Over the last few weeks, we have returned to Twin Peaks, but have also had our Twin Peaks Universe expanded to New York City to South Dakota to Las Vegas, NV to the Pentagon to Argentina (unless you include The Missing Pieces that is). Twin Peaks is no longer a show about a little town on the border of US and Canada. Time has progressed, people have grown, and the world of Twin Peaks has gotten even bigger.
If you read (or listened to) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, you know the world of Twin Peaks has expanded before we even got to see the first scene of Part 1. Frost explores the myths and cults around the stories of Twin Peaks, wrapping real history in with fictional accounts in a masterful way. He went all the way back to the expedition of Lewis & Clark who traveled through the Midwest and into the northwest part of the United States. Frost goes on to connect dots between the supernatural and UFOs and actual secret US projects. And characters from the town of Twin Peaks were instrumental in some of this.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when we sat down to watch Parts 1 and 2 a few weeks ago. I was concerned. 200+ actors in an 18 hour endeavor? Would Twin Peaks The Return feel more like the quirky and funny series or the dark and foreboding Fire Walk With Me? Would we go “full David Lynch” or would Mark Frost’s involvement ground Lynch to the point where it may help or hinder the show? So many of the cast have passed away over the years – would that hurt The Return? Could these two men and these actors even bring back Twin Peaks after being away for so long? Previous returns of shows have not felt the same and were grade B shadows of what they used to be — would Twin Peaks fall into that same category?
There were positives too that gave me some hope. Lynch and Frost had full control without behind held back by network TV or some studio (that can also be a double-edged sword). The show was being kept under wraps with very few leaks of what was going to happen (this is often a good thing IMO). The cast seemed very positive about the show — especially Kyle MacLachlan. (Yes, the actors are supposed to be positive but this felt different in the interviews I watched and read.) And the biggest positive – 18 hours of Twin Peaks after 25 years!!
After the first 1/3 of The Return, I can feel good in saying that I’ve been pleasantly surprised. The Return hasn’t fallen into the trap of being overly nostalgic. Each nostalgic moment has been wrapped into the story so it doesn’t feel like the scene was just placed there for a few seconds of connecting to the past. Even the somber scenes of The Log Lady talking to Deputy Chief Hawk were done so well that many of us came away from those scenes more sad than anything else — esp those of us who knew Catherine Coulson through the Festival.
The show does feel more like Fire Walk with Me and Lynch’s movies than it does the original TV show, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even though FWWM received negative reviews and attention at the time, the movie has actually made a comeback in recent years and is now viewed as a cult favorite. Fans who loved the show but don’t care for Lynch as a filmmaker may struggle the most with The Return and that’s to be expected. But I think people forget about the dark imagery of the original 2 seasons – Maddy’s death, Leland’s death, Cooper’s dream in Episode 2, the final episodes, the Harold plotline and his suicide, etc. Some of the darkest moments in network TV history happened in a single series over about 30 hours. Twin Peaks The TV Show was always about incest, murder and the spirit world even if it was not always blunt about it.
Even though the first three parts were very Lynch (slow-burning and abstract) there was plenty of other storylines being created – including the storyline with Bill Hastings – the high school principal who has been arrested for the murder of Ruth Davenport. Matthew Lillard’s Hastings is one of my new favorite characters thus far – even though we haven’t seen him in the last few parts.
The first couple of parts introduced us to the Glass Box which seems to capture spirits traveling from somewhere to New York. The killing of Sam and Tracy is not just gruesome but also lets us know there are some extremely violent spirits in the other dimension. It harkens back to a quote by Windom Earle in which he explains that some spirits would rather “rip the flesh” from a person’s bones than greet you with a “happy good day.” This brutal killing gets on the radar of the FBI (potentially a Blue Rose case??) and that’s when we are introduced to a new character, Tammy Preston, and reintroduced to Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield. To see these two men back in the Twin Peaks universe was wonderful to see — especially after Miguel Ferrer’s passing in January 2017.
But the most wonderful actor so far has been Kyle MacLachlan himself. So far in 6 episodes he has played 4 characters – a “with-it” stuck-in-the-lodge Agent Cooper, Mr C / Bad Cooper, Dougie Jones, and a mentally deficient Dale Cooper. Reportedly, MacLachlan is the only actor who was able to read the entire script from beginning to end. We’ve known that for quite some time and now it makes sense – he is absolutely instrumental to the entire season run compared to any other character. He has been absolutely impressive playing all of these roles. Some of the most memorable scenes are with Cooper trying to understand the new world that he is in after 25 years trapped in the Black Lodge. MacLachlan deserves an Emmy nomination for what we have seen thus far and I think we are in store for some more great acting from him.
The show opens with Cooper in the lodge. He first talks to the Giant (credited as ????? in The Return) and then finds himself in the Waiting Room where he meets Laura Palmer again. This time Laura tells him that she is dead and yet she lives and that he can now leave the Lodge. She also removes her face and a bright shining light emits from her. And them, much like in Cooper’s dream where she tells him who killed her, she walks over to Cooper and whispers a secret.
During Cooper’s escape from the Lodge, we are reintroduced to Mike/Gerard/One-Armed Man (whatever name you want to give him but now referenced as OAM for short) and a strange tree with a ball of gum as its head – The Evolution of the Arm. It does appear that OAM is there to assist Cooper out of the Lodge but The Arm’s Doppleganger gets in the way and Cooper finds himself falling in space, faster and faster (reminder of the quote by Laura in FWWM). He finds himself in a building floating in space where he meets a woman who has no eyes and The American Girl (who happened to be played by Phoebe Augustine who was also Ronette). A large electrical outlet is on the wall in the room and the number 15 is originally on this panel. By the time that Cooper pushes his way into the outlet, the number on the panel is 3 (Cooper’s Great Northern Room number was 315). Cooper replaces Dougie Jones who has been manufactured, according to OAM. The Lodge dismantles (for lack of a better word) Dougie by his heading popping off like a balloon and leaving behind a golden marble and the owl cave ring he had on his hand. Both of these objects are placed on the same table/altar that we saw in FWWM. Much of this appears to happen at the same time Tracy and Sam are murdered by something coming out of the Glass Box.
Back in the real world, the mentally deficient Cooper struggles to speak and walks slowly. He doesn’t know where he is but does seem to recognize keywords that harken back to his FBI self and Twin Peaks. He notices signs like “Sycamore” and he repeats phrases and words like “case files”, “coffee”, and “agent.” In Part 5 & 6, he is really interested in a statue of a man holding a gun and in a cop’s badge. He does seem to have some sort of power or someone is helping him. He is shown a Black Lodge type symbol above slot machines ready to go to jackpot. He sees a green light on one of Dougie’s co-workers and he knows that he is lying. He sees sparkles on case files for the insurance company that points to the lying of that same insurance agent. Whether this is the real Agent Cooper with his investigative ability coming out or someone is helping him, we don’t know yet.
We do know that “Dougie” is in trouble. We know that he owes a gambling debt from betting on a football game and men are after him for that. We also know men, being led by a woman named Loraine, is trying to kill him. In part 5, Lorraine is talking to one her guys and makes the comment that Dougie should have already been killed. Loraine is likely being directed by Duncan Todd who is a business owner in Vegas. We know from a conversation between Duncan and his assistant that a “she” got a job and that there is someone above Todd who is pulling the strings. Because Loraine and her team failed, a hit goes out for her and Dougie via Duncan Todd’s office (Loraine made a comment to one of her men that she could be killed because of their failure). She is killed by Ike The Spike who is now going after “Dougie.” (By the way, the men killed in the car explosion were probably just “innocent” bystanders trying to steal a car and chose unwisely. I don’t believe they are involved with Dougie.) Bottom line – I believe Duncan Todd hired Loraine to kill “Dougie” at a very specific time. This time must occur on a specific day AFTER 2:53 PM. I believe the person above Duncan Todd specifically knows that after this time, the person will no longer be Dougie, but will in fact be Dale Cooper coming back from the lodge. The only person we know at this point who would know this is the Evil Cooper.
For many viewers, these scenes with the slow Cooper are frustratingly slow. Fans want Cooper back! I understand that feeling because the scenes do run slow, but in rewatching these episodes later, they don’t feel as slow and each time the Roadhouse music starts up, I’m thinking, “Wait Already?!”. I think some of this is due to our own impatience in how TV is today. So many of us binge watch TV now and can get through a new season of House of Cards or Orange is a New Black in just a few days instead of months. These slow moments are a regular thing we see in Lynch’s works and we saw it throughout Twin Peaks when Lynch was directing – the waiter in the Season 2 opener, the bank vault gentleman who opens the vault for Pete and Andrew, etc. Yes, we want our Cooper back to normal, but I believe once this occurs, we will see the action and speed of the show suddenly pick up. A wide-awake Cooper would immediately call the FBI and the FBI would contact Cole and then Cole would come to the realization that Mr C isn’t really Cooper — there would be no need for finding Diane and that plotline as a result. . There’s a reason for the slowness here – and patience is key (there have been multiple slow-burning TV series over the years that pay off in the end).
Meanwhile, in Twin Peaks, Hawk has been trying to determine what piece of information has been forgotten. After searching through the case files, Hawk, in Twin Peaks fashion, accidentally discovers the possible missing pieces after his Indian-head nickel rolls into a bathroom stall and he discovers the door paneling is pulled back. He takes apart the door to discover pieces of paper. As always, folks online go to work and zoom in on the paper. Recent screen captures suggest the name “Annie” is on one of the pages. If this is truly the case, then these either could be torn out pages from the diary or at the very least notes that someone (or even Laura herself) may have written. The Annie character is mysteriously missing from The Secret History of Twin Peaks and when asked about this Frost made a comment about Lana was the one who won Miss Twin Peaks. We are still not sure how Annie fits into The Return but we may soon find out.
Also in Twin Peaks we have both new and returning characters. Shelly has a daughter named Becky who is married to Steven, an out of work junkie. Becky already appears to potentially be a Laura Palmer type character. We are also see Richard Horne who was introduced through assaulting a young woman at the Roadhouse. We later find him meeting with Red who seems to be the guy bringing new type of drug into Twin Peaks that Sheriff Truman asked Deputy Bobby Briggs about. The most intriguing aspect of Red his is magical ability to make a spinning dime appear in a person’s mouth (this should remind you of the Grandson from the series). After his meeting with Red, Richard runs over a child in a touching and emotional scene involving the boy’s mom and Carl (even though the onlookers expressions are oddly out of place which hurts the scene unless that is what Lynch was aiming for).
Over in South Dakota, the police are investigating the murder of Ruth Davenport whose head was found along with the body of a male. When the police run the man’s fingerprints, they are blocked from seeing it, but we learn that the fingerprints may belong to Major Garland Briggs who supposedly died in a fire soon after Evil Cooper returns from the Lodge (at the end of Season 2). We also learn that his fingerprints have appeared multiple times over the years. So now we have the Department of Defense investigating this recent discovery. Also, Mr C kills Bill Hastings’ wife and appears to frame George, her lover and Bill’s lawyer, for the murder by using George’s gun.
So many storylines and threads to follow but I believe many of them are directly connected to one another. We’re so used to watching TV seasons in which there is only 1 or 2 main plotlines and nothing else matters. This is what made Twin Peaks unique 25 years ago, and still today.
It’s easy to get frustrated in The Return. After 25 years, fans are dying to learn about their favorite characters and see Cooper return to his normal self. Lynch and Frost enjoy just providing just a bit of the story with each part, knowing full well, I believe, that the patience and the wait will pay off.
Overall the first 6 episodes of The Return have been a ride even if it’s been slow at times. Lynch has equated The Return to be more like a movie than a TV Show. We’ve only watched 50 minutes of a 2.5 hour movie. And if Lynch/Frost follow standard movie-making storytelling (and that’s a big IF), then we are about to start a new phase of Twin Peaks The Return that will excite, delight, surprise, and yes frustrate many fans.