SPOILERS AHEAD for Parts 3 and 4 of Twin Peaks: The Return
The short version: "I hate to admit this, but I don't understand this situation at all."
(Note: These recaps are written with the understanding that, if you're reading this, you're also watching the show. As such, I'm only going to list an actor's name the first time their character is mentioned, unless it's otherwise necessary. At this point you don't need me to tell you that Dale Cooper is played by Kyle MacLachlan.)
I've already talked about how the first two parts of The Return put my fear that the show wouldn't feel like Twin Peaks anymore to rest, so now we come to a different fear: the fear that -- in this age of TV being incredibly literal, when everything has to have a fan theory and an in-depth hot take explanation the next day (yes, we contribute to that, but I digress ...) -- David Lynch and Mark Frost would be tempted to put some kind of cap on the weirdness. Sure, Twin Peaks would stay weird, but what we saw in, say, the Season 2 finale would be as weird as things got.
Not the case. At all.
In Part 3, the evil doppelganger of Dale Cooper (known hereafter as "Doppeldale") is driving through South Dakota when he begins to feel the pull of the Black Lodge trying to draw him back. Meanwhile, in Nevada, a man named Dougie Jones (also played by MacLachlan), who is the current owner of the Owl Cave ring from Fire Walk With Me, feels a strange tingling in his arm. The real Dale Cooper returns as we last saw him, floating through a shaky starfield until he falls onto a purple-hazed balcony over a vast ocean. It is here that things get a whole lot weirder.
Cooper enters what seems to be a kind of Black Lodge 2.0, or a waypoint between worlds. There's a circuit on the wall marked with a number (15 at first, then 3), and a woman with her eyes stitched shut. There's also something furiously knocking outside that we never get to see, but there's certainly at least a visual echo of whatever came through the glass box in the premiere. Cooper follows the woman up a ladder to find himself standing a top a big metal box with a bell or electrode of some kind on top. The woman flips a switch, shocking herself and falling away in an apparently suicidal act before the face of Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis) appears to Cooper and says "Blue Rose."
Back down the ladder, a different woman warns Cooper that he must go quickly, and that's when the circuit on the wall pulls Cooper back into our world and deposits him on the same carpet where Dougie just vanished. Dougie himself has been sent to the Lodge, where Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel) tells him he was "manufactured" for a purpose that's now been fulfilled. Then, Dougie turns into a little gold ball, which Gerard takes along with the ring.
That is bonkers. It's also a beautiful representation of the Lynchian imagination, rendered through a number of unforgettable images that rival the amazing Black Lodge sequences in the premiere. There's just no one else on the planet who can give us things like this, and it's great to see Lynch flexing that muscle even harder now that the show's back. As for what happens to Cooper after his return, well...we'll talk about that in a minute.
DoppelDale, meanwhile, crashes his car amid all the supernatural forces at work, but somehow holds himself back from The Lodge. It seems, though this is not spelled out, that he or someone else somehow created Dougie to serve as a new doppelganger for Cooper, so that when Cooper came back through, DoppelDale could stay while sacrificing Dougie in his place. DoppelDale vomits up creamed corn (a significant part of Twin Peaks lore that serves as a manifestation of supernatural substances) and poison that sends a state trooper to the ER just because he stood near it.
All of this draws the attention of FBI Division Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Cooper's old boss, and Special Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer). Gordon and Albert head to South Dakota to check on the man they think is Cooper, and virtually every moment of their time together is a delight. It's obviously great to see them again, sure, but the writing also stands out. The dialogue for each character makes it sound like they never lost a step. I could've watched these scenes, and Cole's journey to see now-Chief of Staff Denise Bryson (David Duchovny) for days. When they eventually encounter DoppelDale, they both realize something isn't right, and that sets up even more strong material for them in the future.
Speaking of delights, there's the continuing investigation at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, where we meet the new Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster, playing the old sheriff's brother) and learn that Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) has landed a job in law enforcement, specifically catching drug dealers like the kind he used to work with. The purest comedy of the return so far comes out in these scenes, as we learn, among other things, that Lucy is terrified and freaked out by the very concept of cell phones, and that Andy and Lucy's son Wally (Michael Cera) drives a motorcycle, dresses like Marlon Brando in The Wild One and talks like a Kerouac character.
There is also one clear new clue regarding Cooper, though: Bobby reveals that Cooper visited his father shortly before he died in a fire at "his station." We know that Major Briggs worked on a top secret project for the Air Force listening for alien life, and that this job had brought him in contact with messages seemingly directed at Cooper (as well as other strangeness out in the woods) years before. Apparently he had some new information that ultimately cost him his life.
It's also worth noting just so everyone remembers: No one at the sheriff's department, and as far as we know no one in Twin Peaks, knows about DoppelDale. As far as they know, Cooper just went missing. It's a great little reveal, and it's made in the midst of what's otherwise a very comedic set of scenes. Bobby Briggs revealing this, and weeping when he sees Laura's old picture, amid all of the silliness is pure Peaks. Plus Andy, Lucy and Hawk discussing what significance an old chocolate bunny may have had in the investigation was the hardest I've laughed so far.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jacoby is out in the woods, painting his shovels gold. For a groundbreaking, perhaps?
So, the second two hours got even weirder than the first two, and brought with them some wonderful comedy. I'm happy and eager for more, but these hours also brought with them the weak link in the show so far.
The shock of coming through from the Lodge has clearly messed Cooper up. He seems to have no memory, and to learn words and actions only if he sees other people say and do them first. Through a bizarre set of circumstances under which people think he's still Dougie (despite a haircut and the loss of quite a paunch), he finds himself in a casino, where the Lodge seems to guide him to slots jackpots over and over. Then, he takes the winnings home to a furious wife (Naomi Watts) who also doesn't seem to notice that he's changed somewhat drastically. She's just happy he brought the money, because now they can pay off people they owe, presumably the same people who sought to kill Dougie early in Part 3.
There's a bit in the Season 2 premiere of Twin Peaks when, as Agent Cooper lies bleeding on the floor after having been shot, an elderly hotel porter simply cannot seem to figure out that Cooper needs help. The man looks cheerfully baffled, and goes so far as to put Cooper's room service bill on the floor so he can sign it, but doesn't realize that he should help a critically wounded man. What starts as amusing and odd becomes frustrating, then maddening, then agonizing.
This is that, but spread out over two hours. I understand the idea of Cooper being struck dumb by his experience. I even understand some of the inherent comedy of the situation, but it goes on forever and at no point does anyone notice the clearly mentally ill or injured person who might need police assistance or a doctor. Twin Peaks has a history of lingering on things far too long (Remember when Ben Horne went crazy and thought he was a Civil War general for a massive chunk of Season 2?), but even with that in mind, this got torturous for me. Your mileage may vary, but I hope it's done by Episode 5.
- We now know what "253 ... time after time" means. Cooper made his way out into our world again at 2:53.
- The ring, which passed from BOB murder victim Teresa Banks to BOB murder victim Laura Palmer to Annie Blackburn and then to a Twin Peaks nurse -- somehow made its way to Dougie, and now it's back in the Lodge. We still don't know the full reach of its power, or if it will return.
- I need one of those "Donut Disturb" signs and I mean now.
- "It's not about the bunny ... Is it about the bunny? ... No, it's not about the bunny."
- Wally tells Sheriff Truman that his shadow is his constant traveling companion "Except on cloudy days ... or at night."
- "Albert, we're in South Dakota! Cossacks are in Russia!"
- Gerard peers through from the Lodge to tell Cooper "one of you must die," meaning there's not room in this world for both him and DoppelDale.
- Reminder: Blue Rose is the term Gordon Cole used for his special, possibly supernatural cases, such as the murder of Teresa Banks.
- Though the show was clearly shot as one long 18-hour story, it's quite nice that every episode is wrapping up with a different band playing the Bang Bang Bar. TV may be "the new film" to a lot of people, but this is still its own medium with its own format needs. The bands make a nice bookend, and you may discover some new music while you watch.
And that's it for Parts 3 and 4! We'll be back June 4 for Part 5!