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. With Alan on vacation this week, Josh Kurp will be subbing in for him.
Keith Phipps: Well, that was an episode. There’s something to be said for delayed gratification, isn’t there? Even within this episode, when it seemed increasingly likely that Dougie would awake and be fully Agent Cooper again, Twin Peaks took its time getting there, first discussing the nature of comas then gathering much of the extended cast of Las Vegas characters around Dougie/Coop’s bedside. And then… it’s Agent Cooper again, and unmistakably so.
One of the joys of The Return has been watching Kyle MacLachlan flex his muscles as an actor. He’s scarier than I ever imagined he could be as Bad Coop and funnier than I’ve ever seen him be as Dougie. But he’s been more than just funny as Dougie, finding the poignance in the character and with it the poignance at the heart of the Jones family’s situation. He’s served as a kind of holy fool that’s brought out the best in everyone around him and helped heal a marriage on the brink of falling apart. Like a lot of viewers, I wasn’t sure about the Jones corner of the revival’s world, in large part because Janey-E didn’t seem like a complex enough character for Naomi Watts’ talents. But I’ve come to love it. If this is, as I suspect, almost the last we’ll see of the Joneses and Las Vegas — it seems like Cooper is arranging for a new, improved Dougie to return in some form — it’s been a fun and strangely moving plotline.
What did you make of Cooper’s return? Was it everything you’d hoped it would be? And we should probably mention all the other Las Vegas action, including the strange fate of Chantal and Hutch, the semi-competent assassins with terrible diets.
Josh Kurp: Like you, I am a card-carrying member of the Dougie Jones fan club (unlike Alan, who goes on vacation the same week that Dougie leaves — hmm, do I sense a connection?), but I nearly stood and gave my television a round of applause when Agent Cooper said, “I am the FBI.” HE’S BACK.
It was worth all the endless scenes of Dougie eating cake, not knowing how doors work, and meekly throwing a baseball, which, again, I enjoyed, but I still missed our boy Cooper. When he snaps out of the coma after electrifying himself (there’s a good lesson in there about playing with electrical sockets, kids), he’s as charmingly confident and take-charge as ever, immediately instructing Battlin’ Bushnell Mullins to hand over his weapon, saying farewell to Janey-E and Sonny Jim, and demanding Bradley and Rodney Mitchum fire up the jet. Where are they going? I’ll let Rodney explain in the rare helpful bit of summation: “You don’t sell insurance, you’re an FBI agent who’s been missing for 25 years, and we need to get you to a town called Twin Peaks to a sheriff’s station.” Yup, that about sums it up. So does this.
We’ll come back to Agent Cooper (and Evil Cooper, too, who gives a different sort of goodbye to his son than Dougie and Sonny Jim), but as you mentioned, we should probably talk about the junk food-eating Chantal and Hutch. They were gunned down by “Polish Accountant” (that’s how he’s listed in the credits, at least), and honestly, good riddance. They were maybe my two least favorite characters in The Return. The only time I ever liked them was after they died, and Rodney asked his confused brother, “The f*ck kind of neighborhood is this?” That’s a decent review of every David Lynch project. Meanwhile, back in Twin Peaks, Audrey finally makes it to the Roadhouse, where she gets to perform her infamous “Audrey’s Dance.” Or does she…?
Keith: Regarding Chantal and Hutch, I continually wondered how they could eat so poorly and still look like Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh. But, yes, moving on to Audrey: What’s going on here? It now seems like our theories about her being in an alternate dimension or in a coma — that coma exposition may have served a double purpose — may have been right. It’s tricky: Assuming this to be the case, we could conclude that everything that takes place when Audrey and Charlie walk in the Roadhouse is a dream, right? Does that make all the Roadhouse action we’ve seen a dream?
Josh: Or a beautiful nightmare, if “The” Nine Inch Nails are playing.
Keith: It would explain the disconnected nature of all those scenes of new characters gossiping about Twin Peaks residents we don’t know, some of whom have names that overlap with the unseen characters Audrey’s been talking about. But we’ve also seen Shelly, James, and others in there. And last week, when James and Freddie got in a fight, they were arrested and taken to the jail, which we know takes place in the “real world” of the show. Status: unclear. But what a thrilling scene, right? Audrey doing a full-on reprise of one of the original series’ must famous moments was not what I was expecting, and given what we now suspect the character has been through — having lost years in a coma during which she was raped and impregnated by the Bad Coop — it was incredibly melancholy, too. (Sherilyn Fenn’s tweet this morning, alluding to one of her more famous off-screen relationships, gives it an extra layer of sadness.)
So what do you think is going on there? And were you surprised at the casualness with which Bad Coop revealed his relationship with Richard after letting him serve as a guinea pig for his mysterious coordinates?
Josh: I hope it’s a dream, because the other scenario — that Audrey is in a mental hospital — is almost too sad to think about. So, I’m not going to! Instead, let’s move on to your other, hopefully happier topic: Bad Cooper killing his son. (Dammit.) Richard, who was zapped to death thanks to some bad coordinates and even worse parenting, will not be missed; he was the Ramsay of Twin Peaks, an agent of chaos but not in a cute way, like a gremlin.
In other words: :-)
The party on the other side of the happy face text was Diane, who has a story nearly as tragic as Audrey’s. It was about the night she was with Cooper, except it wasn’t our Cooper — it was Bad Cooper, and he raped her. “He took me somewhere,” she said, “like an old gas station.” That’s when things start to get weird (weirder). Diane says, “I’m in the sheriff’s station” and “I’m not me.” She’s having a full-on panic attack, as if she’s two people at once, when she whips out the gun in her pocketbook. She’s quick, but Albert and Tammy are quicker. They shoot Diane dead, and she’s transported to the Red Room (the One-Armed Man tells her she’s “manufactured,” a term we’ve heard before on the show), where she gets one final “fuck you” before turning into a pearl.
To quote Gordon Cole from earlier this season, what the hell was that? (Twin Peaks is, somehow, stranger than the show about dragons and ice zombies.) Don’t worry, that’s a hypothetical question, Keith. I find it’s better to just accept what happened, appreciate Laura Dern’s amazing performance, and move on. But I do have one question you can answer: next Sunday is the two-episode finale — how does The Return top the season two ending?
Keith: Before we move on from Diane, I remain unclear on whether the Diane we met this season is the same Diane we would have met had she turned up on the show 25 years ago. Is her quickness to anger a result of being “manufactured”? Caused by the trauma of her rape at the hands of Bad Coop? But unlike Bad Coop, she doesn’t seem purely evil. In fact, she seems tortured by her compulsion to assassinate Cole and the rest of the Blue Rose gang. And here’s a bit of brilliance and/or insanity I wish I’d thought of, via TVLine:
And where’s the real Diane? Why she’s in the Sheriff’s station, just like she told us. Oh by the way, what’s Diane backwards? It’s Enaid. Take the E off and add and O. And that’s Naido, the Asian lady with her eyes sewn shut. And where is she? Why, she’s in the Sheriff’s station just like she told us.
Tune in next week, I guess? And next week certainly has its work cut out for it. There’s a lot of sub-plots to address, some of which the show has barely touched. (Hello Ashley Judd?) Will it work? On the most basic level, I have my doubts. I suspect there’s going to be some loose ends and narrative shagginess. But I also don’t really care about that. This has been such a remarkable experience, one that’s exceeded my expectations for what a third season of Twin Peaks could be. (And, for a long time, I wasn’t even sure I wanted a third season of Twin Peaks because it sounded like such an impossible undertaking.) But it’s not only gracefully found a way to revisit this world, treating it and its characters with respect, it’s served as a home for some of the most remarkable sequences of David Lynch’s career. Even if the next two hours are duds and — short devolving into the Twin Peaks equivalent of an endless debate in the Dragonpit, I’m not sure how they could be — this would have been worth it.
Josh, with Alan back next week, this is your last hurrah in these conversations. Any final words?
Josh: “Fuck you.”