You simply can’t look away. That is undeniable, regardless of reception amongst the audience. Many have praised the style and narrative as engaging and reminiscent of David Lynch at his most Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Others have criticized the series for its vagueness and lack of pandering though nostalgia.
Believe it or not, one of the gripes I’ve read is the lack of coffee in the series so far. Another is how unapproachable this season is for the casual viewer on streaming services. This last one may as well be a mindless babble, since it’s David Lynch we’re talking about. Nonetheless, even those who came seeking the quirks from the past will find something ‘quirky’ this time around. The fourth episode begins in Las Vegas, where Cooper is unwittingly making some serious money.
Home Away from home
It can be so charming when the absurd meets the comedic. We already talked about the tone counterpoint between comedy and tragedy last episode. Yet that bitter-kind-of-sweet impression fades briefly at seeing the casino staff so bewildered by Cooper’s 30 consecutive mega-jackpots. Personnel hurry about the place with buckets to catch the gains while the not-rude-anymore old lady at the slots reaps some wealth for herself. (Her appearance hints that she may have fallen on rough times, so this feels rather heartwarming). As she sweetly thanks ‘Mr. Jackpots’, we catch a glimpse of the Coop we knew years ago by way of a warm smile. The moment is cut off by a man recognizing him as Dougie Jones.
This friendly man is Bill Shaker (Ethan Suplee) from Allied Chemicals, possibly a co-worker of sorts. The encounter is understandably awkward, given Cooper’s state, and becomes pathetic (in the sense that it appeals to the viewer’s pathos). Still, it serves to give Cooper vocabulary and information to process. Before he can follow concerned Bill and his companion’s directions home, a staff member stops him on the way. To the office with him, which is ordinarily bad news. Not this time, though; they’re just giving him his winnings — $425,000 — and a limo ride home. If this sounds too nice, it’s really not entirely. There is some tension from the casino’s executive. Reality kicks in that such luck is not commonplace.
The ride home and the arrival are equally awkward. Finally, we meet Dougie’s concerned wife, Janey-E (Naomi Watts) who promptly slaps him. It turns out that Dougie has been missing for three days and missed his son’s birthday. To make matters worse, he had a gambling debt. Fortunately, Coop’s winnings sort of lighten the mood a bit.
All interactions so far between Cooper and the world outside the Black Lodge have followed the same coherence. The palette of emotions conveyed through Jade, the people at the casino, and Janey-E has been fairly diverse. Yet all fall flat on our man, with few indications that he could ever regain the competence he used to have. Now at a safer place, we can afford the question: could he really return to being the Coop we knew?
From the Chief to the Director
From one fan favorite to another, we come to Deputy Director GORDON COLE, who is to have a meeting with someone big in the FBI. This somebody turns out to be FBI Chief of Staff Denise Bryson (David Duchovny). That’s right, one of the dark horses of Season 2 made a comeback. This trans character made quite a splash before her time. Now she has naturally reached a position consistent with her top-level competence. COLE has come to inform her about Cooper, who is in a prison in South Dakota. However, this is something Chief Bryson already knew. She has something else to discuss with COLE. And we’re going to get a little meta here, because it’s something regarding controversy.
Chief Bryson questions COLE’s choices in terms of staffing. Particularly his decision to take Agent Preston with him to South Dakota. Apparently, he has a tendency to enlist the aid of attractive women in the force. Considering the character is played by David Lynch himself, this feels like a criticism of the director’s focus on women throughout his career. There have been claims of sexism and even misogyny from a portion of the fanbase and critics. While his methods in casting appear to depend more on the visual aspect than actual auditions, there’s much more to it than mere focus on sex appeal. I refer to this thread for further nuance since an exploration of Lynch and Women could easily take double the length of this article, at least.
However, I can’t leave this be without my personal input. I think David Lynch is not a commercial director. His films are more of a channeling of themes and dynamics than an aim to please an audience. This essentially makes him an auteur. In my opinion, he explores themes that intrigue him through female characters. He doesn’t romanticize violence and tragedy, but rather generates impressionism out of it, to imprint terror on the viewer. This is definitely the case regarding Maddy Ferguson’s murder at the hands of her uncle. He does this because it’s something that fills him with dread. The horror he handles is not a device to gross out or shock, but to touch deeply, to make us and himself hurt.
Thus, I personally believe his focus on women is more of a choice as an auteur than a statement of the individual. Never forget that his male characters are also noteworthy through their strangeness. But is he particularly attributing certain dynamics to one gender over the other? Possibly. There is still room to read a gendered perspective onto the division of male and female characters. So, while he may come off as sexist, I don’t believe he is consciously malicious.
All that to say, this scene is possibly his acknowledgement of both the criticism and his stance on it. Although he may be old-fashioned, as COLE puts it, he is still going to present his characters through a lens (or several) of beauty.
All things said, we may as well take COLE’s words about Bryson’s detractors to heart. “To fix their hearts or die.” We can experience the art he is attempting to convey or we can isolate or decontextualize it through one reading or another. In either case, Chief Bryson warmly bids Director COLE a safe trip and success for the task at hand. And this task could prove difficult, as there is a big chance that the one COLE, Rosenfield, and Preston are looking for is not their Coop.
New and Old and New
We’re now back in Twin Peaks, at the Sheriff’s Department. Lucy’s on a phone call with Sheriff Truman. Now, this is not Harry Truman, but his brother Frank (Robert Forster). Given Micheal Ontkean’s retirement from acting, it’s unlikely we’ll see Harry in this revival. Perhaps the disappearance of his friend Coop fell harshly on him. Nevertheless, it’s time to look at the current state of affairs in the town. It’s not looking pretty. There have been cases of domestic violence, D&D (Drunk and disorderly, not David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, which is just as bad), DUI, and a boy overdosed at school. Modernity has fallen bleak on the town, it seems.
On the way to meeting Hawk, Sheriff Truman comes upon Deputy Bobby Briggs. Quite an ironic turn of events, there. Turns out he’s in charge of monitoring the drug traffic from Canada. Whether this is a new way for him to practice his old craft, we don’t know yet. One thing’s for sure, though, the portrait of Laura Palmer on the conference room’s table indicates that he’s not over the events from years ago. Cue “Laura Palmer’s theme” as Bobby loses his composure. In fact his reaction indicates the breach between a generation that lived this tragedy and a new breed, cynical and uncaring about the town’s history and idiosyncrasies.
As if the reminder of Laura Palmer wasn’t enough, knowing that they’re at the conference room to talk about Special Agent Dale Cooper is no easier. He was the last man to see his father, Major Garland Briggs, alive. After a talk Cooper had with Garland, the latter died in a fire at his station. The motive of this conversation is unknown, and still haunting, considering it was most likely not the real Coop. The suspense is cut short by the arrival of one Wally Brando (*belch* Michael Cera) who has come to pay his respects to Sheriff Truman. Meet Lucy and Andy’s son. He reveals that Harry Truman, his godfather, is ill. Interestingly, Wally has plenty of Dick Tremayne’s mannerisms, suggesting Andy was not the biological father.
He also appears to have taken after James’ wandering ways. In my head, this is the new James, and I’m going to treat him as such. This is me glaring at him.
Back in the Las Vegas’ suburbs, Coop has a vision of the Black Lodge. In this vision, MIKE speaks to him, telling him that he was tricked. We can only infer the meaning of this, as MIKE shows him the orb that was formerly Dougie. In a more succinct message, he tells Cooper that either he or his doppelganger has to die. Coop may not understand this yet, but we know this establishes a very direct opposition between the Coops. The moment is cut short by the need to relieve his bladder and dress for breakfast. Fortunately, ‘his’ wife is nearby to help him. Furthermore, he relearns his signature thumbs up gesture from ‘his’ son, Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon).
Downstairs at the dining table, Sonny Jim is very amused by ‘dad’s’ antics. Nonetheless, with the patience and understanding a kid can have, he helps Coop sit down and then teaches him how to use the silverware to eat his breakfast. Cooper’s reaction at tasting a plate of pancakes with syrup on top says it all. He’s relearning to love the little joys of life. AND THEN JANEY-E SERVES HIM A CUP OF COFFEE. Hopefully this will shut up whoever complained about the lack of coffee in the season (Seriously?). The very sight of the cup feels like an awakening for Dale Cooper. In fact, “coffee” is the first word he has been able to say so far without first hearing the word from someone else.
Instinctively, he takes a nice wholesome gulp of the rich, black brew before spitting it out. This is a somewhat broken reprisal of this bit. However, in spite of burning himself (which Coop taught me to never fear), he looks more than just pleased. He looks gleeful. While this may not be a definite answer to the question from earlier, perhaps our Coop is not entirely lost. Baby steps, baby steps indeed. Also, this will hopefully be the one and only time I reference a meme (about to become outdated, at that). The reason I did this here is because Kyle MacLachlan shared it on his Instagram account. (Thank you for being you, Sir! We love you!)
The interview with the lost agent
So, remember the murder of Ruth Davenport? We got a hit on the fingerprints from John Doe. However, as the forensics expert, Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) shows the police, that information is unavailable. Blocked by the military. Meanwhile, Director COLE and Agents Preston and Rosenfield have arrived in South Dakota. Other FBI agents meet them at the airport for a drive to their destination. Some quirky shenanigans occur in the car, as you do. That’s probably about as much light heartedness we’ll get before they meet up with Mr. C. At the prison proper, they’re brought up to date on how the local police found him.
Furthermore, we learn that exposure to garmonbozia has a highly toxic effect. This just in: evil is bad for you. On a just-as-nasty side of things, Mr. C had cocaine, a machine gun, and a dog leg in his trunk. His appearance in the mugshot is startling, but it does no justice to the man they’re about to meet.
The interview takes place behind a screen for safety precaution. ‘Coop’s’ tone is as cold and alien as it was with Phyllis Hastings back in the second episode. He claims to have been working undercover with their colleague Phillip Jeffries. Now, although these FBI agents have their quirks, they’re not gullible. They know something is very, very wrong about this ‘Cooper’.
After the interview, GORDON asks Tammy to leave him with Albert for a moment for a conversation. Albert had a subtle, but troubled reaction at seeing ‘Cooper’. We know that the nature of the following exchange is more than vital as the Director turns his hearing aid all the way up. Albert reveals to GORDON that he had authorised Jeffries to give Cooper information. This came about from a call Albert got from the long-thought-missing Phillip Jeffries, who claimed that Agent Dale Cooper was in danger. This information was the identity of an FBI agent in Colombia, who was later found killed. This troubling information has the two men extremely concerned, for they’re not only Cooper’s colleagues, but his friends as well.
In the end, they reason that what they got in their hands is a Blue Rose case, the bluest. Before taking any action, they need to have one person take a look at ‘Cooper’. Albert knows where to locate her. Who is this person they speak of? I have a theory, but I’ll leave that undisclosed, lest my heart be broken if it proved false. Such is life, blue.
We bring this episode to a close back at the Bang Bang Bar. The episode’s ending song is “Lark” by Au Revoir Simone. The lovely keyboard trio sings some mauve into the strong blue ambience of this episode. Of course, we got some laughs and a few moments when we felt warm inside. But the pervading sense of doubt and wrongness has not let up. Little by little, we are learning of the nature of the doppelgangers, but their intent is still a mystery. The terrible menace that the Black Lodge once harbored has spilled into our world. Now we may start to fear the outcome should our heroes, such as they are, fail to stop it.
All images are courtesy of Showtime
Twin Peaks The Return Part 4 Credits
Directed by David Lynch
Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch