Twin Peaks recap: 'The Return: Part 16'
'One hundred percent'
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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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Richard Horne’s Electro-Shock Blues. In what seems like a million years ago now, the Chromatics took to the Roadhouse stage to perform an ethereal tune about the allure and illusion of nostalgic fantasy. It was the end of Part 2. The song was called “Shadow.” In the last stanza, Ruth Radelet sings: At night I’m driving in your car/Pretending that we’ll leave this town/We’re watching all the street lights fade/And now you’re just a stranger’s dream/I took your picture from the frame/And now you’re nothing like you seem/You shadow fell like last night’s rain/For the last time/For the last time…
I thought about the song while watching Richard Horne journey into darkness with a man he’s only known as a picture in a frame belonging to his mother — a photo of Audrey Horne’s first love, FBI agent Dale Cooper, a man so jazzy-dreamy it inspired her to dancing-with-herself swooning back in better days. Part 16 opened on the pair driving down a two-lane blacktop in the dead of the night, Richard in the passenger seat, the man behind the wheel. When they met face to face last week outside the ghostly convenience store, the man from the photo had promised him a conversation. Perhaps they had it, but we were left to wonder what Richard had been told. Did the man present himself as Cooper? Did the man tell Richard that he was Cooper’s doppelganger, a rogue who had sired Richard by — presumably — forcing himself on a comatose Audrey 25 years earlier? Did Richard think he was accompanying a heroic knight working undercover on a righteous errand? Or did he understand that Mr. C was a dark knight villain — an anti-hero — on a selfish quest for forbidden knowledge and personal transcendence?
Either way, Richard had become enthralled by him, and in thrall to him. Can you blame him? He was a boy on a road trip with his father, a badass truck driver in a world of badass truck drivers who had just become the king of badass truck drivers in an arm-wrestling match. Mr. C was his Lincoln Hawk, estranged dad to an alienated little boy, and now they were bonding in their own version of Sylvester Stallone’s Over the Top. Whether Richard took the man to be a good one or a bad one, Mr. C was a dream come true, the deus ex machina satisfaction of an aching nostalgia for something he never had, something he’d only experienced in poor incarnations. Charlie, his mother’s peculiar, maybe gaslighting husband. Ben Horne, his morally bankrupt grandfather, who only loved him with money, and now, didn’t even want to give him that. Red, the underworld Sparkle baron boss who had turned him into a worthless peddler of dime-bag poison. But Richard, now a bad man himself, couldn’t see he had been seduced by a phantom stranger who encapsulated all the bad men he’s ever known, and that he had fallen into a trap, baited by his own longing, exploited by an illusion that was nothing like he seemed. He was about to be seduced the way so many other people had been seduced by Mr. C. Richard Horne had once again fallen for a shadow, and for the last time, too.
Mr. C was also on the hunt for transcendent satisfaction. Specifically, he was searching for a place. The place. An unnamed place outside of space and time, a dreamy place that could bring him to the person-being-thing he wanted the most, represented by the mysterious playing card he keeps hidden in the interior pocket of his leather jacket — an ace of spades doctored to resemble a horned head, just like the BOB-making demiurge known as the Experiment; just like the icon on Hawk’s map, a shadow of deathliness over Blue Pine Mountain.
Mr. C is not a thing of this world. He’s a construct of the Black Lodge, so you wonder if Mr. C has some experience with this otherworldly entity, or maybe some innate yearning — a nostalgia — for whatever this shadow creature represents; you wonder if this Ace means to him what he means to Richard. A god. A father-mother. A parent. Does Mr. C want to meet his creator? Does he want reunion with this being? Or might he have a bone to pick with this monster maker? Mr. C could be the Thanos of Marvel Comics, chasing a mad romance with the personification of Death. But maybe he’s something out of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, an assassin seeking to jump into metaphysical space to kill a bad idea, the mad, distant, deadbeat creator god of this f’d up world, who’d allow for sinful things like him to exist.
The respective journeys of this mirror twin father-son combo brought them to a fork in the road. I mean this literally. Mr. C had arrived at a set of coordinates given by two people. We assume them to be Ray, his now-dead treacherous associate, and the smoking spirit of Phillip Jeffries, another unreliable former partner, who now resides within a magnificent teleporting teakettle. It happens. He had received another set of coordinates from a third person, presumably the digits that his ace-in-the-hole FBI mole Diane had spied scrawled on the arm of the late Ruth Davenport. Mr. C quizzed Richard like a sphinx interrogating a questing traveler. If three people had given him coordinates to the same place, but only two of them matched, which one would he investigate first? Richard said he’d go to the two that match. “You’re a very bright boy,” said Mr. C. “And we’re very close to the two that match.”
But Mr. C’s “attaboy!” was a put-on, a performance of fatherly love intended to butter up his boy for the roasting manipulation to come. “Bright”? No, Richard was a dim-bulb idiot. A better answer to Mr. C’s riddle might have been: “Who gave you this information, and which one do you trust the most?” Mr. C might have told him the truth — that Ray and Jeffries couldn’t be trusted and that they had reason to deny Mr. C what he wanted by any means necessary. But I doubt Mr. C would have come clean. He was tricking Richard into a trap, one meant to test the possibility that he himself had been tricked into a trap. Mr. C is a king of pain, and he had Richard wrapped around his finger.
The dubious coordinates pointed to a rock upon a hill. I thought of Uluru, a.k.a. Ayres Rock, the mesa in the Australian outback, a portal into a realm known as the Dreaming, according to Aboriginal mythology, a living thing that sings all of creation into existence. (Bookmark this idea. We’ll come back to it when we discuss all things Audrey at the Roadhouse.) But I also thought of the Binding of Isaac, the Old Testament tale about God directing Abraham to take his son to the top of a mount and sacrifice him on a stone altar. A deus ex machina ending of a sort spares the father from following through; an angel intervenes, tells Abraham he’s proven his faithfulness, and provides him with a ram to slay instead of Isaac.
Mr. C would give Richard no such reprieve here. He ordered Richard to trudge up the hill to the rock with a beeping device — a coordinate locator? a Geiger counter? a cosmic stud finder? — and to only stop when it began to make a continuous sound. Why not do it himself? “I’m 25 years your senior,” said Mr. C, pulling rank (and reminding us of their age difference, an implied proof of paternity). Richard — eager to please and totally clueless — did as he was told. Richard climbed the mount. He scrambled upon the rock. He let the beeping guide him until it went from dashed to continuous. And then he stepped in it — an invisible snare that jolted him with a loud, vibrant ZARK! of otherworldly electricity that burned him to a smoking crisp and then blew him up like a version of James Cagney’s mother-obsessed, anti-hero thug, who met his end via electrocution, too. Look at me, Pa! I’m top of the world-mound!
And so it went that the Sparkle salesman got a sparking death. But it was an ironic one. Like the Warden and Duncan Todd before him, Richard Horne — volatile misogynist, poison peddler, manslaughter, would-be murderer, grandma beater-upper — became the latest criminal archetype to leave like a chump in Twin Peaks: The Return. The story robbed him of agency and denied him a chance at going out on his own terms or expressing his nature or doing something he loved — to go out on the “top of the world.” Yeah, there was flash and sizzle, but in every other way, Lynch seemed to try to diminish Richard — by shooting him at a distance or from behind, by denying him close-ups. You get the sense that Lynch and Frost are using Twin Peaks: The Return to pass judgments on the reigning archetype of the so-called “golden age of drama,” the anti-hero, as if to say, This is what you get — this is all you deserve — for seeking worldly power, riches and immortality by breaking bad. See ya, Dick! Don’t wanna be ya!
Richard’s deadbeat, deadpan dad was hardly moved by the fireworks. An episode that was conspicuously interested in the theme of people watching — remote viewing, in all possible senses of the word — watched Mr. C watch Richard go up in flames from his safe remove with cool detachment. “Oh,” he said. Yes, Mr. C, those were indeed the wrong coordinates. Theory confirmed, asshole! But do you have any final words for the spoiled fruit of your putrid loins, you heartless, pitiless, sociopathic man-thing?
“Goodbye, my son.”
Mr. C sauntered back to his truck and whipped out his latest iPhone and thumbed a text.
But the text — sent at 2:05 a.m. — wouldn’t send. Either Mr. C was in some dead zone or the occult energies of the area were screwing with his technology. He would have to wait before proceeding with his own immortality project, and do so alone.
See you at the finale, Mr. C.
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“Big, bad binoculars! Bad, bad, bad binoculars!” While Richard was getting lit, a stoner family member played witless witness. Friends, Jerry Horne, the herbal high king of Twin Peaks, is still sprinting out of the woods, trying to outrun a bad drug trip. He came to a halt as he spied the twin figures of Mr. C and Richard over hill and yonder from his grassy knoll. “People?” he said, as if shocked to stumble upon fellow human beings. We might remember Jerry toasted his roasted odyssey by telling his brother, Ben, that he was going on “a journey of a solitary nature.” You wonder if his story has been one more sly metaphorical judgment by Frost and Lynch, casting shade on escapism, selfishness, and seeking remedy and/or elevation from the pain and sorrow of living through means that take us away from each other or don’t engage the world.
Jerry tried to observe the Mr. C & Richard Show through binoculars, but he peered through the fat end and with only one eye, rendering them too small, too far away. If Jerry had used his not-a-telescope properly, he might have recognized his brother’s troubled grandson and…done something to help? Maybe. Still, Jerry could see well enough to understand that someone had just blown up. He freaked out — and blamed the messenger. He stomped on the binoculars, cursed them, shamed them. How dare they harsh his already fraught mellow by filling his mind with the horror, the horror of some blazing Garmonbozia? (Contrast with: The Fireman in the White Lodge, beholding an explosive outbreak of radioactive evil in the world via his peace palace theater and responding by lapsing into a meditative state, birthing a golden, redemptive idea, and transmitting it to Earth.) (We really do need to examine Twin Peaks: The Return through the narrow lens of Lynch’s ardent belief in the healing power of Transcendental Meditation.)
I wonder if more critique was intended here, perhaps directed at the audience and the media about what we want from the technologies that bring us troubling reports from afar or stories about the condition of the world. Just a day in the life of Jerry Horne. I read the news today, oh boy…NOT. Can’t we just turn on, tune in, drop out? Big, bad TV! Bad, bad, bad TV!
The Dope Show. In Las Vegas, 2017’s funniest Natural Born Killers parody pair — call them the Tarantulpas — settled into the back of their van to stake out the Jones household, biding their time for Dougie to get back so they could kill him, and probably his family, too. Chantal opened a bag of chips and cracked open a soda — junk good for a junk soul — and propped her feet on Hutch’s like he was furniture. We watched them watch Dougie’s house, gazing into the windshield like it was a big-screen TV.
Chantal and Hutch were masquerading as house painters. Their all-white outfits reminded me of the Droogs in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and the meta-psychos of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games films, the 1997 Austrian original and his 2007 shot-for-shot remake starring Tim Roth and Naomi Watts as victims of home invading psychopaths. Those movies risked alienating audiences by confronting them on their voyeurism and their passive acceptance of — even zeal for — pulp violence and deplorable anti-hero behaviors of all sorts in their entertainment. Maybe none of this was on Lynch’s mind when he shot the scene. But for several episodes, we’ve been told that Chantal has been jonesing to torture someone, and we’ve been worrying — expecting — she was going to get her fix with the Joneses. Have we wanted to see such a thing, if only to see it thwarted and the Tarantulpas defeated via some exertion of classic Coop heroism? Honestly, I was. And I wonder if LynchFrost wanted us to wonder why. Why would I ever want to see people I love get traumatized?
And so they waited to make their move, and we waited with them.
“You hear that bird this morning?” asked Hutch.
“Sure as s— did,” said Chantal.
It was small talk. But embedded, I think, with Lynchian subtext. See: Blue Velvet and the soliloquy given by Laura Dern’s character about the seasonal, cyclical nature of good and evil. “I had a dream. In fact, it was on the night I met you,” Sandy tells the film’s hero, Jeffrey Beaumont, played by MacLachlan. “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 Part 16, the robins began coming home. No wonder the Tarantulpas resented the sound of their wake-up calls.
A curious spectacle began playing out around the Jones house, the antithesis to the kind of shows that Chantal and Hutch produce for a living, an exhibition of law and order, kindness and generosity. It started with a flock of FBI agents descending on the property, a murder of do-gooding crows led by Stan from Mad Men seeking to bring Dougie and family into protective custody. “Agent Stan” was typically brutal to his chief underling, Wilson, mocking his state-the-obvious observations and giving bullying orders. (Okay, maybe not all of these agents of the good are nice guys.) Wilson and another agent were made to stay behind and keep an eye on Dougie’s house while Agent Stan and the rest of the squad went to Lucky 7 Insurance.
“Good riddance,” said Chantal.
But there was more goodness still to come.
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The absurd mystery of the strange forces of Agent Cooper’s existence. Also, an essay on electricity. After investigating the weak occult crackle emanating from a wall socket following the trigger of Sunset Blvd. by sticking a fork in the outlet (my reaction to watching old movies, too), “Dougie” had slipped into a coma and was hospitalized. Janey-E, Sonny Jim, and Bushnell Mullins kept vigil at Dougie’s bedside, watching every breath he took like police on a stakeout. They puzzled over his condition. Sonny Jim asked if electricity always causes comas; his question sounded like a kid inquiring where babies come from. “Well, in this case, it does!” said Mullins.
The Mitchum brothers and the Andie sisters materialized still radiating gratitude toward Mullins and the Jones family for facilitating their $30 million fire insurance windfall. They came bearing a gift of deluxe nourishment, plates of gourmet finger sandwiches. “We’ve seen this before,” said Rodney, standing over Dougie. “This thing happens, and you don’t feel like eating the hospital food…” It was a funny line when you consider that the Mitchum brothers are gangster casino kings who wage war with rivals with hitmen soldiers. I bet they’re very familiar with incapacitated men in hospital beds. Bradley leaned toward “Dougie” to get a closer look. “It was, like, what? Electricity?”
As my Twin Peaks podcasting partner Darren Franich notes, Bradley’s line might have summed up all of Lynch’s movies, or at least a major current running through them. Since his first feature, Eraserhead, the director has put his obsession with electricity on screen, presenting it as an invisible, saturating, invasive force that alternately empowers and subverts. Lynch has resisted analyzing his fixation, either because he doesn’t understand it (he has said as much) or would rather keep these things to himself (which is the suspicion of most critics and interviewers). But when he has spoken of it, he turns electricity into a multifaceted metaphor for many things, many of them binary relationships — good and evil, order and chaos, creation and destruction, control and randomness. He’s more impressed by old-school electricity — the cranking, clanking, smoking industry of it. It speaks to his artisan’s soul: Like nature, another fascination, electrified machinery makes stuff.
At the same time, Lynch has always been aware that electricity has facilitated degrading things and precipitated side effects that have damaged the environment, cultures, and people. The dark demons of his works often represent a…well, demonization of electricity and the dehumanizing things linked to it. His metaphorical treatment of the atomic bomb in Part 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return — a depiction of the Trinity text, a big bang of Enlightenment reason that saved the world from Axis evil — doted on the dehumanizing fallout and the morally ambiguous, materialistic superpower culture it yielded in the form of the “Woodsmen,” radioactive specters descended from the sky that spread throughout society, hurting us, trolling us, denying us access to realms of higher spirit.
The ominous room tones we often hear are meant to suggest the constant presence of electricity as a kind of disconcerting supernatural ambiance. Telephone poles, electrical wires, wall sockets — Lynch uses all these things to draw our attention to forces of all sorts that regulate our existence and prod questions about our awareness of unseen filaments and elements around us and within us that influence our thinking, feeling, and behavior, our hungry needs and consumerist wants. Speaking of power lines to journalist Chris Rodley for the book Lynch on Lynch, the director remarked about how “there’s something very disturbing about the amount of electricity” flowing through them over our heads. “A tumor grows in the head. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not, you know, whacking you.” Remember that the next time we see a radioactive Woodsman looking for a light and crushing some heads along his mindless, mumbling way.
Ignorance isn’t necessarily a big deal when things are going right (at least for those who lead an un-woke, privileged existence). But what happens when things go wrong? Notice that most Lynch nightmare noir mysteries — which deal with lost agency, a murder, a kidnapping, a betrayal, conspiracy to deny love, disruptions to the flow of human flourishing that brings pain and sorrow into the world — are almost always framed with the motif of broken machines or flickering lights. In Blue Velvet, Jeffrey Beaumont’s journey into mystery begins with a walk up the stairs to the apartment of Dorothy Valens — a victim of ritualistic rape — because the elevator is broken. In the pilot of Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman examined the corpse of Laura Palmer in a room where the lights are on the fritz. In The Straight Story, Alvin Straight travels across two states on a tractor to reunite with his ailing, dying brother, but in the final act, something goes wrong with the machine’s electrical system, and he finds himself alone, stalled and at a total loss for what to do next. In Part 1 of Twin Peaks: The Return, cops investigating the inciting event of the season — the double homicide of Ruth Davenport and Major Garland Briggs — find a piece of dead meat in the trunk of a car. The detective’s flashlight flickered. So it began.
One of Lynch’s legendary unmade projects, Ronnie Rocket, or The Absurd Mystery of the Strange Forces of Existence, which he had wanted to make his second movie, would have hit the theme of electricity hard. The script, which had been circulating the internet for years, tells two parallel stories. One concerns a quirky detective searching for a secret dimension while being hunted by mystery men with electrical powers. The other concerns a young dwarf who, for various reasons, becomes addicted to dousing himself with electricity; it allows him to make art or cause destruction. Each tale takes place in a strange, industrial, spiritually troubled city. You wonder if maybe Twin Peaks: The Return is basically Ronnie Rocket in disguise — a reincarnated, Tulpified, doppelganger Ronnie Rocket.
Lynch’s awestruck fascination with electricity — and his fearful mystification of it — resonates at a time when none of us are certain what our addiction to phones, computers, and gadgets is doing to us. (Note: The A-bomb that Lynch detonated in Part 8 had a few nicknames, including “The Gadget.”) But it also recalls late 19th century/early 20th century attitudes toward electricity. It was transforming the way people lived their lives, of course, but they also didn’t totally understand it, and so electricity both captured their imagination and scared them. Their dueling, conflicted perspectives — and their ignorance — were cultivated and exploited by titans of industry who wielded the utility and were battling each other for control of its marketing and future.
One of Lynch’s favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz, and it may just be a coincidence that the author of the source material, L. Frank Baum, wrote a popular children’s book in 1901, The Master Key: An Electrical Fairy Tale, that captured the romantic view of electricity as mysterious magic. In this story, a teen inventor recklessly and ignorantly experimenting with electricity — his house is cluttered with wires, batteries, and machines connected in crazy fashion — causes an explosive accident. A genie-like being — “the demon of electricity” — appears and gives the kid a set of gifts that he grants over a period of weeks. The abilities and devices turn him into an electrical Superboy. Many of them could be seen as mirroring the magic that has served and protected “Dougie” in “Mr. Jackpots” mode. In the end, the kid gives them all up because he recognizes he lacks the wisdom or experience to use them wisely. I don’t know why I’m telling you this, by the way. I just like to talk. Back to Part 16.
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Synchronicity. Or: Meanwhile, in video village… Cutting away for a brief few seconds from the hospital, Lynch gave us one of the only scenes in Part 16 that might be termed a throwaway moment. We saw Gordon Cole in the hotel suite at the Mayfair Hotel in Buckhorn, South Dakota that he and the Blue Rose team have turned into a makeshift command center. The room was crowded with machines and screens, like the video village of a movie set, an allusion that I think was intentional and would pay off later in the hour with the meta-moment of director Lynch watching one of his greatest leading ladies rock a stunning soliloquy.
Here, director Cole was just standing there, among the hardware and wires, his back turned to them but maybe listening to their whir and thrum — or listening to something in the air — with his hearing aids plugged into his ears: a man in the eye of an invisible electrical storm. I wondered if we were meant to interpret the tableau as an echo of Major Briggs’ “listening station” in Ghostwood Forest. I also wondered if all of these machines were needed to eavesdrop on the texting between Mr. C and Diane. And boy, was there was a mind-blowing communiqué on the way, one that posed a threat to his life.
But in the moment while watching this scene, I kinda got the sense that Cole was actually listening to the heart monitors in “Dougie’s” room several states away, as if detecting a good vibration within the webbed field of Dreaming that connects us all. Agent Cooper was swimming back toward consciousness. The prodigal was coming home to his Blue Rose papa!
I saw in this beat a still-life portrait of post-McLuhan media theory: man made superman via technological extensions of himself that wire him to others via a network of technology. If you’ve read me enough over the years, you know I also pull a lot from Jung via Arthur Koestler via The Police, and so Gordon Cole gives us a policeman using extrasensory adaptations to scan electrical global consciousness for synchronicity. Seriously, I think The Police song “Synchronicity” sums up so much of Lynch’s take on the absurd mystery of existence:
A sleep trance, a dream dance/A shared romance/Synchronicity
A connecting principle/Linked to the invisible/Almost imperceptible/Something inexpressible/Science insusceptible/Logic so inflexible/Causally connectible/Yet nothing is invincible…
If we share this nightmare/We can dream/Spiritus amundi
If you act as you think/The missing link/Synchronicity
A star fall, a phone call/It joins all/Synchronicity…
Yes, I know, I totally lost you there. Let me translate to language we all understand:
Gordon Cole was sensing a disturbance in The Force. And some of it was good!
The Violent Bear It Away. The spectacle of chivalry continued at Lancelot Court. The Mitchum brothers and the Andie sisters arrived to stock the Jones pantry with foodstuffs. Look at the birds of the air! They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet heavenly casino godfathers feed them all!
Sorry. But a bird did fly overhead to start this game-changing sequence about deus ex machina provision and inexplicable grace. It cawed like a crow, or a raven, or something dark and hungry. But the righteous weren’t on the menu, not today. The bird was an omen to signal the end of the Vegas gangland story and foreshadowed the end of the “Dougie” daze: We remember that when Eraserhead Cooper arrived at Lancelot Court in Part 3 to begin his 12-part stay in an underworld of psychic funk, he and the psychopomp limo driver saw an owl fly over the house. Shades of Goya and his etching of an un-woke dude dreaming owls of folly and bats of ignorance. The sleep of reason produces monsters. And Dougies.
In the van, bird-brained Heckle and Jeckle cracked wise. “Looks like a f—ing circus parade!” screeched Chantal as she took sight of the pink lady Andies carrying stuff into the Jones house. She and Hitch had just finished some banal banter that spoke to their relative indifference to matters of responsibility, gratitude, and debt, things motivating the Mitchums’ generosity toward the Joneses. Hutch knew a guy named Sammy who died. Good guy. Hutch owed him some money, but he didn’t have a chance to pay it back before Sammy went toes up. “Feel bad about that?” asked Chantal. “Eh,” said Hutch. We remember last week how Hutch and Chantal mocked the notion of America as a “Christian nation” to rationalize their own wickedness. While America is ruled by plenty of hypocrisy and still has much to atone for, Part 16 offered a rebuttal, or maybe a reminder, of the “love thy neighbor” charity that should be, can be, and often is a norm in our culture. Let’s live it out more.
Chantal herself was working at a deficit. She was out of chips and she was pissed. Hutch made the mistake of saying all the wrong things — a rare misstep of insensitivity in their relationship — and that agitated her even more. She was already on edge when a dark angel showed up out of nowhere to push her over.
The credits called him “Polish Accountant.” He was a doughy man in a brown leather jacket who drove a white car with the words “Zawaski Accounting” on the side. He parked in front of Hutch and Chantal’s black van. He asked them to move — they were blocking his driveway. Chantal retorted — correctly — that they were only encroaching by inches and the man had plenty of room to enter the driveway. But her attitude only accentuated the blinkered consumerism she represented. Chantal wants what she wants and she doesn’t care how it affects or impedes anyone, whether by inches or yards.
And so Polish Accountant responded to her rudeness by returning to his car, backing up, and ramming the van. If they wouldn’t move, he would move them. Hutch wisely recognized that their operation had been blown by this batty man and suggested they flee ASAP. But Chantal snapped. She retaliated with eye-for-an-eye fury, backing up and ramming him back, and then went over the top, pulling out a shotgun and shooting at him. Polish Accountant scrambled out of the car, took cover behind his vehicle, and then…pulled out a machine gun?!
Yes. Polish Accountant had a machine gun. Polish Accountant is like Ben Affleck Accountant! (And maybe Ben Affleck Dark Knight, too?) He perforated the van’s windshield, winging Chantal. Only then did she heed Hutch’s suggestion to scram. Polish Accountant wasn’t finished with his business. He pulled the trigger and strafed the driver’s side of the van. R.I.P. Chantal, who died dumb and hungry, her appetite for torture never quenched. He pulled the trigger again and riddled the back of the van. R.I.P Hutch, who died a dim enabler and equally unfulfilled reaper of lives. Like Richard, neither of them got a death that affirmed their agency, neither of them got to go out doing what they love to do most. Their van slowed and drifted to a soft, thudding halt. Lynch and Frost gave them a weak Bonnie and Clyde rub-out as if to say something about just how cheap and impotent their anti-hero archetypes have become in pop culture.
It was also funny how in their final hour, Chantal and Hutch were reduced to the role of viewer. They didn’t paint a pretty picture. They were hipster cynics and new realism critics, booing and hissing at scenes of cornball justice and goodness. They got canceled; the show continued on without them. But how to make sense of “Polish Accountant,” who willingly surrendered to FBI agent Wilson and his partner? Well, my theory is that maybe, just maybe, Hutch’s “good guy” buddy Sammy left posthumous instruction for someone to collect that debt that Hutch owed him, by any means necessary. But I liked how Lynch abstracted the whole business, turning “Polish Accountant” into a kind of Karmic agent. It might be worth noting that Lynch has an affectionate regard for Poland. Several years ago, he was honored at a cinematography festival in Lodz and fell in love with the city. The locale helped inspire his reincarnation as a digital filmmaker with Inland Empire. Poland is essential to a transforming, enriching experience; perhaps Lynch was honoring it with this Polish redeemer.
Meanwhile, the Mitchums watched the whole violent show while crouched behind hedges with guns drawn. Bradley: “What the f— kind of neighborhood is this?” Rodney: “Well, people are under a lot of stress, Bradley.” They decided it would be wise to get out of there. Should we be wondering if their lines were meant to foreshadow another move, as well? Say, Janey-E and Sonny Jim’s relocation to Twin Peaks?
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I got moves like Yeager… The end of po-mo anti-hero nihilism segued into the rebirth of old-school heroic modernity. Back at the hospital, a humming like the one that’s been haunting The Great Northern Hotel tickled the ear of Bushnell Mullins, the only member of Team Dougie playing watchman in the room. (Janey-E had to take Sonny Jim to pee.) Following the sound led Bushnell out of the room — and left Agent Dale Cooper to resurrect without any witnesses.
He ripped the tubes from his mouth and immediately swung into action, flaring with purpose, optimism, and Right Stuff spirit. Mike the One-Armed Man appeared, projecting himself into the hospital room from his Red Room residence. “You…are…awake,” said the spirit with his backwards-rewound slur.
“One hundred percent!” Cooper declared.
“Finally,” said Mike, speaking for, like, everyone still watching this show.
Cooper was told Mr. C never went back into the Black Lodge. You wondered if Cooper knew as much. The implication of the scenes that followed was that he had experienced everything that happened to him while trapped inside Dougie in a direct, sincere way, and that he also intuitively understood the mystical mechanics of his situation and their consequences. For example: He was aware that Mike possessed “the seed” — a golden pearl of Garmonbozia — from which Mr. C had grown Dougie. Cooper plucked a hair from the back of his scalp and transmitted it through the dreamy blur like it was a drive-thru window. He ordered up a new Dougie to fill the void he was about to leave. Mike indicated he’d get right on that. Will this new Dougie be like the old Dougie or will he be like Cooper? (BTW: Cooper was also given something: a jade owl ring, like the one Dougie wore when he was sucked into the Red Room, like the one Ray was supposed to place on Mr. C’s finger when he killed him.)
Mullins returned. So did Janey-E and Sonny Jim. They were all delighted to see “Dougie” revived, and Cooper delighted to fully engage them in his restored state. He had sincere, great affection for all of them. We might remember that Cooper has always pined for domestic bliss; Dougie was a prison, but it was also wish fulfillment. And it was time to leave it behind. For now. He ate. He dressed. He asked Janey-E to get the car and — demonstrating his powers of observation were fully intact — he asked Bushnell for the .32 snubnosed he kept concealed under his left arm. He thanked Dougie’s boss for being kind and decent to him. “You’re a fine man, Bushnell,” said Cooper as he bid him goodbye. Mullins asked him if he didn’t want to stay and speak with “Agent Stan” and the FBI agents en route. No need. “I am the FBI,” said Cooper, and every single person watching the show cried out at once like shrieking fans at a Beatles concert. Our Fab hero had been reunited with himself, and he was playing all the hits.
So was Lynch. As Cooper finished suiting up, the director turned up the music — the soaring Twin Peaks theme “Falling.” It was nipple-hardening awesome. He went to the street and got in the car. He was driving, damn it: Agent Cooper was done riding in the rumble seat. He zipped into traffic, whizzed though lane changes. Sonny Jim was impressed. Dad can drive! Really good! Janey-E didn’t need to be told. She was feeling it, too. She kept giving Dougie “Baby, you can drive my car!” shiny eyes. You got the sense she was one hard bump in the road from an orgasmic yelp. “DOUGIEEEEEEEEEEE!”
Diane. From euphoric re-orientation to dispiriting disorientation: We shifted from Agent Cooper’s glorious reconstitution to the tragic disintegration of the woman who believed herself to be Cooper’s former secretary. Diane was drinking alone in the Mayfair bar, as Diane tends to do, wearing her latest exotic vintage ensemble, a blouse with ornate, mirror twin seahorses. Her phone buzzed. She looked. It was Mr. C’s “:-) ALL.” text, arriving 14 hours or so after he had sent it. The “Falling” theme had bled into this scene, but it ended abruptly the second Diane saw the message. Diane was shook, as if triggered. Like Cooper, the end of her dreamy existence was over. Unlike Cooper, all it did was wake her fully to the waking nightmare of her life.
She responded to Mr. C by texting the complete sequence of coordinates she had seen on Ruth’s arm. It was as if Mr. C’s happy face ALL missive had flipped a “total recall” switch that forced her to remember things with perfect clarity, including memories she didn’t want to remember at all. I also wondered if the text had triggered some other protocols, too, like Palpatine initiating “Order 66” in his clone troopers in Revenge of the Sith, causing them to go psycho and slaughter Jedis.
Diane opened her purse to return her phone. We got to see inside her black bag. We saw a pack of American Spirit cigarettes and a gun. Suddenly, the rules of Chekhov’s Gun were in effect. Once something like that is shown, it has to go off. Right? Well, yes and no in Twin Peaks: The Return, if you look at people in the show as expressions of Chekhov’s Gun. We’ve been waiting for good guy Agent Cooper to go off all season long — and in Part 16, he did. We’ve also been waiting for bad girl Chantal to go off with some torturing for several episodes now — but in Part 16, her story jammed and backfired on her. Which way would Diane go?
She approached the moment of decision like a death march. The camera got in her face as she walked to Gordon Cole’s suite, not following her but leading her, contributing to the sense of a woman under a villainous Mesmer’s sway, executing hypnotic commands like the brainwashed, mind-controlled assassins in The Manchurian Candidate. Her walk was set to a music cue that told us who owned her, who had meddled with her, who had dehumanized her into a tool, a weapon, a thing. It was “American Woman” by the all-female band Muddy Magnolias, but remixed by Lynch to industrial metal, the vocals distorted to sound like a growling male. It was the same awful tune Lynch used to introduce Mr. C back in Part 1.
What followed was powerful on many levels. (1) While the sequence functioned as Diane’s origin story, it also doubled as a deeply moving performance piece about rape victim PTSD. (2) As such, Diane was repeating a familiar narrative of sexual violence and cultural misogyny in Twin Peaks and other Lynch films, including two starring Dern: Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, the latter being a tour de force for Dern, and a project that began as — and evolved from — a 14-page monologue written by Lynch for Dern in which she plays an abstracted variation of her character in Wild at Heart, a Southern woman chronicling a pulpy tale of sexual violence and vengeance. (3) Those stories subvert/shade/balance Dern’s first famous monologue for Lynch, Sandy’s dream of robins gobbling up and carrying evil in Blue Velvet. (4) Diane’s story gathered up and sublimated the tones and themes of all of those speeches, creating a supreme synthesis of Lynchian Dernness – and an opportunity for the actress to rock one more killer soliloquy. (5) Performed with Lynch as Gordon Cole sitting across from her near his digital video village, what we got here was a picture of their on-set, actress-director working relationship. (6) Diane reflecting on her tortured “inland empire,” dropping her façade and revealing her true self = Dern doing her own “dance of the seven veils” = Lynch crafting a valentine to a beloved, vital longtime collaborator.
Gordon Cole was expecting Diane. He had been tracking her via his remote viewing abilities — psychic, technological, both. She didn’t need to knock, she didn’t need to ring a doorbell. Cole knew she was there, outside the door, and he told her to enter. She did as she was told. Diane always does what powerful men tell her to do. Or at least, this version of Diane does. She sat down and told Cole, Albert, and Tammy that she was now ready to tell them what “Cooper” did to her the night he came to visit 21 years earlier. Albert offered her a drink. She took it. She opened her purse. Cole watched nervously, as if knowing what it contained. She took out her cigarettes, not her gun. Not yet.
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She talked. The story was a nightmare noir from beginning to end, but it had a number of movements. It started bittersweet and romantic, turned wrong and violent, and moved into bizarre, psychological terror, a Blue Velvet-Wild at Heart-Inland Empire progression. It was three or four years after she had lost touch with Cooper. She was still working at the bureau. He showed up in her apartment in the middle of the night. No knock, no doorbell. Just there. She was thrilled to see her old friend. She stayed thrilled even as he seemed indifferent to her person. He only wanted to know what was going in at the FBI, nothing about her. He made a move to kiss her. This excited her. It had happened one time before, and we got the sense maybe she had always wanted it to happen again. With total recall, Diane described the intense, excited anticipation she felt as their lips were about to touch. (She raised her hand to her face, the hand playing the part of Mr. C, but the implied image of a shadow man darkening Diane’s face reminded me of the black hand we saw inside Sarah Palmer’s head a few episodes ago when she removed her face and killed that vile trucker.) The second they kissed, she knew something was profoundly amiss. She got scared. Mr. C saw it. Maybe tasted it. Did it turn him on? “He smiled. And his face…And that’s when it started,” she said. “He raped me! He raped me!” Afterward, Mr. C took Diane to a place she called an old gas station but we know to be the convenience store, spectral home to the Woodsmen. Weird things happened…
But Diane didn’t go into detail about them, because at this point, she became scattered in her storytelling. She looked again at her phone. There was another happy face ALL message; another nudge. Once again, Diane was shook. She said: “I’m in the sheriff’s station.” She said: “I’m not me!” And then she reached for the gun. Albert and Tammy got the jump on her and filled her with lead…and suddenly, Diane disappeared, yanked out of reality as if some off-screen emcee reached down from the rafters and gave her the hook. Tammy made an instant diagnosis. Diane was a Tulpa — a dark-art thought form conjured by another entity, just like the first Blue Rose case involving Lois Smith. Gordon Cole had other things on his mind than ancient history: “Sheriff’s station?”
Conclusion: Laura Dern’s “Diane” has never been the real Diane. She was a doppelganger Diane, a Tulpa like Dougie, manufactured by Woodsmen at the convenience store. This was confirmed in a follow-up scene in the Red Room. Diane enter the space with no knock, no doorbell. She was just there, sitting in a chair, cool, calm and collected. For a brief moment, she had her wits and agency restored. It was the least the Lodge lands could do for her. Mike greeted her by telling her that she had been manufactured. “I know,” she said. “F— you.” Beautiful. And then she was made ugly. Some invisible force knocked her jaw loose and crimped her at the sides as if squeezing a can. Her face cracked like an egg. Black fumes raged. A golden pearl of Garmonbozia popped out. Her head blew off, and then she blew up altogether in a ZARK! of white heat electricity. Something of her was left behind. The pearl. But it wasn’t yellow anymore. It was silver — or maybe platinum blond, like her hair. R.I.P., Tulpa Diane. I’m sorry this happened to you.
But I have questions. If Dougie wasn’t the only Tulpa, then how many other Tulpas might there be? Has Mr. C seeded America — the world? — with Tulpas to do his bidding as needed, when needed? (I’m wondering if Buella and all of her backwater assassins — including Darya and Ray — are/were Tulpas. And I’m wondering if Phyllis, the duplicitous wife of Bill Hastings, might have been a Tulpa, too. Remember how he praised her for performing according to human nature right before he shot her through the back of the head? Why would he commend her for behaving like a human unless she wasn’t human? Has Mr. C become some mad scientist, trying to make life of his own, but only able to produce femme fatales and deplorable truck drivers? Is that why he’s seeking out the horned demiurge that is the Experiment? To steal his/her superior creative powers? Is Mr. C a metaphor for an artist trying to move beyond his/her limiting, buggy motifs and genres?) If Dern was Tulpa Diane, where is Diane Prime? There, we can speculate an answer. I presume she’s at the sheriff’s station at Twin Peaks. And I’m guessing she’s Naido, the blinded, voice-challenged, agency-robbed woman who recently fell to earth from the power station that transmitted Cooper to Vegas — a place I now suspect was built by Mr. C as part of his costly bid to thwart his reclamation by the Black Lodge.
We’ll soon find out the truth of all these matters…maybe. Everyone invested in the mysteries of the season — and everyone responsible for them — is en route to Twin Peaks or has reason to be, including Agent Cooper. We left him bidding adieu to Janey-E and Sonny Jim (but promising them he’d return; a lie?) and arranging a flight to Spokane via the Mitchum jet. They have hearts of gold! “They do! They really, really do!” said Candie in a funny-creepy moment that added to the theme of controlling patriarchy and reminded us that the Mitchums have miles to go before they can earn all their theirs stripes as kind, decent, reconstructed men like Bushnell Mullins. (Thinking all good things of Cooper, I think he said they had “hearts of gold” because it was a savvy play — he needed their sustained patronage, at least for now — and to encourage them to continue down their redemption path.) The end of Twin Peaks: The Return is nigh, the mystery is almost over. The thought wrecks me as much as it excites me. How about you?