As we head into the final act of the season, Milo Garner reviews the latest chapters of David Lynch’s 18-hour return to Twin Peaks.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers.
When Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) says ‘damn fine’ in Part 11 of Twin Peaks: The Return, perhaps for the first time, it’s Coop. Not Coop of the red room, or Dougie, or Dougie-Coop, or Bob. It’s Coop – fleeting, but so tempting. As has been a trend in this series, it’s a tease, but tantalizing. It seems undeniable now that Coop isn’t unravelling so that the story might continue – his unravelling is the story. This is something that I would like to have avoided – if only to see more of the good old Dale Cooper on screen – but by this point we, the faithful audience, must go with it. More importantly than giving another hint at the promised ‘return’, this scene makes up part of the show’s absolute highlights, an ending that hits filmic levels that the self-consciously ‘television’ nature of Twin Peaks has typically held back on. The Mitchum brothers (Robert Knepper and Jim Belushi), who continue their very entertaining strand from the last episode, first set out to kill Dougie, but after a strange confluence of dream and reality – as Lynch is wont to apply – they instead become his closest pals. This is centred around a cherry pie, naturally. But that isn’t the only Peaks regular to make an appearance. Playing the piano as the Mitchum brothers treat Coop is none other than Angelo Badalamenti himself, the show’s composer, who eventually plays it out with the credits. A new composition, ‘Heartbreaking’, freezes Coop for an extended moment as Badalamenti plays it diegetically. For a show that is so often set on being intently mundane, or off-puttingly strange, when it does brush with the sublime, we can feel it even more. The piece itself is transfixing, simple and beautiful, the only shame being that Lynch’s style holds back Badalamenti’s score from taking centre-stage more often – though when it does, it really does, which I suppose is the point.
Elsewhere, the episode proves to be similarly entertaining, if not quite reaching the heights of the final few scenes. Amanda Seyfried’s Becky, now confirmed to be Shelly’s (Mädchen Amick) daughter, is on the loose, gun in hand, seemingly with intent to kill her abusive husband (Caleb Landry Jones). It turns out he wasn’t home, and any criminal charges that might have been put against her are covered up. Why? Enter her father: Deputy Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). To see Shelly and Bobby again together strikes a nostalgic chord, though it seems old habits die hard. Shelly now appears to be an item with the sinister Red (Balthazar Getty) – she sure knows how to pick ‘em. This is followed by one of Twin Peaks’ trademark ‘weird moments’, in which gunshots ring out from across the road. Bobby goes over to check it out – a kid had managed to get his hands on his dad’s gun and fired off a few rounds out his the car he was in, and doesn’t look repentant about it. As Bobby tries to do his duty, the car behind is beeping incessantly. Bobby goes to check out the driver, who yells at him about being late in a loud and brilliant performance. Then a sick looking girl starts to vomit in the seat next to her. Perplexing, yes, but (for whatever reason) engrossing too.
Meanwhile, at the FBI, things are getting ever stranger – though this time more relevant to the plot at hand. Travelling to the coordinates given to them by William Hastings (Matthew Lillard), they find a strange portal in the sky, one that almost captures Gordon (David Lynch) if not for Albert’s (Miguel Ferrer) quick thinking. Before this, he managed to see briefly into it – a vision of the Woodsmen. One was, however, closer at hand, phasing in and out of vision, before attacking and, quite gruesomely, killing Hastings. All the while Hawk (Michael Horse) and Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) mosey over a map, including a dark symbol that they mustn’t talk about – which is as funny as it is foreboding. Again, the pace is deliberate, but again, it works. In fact, Part 11 more than works, perhaps being the best of Twin Peaks’ ‘conventional’ episodes so far.
Now, Part 12 doesn’t match 11’s heights, nor does it include so much forward momentum in the plot, but that isn’t to say it isn’t effective. Perhaps the best scene in this episode is shared between Gordon and Albert, who while bit-players in the original series have become key components in this revival. Always having a soft spot for these characters, this suits me fine, and the intrigue building up around the ‘Blue Rose’ group and its doings is similarly welcome. In this episode, we see Tammy (Chrysta Bell’s beautiful cypher, who has been following G&A around in the revival) officially instated into ‘Blue Rose’, while Diane (Laura Dern) is deputised. Diane, however, is still secretly in communication with Bob-Coop, and G&A are well aware of it; she also searches the coordinates they found on a body last episode – they lead to Twin Peaks. Beyond the narrative, this part of the episode has a particular stand-out scene. It involves Gordon seemingly seducing a visitor in his room (Bérénice Marlohe) with Albert suddenly arriving with important news. As in any normal scenario, the woman is asked to leave, but unlike a normal scenario, Lynch decides to stretch this moment to its absolute extreme. Even when she has, eventually, departed, the conversation between Gordon and Albert is so stripped back that they actually stand there in silence – we cut from shot to reverse shot without any words being uttered several times. While this sounds incredibly awkward, it’s a certain kind of off-set humour that Lynch excels at, and even comes off as emotionally effective during Gordon and Albert’s exchange.
This same tactic, however, does not always function so well. The episode’s big comeback is none other than Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), probably the biggest character yet to have appeared. Her scene is a conversation with her husband, a small man named Charlie (Clark Middleton). The subject matter is inherently obscure, concerning someone called Billy (not Zane) and another called Tina. Shot in the typical drawn-out fashion, this scene isn’t particularly funny and is too far removed from anything we know to be overly intriguing. The wow factor of seeing Audrey is enough to pull it through, but it certainly seems a weak point in the episode. One point that can be gleaned from the exchange is that a truck was mentioned, possibly the same truck that Richard (Eamon Farren) was driving when he committed his worst crime (of many) some episodes ago. Richard himself wasn’t featured in the episode but said crime appeared more than once – the most important scene being between the sheriff and Ben (Richard Beymer), his grandfather, who is informed of what his son had done. The two also share another important detail, with Ben giving Truman Cooper’s room key, as a keepsake for Harry (who is not featured beyond conversation in the revival). Truman, however, knows this might have more significance than at first blush, given recent events. How this will unfold remains to be seen.
Asides for this episode include a surprising lack of Dougie Coop (one very short scene), as well as a return of Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), acting suitably deranged. A later visit by Hawk doesn’t seem to calm her much; perhaps this isn’t the last we’ll see of her in this revival. Meanwhile, Hutch and Chantal (Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh) have a brief appearance, shooting Warden Murphy (James Morrison), and Jacoby’s (Russ Tamblyn) Alex Jones impression continues, with Nadine still watching intently. The episode is played out by the Chromatics, but not before a conversation plays out between several unknown characters. It doesn’t come to much and also doesn’t inspire an awful lot of interest, though how it might tie into the greater narrative is always intriguing in of itself. That’s assuming we see these characters again – never a guarantee.
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.