The fucks are at it again!
[Note: This post contains spoilers.]
Twin Peaks: the Return // Part 5 // Original Air Date June 4, 2017 // Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch // Directed by David Lynch
A good chunk of Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5 constitutes a continuation of the Cooper-as-Dougie Show that has been the headlining attraction for the past couple of episodes. This is welcome in the sense that Cooper’s sluggish, infantile bumbling through Dougie’s world is a showcase for David Lynch the Absurdist Comedian, allowing the director to construct some of his outright funniest sequences since the original Twin Peaks, if not the funniest of his career. Kyle MacLachlan is proving to be The Return’s MVP in a way that he never was in the first two seasons of the show. Granted, his 1990 version of Cooper was a wonderful character, supremely capable and good-natured in an exaggerated manner that never felt implausible, and self-evidently the moral Pole Star of the series. In 2017, however, MacLachlan is working on a whole other level, not only in terms of realizing vastly different iterations of Cooper, but also in anchoring the show to the FBI’s agent’s fate in a way that is vividly dramatic and deeply affecting.
Part 5 offers a case study in the subtlety of both the show’s writing and MacLachlan’s performance in what are otherwise goofy scenes of Cooper’s addled (and agonizingly protracted) blundering. Sometimes it’s the little scripted details like the sudden, inexplicable tears elicited from Cooper by the sight of Sonny-Jim (Pierce Gagnon) sitting listlessly in the family station wagon. Or the way that the gunslinger statue outside Dougie’s office building becomes a totem of deep fascination and melancholy for Cooper, culminating in the episode’s impossibly sad final image: MacLachlan standing very still in the deepening twilight, touching the statue with a sort of pleading reverence.
Just as important, however, is the way MacLachlan adds an ever-so-slightly wistful exhale to Cooper’s repetitions of words like “agent” and “case file,” expertly conveying the rumbling sense of noble purpose somewhere deep within the man’s mind. It’s these touches—as well as more plot-centered revelations like Coop’s emergent supernatural lie detection power—that counter-balance all the wacky Dougie scenes, notwithstanding how intensely entertaining those scenes can be. (The over-the-top ensnarement of Cooper’s attention by a passing tray of lattes is easily this episode’s funniest moment.)
One of the pleasures of watching what is for all intents and purposes a 18-hour David Lynch film is the pondering it inspires regarding the story-related significance of any given character, scene, or gesture. Lynch is prone to slathering his works with enigmatic sequences that primarily serve a thematic, tonal, or even free associative purpose rather than a narrative one. Accordingly, it’s often challenging to predict with any degree certainty whether a particular element will ever relate back to the plot. Furthermore, the drawn-out schedule of The Return only amplifies this dimension, as it provides week-long (or longer) gaps in which viewers can deliberate on the latest mysteries.
In the original Twin Peaks, new secondary characters often appeared for an episode or two, and then vanished with no explanation. (Particularly in the back half of Season 2, such phantoms frequently had zero effect on either story or theme, a sign of screenwriter dithering if there ever was one.) In contrast, Part 5 provides glimpses of minor characters from earlier episodes, individuals that could easily have vanished from the show: prostitute Jade (Nafessa Williams), the Dougie-hunting assassins (Bill Tangradi and Greg Vrotsos), the little boy at Rancho Rosa (Sawyer Shipman), and the unlucky manager at the Silver Mustang (Brett Gilman). Here they pop up once again to nudge the narrative along, if only tangentially and unwittingly. As noted previously in the Parts 1 and 2 post, everything Lynch shows in his works matters, but it’s still enjoyable to be teased regarding what matters at the proximal plot level.
Of particular interest are the revelations that Dougie’s wedding band has been recovered from the headless corpse in Buckhorn, South Dakota, and, just as astonishingly, that the fingerprints of said body match the late Garland Briggs, thus tying the murder of Ruth Davenport to Cooper and Twin Peaks through yet more side avenues. Ditto the reveal that the hit men pursuing Dougie report back to a woman (Tammy Baird) who in turn sends a message to a strange black box secreted away in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a box that also has some relationship to the caged Mr. C. Speaking of Cooper’s doppelgänger, he not only seems preternaturally calm about his confinement in a federal prison, but somehow seems more menacing, like a Batman or Bond villain who has allowed themselves to be caught in order to execute some master plan. Certainly, Mr. C exhibits some intimidating abilities: He unravels the warden’s (James Morrison) composure simply by mentioning a “Mr. Strawberry,” and then appears to seize control of the prison’s electrical systems in order to mask his coded phone message. (Electricity, it should be remembered, is often associated with BOB’s presence.)
If there is a central thematic thrust to Part 5, it’s one that elaborates on the “offness” of the Twin Peaks scenes in the prior episodes. Many of the problems that plagued the town in 1990 are still lurking in the shadows, and, if anything, they have grown even nastier. The roadhouse might be booking hipper acts and attracting a younger, more affluent demographic, but the subsurface vibe is somehow uglier, as evidenced by a cigarette-smoking creep’s (Eamon Farren) brazen acts of bribery and sexual assault. (Notably, the off-duty officer who takes said payoff is the derisive Deputy Broxford seen in Part 4. Is it even conceivable that one of Harry’s deputies in 1990 would have accepted such a bribe?) Dr. Jacoby, for all his affected eccentricities and ethical missteps, was often a genuine source of therapeutic understanding in the original series. Here he’s mutated into a frothing YouTube paranoiac and huckster in the mode of Alex Jones, an evolution that is at once disturbing and weirdly believable.
Relatedly, the cocaine habit and wretched taste in boyfriends exhibited by Shelly’s daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried) underlines the extent to which history repeats itself endlessly through the generations with small variations. Becky’s blissed-out expression as she savors a snort of coke and the wind whipping through her hair is eerily similar to looks that once fluttered across Laura Palmer’s countenance. It’s all happening again, but the metaphorical reach of the Black Lodge has grown longer in the past 25 years. The stinging lecture delivered by Sheriff Frank Truman’s (Robert Forster) wife Doris (Candy Clark) emphasizes the town’s persistent decay. (That black mold!) She’s not just nagging Frank about his procrastination at home—she’s chastising Twin Peaks’ law enforcement (and by extension the Bookhouse Boys and all of the town’s leaders) for twiddling their thumbs for more than two decades while the rot of violence, addiction, and corruption seeps even further into the community.
For all the show’s flitting between New York, Las Vegas, South Dakota, and so on, the long-term arcs that are emerging in The Return seem to be gradually converging on the town of Twin Peaks. There’s a mounting sense that the old upstanding and intrepid version of Dale Cooper is needed to help right the things that have gone monstrously awry in the town (and the world) for the past 25 years. This foreshadowed conjunction in Twin Peaks is evident in little plot details like Jade dropping the Great Northern key in the mail, presumably sending it back to the Horne brothers at the hotel, where either they or other parties might correctly read it as a sign that the real Cooper has resurfaced. Moreover, Hawk’s (Michael Horse) ongoing search for a missing piece of evidence connected to Cooper—as well as the Deputy Chief’s curious visit to the sycamore ring at Glastonbury Grove in Part 1—points to Twin Peaks being as crucial to the FBI agent’s fate as he is to the town’s.
Some miscellaneous observations:
- Mr. C’s observation to BOB—“You’re still with me; that’s good”—also works as an audience-directed bit of encouragement after four straight hours of opaque weirdness.
- Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger), former Bobby Briggs partner in crime and jackwagon boyfriend to Donna Hayward, is the manager who contemptuously dresses down Becky’s weaselly boyfriend Stephen (Caleb Landry Jones) for his lousy résumé. It’s comforting in a way: Even a banal jock bully like Mike eventually settled down and mutates into a banal office bully who berates the next generation for their lack of ambition. However, it’s Stephen’s bizarrely upbeat assessment of Mike’s criticisms—“Great fucking feedback!”—that truly makes the scene retroactively funny.
- The defiant smoker and groper at the Bang Bang Bar is identified as Richard Horne in the credits, a detail that has sent the Internet abuzz with speculation as to exactly which Horne sired the little shit. Perhaps the most awful possibility is that he is the fruit of Mr. C and Audrey Horne, a theory that is almost too unsettling to contemplate, but which would explain much about Richard’s vile behavior.
- Speaking of smoking, the Marlboro-ish cigarettes glimpsed in the aforementioned roadhouse scene are Morleys, a fake brand that has cropped up in fictional media for decades, although perhaps most famously as the preferred brand of the sinister Cigarette-Smoking Man on The X-Files.
- Gordon and Alfred are MIA this episode, but Agent Tamara Preston (Chrysta Bell) shows up in a brief scene in which she contemplates the baffling contrast between the Cooper of 1991 and Mr. C, and then discerns some crucial clue regarding their fingerprints. Given the way Gordon and Alfred gawked at her ass at the conclusion of Part 4, it’s gratifying to see Tamara in a sequence that demonstrates her investigative chops. Indeed, in between Agent Preston, wiseacre Buckhorn medical examiner Constance Talbot (Jane Adams), and the possibility of USAF Lieutenant Cynthia Knox (Adele René) probing around in South Dakota, The Return is making some small progress with respect to its female sleuths.
- Sightings: Perennial film and television “regular guy” Jim Belushi appears as one of the Silver Mustang Casino’s two menacing (and presumably mobbed-up) overbosses. The other is the outstanding Robert Knepper, a ubiquitous character actor who usually shows up in villainous television guest roles, but has also had memorable recurring parts on Carnivàle, Prison Break, and Heroes. Candy Clark, who portrays the exasperated Doris Truman, is a prolific performer who is still best known for her roles in American Graffiti and The Man Who Fell to Earth. Interestingly, the former film embraces the sort of mid-century small town nostalgia that Twin Peaks exploits and excavates, while the latter feature stars memorable Fire Walk With Me bit player David Bowie. (“The man who fell to Earth” is also an apt description of Cooper.)
The vile Richard Horne is played by Eamon Farren, who previously appeared in the grueling serial killer thriller Chained, directed by David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer Lynch. The great Ernie Hudson—of Ghostbusters fame and Golden Age of TV pioneer series Oz—appears as an Air Force colonel who sends Lt. Knox to check into Major Garland Briggs' fingerprints. Dougie’s boss, the awesomely named Bushnell Mullins, is portrayed by Don Murray, who has been working in film and television for nearly 70 years, perhaps most famously in Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe and on the long-running prime time soap opera Knots Landing. Tom Sizemore, a fixture in R-rated 1990s cinema, makes an appearance as Tony Sinclair, the top agent (and apparent liar) at Dougie’s insurance firm. Omnipresent stuntwoman and occasional actress Tammie Baird shows up as Lorraine, the frazzled woman who sends anxious texts to Buenos Aires. Charlotte, the girl choked and fondled by Richard, is played by Grace Victoria Cox from Under the Dome, while her objecting friend Elizabeth is depicted by Jane Levy, star of Suburgatory and recent horror features like Evil Dead and Don’t Breathe.