Milo Garner reviews the next chapter of David Lynch’s return to Twin Peaks.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers.
Part 5 of Twin Peaks: The Return, the first to be released as a single episode, probably contains the least actual plot of any so far. While most of the main strands are addressed, there is little that could be said of ‘progress’ – the mystery is less than solved, in fact we’re still trying to work out exactly what the mystery itself is. But this is no criticism – one of the great things about this new bout of Peaks is its ability to intrigue and entertain despite, or even because of, the extreme mundanity of some of its storylines. For example, Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) former psychologist, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), was seen painting spades gold in a past episode. What did this mean, we the audience wondered, and how does it tie into the wider world? Does it have anything to do with the ace of spades the evil doppelgänger of Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) showed Darya (Nicole LaLiberte)? We find that really, he was just painting them to sell them off to fans of his conspiracy podcast. Sure, maybe it’s a double bluff, or maybe the joke’s on us, the collective conspirators of a TV show. Red herring or not, following these characters and their strange doings is always engaging; towards the end of the second series of the original show, many of the side stories felt distracting to the main plot line – here they seem to mould into one cohesive, if currently indefinable, whole.
Like the other parts so far, this episode introduces, and reintroduces, faces new and old. Of the new faces one stands out in particular, that of Amanda Seyfried, who plays Becky. She may or may not be Shelly Johnson’s (Mädchen Amick) daughter, but seems close to her in some way, borrowing $72 before heading off to a car driven by Caleb Landry Jones’ Steven. She then snorts some cocaine and is left peering into the sky, caught in a drug-fuelled euphoria as the car speeds on. The camera is held in overhead for at least a minute – but what a minute. Many high budget television shows are making a habit of including ‘filmic moments’, but Lynch has ‘em all beat with this one, which is as of yet meaningless, but beautiful. Like many of the newly introduced subplots, we can’t glean much from the few minutes of screen time offered to Becky, but as with most of the series, we’re intrigued nonetheless.
Most of Part 5, however, is committed to the Dougie-Cooper adventures, and these are mostly solid. The only real issue is the sketch show vibe that is starting to become apparent – essentially Coop will enter an environment, be presented some stimulus, and do something strange, but a thing apparently justified enough by circumstance to not cause a serious reaction. For example, he meets one of Dougie’s co-workers at one point and, following his revelation last episode, goes for the coffee stack he was carrying. The co-worker interprets this as him just wanting coffee, even if Coop’s acting a little strange about it, and essentially treats him as normal, or at least not someone in need of immediate medical attention. Repeat this general process and that’s the gist Lynch seems to be going for. Admittedly it is sometimes quite funny, and there are some great moments enabled by it (Coop’s repetition of the word ‘agent’ is enough to make any Twin Peaks fan yearn for the ‘Dale Cooper’ that should follow), but it begs the question as to how much longer this formula will structure Coop’s plot strand.
Overall, another strong episode, though one that holds back on the overtly surreal a little (perhaps spending the most time in Twin Peaks itself so far). Again, the direction Lynch is heading in remains obscure, though one senses something is building beneath the surface, even if it’s unclear exactly what that could be at this point.
Twin Peaks: The Return airs Mondays at 2am in simulcast with the U.S. on Sky Atlantic, and is then repeated at 9pm on Tuesdays.