Twin Peaks recap: 'The Return: Part 12'
The clock is ticking
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.
I found myself grieving the seven hours that remain of Twin Peaks: The Return all week leading up to Part 12. Yeah, I know: seven hours! That’s still a lot of TV! But the first 11 parts of David Lynch’s magnum opus have been such joy, knowing we’re closer to the end than the beginning is a bummer. Which is fitting. This limited series has been about many the things, but mortality has been at the heart of it: our painful awareness of our fragility and temporality, our destructive efforts to deny it, our need to find grace for it and make peace with it. Me already mourning the end of Twin Peaks: The Return here at the end of its second act? Call it the mid-life crisis of my Twin Peaks fandom. Can’t there be more? Please, David Lynch! Keep us once more from the horror, the horror of a NON-EXIST-ENT Twin Peaks! Keep the revival alive! Keep it shining, forever, and ever, and ever, and ever…
Maybe Lynch felt something similar while piecing together Part 12. It was a peculiar affair of drawn-out moods that played to me like Lynch indulging himself in various ways while he still had time for it, before the realities of time, space, and narrative obligation force him to set course for the show’s final destination and drive toward it. But coming off the brilliance of last week’s “Black Hole Sun” outing, I think fans thought Part 12 would commence a tear toward the endgame. It certainly had the title for it. “Let’s rock” — an allusion to the Man From Another Place and Agent Cooper’s first Red Room dream — suggested an acceleration, maybe 60 minutes of warp-drive Black Lodge lunacy, maybe the restoration of Cooper to full, integrated, souped-up Cooperness. The first few scenes — the origins the Blue Rose Task Force; the red curtain intro and sly deputizing of Diane; the sinister stuff with mentally unstable Sarah Palmer (a terrific Grace Zabriskie), a broken soul under the influence of spirits of all sorts (who was that clanking around in her kitchen? Some Woodsmen? Zombie Laura?!) — certainly stoked the coals for another apocalyptic barn-burner.
Nope. After a promising start, the episode decided to model Sarah’s fragmented mind and subverted, still-life existence. “Let’s rock” was a lot of anti-rocking, a collection of Lynchian cool-hand slow riffs that indulged in his interest in timing, texture, and other aesthetic obsessions, many of them embodied in the vividly lipsticked, tightly packed va-va-va-voom! feminine form of a woman only known as “French Woman” (Bérénice Marlohe), which I suspect was sly nod to the fact that Lynch has always been beloved by the French. It was an hour of stretched, deliberately paced scenes that exulted in silence and language, stares and codes, withholding and feeling. It was an episode of interstitial existentialism — people waiting on people to do something, people lost in translation or transition — and it was knowing about it, too. That sequence of Lynch’s Gordon Cole delighting in the protracted exit of French Woman was balanced by Albert Rosenfield, acting as our surrogate, punishing his self-involved boss with death glares that scream-asked ‘ARE YOU F—ING KIDDING ME?!’ You could practically the see the ticking clock of the show — and our patience — reflected in his piercing, unblinking eyes.
“Let’s rock” willfully defied the expectations of momentum, title, second-act climax, and every other TV form save one — the stall episode. It’s possible there isn’t much more “plot” left in Twin Peaks, or at least, not enough to make each of its remaining episodes a meaty, mythic, heartbreaking brain-blower. Mr. C was conspicuously MIA for the third consecutive week. Dougie was in it for a blink of sweet goofy comedy, an ill-fated game of catch with Sonny Jim Jones. But we did get one more Dr. Amp rant, one more performance by The Chromatics, and a whole bunch of artful dawdling. You got the sense that Lynch was going to use his stall episode to take some beats and enjoy himself, to please only himself, to live in the moment by making an episode about people stuck in moments of all sorts — tedious, trivial, terrifying, weird, boring, nihilistic, meaningful, mournful, loving, tragic.
“Let’s rock” was my least favorite hour of the season. (And an hour that gave us the long-awaited return of Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne, to boot!) But that’s not to say it was “bad” or that the qualities lacked meaning or purpose. Interesting that Dr. Amp referenced the ninth circle of Hell in his latest rant about the higher powers that have betrayed and sold out the American people, miring them and trapping them in a world of s—. In Dante’s Inferno, the ninth circle of hell is the lowest circle of hell. It’s the realm of those who’ve committed treason in a variety of forms — against themselves, against family, against neighbors, against society, against God. Their punishment? They’re frozen in ice for eternity. Lynch’s chill approach to this episode matched a story about treasonous behavior and spiritually frozen people trapped in personal hells both deserved and undeserved. The thwarted forward motion of “Let’s rock!” also mirrored stories about people either engaging their responsibility to progressiveness or avoiding it. I’ll unpack that claim as we go through the episode scene by scene.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Part 12 plays better in retrospect, after a few more episodes that provide more context for various scenes, most notably, the true nature of Audrey’s very peculiar situation. We might wonder how much of that odd, interminable sequence with her husband was even real. The hot theory is that Audrey is insane or trapped in some Black Lodge limbo, that Charlie, her husband, is a figment of her imagination or a demonic torturer. If true, then what we see in hindsight is a clever construction, a mirroring of psychotic episodes between two people, Sarah and Audrey, screwed over by BOB-ish evil and spoiled intimacies (presuming you believe the icky theory that BOB-possessed Mr. C raped Audrey while she was in her coma, conceiving Richard). There were scenes that bombarded us with names of people we haven’t met (again, that Audrey sequence) or asked us to be deeply concerned for a few minutes about the worries of new Roadhouse folk whom we may never see again. (I think all of us are tremendously relieved that Trick is out of house arrest!) (Arrested development: another wink-wink at the halting nature of this episode.) Maybe we’ll learn more about all these newbies in the (dwindling!) hours to come; maybe not. I’m hoping “not.”
RELATED: Hear the latest from EW’s Twin Peaks podcast
Some of these scenes represented interesting ways to advance dangling bits of business (an argument against Madly Dreaming Audrey theory: Charlie’s phone call seemed to be referring to the MIA guy who owned Richard’s hit-and-run truck and stood up Andy to discuss it), or impart information about other characters by showing how they impact or affect other people, from intimate acquaintances to total strangers. (My guess is that the guy who ran Trick off the road was Richard, who haunted this episode, even though he wasn’t in it.) Indeed, this episode nurtured the idea of interconnectedness and collectivity in Twin Peaks USA, a world wide web of cause and effect, mutuality and responsibility spanning space and time.
Regardless, Part 12 will surely be vigorously defended by Lynchians who argue that story is irrelevant in his work (which isn’t true) and that textures and abstractions are all that matter. Even so, the results were mixed. Some scenes were extraordinary, like the scene when Ben Horne made like Charles Foster Kane and reminisced about his proverbial Rosebud, a second-hand Schwinn bicycle, a gift from his father. Other scenes felt like Lynch doing Lynch, or maybe someone else; I saw/heard/felt a lot of Tarantino in “Let’s rock.” Bottom line: Part 12 will probably go down as the most polarizing installment of the season. I’m sure the French totally love it. (Recap continues on page 2)
From Blue Book to Blue Rose: The Occult History and Peculiar Rites of the FBI’s Clandestine Doom Patrol Unit. The Scooby-Doo Gang’s extended stay at the Mayfair in Buckhorn, North Dakota is becoming as epic as Jack Torrance’s tenure at the Overlook Hotel. Are they ever going to leave? Not this week. With that dastardly Mr. C running amuck and the number of Woodsmen-related decapitations multiplying, Gordon Cole decided, eh, justice can wait. Let’s get wasted! He fetched a Bordeaux from the stash on his plane and decided this was a fine time to formally indoctrinate Agent Tammy Preston into the Blue Rose Task Force. Before commencing this sacred ceremony, Cole used his crimson magic flashlight/mother box thingamajig to scan the suite for/sanitize the suite of…Black Lodge spectral activity? Woodsmen? Zuul? Here’s his Ghostbusters theme song, by the way, with apologies to Bobby Brown: Too hot to handle/Too cold to hold/They call Gordon Cole and he’s in control!/With flirty French ladies he’s frequently chilling/All the while slimy Diane is dirtying the building. (Again, Mr. Brown, I do apologize.)
The setting evoked the Red Room parlor: red curtains in the background, two men and a woman hanging out and talking occult stuff, but without the backward-speaking dialect. Albert asked Gordon to crank up his hearing aid so he could communicate in hushed tones. “Please speak succinctly and do not make any loud, sharp noises,” said Cole, a piece of direction that ironically echoed forward. This episode was anything but concise, and not always pleasing to the senses.
But Albert proved to be an entertaining orator of Blue Rose lore. The unit was a response to the shuttering in 1970 of Project Blue Book, a 20-year investigation into unidentified flying objects conducted by the United States Air Force. Project Blue Book concluded that there was no evidence to credibly corroborate reports of UFO or EBE activity. “In other words, a cover-up. Cheers,” said Rosenfield, raising a glass and mock-toasting the corruption of the Watergate-era military industrial complex. Dante might call this type of betrayal a kind of “treason.” Cut to: the leaders of Project Blue Book on ice with Nixon in the in the ninth circle of Hell.
From the ashes of Project Blue Book rose The Blue Rose Task Force, an FBI-military joint venture determined to Mulderize and Scullify “the troubling abstractions raised by cases that Project Blue Book failed to resolve.” (Again, this in an episode of full of abstractions to trouble those wanting the show to get busy solving its own X-files.) Cole’s first hire was Agent Phillip Jeffries, the starman-space oddity of the Blue Rose, a cracked actor famed for time distortions and transmitting himself, genie-like, station to station via mystery teleportation. WAB: ????????. Drifting Briggs-like in the blackstar abyss, perhaps.
The task force got its name from a woman involved in one of the group’s earliest cases. Her last words before her death were “blue rose.” (I nominate either Naido or American Girl for said “Blue Rose” speaker.) Cole and Jeffries tapped three more strange men for the group: Dale Cooper (currently impaired and doubled), Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak’s character from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me; currently MIA), and Albert, the only rank-and-file member not diminished or vanished, even if all things Albert are framed by the idea of absence and mortality. Miguel Ferrer, you are missed. I hope the Twin Peaks viewing parties you, Bowie, Don Davis, Catherine Coulson, and Frank Silva are throwing somewhere across the ultraviolet seas are the stuff of dreams.
Albert explained that Cole had been reluctant take on new agents in light of the group’s mortality rate. But the gang needed new blood, and maybe some diversity, too. Agent Preston fit the bill. Graduated with honors from George Washington University. Dean’s list at M.I.T. Top of her class at Quantico. Did Tammy want to join? “I’m in.” And with that, the task force went suffragette city. Cole flashed her a “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!” grin — not his last in this episode — and they raised their goblets to seal the deal. The hour’s first labored pause was made to allow Tammy a sec to bask in her transfiguration to Blue Rose starring role. I’m pretty sure we witnessed a version of Lynch’s famous let’s-just-hang-out-and-talk casting process here.
Enter the Snake. The Blue Rose recruitment drive wasn’t over. Pushing through the red curtains was treasonous Diane, Mr. C’s atomic blonde spy. The bad, bonded, anti-Bond girl took a Vodka on the rocks (though she had to pour it herself; Albert wasn’t going to play bartender for her) and heard out a job offer: Cole wanted to make her a deputy member for the task force. “What’s in it for me?” she asked. Some cash, said Albert. “Maybe the satisfaction of learning what happened to your friend Cooper.” Translation: Whatever happened to doing the right thing for your fellow man, just ‘cuz?
Well, maybe since Diane left the FBI feelings seduced, betrayed, and perhaps even worse by the Bureau, by “Cooper,” by Gordon Cole, and all the empty promises of patriarchal law and order, truth and justice. Yeah, Diane’s a turncoat. But at this point, it’s hard to blame her for not knowing who or what to trust.
Rounding out this sequence with her presence made for some interesting meanings. The young, idealistic Agent Preston contrasted with the older, cynical Diane, each a doppelganger to the other. I find myself wondering what fallen Diane represents to Tammy: a cautionary tale that she can avoid or foreshadowing she can’t escape.
Diane accepted her commission. This was all disingenuous theater, of course. By making her a deputy, Cole and Albert were trying to keep an enemy close. By taking the job, Diane was playing all sides against each other. And it’s entirely possible that everyone knew exactly what the other was doing and why — that Diane knows that they know she’s been compromised, that Cole and Albert know and she knows that they’re playing her.
“Let’s rock,” she said, waving a pair of fingers at them like a gun. Cole coolly rapped his knuckles in the table like Frank Underwood of House of Cards. The game between them was afoot.
*Strange that we got all this after the events of Part 11, in which Gordon, Albert, Tammy, and Diane — functioning as a team; accompanied by Detective Mackley — took Bill Hastings out to the “Black Hole Sun” site and ran afoul with a head-splitting threshold guardian Woodsman. I suspect the Tammy-Diane recruitment sequence does indeed take place prior to Hastings’ death, and Lynch decided to play the scene, in this part, for various reasons.
(Recap continues on page 3)
Out of the Woods. In a spectacular single wide-screen shot, Jerry emerged from Ghostwood Forest (and the wilderness of his stoned mind?), sprinting into a grassy clearing, stumbling, picking himself up, running some more. The image was funny and recalled Lynch’s first attempt at comedy, a short film from the late eighties entitled The Cowboy and the Frenchman, which opens with Harry Dean Stanton, playing a hard-of-hearing cowboy named Slim, watching a stereotypical Frenchman bumble and stumble as he runs out of the woods and down a grassy mountain slope.
I might be reading too much into things, but in retrospect, there was something ominous about watching Jerry sprinting out of the woods like a bat out of hell and looking spooked. The two horns of Twin Peaks loomed behind him like a monolithic demon. It was as if he was running from the devil. Which made it an appropriate segue to the next scene…
The Haunting of Sarah Palmer. We last saw Laura Palmer’s mother in Part 2 watching a gruesome animal documentary in the dead of the night, the images on the TV reflected in the mirrors on the wall behind her. The scene followed the sequence in which Agent Cooper fell out of the Black Lodge through the cracks of the chevron floor, flushed into the void of non-existence by EoTA’s crackling, cackling doppelganger. At the time, I wondered if Lynch was implying that Sarah’s figurative haunted house was Cooper’s final destination, which I think is still possible. Regardless, the juxtaposition of Cooper’s subversion by a demonic shade and dispirited Sarah in the dark of her living room, eyes and mind lit up with the spectacle of animal savagery, suggested something…well, bleak. Tragedy, grief and so much horror have robbed Sarah of her humanity and enslaved her to numbing addictions, hollowing her out even more. She’s a woman under the influence of spirits — including some supernatural ones. Her mind, body, and house has become a black lodge. She may share it with a legion of demons.
We met her anew in Part 12 shopping for cigarettes and alcohol at what was probably a grocery, though I wonder if Lynch and Frost wanted us to think “convenience store,” as in, “hey, remember, the Black Lodge demons used to live above a convenience store.” As she was purchasing ungodly amounts of intoxicants and poison (total bill: $133.70), Sarah noticed a display of beef jerky behind the cashiers. It wasn’t even the authentic kind. It was that faux beef turkey jerky stuff. She had never seen it before and it unsettled her. Triggered by the unnatural disruption to her expectations of reality, Sarah began saying scared, scary stuff. “Were you here when they first came?“ “And men are coming!” “I am trying to tell you that you have to watch out! Things can happen! They can happen to me! Something happened to me!” Lynch “scored” this sequence with soundscape of sinister abstracted noise. It’s a piece Lynch created for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. You hear it in a different spots in that film, including: the autopsy of Theresa Banks (the crescendo is a moment in which Agent Stanley, played by Keifer Sutherland, extracting a letter hidden under one of her fingernails); and the moment when Agent Phillip Jeffries beams into FBI HQ in Philly, talking wildly of a woman named Judy and infiltrating a meeting of Black Lodge entities in the room above of the convenience store. He also says: “We live inside a dream.” Sarah’s seemingly possessed ramble reminded me of Jeffries’ agitated demeanor. And I throw that “We live inside a dream” line at you because it speaks to Sarah’s surreal, uncanny state of being, and I have a hunch it could be even more relevant in the weeks to come. Something seriously f’d up looms. You can feel it in your bones.
On one hand, Sarah, who is psychically sensitive, was surely alluding to the intrusion of supernatural forces. But the scene expressed how easily PTSD can be activated by some small fluctuation in the environment, reminding you that so much in your daily walk is out of your control, and we are all prey to circumstance and the will and whims of other people.
Sarah walked out, leaving her stuff behind. Which isn’t a bad thing, I guess. It’s not like Sarah needs to be drinking more! From this perspective, you could argue that this triggered shock was a positive thing — a harrowing, a distressing experience, for sure, but one with liberating, redemptive consequences (see: the Christian notion of “the harrowing of hell”). We’ve seen such a harrowing one other time this season: when the Woodsmen descended upon the fallen Mr. C and “harrowed” him — dug into him; tilled him — and extracted that slimy glob of BOB.
Anyway, the baffled check-out girl (Zoe McLane) summed up the situation with one perfectly delivered, drawn-out word: “Whaaaaat?” Like some good neighbor (or oblivious enabler), the bag-boy (Johnny Ochsner) offered to deliver Sarah’s abandoned spirits to her house. A sweet gesture, Bag-Boy, but definitely not the help she needs. And I suspect her house is still plenty stocked with foul spirits, anyway.
Carl Rodd, A True Good Neighbor. A better example of “it takes a village” ethos was found at the New Fat Trout Trailer Park, where the summer’s best superhero, Carl Rodd, attended to a friend named Kriscol (Bill O’Dell), a hobbled man struggling with cash flow. Kriscol had taken to hawking his blood to make ends meet. Carl was pained to see his friend selling himself out, committing treason against himself just to survive. Kriscol was a good neighbor to his Fat Trout brethren, always helping them with handyman work performed for free. That was worth something to Carl, so he decided to put a dollar amount on it and pay him the value. He gave him some cash, forgave him a month’s rent, and he said if he ever needed help again, he should just ask. Because that’s how s— should work, dammit, and in Carl’s little corner of the world, which he stewards like a humble Eden, that’s exactly how it works.
“Keep your blood, Kriscol,” said Rodd.
Lord, I love this man.
(Recap continues on page 4)
Field of Dreams: The Sleeper Must Awaken! (Right?) Meanwhile (or not), in another, more upscale idyll on the outskirts of Las Vegas, Sonny Jim Jones tried to teach Dougie a different expression of human interchange and reciprocity — a game of catch. Alas, the American pastime was wasted on our Eraserhead hero, still stuck in his experience-purged sleepwalking state in the yellow dunes of Nevada. The boy set him in place, took position opposite him 10 yards away, and threw the ball at him. It bounced off his chest and made Dougie wobble like a Weeble, but he didn’t fall down. It was rather funny, but also poignant in this episode about broken, ineffective parents. Here was a boy trying to teach his dad something a fully realized dad should be teaching him; here was a son showing his father how to be a father. Moments like these make me dread the thing we all want. Whither the Jones family if and when Cooper gets his mind back?
“It’s a goddam bad story, isn’t it, Hawk?” Someone else I love for his huge freakin’ heart: Hawk. Word traveled to the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department about Sarah’s strange behavior at the convenience store. Hawk zipped over to check on her and showered her with grace, even as Sarah treated him to a series of sour, suffering faces. She tried to deny her hurt, but at one point, she cracked, revealing the torment of a woman betrayed by life, trapped — frozen — in a private hell of history. “It’s a goddam bad story, isn’t it Hawk?” During their encounter, Hawk heard what sounded like a rattle of bottles or dishes. Was someone in the house with Sarah? No, she said. Just a stack of something settling in the kitchen. Creepy.
Lynch gave us shots of a whirring fan inside the Palmer household — a fan we know to be in the stairwell leading up to the bedroom where Laura was routinely seduced and violated by her incestuous, BOB-possessed father. During the conversation between Sarah and Hawk, Lynch framed Hawk’s POV shot so that we could see the stairwell behind Sarah. This conjuring should remind us of last week’s episode and the vision that Gordon Cole saw in the center of that Black Hole Sun of three Woodsmen atop a stairwell. Some eagle-eyed fans noticed that the wallpaper behind them matched the wallpaper in Laura’s room. And those who know their Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me might remember that there’s a painting in Laura’s room — given to her by Mrs. Tremond, a Black Lodge entity — that’s something of a dream portal into the Black Lodge.
I wonder if we’re supposed to be wondering if the Palmer household is now infested with Woodsmen. But if so, why? Well, how about this: They’re dark angels watching over a sinister miracle transpiring in one of those bedrooms — the reincarnation of Laura Palmer.
Blue roses for pulped Miriam. We left Sarah Palmer and cut to an image that brought to mind souls like Laura, the bruised, battered, beaten women of Twin Peaks, victims of hideous dicks, patriarchal scourges, and Black Lodge doppelgangers and BOB vehicles. The camera began at her feet and traveled up her body toward her swollen face: It was Miriam Sullivan, unconscious, on life support. Two things about the scene: (1) Twin Peaks is a lumber town, but the satanic spiritual industry of this ancient, troubled place is misogyny, and specifically, the violent blood sacrifice of women. Put another way: Twin Peaks runs on log ladies, cut down, chopped and pulped. Remember this when you watch the opening credits and see Laura’s spectral face superimposed on the misty forests of Twin Peaks. (2) Next to Miriam, on a bedside table, was a bouquet of blue roses. Just saying.
The Continuing Texts of Dirty Diane, Part Two. Back in Buckhorn, newly commissioned Blue Rose deputy Diane was sitting at the Mayfair bar and drinking Vodka when she received a text, presumably from Mr. C. LAS VEGAS, it read. THEY HAVEN’T ASKED YET, she replied. Barely hours on the job, and already Diane is selling out and being treasonous. The ice in your Vodka is your soul in Hell, Diane! Flee the ninth circle! Flee!
Sins of the Grandfather. In Twin Peaks, Ben Horne received a visit from Sheriff Frank Truman, who came to deliver bad news. And so Ben finally learned that his grandson, Richard, had committed vehicular homicide and tried to murder a witness to his hit and run chaos, Miriam. Ben wasn’t just pained to hear this, he entered into the pain, as if trying to empathize with the suffering that Richard had caused. “That boy has never been right,” said Ben, noting that Richard never really had a father. He also said that Richard had numerous run-ins with Frank’s ailing brother, Sheriff Harry Truman, each incident more egregious than the last, suggesting a life of blooming, unchecked evil. These tidbits will surely nurture the prevailing theory that Richard was a product of rape, committed by pure evil Mr. C. What went unacknowledged or unexplored was what role Audrey played in Richard’s upbringing, and if Ben tried to function as a surrogate father, and if not, why not.
Frank didn’t seem too impressed by Ben’s performative (though genuine) agony. What he wanted was Ben to step up and take responsibility for Miriam’s hospital bills. She had no insurance and needed an operation. Ben readily agreed to cover all costs. Before Frank exited, Ben gave him the old key to the room Agent Cooper used back in the day, the key that showed up out of the blue a few days earlier. He wondered if Harry might want it as a reminder of his old friend Coop. Frank noted the synchronicity of the key’s arrival and his department’s re-investigation into Cooper’s whereabouts. When Frank took the key from Ben, I half-expected a vision to fill Frank’s eyes or Cooper himself to materialize, emerging from the humming air currently wafting through the Great Northern.
Ben — a devil in the original show, at least until a nutty surge of conscience led to reckless choices of a different sort — showed just enough humanity to speak well of him, but not enough to redeem him. He immediately forgot Miriam’s last name. He made Beverly handle all of Miriam’s arrangements. His comments about Richard lacking a father implied blame-shifting. After Frank left, Ben lapsed into a reverie about a used Schwinn his own dad gave him. Man, little Ben loved that bike! That bike his dad got for him! His description of that two-tone green beater with the big wheels evoked Richard’s mean machine car, a two-tone (green and red) old Saturn. I wonder if the car had been Ben’s gift to Richard, the way the bike had been his father’s gift to him.
The scene played like Ben waxing wistful, and it was, but I wonder if Ben was also grieving his failure with Richard. Putting that speculation aside, and assuming Ben had no role in Richard’s upbringings beside writing checks (until he stopped with that altogether), there’s something ironic about Ben reflecting on his father’s love: Even with that kind of parental investment, Ben turned out pretty bad. Maybe Ben never tried with Richard because he didn’t think it would make a difference. Maybe the Schwinn story was a tacit admission that he was wrong to ever think so.
Gordon, the French Woman, and the Punishing Stares of Albert Rosenfield. You could also see this comic scene as a wink at The Cowboy and the Frenchman, a commissioned film that was shot for French television. (Full disclosure: For dull reasons I won’t explain, I have only ever seen the first 7 minutes of this short.) It began with Gordon, our hard-of-hearing lawman, regaling his new French friend with a story about 75 law enforcement offices “coming down the mountain, alarms wailing,” a word picture suggesting a cowboy cavalry. He was interrupted by Albert, who had FBI business to discuss and wanted the French Woman to leave. It took her forever to comply, and Gordon didn’t mind one bit. Every little thing she did was magic to him. When she applied her lipstick, he pursed his own lips, an involuntary reaction to a visual turn-on that Lynch himself has always found erotic. She put a finger to her red lips and took her time figuring out where to touch Gordon’s face. Gordon promised to call down to the bar and summon her back up when he was done with Albert. What a dirty old dog.
Gordon tried to explain to an exasperated Albert that the French Woman was visiting “a friend of her mother’s whose daughter has gone missing,” a mystery that evoked any number of mysteries about MIA men and women in Twin Peaks past and present. Albert was unmoved. Gordon explained that the mother of the missing daughter owned a turnip farm, and that he tried to console the French Woman by telling her that the daughter “will turn up eventually.” This was a joke. Albert did not laugh. He just shot withering stares into Gordon’s soul as if to punish him for indulgences that were impeding their mission of justice. But Gordon had no use for Albert’s humorlessness or shame. “Albert, sometimes I worry about you,” he said. I love how Lynch totally understands how he’s perceived and sympathizes but also doesn’t give a crap.
After more angry silence, Gordon showed an interest in business, and Albert got down to it. He told Gordon about Diane’s latest text exchange with Mr. C. Gordon was perplexed. What did they know, but hadn’t yet told her, that would prompt them to inquire about Las Vegas? One possibility: the intercepted text itself. You wonder if paradox is in play here, in that Mr. C knows that the Blue Rose Task Force is eavesdropping on his messages to Diane, so he’s feeding her info that manipulates Cole and company to certain actions. Another possibility is that Mr. C has seen the news footage out of Vegas of Dougie the Ike-the-Spike Slayer and wonders if Cole and Albert have seen it, too.
Obviously not. Too busy flirting with French women and reading other people’s texts!
(Recap continues on page 5)
Next stop, Tarantinotown. In a scene that I’m not sure any Twin Peaks fan expected to see or even felt necessary, we watched Mr. C’s goons Hutch and Chantal stake out the warden’s house and follow through on the order to kill him. You might recall that Chantal was hoping to torture the warden, as she has an appetite for such things. But that was a couple episodes ago. Now, she only had a hankering for Wendy’s, and she wanted to hurry up with the murder so she could grab some drive-thru. Good boyfriend Hutch double-checked. You sure, honey? I could take out his legs and you could torture him later? Nah, she said. Just get it over with. It might have been the only act of expediency in “Let’s rock.”
So Hutch took out the warden with two shots. The lawman’s young son ran out of the house yelping in horror. Note how Lynch and Frost keep attending to the human cost — particularly in the form of kids — of so much violence in their hyper-pulp world. Hutch could care less. “Next stop, Wendy’s,” he said, a glib quip that seemed right out of early Quentin Tarantino. So much of this episode felt Tarantinoesque, particularly the dark comedy, the long silences, banal blather, and the juxtaposition of nihilistic violence combined with felt tragedy. Of course, Tarantino was deeply influenced by Lynch, and Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart were harbingers of the po-mo prestige pulp of the indie movie boom of the ’90s. Once again, I put forth my contention that Lynch is using his magnum opus to reflect on his work, his influences, and, perhaps, the influence he’s had on the culture, for better and worse, as a parental figure — a father figure — to a generation of film artists.
Speaking of singular artists filling the culture with striking if questionable content…
Dr. Amp…again. For the third time, Lynch and Frost gave us a Dr. Amp rant (with cutaways to a listening Nadine once again sipping her iced blended coffee), but this one was so similar to the first — and a greatly abbreviated version of it — that I considered the possibility that the show was actually revisiting that first rant. It wasn’t. To be honest, I’ve had my fill of Dr. Jacoby’s activist-huckster-blowhard alter-ego, although I wonder if I’m supposed to be feeling exhausted with/by him. He seemed to be straining to connect to his own shtick. He cut to the chase of his big sell — the crass commercial for golden shovels — more quickly than usual. You wonder if his arc is trending toward total burn-out and total sell-out. Yet one of his lines had great resonance in the episode and in the broader culture, given the week we’ve had with the failed hit on healthcare. “The f—s are at it again!” he said. “F— you who betray the people you were elected to help!” A society that helps people — a world of Carl Rodds — is the pining dream of Twin Peaks. Dr. Amp then sentenced all treacherous hypocrites to the frozen lake in the ninth level of Hell – and it was on that note that we cut to Audrey Horne.
Whatever happened to our Nancy Drew? We remember Audrey for her precocious behavior and sensational single moments. Poking holes in someone’s Styrofoam coffee cup. Sabotaging her dad’s Ghostwood development project by manipulating the Norwegians. (Those gullible Norwegians!) Dancing with herself while mooning over agent Cooper. Auditioning for a role at One Eyed Jack’s by knotting a cherry stem with her tongue. Yet she was sweet, pure and righteous at her core (her acting out was a protest of the neglectful, corrupt adults of her world), she was strong (she existed for herself, not for any man), and her doomed crush on Agent Cooper revealed a calling and a focus: being a detective. In a different world, she might have become an FBI agent. In a different Twin Peaks: The Return, Agent Audrey Horne functioning in the Agent Tammy Preston role, joining the Blue Rose Task Force to search for the hero who inspired her to become a detective.
Instead, we have a show where Audrey got caught in an explosion at Twin Peaks Savings & Loan, fell into a coma, maybe got raped by Mr. C, presumably got pregnant with Richard from this encounter. She seems to have physically recovered from these tragedies, but it appears she never recovered the narrative of the life we knew. We met her anew as the unhappily married wife of a workaholic man, full of foul-mouthed anger and cheating protest, making her one more example of the show’s chief expressions for a fallen world — divorce, adultery, love gone cold. The worldview of Twin Peaks: we are broken-hearted people in a broken society. (The halved-heart locket of the original series might be the thematic totem of the saga.)
This sequence, which stretched for more than seven minutes, was a fail for me. What I disliked about it was how the contrived approach– the lack of contextual information, the forced ambiguities, the strained performances — completely upstaged the return of a character I’ve been anxious to see again. It felt phony, and it didn’t flatter Fenn as an actress. The only thing that makes it compelling is the possibility that phoniness was exactly the whole point. The theory that’s emerging: Audrey is either still in her coma or insane. Her argument with Charlie (Clark Middleton), her alleged husband, was either imagined or the crazy-talk of two mentally ill people trapped in the same asylum together. It’s an interesting idea — it would certainly explain why we haven’t seen Sheriff Truman or anyone else question Audrey about Richard’s whereabouts. But the theory also may be a desperate attempt to get good with a scene that was pretty bad.
Lynch staged their conflict in a library-office that looked like something from an old Hollywood movie, the shelves jammed with old generic books and the desk stacked with papers and folders. He began the scene with a panning camera move that establishes the room and the characters position within it, but direction and emphasis is counter-intuitive. Instead of swiveling the camera from left to right, he swivels from right to left — a moving backwards motion. This is not so unusual for Lynch, or any director, really. What is odd, though, is that he begins the shot on Audrey, standing on one side of the room, and then slowly pans over to Charlie, who is sitting behind a desk, making Charlie, not Audrey, the big reveal of the scene. If you felt the return of Audrey was anti-climactic, but don’t really know why beyond just not liking the scene, the reason starts at the very beginning, with the way she’s re-introduced, with a shot that minimizes — purposely, perhaps — her importance. She might be standing, she might be significantly taller than her diminutive husband, but Lynch renders her subordinate to Charlie and imbues him with all the power. He controls the scene — and he controls Audrey — with his action, his inaction, his desires, his lack of desire. She’s the hot element in the scene, raging and swearing and gesticulating, but she also remains locked in place — frozen in space (and maybe time?) — and never advances. Charlie is the cold element in this scene, cool in temperament, barley moved by Audrey’s bluster. He, too, doesn’t leave his mark, but he’s the prime mover of the scene; everything that happens happens because he makes it or allows it to happen.
It was hard to track their argument, given that it involved a rush of names and incidents we know nothing about. This is a typical Lynch strategy, one that has the effect of making us disinterested in the information itself and getting us to pay attention to the feelings on display and wonder about the internal life of the characters. Here’s a brief, imperfect description of what played out.
Audrey wanted Charlie to accompany her on a search for a missing man named Billy, a mission that was likely to take her to the Roadhouse. Charlie didn’t want to go. He was tired, he had work, he was on deadline, and he seemed indifferent to this Billy. I initially wondered if Billy was their son, which made me hate Charlie and put me more on the side of Audrey, whom I’m wired to like, anyway. (Man, did I have a huge pop crush on Audrey back in the day.) But as the scene went on, our understanding evolved. Audrey was having an affair with Billy. Charlie seemed to be keenly aware of this infidelity and either didn’t care or wasn’t in the mood of showing that he cared. You got the sense that their tattered marriage is in the process of dissolving, but still bound by legal agreements and rules.
We were bombarded with names. In addition to Billy, there was Tina, Paul, and Chuck. At no point did either of them mention Richard or anyone else we know from Audrey’s past, which is to say, the original show. Charlie had a relationship with Tina, whom Audrey hated/resented/just plain didn’t like. Was Charlie having an affair with her? I thought maybe we were supposed to think that, but I’m not sure. Anyway, Charlie was supposed to call Tina to inquire about Billy, because Tina was either the last person to see Billy or knew someone who last saw Billy, but Charlie never made the phone call. After Audrey threatened to leave Charlie for good, he finally agreed to go look for Billy with her…but first, why not make that call to Tina.
Here, for me, the scene finally got interesting. Charlie called Tina on a rotary dial phone — another Lynch fixation, but also a device that no longer works in America, at least not without an adapter. Middleton’s performance of the one-sided phone conversation was outstanding, and we, like, Audrey, were put in the position of trying to guess what was being said and what it all meant. Charlie seemed shocked, dismayed, and saddened by Tina’s report. My take on what Charlie learned was that Billy was the “Farmer” who knew something about Richard’s hit and run — Richard had obtained his truck, stolen from Billy by another man — and who was supposed to meet with Deputy Andy to tell him more, but stood him up. (If this is true, it complicates the theory that all of this was imagined or crazy-talk.) I got the sense that Tina told Charlie what happened to Billy — maybe he was dead; maybe he had run away — but swore Charlie to secrecy. When Charlie hung up the phone, he honored that promise by not saying one more word to Audrey. She was furious. “You’re not going to tell me what she said?! YOU’RE NOT GOING TO TELL ME WHAT SHE SAID?!”
Her retort spoke for all of us, at least in the moment. Upon review, with theory swirling in our head, it becomes more interesting, or at least suspicious. But this also might be the fallacy of fan confirmation bias. I love Twin Peaks, ergo, I want all of Twin Peaks to be awesome. So maybe I’m trying to make a bad/disappointing scene good/satisfying but project intrigues upon it that aren’t legit?
Anyway. Welcome back, Audrey. I think.
More Drinking, More Phone Fun with Diane. A quick cut-back to Diane at the Mayfair bar. It was closing time — a janitor was vacuuming — but the kindly bartender served her Vodka on the rocks, anyway. Diane was also wearing a different outfit than the one she wore earlier in the hour. It was the same outfit she wore in Part 11, when she bore witness to Bill’s death and committed to memory the digits written on Ruth Davenport’s arm. It was a proof that the Diane scenes in Part 12 took place before and after the events of Part 11.
She pulled up a vintage-looking map on her phone that allowed her to input coordinates. Ruth’s numbers pinpointed a certain town in northern Washington known as Twin Peaks. Diane looked either stunned or scared. As the scene came to an end, the sound of vacuuming turned into a familiar, sinister ethereal thrumming. Diane, how far are you willing to go to find out what happened to your friend Cooper?
Was Trick a Treat? We rang out Part 12 back in Twin Peaks with a dreamy performance by the Chromatics, in their third appearance in the revival, playing an instrumental, “Saturday.” A pair of women drinking Heinekens talked about a friend named Angela who’s sweet on a dude named Clark who was last seen smooching with a gal named Mary. In Twin Peaks USA, unfaithfulness is epidemic and people hate last names. A guy named Trick interrupted their conversation. Some jerk (Richard?) had just ran him off the road on the way and a farmer had to pull him out of a ditch. He said he was lucky to be alive. I’m not sure everyone in “Let’s rock” would agree, not even Natalie, who ended Part 12 with a sarcastic, limp and appropriate declaration: “Whoopee.” Yeah, I know. Who’s Natalie? Maybe next week.