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: Well, Keith, not much to analyze with this one, is there? Just a totally straightforward hour that advanced many of this season’s plotlines in equal measure, explained a lot of what we had seen previously, and was among the more conventional and coherent hours David Lynch has ever directed, right?
Alan: What? You didn’t love the moment when Good Coop finally shook off the Dougie persona and delivered a seven-minute monologue explaining how the two Lodges work and how he and Bad Coop can co-exist in this plane of reality? Or the well-oiled Twin Peaks sheriffs department quickly building a case against Richard Horne for the hit-and-run, arresting and successfully prosecuting him all within the space of the same hour?
Alan: Okay, fine. So where would you like to begin discussing an episode so weird and abstract, it made The Return‘s already-legendarily abstract third hour seem like an episode of NCIS: New Orleans in comparison?
Keith: Maybe the best way to start is by discussing the relatively normal (“normal”) first 20 minutes. Bad Coop has escaped from prison with Ray who has information he wants. Then, sensing an advantage and maybe hoping Bad Coop will feel some gratitude, he asks for money over the course of their long, tense drive through some abandoned backroads on their way to “The Farm.” (At this point, can we safely say that headlights cutting through an ominous, twisty, wooded landscape is Lynch’s signature shot, a la The Spielberg Face?) This turns into a face-off that ends badly for Bad Coop. He’s pumped full of lead and falls over. What an unexpected development!
Then the truly unexpected kicks with the arrival of what others are calling the Charred Men, so we may as well too. We saw one of these guys earlier in the season, but here they are en masse doing something to Bad Coop’s, freaking Ray out in the process, and somehow producing an image of Bob, as played by the late Frank Silva. It’s all dark and disturbing, a classic film noir scene that takes an unexpected detour into horror. Then “The” Nine Inch Nails plays a song at the road house.
And, again, this is the relatively normal part of the episode. If this were part of any previous installment, even one with the long, abstract stretches of Episode 3, it would count as a freaky, effective bit of filmmaking that pushed Bad Coop’s story along and offered a chance to theorize about the workings of the Black Lodge and its agents. (Can Bad Coop die? If so, does that upset the balance with his doppelgänger? Could this be the beginning of the end our Dougie? What happened to his body and why does it look so much like Cooper in FBI agent dress at the end?) But this wasn’t part of any previous installment. It was part of Episode 8, which is its own thing entirely, and one of the most thrilling, puzzling hours I’ve seen from either incarnation of the show. Was that your reaction as well? Or did this wander too far from your understanding of what the show is for your taste?
Alan: Well, there are two separate questions to answer here: 1) Did I like this episode? 2) Did I understand what happened in it? The answer to the second is an unequivocal “Heck no!” The answer to the first is much closer to “Heck yes!”
A lot of this was slow, and baffling — even the relatively straightforward part you described above was visually hard for me to follow, and at times I could barely make out anything that was on screen (if Bob’s image appeared, I couldn’t see it) because neither my TV nor my iPad could properly filter that much blackness (I switched halfway through, hoping in vain it would help) — and during the long kaleidoscopic stretch after the first atom bomb detonation, I joked on Twitter that this was Lynch meets Kubrick meets “Worker and Parasite.” You and I are going to need some time this morning to try to puzzle out what happened and why, and how — if at all — it relates to what’s happening in the 2017 portion of the story.
But holy cow, David Lynch, boys and girls.
When I was complaining about Dougie Jones a few weeks back, it was with the caveat that I didn’t mind if the show was slow and/or incomprehensible if it was providing me those periodic collages of sight and sound that only Lynch could create. A lot of the recent episodes lacked those. This was pretty much all that — what Showtime boss David Nevins must have had in mind when he described the new episode as the “pure heroin” version of Lynch — from start to finish. Even the performance by “The” Nine Inch Nails was bizarre in the context of the hour — not just that Trent Reznor and friends would be playing a roadhouse in nowhereswville, Washington, but that it happened in the middle of the episode, and that we heard virtually all of “She’s Gone Away” as an overture for all the hallucinatory visions to follow.
So the short version is, I barely have any idea what I watched last night, and I doubt I would have the patience for something like that every week — for that reason, I’m even more grateful we got such a straightforward and expository hour last time out — but that was like nothing else I’d seen on TV before, and I’m willing to indulge Lynch now and again if he can give me an image like that slow push into the expanding mushroom cloud, or the creepy frog/bug thing that crawled into the poor girl’s mouth, or a sound as nightmare-inducing as the crunching of the skulls as the Woodsman killed the radio station receptionist and DJ.
Keith, you’re more of a Peaks/Lynch scholar than I am. Where should we begin in terms of trying to figure out what this meant and how it connects to the modern story?