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: A few weeks back, Kyle MacLachlan (he’s the guy who plays Dougie) gave an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in which he said of Twin Peaks: The Return, “ultimately everything will come back together and make sense.” I’m starting to think that wasn’t just crazy talk. The past few weeks have felt like the series is starting to draw all its narrative strands together. Lynch has never been a director you go to for narratives that work with a satisfying, clockwork precision — I’m not sure he and Christopher Nolan would have much to say to each other at a cocktail party — but this home stretch of The Return has felt like he and Frost are bringing out the best in each other. I’m not privy to how their collaboration works, but it seems like Lynch gets space to do strange, wonderful, stylistic excursions like this episode’s long encounter between Andy and The Fireman (Carel Struycken’s character is no longer billed as “? ? ? ? ?”) and the freedom to make everything part of a clash between good and evil as defined by a highly personal logical system. Frost keeps it pushing forward and makes sure it tells a story. The editing can be a bit shaggy at times, but I’m increasingly getting a sense that things will, in MacLachlan’s words, come back together.
That this episode just flat-out answered some lingering questions certainly added to that sense. Where to begin? I definitely want to get to Andy, Truman, Hawk, and Bobby’s mystical walk in the woods, but maybe we should start with the scene between Tammy and Albert and then Gordon and Diane: the origins of the Blue Rose and what it means to Bad Coop and Dougie.
Alan: I’m a bit less confident than you that it will all fit together, if only because there are only four episodes left, and a lot of ground to cover. Even if you assume that Lynch and Frost intend to flat-out ignore some of what’s happened before — remember Beverly’s ailing husband? Or the question of who built the New York cube? Or when Red seemed like he might be a major new character? — we still have to have both the FBI and Hutch/Chantal arrive in Vegas, get Dougie to Twin Peaks, have some kind of confrontation between the two Coopers, have Andy explain at least some of what the Fireman told him, and get into more detail about what is going on inside of Sarah Palmer (about which we should have much to say in a bit), to name just a few events that seem inevitable and/or necessary. At the pace at which much of this season has moved, I could easily see it ending on a cliffhanger — maybe a reversal of “How’s Annie?” — to set up another season that may or may not happen, if only because there doesn’t feel like room for everything.
That said, last night’s episode certainly worked overtime to advance and explain things that had been lingering for months, though also was a reminder that straightforward exposition tends not to be the strength of either creator (but especially Lynch). It’s nice to have some clarity about the Blue Rose, Phillip Jeffries (even if David Bowie passed away before he could film a cameo, and thus had to be represented by Fire Walk With Me footage), and even the link between Diane and half-sister Janey-E, but even with Gordon’s strange Monica Bellucci dream mixed in — which felt a bit like an excuse for Lynch to fly to Paris to hang with Monica Bellucci (who can blame him?) — Andy’s trip into the White Lodge was by far the more compelling of the episode’s two big explanatory sequences, and that’s even though it didn’t explain much of anything! The Return has tended to work best in a dream-like state — to quote Bellucci, “You’re like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream” — when the sounds and images are so strange and compelling that the actual story becomes a distant concern. Andy sitting opposite the Fireman and seeing glimpses of all we’ve witnessed over the previous 13 hours was a thrill, and right when I was ready to mock the Fireman for picking the absolute worst member of the hunting party to give all this important information to, Andy materializes in the woods in full hero mode, clearly having understood everything. Maybe his simple-mindedness helped in this case, since his hard drive wasn’t quite as full as Bobby or Frank’s would have been?
Did you find the Blue Rose explanation satisfying all these years after the movie, Keith? How did you feel to see the eyeless woman in the real world, and Andy of all people in one of the Lodges?
Keith: On the first point, Albert just laying out the first Blue Rose case in such direct language felt a little anti-climactic — or set up to a great prequel series. (If nothing else, it would be fun to fan cast young Albert, Gordon, and Phillip.) On the second point, that was my first thought too: Why Andy? But the scene worked beautifully. Andy may not be the smartest Twin Peaks policeman — though Chad seems to be giving him a run for the title of its dumbest — but he has a soulfulness that Harry Goaz plays beautifully here, just like he always has. (Think back to the pilot, with Andy breaking down at the crime scene.)
And what a scene, right? “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream,” Monica Bellucci tells Gordon. In a series filled with moments in which dreams and reality start to bleed together, Andy’s encounter with the Fireman doesn’t even make it into the top tier of Twin Peaks‘ strangest moments. But it’s a weirdly elegant swirl of past images that plays like a turning point, for Andy and for those in Twin Peaks working on the side of good. It’s not clear who the eyeless woman is or why she needs rescuing, but it feels heroic. There’s a lot at stake here, even if no one involved in the moment can articulate what. But the world of the Lodges and the world they call their own are starting to talk to each other in ways we’ve never seen before. The show is building to something.
Whatever that is, it’s surely going to involve Sarah Palmer, who has a moment shocking enough to make last week’s arm wrestling sequence look tame by comparison when she fends off the advances of a fellow drinker with some supernatural help. I’ve come to think of Sarah as being much like the house in which she lives. Neglected and left unlooked at for years, she’s fallen into a kind of spiritual disrepair. Easy pickings if you’re, for instance, some kind of spirit from the Black Lodge, a place with a long relationship with the Palmer family. After being missing in action for much of the series following a memorable early scene, Zabriskie’s been riveting in each appearance as Sarah, at once frightening and heartbreaking.
We should talk about that and another late-run development: the introduction of the English, apparently superpowered Freddie, who regales James with a story of his own encounter with the Fireman. Jake Wardle, who plays him, has an interesting history. We should also talk about the end-of-the-episode chatter between two more new characters, who seem to have some info on Billy and Tina, the characters at the center of the drama that’s also sweeping up Audrey (who’s absent this week). What do you want to discuss first?
Alan: Do. Not. Care. About Billy and Tina. At all. This is clearly meant to be an intriguing mystery, but Lynch and Frost have done such a terrible job with the timing, pacing, and overall tone of it — including now tying it to all the previous scenes of Bang Bang Bar randos having conversations that go nowhere (even if the Lissie song, “Wild Wild West,” was one of the livelier ones any Roadhouse guest artist has played this summer) — that my agitation level rises anytime it comes up. For that matter, while I’m amused by the idea that Lynch is plucking people off of YouTube and placing them into Twin Peaks — a little bit of Monica (Bellucci) here, a little bit of YouTube there — and thought the scene itself was played well, it is now embarrassingly late in the game to still be introducing new people, especially someone apparently significant enough to have hung out with our old friend the Fireman. The Return has done a lot of things well, but boy oh boy is the pace not one of them.
On the other hand, Sarah Palmer — or, perhaps, the monster that has taken up residency BEHIND HER FACE — casually tearing out that ponytailed trucker’s throat was really something. (By the way, was I the only one who wondered for a moment before we got a closer look if that was Leo gone to seed?) Like you, I’ve been dazzled every time Zabriskie has appeared in the new season, and this was no exception. That was a very low-fi effect and one chilling precisely because it looked so primitive; whatever is inside of her feels very old, and very cruel. And after all that Sarah has endured, could you blame her for letting this thing set up shop in her body?
I’m intrigued by the idea of Diane and Janey-E as half-sisters, not only because it will bring together Lynch’s two favorite actresses — and, assuming Dougie is in the room at the time, his three favorite actors of either gender — but because of the questions it raises of exactly what Diane knows, how loyal she really is to Bad Coop, and more. She suggests that she’s estranged from Janey-E, but she also knows of the existence of Dougie. What are the odds she wouldn’t have seen a Christmas card or some other photo showing that this guy looked like an older, heavier version of her ex-boss?
And just to loop back to the Blue Rose for a moment, using the Fire Walk with Me footage seems to be a case of Lynch doing the best he could given Bowie’s death, but did you think it was worth the build-up from all the previous talk of Jeffries this season?
Keith: But Alan, when it all comes together, you’ll care about Billy and Tina and everyone else in the bar. Or maybe not. Maybe I just don’t share your frustration with those scenes because they have the hypnotic quality of eavesdropping on a dramatic world we don’t fully understand (and they tend to be short). As for the Bowie moment, I’d half-wondered if Bowie hadn’t shot a scene or two before his death given the series’ long production time. What we got felt like the best way out of an impossible situation without writing Jeffries out of the story entirely. That certainly would have been possible, but this way does clear up some lingering Fire Walk With Me questions and allowed for a nice moment of tribute.
And, like you, I’m intrigued by the idea of Watts, Dern, and MacLachlan sharing scenes, which seems kind of inevitable, even if I’m still not able to picture the circumstances in which it will happen. Or where. Are they all headed for Las Vegas? Will they converge on Twin Peaks? And, mostly unrelated, is there something in the Twin Peaks jail that inspires its prisoners to make animal noises? This week’s drunk resident’s guttural ape noises hearken back to Mike and Bobby barking at James in the original series. I guess we’ll have to tune in next week to find out.
Alan: I may be tuning in a little later, since I’m taking a long-overdue vacation, which means you’ll be doing these next couple of conversations without me. And with the final two episodes airing on Labor Day weekend, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday the 5th to talk through all of that and decide if everything really did come together to make sense.