Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Twin Peaks: And Everyone Rejoiced

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Well, this is it, the threshold before the two-part finale. Although Game of Thrones has been the talk of the summer, Twin Peaks: The Return has arguably been the show to truly ransom its viewership’s breath through suspense, horror, and a dash of quirkiness. The cryptic, slow narrative may not be to everyone’s taste. But those who chose to stay and explore this world of uncanny wonder will find themselves rewarded with this episode. Alas, this is not simply a crowd-pleaser, but potentially a game-changer, and a lovely example of a peculiar pacing model. While consistently good, it keeps the magnificent for the endgame, precisely where we’re at now in the show itself.

Before getting into the business proper, I owe you something of a clarification. The aforementioned game-changer depends on something previously mentioned back in Part 14. At the time I didn’t go into as much detail as I should have, so I’m correcting that now.

When Albert tested Tammy’s deductive capabilities on the proto- “Blue Rose” case, she correctly came to the conclusion that Lois Duffy’s double was a tulpa. Tulpa is (in very basic terms) a Buddhist notion regarding a spiritual manifestation of a very particular type: a body created by a mind. In practical terms, Twin Peaks handles this as a ‘cloning’ mechanism, different from the evil doppelgangers, which are created by a guest’s visit to the Black Lodge. Going off Buddhist tenants, not everybody may be able to create a tulpa, but anyone could potentially create an evil doppelganger under specific circumstances.

Good? Good. Now take a deep breath and prepare to feel joy.

Trigger Warning: This review discusses rape, as depicted on the show.

Paying Evil unto Evil

By now, the image of a road travelled by night has become a synonym for Mr. C. On this occasion, we join him in the midst of an uncomfotably quiet road trip with (most likely his son) Richard Horne. Reaching his destination at a small hill’s foot, he tells Richard about his purpose. He has been given coordinates by three people—Bill Hastings’ secretary, Ray and Phillip Jeffries—for a place he needs to reach. The catch is, two of these coordinates match and the other is different. Of course, this means there’s a possibility one set of coordinates is intended to deter him from his goal. So the first thing on the list is to check out the place where the two sets match.

As they walk towards this exact place, we see none other than Jerry Horne, who has somehow reached all the way here, the wacky fella. The distance affords him both safety from Coopelganger’s nefarious means and the role of witness to the events that are about to unfold. Truly, would it not break your heart if Jerry died at the hands of Evil Coop? In this universe, there’s no assurance of a Heaven for Jerry, walking on clouds of marijuana smoke with smoked cheese pig cherubs and brie baguettes playing the harp. But I digress. Despite his poor usage of binoculars, he can still see Mr. C and Dick walking up that hill.

Bad Coop hands Richard his tracking device and has him look up the spot several meters ahead, on top of a rock. The sound and atmosphere guarantee a terrible outcome with every beep on the tracking device. Finally, a unsuspecting Dick finds the right spot, unleashing the trap intended for Coopelganger.

Cue distorted screams of electrocution while dad looks on callously. Richard is disintegrated and dies with nobody to mourn him (on any side of the screen). Mr. C bids his son goodbye, finally confirming what we suspected with varying degrees of conviction and dread. We can sense some of his usual mockery of feelings in Evil Coop’s voice, which shows that he always meant for his son to take the fall, or the shock in this case.

Meanwhile, Jerry smashes his ‘bad’ binoculars, as if they could have somehow avoided Dick’s fate. Although Mr. C lives on to cause more calamities, this scene does allow some catharsis for the viewers. Nobody liked Richard, a violent, child-killing, sexual assaulting, grandma mugging shit. Seeing him go like that is righteous comeuppance.

Before hopping on the truck, Bad Coop sends a text message reading “:-) ALL”. Cryptic enough on its own, but whatever a smile could mean if Mr. C is involved sends chills down the spine.

Polish Accountant Ex Machina

Well, this one is funny, and it’s yet more catharsis, in case you feel a little hungry after the previous scene. Chantal and Hutch are waiting outside the Joneses’, fully intending to kill ‘Dougie’ at Coopelganger’s command. Remembering last episode’s events, we know they’re just wasting their time, as the Joneses are at the hospital. However, this will still prove to be anything but a boring day. Much to their confusion, a couple of FBI cars park outside the Joneses’, setting the ingredients for a lethal combination: spooks vs. killers. But since nobody is home, the situation defuses with the FBI’s decision to check out ‘Dougie’s’ workplace instead. So much for that, eh?

After some verbal abuse, Special Agent Headley has Agent Wilson stake out the house, just in case. Those two really need a spin-off series of their own. So do Chantal and Hutch, if only for the sake of watching them eat junk food and chatting to pass the time. Whatever.

As if the FBI’s arrival earlier wasn’t enough, the Mitchums featuring Candie, Mandie and Sandie now arrive on their stretch limo, along with a food truck. This adds another shade of puzzlement for the baddies. The waiting and the fact that they have no more crisps start taxing Chantal’s nerves, threatening to prove incendiary if someone were to piss her off.

So, of course, enter a third vehicle. A stocky Polish fella (Jonny Coyne) from Zawaski Accounting Inc. asks them to move their vehicle; they’re parked in his driveway. This scenario has spawned many a conflict throughout human history, assassins involved or not. Chantal and Hutch ‘politely’ refuse to move, which lead Mr. Polish Accountant to “move car.” Mind you, he didn’t say whose car he was moving. He pushes the van with his accountant-powered car. Chantal retorts by shooting at him and missing. Our unsung anti-hero raises his argument by taking out his machine gun; he fires at Chantal, wounding her. It’s retreat time.

However, as they drive away, Zawaski’s faithful employee unleashes a rain of bullets, puncturing the entire van and killing Chantal and Hutch a la Bonnie and Clyde. In any other medium, this would seem a contrivance to take out the greatest menace tasked with killing the hero. But speaking from a cynical point of view, Lynch and Frost’s work has shaped our suspension of disbelief in such a manner than even an anti-climax is entertaining. Rather than coming off as a base Diabolus ex Machina, this becomes a vehicle of the oddities at the shadow of the mundane. It’s no wonder Rodney Mitchum would call this little moment a consequence of pent up stress. It’s bonkers, but not necessarily untrue.

Stress can be a killer…

Waking Up

SPOILER ALERT: Yes, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is back. But no preliminary words can actually prepare you for the moment proper. This is the factor that united nostalgia-lovers and open-minded fans, the yearning to see Our Special Agent once more. It’s worth it, and then some. However, this still comes at the price of losing ‘Dougie’, who also has amassed a fanbase of his own.

‘Dougie Jones’ lies comatose in a hospital bed, with Janey-E and Sonny Jim at his side. The concern and uncertainty are palpable here. In comes Bushnell for some encouragement and support, followed by the Mitchum Brothers featuring Candie, Mandie and Sandie. And food. It’s heartwarming to see friends around during times of trouble, especially so if they were earned from the unlikeliest of places. Both Bushnell and the Mitchums had not such a pleasant first experience with ‘Dougie’, so seeing the contrast breached throughout the course of the series is a mark of good character interactions and development, Black Lodge involvement notwithstanding.

The brothers take their leave to deliver food to the Joneses’ place, which leads to their presence amidst the chaos above in Lancelot Court. Shortly after, Janey-E takes Sonny Jim to the restroom, leaving ‘Dougie’ alone with Bushnell, who receives a call from Phil at the office. He tells the boss the FBI went there looking for ‘Dougie’ and now they’re on their way to the hospital. Whether by bonds or duties, people are starting to gravitate around the peculiar comatose fellow.

Later, a strange sound leads Bushnell away. It’s a cue to expectance, highlighted by the appearance of MIKE and the Black Lodge in a chair nearby. ‘Dougie’ wakes up, removing the ventilator and moving with lucidity and purpose unseen in this season until now.

The full command of his speech while talking with MIKE confirms that we can drop the quotation marks for good. ‘Dougie Jones’ is no more, only Dale Cooper. MIKE quickly briefs him on the stakes—his doppelganger has to return to the Black Lodge—and gives him the Owl Ring. Cooper then asks him if he still has the seed, that is, the small golden orb that remained after the actual Dougie Jones returned to the Lodge. Coop takes a strand of his hair and hands it to MIKE, requesting that he make another one,  a Tulpa of him. The purpose of this duplicate will become clear later, although it is not explicitly said in the episode. It’s something very Coop-like.

He’s Back

Janey-E and Sonny Jim return to the room to find the man they know as Dougie Jones wide awake. Cooper greets them with a smile and a warm hug for Sonny Jim. Bushnell also returns, overjoyed at his awakening. Coop surprises everyone by asking Janey-E to go find a doctor so they can confirm his vitals are optimal. There is no time to waste; he is leaving ASAP. While getting dressed, Coop asks Bushnell to call the Mitchum Brothers. His voice carries that very distinct tone of authority, confidence, and affability that preceded his efforts during the investigation of Laura Palmer’s murder. There is hardly a difference, and it’s a notable contrast to his doppelganger’s cold, unfeeling tone. It’s almost as if Agent Cooper had never left us at all.

The enthusiasm rises slow and steady, like a cup of black coffee brewing. Bushnell passes the phone to Cooper, who requests that the Mitchums meet him and his family in the Silver Mustang Casino and prepare a plane with destination to Spokane, Washington. The Mitchums promptly book the plane and make their way, with the girls, to the casino. And in that very precise moment, we get that “OH ANGELO” moment we needed. Timing was one of two ingredients to trigger something in us, a skipped heartbeat, a sudden furtive tear, and a desire to spring out of our seats in euphoria. The other was, of course, Twin Peaks‘ Main Theme cradling us back to that world of bold heroes and curious spirits braving the dark unknown.

Cooper leaves Bushnell a written message for Director GORDON COLE, in case he calls. Then, he gives Bushnell the ultimate sign of approval and respect in lieu of his signature thumbs up. A firm handshake and praise for the man for his kindness and decency. When asked about the FBI upon leaving, Cooper delivers the ultimate comeback. Cheesy? Perhaps, but twofold triumphant. It’s probably no coincidence that the camera’s framing and Kyle’s positioning look so reminiscent of that famous thumbs up picture.

I am the FBI

Having arrived at the casino, Cooper says his loving farewells to Janey-E and Sonny Jim. In the process, he lets slip that he’s not actually Dougie, but that doesn’t make any difference in their eyes. The happiness that they brought to each other’s lives make them a family. He promises that once he has taken care of things, he will return to them for good. Here is where the tulpa he charged MIKE with making may come into play; if he cannot come back from the grand conflict about to unfold, this family he has been blessed with at least won’t end up alone. One final kiss from Janey-E sends him on his way, equipped as best he could be, with love.

His friends, the Mithcum Brothers—fine folk, as the girls can vouch for—will accompany him to Twin Peaks. Although they don’t get along well with law enforcement, Coop will vouch for them as good individuals. Coop now has the experience of having faced the Black Lodge on his own 25 years ago. He knows the stakes are high. And now he won’t be facing them alone. One can easily read a testament to the importance of nuclear families and friendship in Twin Peaks. In face of the hostile, hateful world we live in, is that not at least a lovely notion?

Gracious Final Words

Meanwhile, it’s time we paid a visit to our loud friends at the FBI in Buckhorn, South Dakota. Diane is chilling as usual, but the mood takes a bad tumble upon looking at her latest text message. “:-) ALL”. Just seeing this message appears to cause an actual physical reaction in Diane. She suddenly remembers something about Cooper (Or ‘Cooper?’) and replies to the text with a string of numbers. She now looks at the gun in her purse. Then, as she makes her way to the office where COLE, Albert and Tammy are hard at work, we hear a rather familiar theme. That baleful remix of “American Woman” by Muddy Magnolia, Evil Cooper’s unofficial theme. It’s bad news all around, and a stark confirmation that, yes, she is in cahoots with him.

There appears to be some reluctance or inner turmoil in her, though. This incipient violence exudes from her character by the very way she walks and the camerawork, moving slowly through the hotel’s corridors. It’s a most suitable preface to the tension about to follow.

COLE and company quickly pick up on the strange new taste of Diane’s presence. She sits on a chair in front of them, meaning to reveal what happened on the night ‘Cooper’ visited her. Three or four years after Cooper’s disappearance, she received a visit from ‘him’. In spite of her relief at seeing him, he wanted only to hear about the FBI. He then tried to kiss her. Apparently, the real Cooper and her had a moment of the sort before, but this time, she felt fear. And here is where her narration takes a turn for the painful. He smiled at her fear. He raped her. Unfortunately, things didn’t end there. Cooper’s doppelganger took her to the Convenience Store. And that is where a sudden realization hit her.

She is at the Sheriff’s Station. The coordinates she just sent him after seeing his text message lead to her. The Diane that sits here before them is not the real Diane. She’s a tulpa, a replicate of Diane who may actually be Naido. This brutal awareness leads to a mental breakdown, yet there is also a possibility that Coopelganger exerts some kind of control over her through the text messages. Something of a rape of its own, an overriding of her own thoughts and impulses. As soon as she pulls the gun out of her purse, Albert and Tammy shoot her. ‘Diane’ promptly disappears (or rather whooshes away) in front of their eyes. As for the startled Blue Rose operatives, the tulpa’s words painted a big bright arrow to the place to be. Twin Peaks.

But what about this tragic ‘Diane’? Just like the actual Dougie Jones, she is back in the Black Lodge, on the verge of ceasing to exist. MIKE relays the same revelation he told Dougie. Perhaps it’s a standarized speech he is meant to tell all tulpas upon ‘dying’. However, she is fully aware she is a tulpa by now, so if she’s to go, she’ll go her way. That is, with a “Fuck you.” After her final words, she disintegrates into a golden seed, deliberately bad CGI involved, of course.

The Dancer

This episode comes to an end in Twin Peaks, at the Roadhouse, as per the traditonal way. By now, we can expect some kind of weird non-sequitur, either by means of a strange conversation or a violent outburst. Tonight, at this house of music and madness, the MC introduces Edward Louis Severson, otherwise known as Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. He’ll be performing “Out of Sand“. It’s a lovely performance and a serene tune to send us home easy. We got another surprise coming, though. Audrey and Charlie have finally put on their jackets and arrived at the Roadhouse to look for Billy. They share an awkward drink as Mr. Severson finishes his song.

Then, the MC introduces the next performance: Audrey’s dance. People instantly clear the area, giving her room to do her thing, and a band settles on a stage lit purple, all waiting for Audrey. The music kicks in, that surreal, slightly unnerving tune we remember from back in the day. A song that perfectly encapsulates the character’s chaos, now seeping into the Roadhouse’s setting.

Audrey, almost as if in a trance, takes the spotlight while all attendees sway slowly, mesmerized. She is in her element. In much the same manner as Kyle Maclachlan seamlessly incarnating Cooper earlier, Sherilyn Fenn slips back into Audrey’s whimsical manner as if not a day had passed since the original run.

Her dance continues, treading the delicate line between sensuality and youthful mischief. Suddenly, a violent outburst interrupts her performance; yet another fight. Audrey runs to Charlie, telling him to get her out of there. But it’s no longer him she sees, and it’s no longer the Roadhouse surrounding her. After a blink of a transition, we see Audrey looking into a mirror, in some unknown white place. The credits roll as the band at the Roadhouse plays Audrey’s theme in reverse. It’s quite eerie and an effective way to highlight the confusion, and to possibly allude to the Black Lodge. A variety of questions come to mind from this sudden swerve, several of which I have seen posted on forums and Facebook groups.

Is she in a mental institution or a hospital? Did the previous performances at the Roadhouse actually happen? How much of the narrative took place in Audrey’s head? Is she the Dreamer Monica Bellucci mentioned in COLE’s dream? It seems the theory of her still being in a coma is proving true, though I honestly hadn’t given it much credit. My personal input is that only her scenes take place in her own mind.

However, twists revealing events as dreams are known to potentially break a narrative, having become cheap plot devices. Yet the fact that the two part-finale is still waiting ahead means it’s yet too early to call it night.

It does seem like the claim of Audrey playing a big part wasn’t just a jape on our expectations. I look forward to seeing the denouement to this revival. I’ll be seeing you soon, lovelies.

Twin Peaks: The Return – Part 16 Credits

Directed by David Lynch

Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch

Images Courtesy of Showtime

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