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Agent Dale Cooper finally returned to us with mind, heart, and heroic personality fully intact — “One hundred percent!” he declared — in Part 16 of Twin Peaks, “No knock, no doorbell.” Jolted by an electroshock zap of magical current last week (with an assist from a Sunset Blvd. meta-nudge), Coop emerged from the subsequent coma ready for his close-up. Goodbye Dougie daze in the glitzy wasteland of Las Vegas. Next stop: Twin Peaks. It’s time for our super-hero to get busy playing fireman to a community burning with spiritual crisis and repairing the damage done by the manifest destiny madness of the doppelganger that had hijacked his life, Mr. C.
What an episode. Kyle MacLachlan made the resurrection of his signature role an electrifying pleasure. He slipped back into Cooper with extraordinary ease and confidence, finding the voice, mannerisms, and personality immediately and charming us to misty-eyed pieces. “Doctor, will you confirm my vitals are A-okay?” Oh, they were. They were! For a few minutes, it was spring, 1990 all over again, when we met and fell in love with this brilliantly measured lawman and his winning blend of empathetic humanism and insatiable curiosity, idealistic Americanism and Eastern mysticism, principles and quirks. By dazzling anew with Cooper, MacLachlan introduced a baseline of performance that allows us to better appreciate the marvelous work he’s done playing fragments of his persona, “Dougie” and Mr. C. Mr. Emmy Man, I hope your memory is long, because MacLachlan deserves to win all the awards next year.
The great awakening of our hero, the face of Twin Peaks, was a metaphor for the revival of Twin Peaks itself. His resurrection scenes were even set to the show’s gloriously romantic theme song, amping the rush and gilding the symbolism. But there were other reboots in Part 16, too, provoked by psychic stirs that suggested some kind of cosmic synchronicity was at work, a connecting principle, linked the invisible, vibrating through a web of connected minds, affecting them similarly yet differently. In Buckhorn, Cooper’s former secretary Diane was triggered to total recall by Cooper’s rapacious double and shuddered from the violation. The past was all pain and sorrow; remembering it — returning to it — destabilized her and led to her death. In Twin Peaks, Audrey Horne, the woman who once loved Cooper — and had also been raped by Mr. C — was invited to perform a signature moment from the original series, “Audrey’s Dance.” She got lost in the entrancing music, motion, and mood of the moment. But then the sobering realities of the present broke the spell — and some psychotic break occurred within Audrey to suggest that maybe her whole life is a sleepwalking denial of reality.
And so the rapturous nostlagia hits of Part 16 was an interrogation of nostalgia itself. It reminded us that nostalgia is often — maybe always — rooted is an uncanny experience of the self rooted in pain. It can bring pleasure, it can bring despair, it can make us mad. As a metaphor for the nostalgia hit of Twin Peaks itself, Part 16 reflects the complicated feelings of the show’s creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost, about putting one more franchise reboot into the culture and revisiting the past as a means to move forward with their careers or perhaps sum up their careers with a magnum opus work.
Cooper is a good nostalgia worth recollecting and internalizing. He embodies virtues that are timeless and encoded in better parts of our cultural identity. He has always been there, waiting to be ignited and activated with a SHAZAM! of Promethean lightening. Yet even the reboot of Cooper had some downer side effects. His gain (and ours) is a gutting loss for others, namely Janey-E and Sonny Jim Jones, the woman and boy who had become like wife and child to Cooper. By living as a wholly new, original incarnation, aka “Dougie,” Cooper reversed the fortunes of the Jones family, liberating them from the debts of the past and paving a way into the future. By going back to being his old self and his old life, Cooper threatens their well-being and growth. Cooper understood this. He made arrangements with Mike the One-Armed Man to manufacture a replacement version of himself. If it’s meant to fill the Dougie void in the Jones family, we might wonder: is this really a good and fair idea? Especially now that Janey-E knows that “Dougie” hasn’t been/isn’t the Dougie she’s always known? (In this regard, Janey-E was one more woman linked to Cooper who was also “awakened” and rebooted and left in a state of disorientation.)
Other pasts aren’t so easily recovered. Others pasts shouldn’t be revived at all, for their sake and ours. Living in a pocket universe of delusion for what was and what could have been is a Novocain for the wounded soul that divorces people from reality. Nostalgia can be dangerous, a fantasy projected upon the world, diminishing and warping it…
Okay, I might be just throwing words at you now, hoping they describe whatever the hell happened there at the end. Audrey Horne, where are you? Are you dreaming your life — and maybe dreaming into others — like the confabulating heartbroken heroine of Mulholland Drive? Does all of Twin Peaks: The Return take place in the Inland Empire of your fractured mind? Or have you been soul-jacked and “Tulpified” by Mr. C, just like the woman formerly known as Diane? Who isn’t a Tulpa in this show? Holy Frak! Has Twin Peaks gone full Battlestar Galactica on us here at this late hour?
Doting On Audrey. Before we walk through “No knock, no doorbell” from the beginning, let’s jump to the very meta end and read it through the lens of last week’s very meta moment, the reference to Sunset Blvd., which stirred the Cooper within Dougie by referring to “Gordon Cole.” Billy Wilder’s classic film noir is one of Lynch’s favorite movies. It’s a cautionary tale about nostalgia in general and Hollywood illusion/delusion in particular. Lynch had a meta-experience inspired by the film — a rude awakening — that actually proved the points of the movie. He famously went searching for Norma Desmond’s mansion on Sunset Boulevard when he moved to Los Angeles and discovered it was actually not located on Sunset Boulevard. The scales fell from his eyes and he was born again bummed. He wanted the fantasy version of Hollywood of Sunset Blvd. to be “real.”
After this week, we see that Sunset Blvd. speaks meaningfully to Audrey, too. Norma Desmond, a movie star from the silent era (now a reclusive shut-in residing with her manservant/ex-husband in a mansion), is hopelessly trapped in her nostalgia yet trying to return to the main of Hollywood. Her delusional flailing culminates with a few different kinds of psychotic break — a murder, a break from reality, and a meta moment in which she approaches the camera and declares, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” The irony of her full-on psychic retreat lies in her would-be comeback vehicle, Salome. Key scenes in one version of the ancient tale include the title character performing “the dance of the seven veils,” an exotic, elaborate striptease with layers of meaning. The dance results in her objectification for men, but it also represents Salome revealing her true self to those watching and to herself. A dropping of illusion — a psychic striptease.
So it was interesting in Part 16 to see Audrey, reclusive shut-in trying to engage the town of Twin Peaks, reaching the Roadhouse and being asked to dance “Audrey’s Dance.” She was more than ready for this close-up. She made “Audrey’s Dance” into something more elaborate, her version of the “dance of the seven veils.” But then it wall went weird. A bar fight broke out. Spooked, suddenly feeling unsafe in her space and within herself, Audrey ran toward Charlie — and toward the camera — and suddenly, she and we were somewhere else. A sterile white space, with Audrey staring at her own freaked-out reflection in a mirror rimmed and humming with electric light. A psychotic break? An act of self-revelation? Another sleeper awakening? Regardless, there was a close-up, and it didn’t look like Audrey was ready for it at all.
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