordon Cole about it, just made me groan.
Speaking of cops, we finally got another one of our long-awaited new actors, as John Savage pops up briefly as Detective Clark, one of the crooked cops working for Duncan Todd. Which brings us to Anthony and Dougie (and a brief appearance by the suddenly ubiquitous Virginia Kull as the Double-R-esque waitress who brings Dougie his pie) having coffee and making confessions. Tom Sizemore does not go halfway with his performance in this episode, from the bug eyes at seeing Dougie conga into the office with the Mitchums to his apologetic weeping as he confesses to Bushnell Mullins. (For that matter, it’s an episode where a lot of people cry, including Renee at James’ song.) I take it from your earlier comment that Sizemore’s work wasn’t too big for you, but what particularly struck you about the scene? And after Bad Coop was absent last week and Dougie only appeared briefly in that asynchronous game of catch, were you happy to have so much Kyle MacLachlan this time out?
Keith: Sizemore’s one of those actors who does big well so, no, his performance isn’t bugging me, bugged-out eyes and all. I liked the coffee scene in part because what he’s doing is such a contrast to what MacLachlan’s doing with Dougie, because it ends in such an unexpected way, and because it’s yet another scene in which we get glimpses of the old Cooper in some of MacLachlan’s inflections and body language. Of course, it doesn’t last and Dougie reasserts himself pretty quickly. But there’s still a charge to such moments.
It did get me wondering: Is Dougie happy? He certainly looks happy dancing in the office. And he makes Janey-E happy for reasons that go beyond scoring a Vegas-appropriate swing set for Sonny Jim. Could he go on like this and live the Dougie equivalent of a full life? If he does revert back to Dale, what will become of his family? (These are the kind of questions no mere 10-episode run could address, Alan.) To belatedly answer your question, yes, I liked having so much going on from the Coopers. But I thought this episode balanced their scenes well against those of the other characters. I’m intrigued as to what’s happening on every front at this point, including what’s going on with the clearly lovelorn Big Ed and wondering what he was lighting on fire at the end.
Getting back to Audrey and Charlie, as soon as they had their story exchange, I started to think of Charlie as a Lodge character and wondering if maybe Audrey wasn’t stuck somehow in some wing we haven’t seen yet. Is it possible she’s still in a coma and that’s why she can’t find her way to places she’s been many times before? And I’ll just tag on unrelated (?) question on the end of that: Are you also surprised at the abundance of reference to Philip Jeffries, the character played by David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me, in the last few episodes?
Alan: Well, one of the most popular bits of speculation — or, if we’re being honest, fantasizing — involves the idea that Bowie filmed an appearance in The Return, and Lynch and Showtime have kept it secret. I’m inclined to be skeptical, but if Bowie’s not turning up like Miguel Ferrer and Catherine Coulson have, then yes, the new episodes are leaning an awfully lot on a character who appeared briefly, with minimal explanation, in a movie that not even all returning fans of the ABC seasons have watched.
The idea of Audrey being trapped in the Lodge for 25 years — just in a version more closely resembling the real world than the one where Cooper was stuck — feels almost unbearably sad. Cooper at least lived a decent stretch of an adult life, and he went into the Lodge in the first place by choice, to rescue Annie. No matter what’s happened to turn Audrey from the adventurous girl we remembered into this bitter and frightened woman is a bummer, but if it’s because she’s been stuck in another dimension? Ouch.
I feel like I’ve spent the past month or so coming to grips with the realization that Good Coop isn’t likely to return until the very end of The Return, and lately I’ve begun to wonder if we’re going to see him at all. I think it’s entirely possible that the climactic showdown will be between Bad Coop and Dougie, that Dougie will once again win the day without even realizing that he’s doing it, or how, and that the series could conclude with Good Coop obliviously but happily living Dougie Jones’ life. It wouldn’t at all be what I wanted out of new Twin Peaks episodes — getting to spend more time in the company of Agent Dale Cooper in some version resembling the guy from 1990-91 was far and away the aspect of the reunion that excited me most — but given the bleakness of so many of the lives we’ve seen back in the town, and how well the Jones family seems to be doing at the moment, despite Dougie’s many limitations, maybe it’s best for everyone if they live happily ever after, never fully understanding what’s happened here.
Keith: If so, they’ll now have one sweet swing set to enjoy. I wouldn’t be surprised if that scenario played out as you described it, nor if something else entirely happened. This is a series that has now dedicated a significant amount of its running time to gold shovels. Who knows what’s coming next?