We gave it a B
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Part 10 of Twin Peaks: The Return was an episode of four letter words and hurting fists, most of them hurled by men, many of them tossed by Richard Horne, a demonic wildfire man-child now blazing out of control. He killed Miriam, witness to his crime of vehicular homicide; he beat up his grandma — his grandma! — and threatened to do worse to poor, mad Johnny unless she gave him all her money. (Dick needs a good talking-to from his mother, wherever the hell she is. Audrey Horne! Show yourself, already!) It was an episode in which women were portrayed as strong, vulnerable, moral, mystic, brave, sweet, sexy, cunning, courageous, and many other things besides, but were often reminded, in the most violent, abusive, degrading, or rather bizarre of ways, that they lived in a world of men, and there’s no safe place from the worst of them, not even their home, whether it’s a trailer on the edge of town or a tony home in a gated community.
It was an episode that grieved old school Biblical sinfulness, and specifically that original sin, the one that put enmity between men and women, that turned people into slaves to toil and idols to each other. It sketched a society gone insane from tainted love, betrayed trust, the love of money, the fear of death, unchecked animal drives, and of course, the damn government and those greedy corporations and their poisonous chemicals turning everything to s—. (Yep, there was another Dr. Amp rant.) “It’s a f—ing nightmare,” moaned Carl Rodd as he listened to snotty-nosed, Sparkle-stoned Steven berate and beat his wife for daring to question him, for not being appropriately wife-like, for vague, maybe mythic transgressions. “No stars,” sang Rebekah Del Rio in the episode’s featured Roadhouse musical performance, the lyrics speaking of a love that has lost its spark. “No stars…”
All of these things and many more worked together to evoke the spirit of a complex anti-hero with many faces, who was used and abused by bad men when she lived, and who, in death, has come to represent both the fallen world and cosmic wrongs that still need righting. She is both alive and dead in this story, and she is on the loose, haunting every episode in some fashion, even if it’s just her ghostly face in the credits — a promise to us that Twin Peaks: The Return hasn’t forgotten Laura Palmer, and that it is very interested in the matter of her justice. And in one scary-exhilarating moment, a vestige of Laura appeared to Gordon Cole* in the form of a wailing image of her younger self, pulled from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The whole episode — unofficially titled “Laura is the one,” from a line of a new prophetic free verse issued by the ailing Log Lady to Hawk — might have been a prophet; I saw it preparing the way for the second coming of the show’s holy spirit. Will she be an angel of redemption or a dark phoenix of great vengeance and furious anger? Maybe both? A Shiva, perhaps, destroyer and transformer. Or maybe this kind of savior-wanting is all wishful thinking…
And so “Laura is the one” was an advent story, a tale of hell-on-Earth bitterness and bleakness sprinkled with sweetness and light, asking us to have faith, to not abandon hope. Albert went on a date with Constance. It was a lovely moment. Dooper and Janey-E had sex. It was… well, silly. He flailed his arms and rolled his eyes in delight. She screamed — no, sang! — “Dougiiieee!” in ecstasy. “Sonny” Jim Jones heard the sounds and bolted upright in innocence-lost shock. But it was also kinda perfect, something sort of pure to round out the other scenes of domestic horror. In her midnight call to Hawk, the Log Lady said that good men endure, like our two Trumans, both “true men,” and other long-time allies, too, presumably the Bookhouse Boys. (I think it’s about time we saw Big Ed Hurley again, don’t you think?) And note the birdhouses. You saw one atop Miriam’s trailer, which was adorned with out-of-season Christmas decorations. You saw one mounted on Carl’s white house. I’m reminded of Laura Dern’s soliloquy in Blue Velvet:
“In the dream, there was our world, and the world was dark because there weren’t any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make any difference, and it did. So, I guess it means that there is trouble until the robins come.”
In Lynchlandia, there’s a season for everything, and it’s often darkest before the dawn.
*About Gordon Cole: We saw him drawing a surreal doodle, a reindeer creature with extraordinary antlers; a hand attached to an elongated arm reaching into the picture from outside the border. Next to Cole’s pad, we saw a small red box, similar to the black device that Dirty Cooper called — and perhaps destroyed — from prison. I wondered if Cole’s automatic drawing and/or that device made him into a kind of psychic beacon that attracted Laura’s spirit. Regardless, I love how Lynch basically used the scene to create a metaphor for the conjuring act of his own dreamy creative process. Gordon Cole just might be the greatest Mary Sue character in TV history. He isn’t just played by Lynch; he might as well be Lynch.
I want to sum up “Laura is the one” with another Dern line from another Lynch film: It was “weird on top and wild at heart.” The storytelling pinged between tonal extremes and scenes were often accented or streaked with some strange bit of business, like the broken teddy bear with the light bulb head that kept bleating, “Hello, Johnny, how are you today?”– a pacifier for mad, dim, busted Johnny Horne — during Richard’s home invasion. His crass, coarse verbal assault combined with a choke-hold to imply a kind of rape, and it reminded me of the scene in Wild at Heart when Willem Dafoe’s loathsome Bobby Peru violated Dern’s Lula in a similar fashion, with language and glad-handing. Wild at Heart, a polarizing film in the Lynch canon, caused critics to question his mastery and sincerity, a doubting that would continue through the ’90s with Lynch’s two other world-gone-crazy pictures, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway, a trippy horror-noir about marriage gone bad and male pattern wigginess. Lynch — who’s been quoting his work all season long, turning Twin Peaks: The Return into a look-back magnum opus — might have been using Part 10 to reflect on his ’90s dark period in abstract, metaphorical fashion.
FUN FACT! In Wild at Heart, the ruling underworld Godfather was named Mr. Reindeer, an overseer of killers, who kept a retinue of scantily clad women whom he ogled like erotic art objects. Part 10 of Twin Peaks: The Return had underworld godfathers (the Mitchum brothers), ogled, objectified women (Candie, Mandie and Sandie) and a Grandma who got run over by a runaway Horne’d creature. I’m not here to theorize that Mr Reindeer is going to make an appearance. Just making connections to explain Cole’s drawing and Lynch’s symbol system. Gordon Cole is an agent of justice — the long arm of the law. Mr. Reindeer is a symbol of evil. This episode — the season — is a metaphysical and very meta saga about the problem of evil. You following me? (Please say yes.)
Regardless, I feel the same way about this episode as I do about those movies: not my favorite thing Lynch has done. The tones didn’t harmonize well, and if that was the intention, it still wasn’t pleasant, and if that was the intention, okay, but I still didn’t enjoy it. Too many minor key characters, too much Dick and Vegas, which is starting to wear on me. Still, “Laura is the one” was important for framing the second half the season and seemed to signal a move to start bringing everything together.
The War on Lady Christmas. Miriam lived on the rural outskirts of Twin Peaks. Her trailer was adorned with holiday decorations — Santas and reindeer and candy canes hung on the fence, an angel keeping watch in the well-kept garden, a Christmas tree in the window, a manger-esque birdhouse on the roof. Her quaint Eden resided on property shared with some shacks — a reference, perhaps, to The Shack, the best-selling novel about a serial killer called the “Little Ladykiller,” a grieving father who locks up with pain and sorrow, and a confrontation with God that arcs toward catharsis, redemption, and justice.
Miriam’s little piece of heaven went up in smoke when a big bad wolf arrived to huff and puff and blow her away for threatening to expose his hit-and-run evil to the police. It was a scene that once again proved Lynch’s powers for disturbing us with the implication of violence. After Dick broke into her home, we remained outside and watched the trailer rock and tremble. We heard the sick thud of a knockout punch. Lynch took us inside to survey the aftermath. Miriam on the floor, blood pooled around her head. The oven, door open. A candle, lit. But Lynch didn’t linger to watch her catch fire and burn. Here’s hoping for a true Christmas miracle and that Miriam survived.
(Recap continues on page 2)