Converted into pure energy by his own private metempsychosis machine, transmitted to Earth via the invisible circuits of the transcendental psychic web, Agent Cooper re-materialized in the basest of places, Sin City. Our born-again hero brought a new, healing color into this arid yellow world, beginning with the only other possession on his person besides his black and white suit: the key to his room at the Great Northern Hotel, attached to a forest green plastic fob shaped like a Douglas Fir. It was a symbolic compass, pointing him toward home, and it was a lucky charm. It dropped from his hands just as he was passing into the crosshairs of an assassin’s scope. Bending over to pick it up rendered him invisible, saving his life. Cooper — whom Dougie’s wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts) dubbed “Dreamweaver” after he overslept — seems to have returned from Dreamtime possessed with the extrasensory powers of Synchronicity that The Police once sang about, a holy ghost in the machine.
Super-Cooper immediately began ministering to the dry souls of Vegas with his god-blessed fortune. He raked in the green at the Silver Mustang Casinso, led by visions of Red Room curtains that appeared above hot slot machines like tongues of fire. He had no want for the lucre; he practically recoiled when coins came spilling out at him like so much Dirty Cooper vomit. But he did share the wealth with those who needed it, changing hearts in the process, like the mean bird-flipping homeless lady who melted into a puddle of warm gratitude. The way he called out the change with a shout (“HELLLOOO!”) reminded me of MacLachlan’s super-spiced Paul Atreides yelling “MUAAA’DIB!” in Dune, only here, he was making it rain with a salutation, not bringing liberation with a killing word. But I’m weird that way.
Cooper’s desert messiah act extended to a practice of substitutional atonement. Filling the shoes of his diabolical doppelgänger’s dummy double (I promise, we’ll be breaking down that perplexing business soon), Cooper began redeeming Dougie’s ruinous patriarchy. He gave Janey-E the casino windfall, buying her much-needed liberation from enslaving debts, details TBD. Either the Keeping Up With Joneses striving of these model-house Joneses has led to some dead ends, or they’re tangled up with some foul fiends, or both. Good boy Cooper handing over his bag of greenbacks to a desperate housewife mirrored the moment when naughty boy Dougie handed cash to prostitute mistress Jade, a redemptive reversal. Janey-E was so overjoyed, she forgave the man she thought to be her husband for being MIA for three hellish days. The spiritual revival initiated by Cooper was symbolized by a sartorial transformation: Goodbye, yellow coward’s jacket, hello Master’s green. Jesus Christ, Cooper! Surely you are the Kwisatz Haderach!
If Cooper does represent reincarnation, and if we’re dealing with Eastern ideas, like the notion that your current dharma is influenced by karma, then remember that while Cooper was a very good guy in the original series, the Dalai Lama fanboy committed at least one huge worldly boo-boo that produced some serious Garmonbozia in his past life: He had an affair with the wife of his gone-psycho partner, Windom Earle. From this POV, Cooper fixing Dougie’s wayward life is his next-life duty. Note again how the new Twin Peaks is fixated with the theme of adultery. I’m convinced that the evil-in-the-Heartland tale of Bill and Phyllis in Parts 1 and 2 represented a kind of myth of original sin for Twin Peaks USA, with Dirty Cooper playing the snake, bringing enmity between man and woman, seeding death and struggle for all mankind. We got echoes of their story this week, in the case of a congressman accused of murdering his wife, and the troubled Jones marriage. The stakes in the new Twin Peaks are spiritual. The moral, to paraphrase Lynch’s proxy: Fix your hearts or die, America!
Watch the cast discuss the show’s odd universe and the revival in the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) special EW Reunites: Twin Peaks here, or download the app on your favorite mobile and streaming devices.
Anyway. Everything was new again for Cooper. Janey-E was more mother than wife to him, dressing him, feeding him, escorting him to the bathroom. Taking his first pee scared the s— out of him, suffering the relief like the world’s most painful orgasm. Seeing his reflection in a mirror for the first time — reaching out to touch his twin reaching back — was like witnessing some Hegelian master-slave birth of consciousness. There were a few moments when he bumbled into a Cooperism and we thought everything would come rushing back, no more so than when he took that swig of coffee and spit it out. How badly did you want to him to issue an involuntary, “Damn good coffee! And hot!” But the words never came, just a long, teasing beat in which it seemed Cooper was looking to camera after his spit-take, a goofy-ass grin of sunny delight on his face. Dammit, LynchFrost, quit playing games with my fanboy heart and get ‘N Sync! (Or was that Backstreet Boys? Like Cooper’s doubles, all those boy bands look the same to me.)
Eraserhead Cooper sets up familiar Amnesia Plot tensions worthy of the soap operas that inspired Twin Peaks and so much alt-reality sci-fi. (See: season 4 of Fringe; season 6 of Lost.) Will Cooper develop a new identity, new relational attachments, and new worldly concerns? If Cooper gets his Cooperness back, whither his new identity? What life does he choose? I’m sure fans want to see Classic Cooper restored and sent back to Twin Peaks. If the scene that began the series was a flash-forward — a black and white beat between The Giant and a fully realized Cooper — then we might take it as reassurance that full, psychic reinstatement is inevitable. His spiritual transmigration could end in past-life regression, his story, The Pilgrim’s Regress.
I wonder, though, if LynchFrost might go another way, given other emerging themes like evolution, progressivism, and grieving nostalgia. To borrow again from “Purple Rain,” maybe Agent Cooper’s journey is about “reaching out for something new” and becoming something new. Cooper’s odyssey to recover the fullness of his unique identity — or not — in an alien landscape filled with people who confuse him for being someone else or want him to be something else is compelling, in part, because it plays to, and with, our nostalgia. It’s a metaphor for the new Twin Peaks itself, a show that, for now, wishes to behave more as a new life reincarnation than a reboot or revival. Cooper contains the questions, ambitions and restlessness of its creators. What should Twin Peaks be in 2017? How to satisfy themselves and the audience? By mimicking the original? By being radically different?
But Cooper is also the man Mel Brooks once described as “Jimmy Stewart on Mars”: David Lynch, returning to the mainstream after years on the Inland Empire fringe, navigating a dramatically different media environment, trying to find his place without compromising his artistic soul. These two hours were Lynchian to the max — and they were self-consciously about Lynch, too. The opening sequence of Part 3 paid sly homage to the first feature he made, Eraserhead (and, I believe, to his first movie experience, Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie. I’ll elaborate in the final section of this recap.) The last line of Part 3 (Albert: “The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence”) winked at the title of the unmade opus that haunts him, Ronnie Rocket, or The Absurd Mystery of the Strange Forces of Existence, as well as the headache-spinning experience of Lynchian mystery.
(Recap continues on page 3)