Subscribe to A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts – to unwrap the mysteries in EW’s after-show every Monday during the Showtime revival.
Somewhere in the heartland of Twin Peaks USA, there’s a secret place hiding in plain sight where true detectives and seekers of occult truth can find revelation. It’s located on the outskirts of Buckhorn, South Dakota, on grungy property haunted by spectral vagrants that patrol the grounds like mean junkyard dogs. Pass through a hole in the tired fence, wade into the weeds toward derelict buildings, and you might trip some unseen wire or step on some psychic hotspot. You’ll hear the electromagnetic sizzle of the black hole sun before you see it: a whooshing maelstrom spiraling in the sky; a vile vortex ravaging the landscape with its gravity, sucking up the debris of a fallen world; a spiraling wormhole opening a portal into some faraway phantom zone. Peer through the darkness and you’ll see monstrous shades staring back at you from their home on the other side of abyss. Wave at them, like a UFO nut trying to flag down a celestial object, and they might beam you up, rub you out, or worse.
You can get lost in your head — or lose it altogether — pursuing apocalypse of this sort. Which is why a solitary journey isn’t recommended. You need a partner — someone to keep you grounded when you start to float away, someone to intervene and pull you back you from the brink when they see you falter, flicker, and fade. A Watson for your Sherlock, Scully for your Mulder — an Albert Rosenfield for your Blue Rose-questing Gordon Cole.
All kinds of hell broke loose in Part 11 of Twin Peaks: The Return. Besides Cole’s vision of cosmic horror (the kind of thing True Detective’s Rust Cohle might have killed to behold), the nightmarish Woodsmen made another head-splitting appearance. (R.I.P. Bill Hastings, snotty-nosed challenger of the unknown.) Becky — showing us the whole “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” thing — went ballistic on her abusive husband for cheating on her with Donna Hayward’s all-grown-up little sister, Gersten (Alicia Witt, who played the role as a child in the original series). Her rampage — which freaked the town and nearly killed her mom — was part of a larger eruption of Garmonbozia that swept through Twin Peaks. Deputy Bobby Briggs found himself at the eye of the s— storm. We learned Becky is his daughter with Shelly, who’s currently dating Red, peddler of toxic Sparkle and flicker of gravity-defying dimes. Bobby’s arc included a series of confrontations with pain and sorrow — a family on the fritz; a surly, hand-on-hip child; and a sick young woman puking up green-soup barf like demon-possessed Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Has a Hellmouth opened up under Twin Peaks? One to match the one above Buckhorn?
The madcap storytelling befit an hour about a world hurtling toward psychotic break. The billowing red curtains, suggesting blazing fire, and the dizzying, whirling shot of the Red Room’s chevron floor during the credits became aesthetic touchstones for an hour of Planet Dumpster-Fire dismay and zig-zag stories that took hard turns in tone and direction, producing dizzying, zany effects. The extraordinary Bobby-Becky-Shelly-Red-Surly Boy-Puke Girl sequence veered from soapy melodrama to weird horror, the segue marked, appropriately, by a jump-scare gunshot and an errant bullet shattering a window and the mood. Both sides of that story slowly revealed layers of meaning that mirrored each other: They interrogated a rash violence and personal/collective responsibility, exposing a complex weave of root causes.
The dread was enhanced by desolate settings — director David Lynch shot the desert as a wasteland of ancient ruins, a miserable Carcosa for those miserable yellow kings of Vegas, the Mitchums — and certain cinematic allusions, most notably, the famous climax of David Fincher’s Seven, another tale a fallen land gone insane with a psycho-spiritual frame. (What’s in the box, Dooper? What’s in the box?) If you’ve been reading these recaps, you know I’ve been looking at Twin Peaks: The Return as Lynch’s Amarcord, a surreal carnival of nostalgic revocation, where the pull-push of the past — the need to embrace it; the want to break free from it — is embodied in the characters of Dooper and Mr. C and manifest in a narrative that blends old and new Twin Peaks and sees Lynch reflecting on past work and trying to evolve forward. Last week’s “weird on top, wild at heart” episode communed with Lynch’s “dark” period in the ’90s. I saw this week’s episode reflecting the “Black Hole Sun” dark pop that has come since Twin Peaks, in music, movies and TV, from The X-Files to True Detective and pulpy points in between.
And yet! The plague of misery in Part 11 was countered by feels, responses, and other developments that gave us hope that order might be restored, goodness might be remembered and recovered, and grace hasn’t abandoned this mad, mad, mad, mad world. Damn, this was a funny episode! Even when it was freakin’ bleak, the gallows humor was hilarious. David Lynch delivered perhaps the greatest, winkiest deadpan quip in the history of Lynchian deadpan cinema: “He’s dead,” he said as beheld Bill Hastings with his brainpan lopped off. Dead + Brainpan = Deadpan. Get it?! Angelo Badalamenti’s score — one of the show’s most transcendental, emotive qualities and conspicuously, meaningfully muted so far this season — got dialed up in Part 11. His contributions accented the bad vibes and were often bittersweet, but I found something meaningful, in a positive way, in his increasing artistic presence. One of his songs was a piano composition called “Heartbreaking,” a gentle threnody with a mournful, wistful melody.
This was also an episode of miraculous reversals of fortune, Good Samaritans, and people suddenly remembering stuff that’s really, really important and can make a world of life-saving difference. Hallelujah! Miriam Sullivan, lover of pastry and Christmas, survived Richard’s vicious attack last week and crawled her way to a trio of brothers who helped her. Carl Rodd, that wonderful, wizened minister of the heartbroken, hustling to Shelly’s aid — then summoning his Carlmobile to go chase after Becky by blowing into a long silver whistle — is the best superhero moment of the summer. And in Sin City, the Seven reference was subverted to produce a happy ending, so much so that it felt like Lynch was parodying it or commenting on the film’s bleak perspective. Eraserhead Cooper — who in a glorious moment rediscovered his own passion for baked goods — avoided death at the hands of the Mitchums with the help of a cherry pie, a $30 million windfall, and the recovered memory of a prophetic dream. The Mitchum brothers might be bad guys, but this week they modeled the recovery conscience, and their collaborative, push-pull struggle to get there fed the episode’s thematic interest in partnerships, stewardship, and, yes, brotherly love. Am I the only one who wants a buddy cop spin-off for the Sheriff Truman-Deputy Hawk bromance, where they solve cold cases during intimate discussions in the dark by studying maps and consulting with the Log Lady?
“There’s fire where you are going” advanced several themes and followed through on several of the plots of Part 10. Last week doted on women suffering a world of vain, vulgar, vicious men. This week seemed to begin the furious V for Vendetta revolution. (I’m convinced the spirit of Laura Palmer will inflame the show’s women, igniting a pissed-off Pentecost.) I got the sense these Parts 10 and 11 were a designed pair; both opened with similar shots of the mountains looming over Twin Peaks. Part 11 also included images and sounds that reminded us of Part 8 (“Gotta light?”), the bravura outing that turned the detonation of the first atomic bomb, Trinity, into an allegory about America the Not Beautiful and a fable about how to respond to pain and sorrow. That was the hour that formally introduced us to the Woodsmen and made memorable use of Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima.” Looking at Part 11 through the lens of Part 8, we detect resonance and see “Gotta light?” as a myth underlying and informing the reality of the present. (Recap continues on page 2)