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 know we said we were going to wait until Sunday night and discuss episodes 3 & 4 together. Then I watched both episodes and realized two things: 1) There is no way I could wait that long (especially since the episodes are already out there for anyone who cares about the show to watch), and 2) Episode 3 is so strange and memorable and relentlessly Lynch-ian that it deserves its own conversation. So let’s do that today and hit the fourth hour later this week.
I’d heard rumblings that Part 3 was weird, but that still didn’t prepare me for quite how weird, as if Lynch had watched the ice cube episode of Legion and thought, “Yeah, that’s real cute, kid. Let me show you how it’s done.” Where the hell should we begin with this, Keith? The woman with no eyes? The bizarre (even by Lynch standards) editing and sound design of the scene by the fireplace? What is in the metal drum atop the metal box? Major Briggs’ head floating through the stars, telling Cooper, “Blue rose”? The electrical panel with its changing numbers? Or should we start off with a relatively coherent idea like the Cooper doppelganger’s creation of a second doppelganger, Dougie Jones, that would be absorbed into the Black Lodge while he got to stay free in the world?
I am both exhilarated and dumbfounded by this one, Keith. Help me out. Please.
Keith: It’s very simple, Alan. See, the changing numbers… Wait, let’s start with Major Briggs’ floating head… Well, the eyeless woman is definitely… Yeah, I’m at a loss. I think the best I can do, yet again, is to refer everyone back to Eraserhead, which this whole segment reminded me of even more than the introduction of The Arm. That film, Lynch’s first feature, opens with a long, wordless sequence involving a head floating in space and a mysterious figure living inside a planet filled with odd levers. It even climaxes with a kind of birth scene, just as this opening does. Beyond that, the comparison breaks down, but I think it’s worth remembering that this kind of experimental, elusive filmmaking is the foundation of what Lynch does. Everything else is built on top of it. And, for the record, the whole scene clocks in at about 15 minutes during which only two words are said, the aforementioned “blue rose.”
As for those words, they most likely refer back to a scene in Fire Walk With Me in which FBI Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) walks fellow agent Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) through the decoding of a mysterious woman wearing a blue rose. Every other detail of her outfit doubles as a clue, which always struck me as Lynch goofing on those who try too hard to make sense of his show, and Chester happily lays them out for his new partner before saying he can’t tell him what the blue rose means. So, two possibilities: The mysterious blue rose will be a major clue that will help us understand Twin Peaks: The Return or, once again, it will remain an uninterpretable element whose meaning we’ll never know. Or both. Who knows? (Maybe the disembodied head of Major Briggs?) But even if we never figure out What It All Means — and we won’t, of that I’m sure — this was a thrilling sequence, and one that does serve a plot function by bringing the original Agent Cooper back to our reality. Sort of. Was this what you wanted from a revived Twin Peaks? And what did you think of the rest of the episode?
Alan: It wasn’t literally what I wanted, in the sense that I never could have envisioned all the details of that (even though, in broad strokes, it does feel a bit like the Legion ice cube scene, which I suspect means Noah Hawley has watched Eraserhead a time or 12). Honestly, I’m not sure I wanted anything from this going in, because TV revivals in general virtually never work out. But now having seen four episodes (including one we’ll get to later in the week, because I have much to say about Lucy and Andy’s son), I think I’ve realized that what I want from The Return is exactly what David Lynch gives us in that opening sequence: something so beautiful and singular and confident that it doesn’t even matter if I can make sense of it, nor if everything feels absurdly stretched out.
Think about it: it takes nearly 35 minutes into the episode before we see the amusing sign on the conference room at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station (a picture of a doughnut, plus “Disturb”), and what exactly happens in those preceding 35 minutes? Cooper finally makes it out of the Black Lodge band back into the real world, taking the place of Dougie Jones, whose head explodes upon leaving our reality, leaving only a metal ball and the ring Laura Palmer was warned not to wear in Fire Walk With Me for Mike to puzzle over. And Evil Cooper has a car accident and vomits into his hand to prevent himself from being pulled back into the Black Lodge. Oh, and hitmen are trying to kill Dougie — and thus, now, Cooper — and a junkie mom lives across the street from where Dougie and Jade the prostitute (a rare African-American character in this world) have their assignations. All of this could have been dispensed with in a fraction of the time, as could Cooper’s amnesiac wandering through the casino once Jade drops him off there. But Lynch’s command of tone is so masterful, and MacLachlan’s physicality still so strong — after 25 years in another dimension, Cooper is basically a toddler still learning how to work the controls of his body — that I could have spent much more time in the starfield, wondering what was making the banging noise inside the drum.
Frankly, the business with Dr. Jacoby spray-painting the shovels felt much more like Lynch and Frost trolling us than anything involving other worlds and doppelgangers. But that was compensated for by perhaps the most purely (or effectively) comic scene of the revival so far, as dim-witted Lucy and Andy try to help Hawk — who’s not exactly bright, either, but has good instincts — solve the Log Lady’s riddle.
How did you feel about the episode as a whole? And about the return of Lynch as Gordon Cole and the late Miguel Ferrer as Albert Rosenfield?
Keith: Oh, the payoff for all that shovel business is going to be amazing! (I kid, but maybe it will be? Again, who knows at this point?) To answer your question, as a whole I loved this episode. Albert was one of my favorite supporting characters on the original show even if seeing him again is bittersweet after Ferrer’s death. Albert and Gordon make terrific foils, too, and the introduction of the FBI introduces a sense that at least there are some people somewhere who kind of know what they’re doing trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
And at this point, we kind of have a sense of the overarching plot — there’s Good Coop and there’s Bad Coop and they’re certain to converge at some point, most likely in Twin Peaks — while the details remain many and mysterious. That junkie mom you mentioned: Will we see her again? Does she matter to what’s going on? Or was this glimpse into the sad life across the street from Dougie’s hook-up spot just a bit of shading?
We should probably talk about Jade a little: African-American characters are mostly notable for their absence in Lynch’s work. We now have Jade, who joins a colonel played by Tony Burton from the original run of Twin Peaks. And, that’s it, right? Prior to that, there’s not a rich history of complex African-American characters in Lynch’s work. There’s a hardware store worker in Blue Velvet, Richard Pryor in Lost Highway, and the hired assassin killed by Nicolas Cage in the opening moments of Wild at Heart, in a scene whose racial implications deeply bothered Roger Ebert. There may be others I’m forgetting, but Jade stands out in part because she’s the rare black character in this mostly white cast in a filmmaker’s mostly white filmography, so it’s hard for her profession not to look significant. There’s probably nothing to read into that, but it is an example of how the absence of diversity can end up sending message their creators probably never meant to send.
Alan: Jade also stands out as one of the more sensible and least arch characters in the entire series, which makes her a more striking and amusing contrast to this infantilized version of Good Coop than if she were as weird as even the Horne brothers. No, it’s not a great look that one of the few black people in the entire series is a prostitute, but Lynch’s handling of ethnicity in general is so clumsy and prone to stereotyping (Catherine in yellowface as Mr. Tojamura, or even Lucy trying to make sense of Hawk’s “Indian” heritage here) that I’d almost rather he not try to be inclusive at all.
What do you make of the glowing lights floating above the various slot machines as they pay off for Cooper (and then later for the filthy old woman who follows him)? Do you think the very colorful — and, according to the highway patrolman incapacitated by it, very foul-smelling — vomit is meant to represent “garmonbozia,” as Mike described it in Fire Walk With Me? Or are there certain parts of this show — maybe many parts — we’re best off not thinking too deeply about?
Keith: That vomit just kept coming, didn’t it? Look, I honestly don’t know. If you’re going to make me try to follow the logic to its conclusion, I’d say it makes sense as garmonbozia because that seems to double as a kind of fuel for Black Lodge types. Dougie loses it as he’s drawn back into the Lodge. Bad Coop loses a bunch with Dougie’s disappearance, weakened by the loss of the doppelganger he fashioned for himself somehow. Whatever it is, it’s certainly an arresting (and disgusting) image in an episode not short on arresting images. As for the flashing lights, I was too distracted by Coop’s “Hellooooo”s to pay them much mind. Also, I love this tweet:
To close things out, how are you enjoying what now seems like a tradition of ending each episode with a musical performance? I saw The Cactus Blossoms open for Jenny Lewis a few months ago and enjoyed their dreamy, retro, Everly Brothers-inspired songs then. They fit in nicely into this world.
Alan: I’m enjoying the performances now that I’ve recognized that most of them will just be concerts, and won’t necessarily involve other TP characters appearing as happened in the premiere. But we can get into that — as well as Wally — when we talk about Part 4.
Keith: And don’t forget Sonny Jim! (Even if Dougie did.)
Look for our discussion of Part 4 later this week.