Look who finally showed her face
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Part 6 of Twin Peaks: The Return was fascinating and frustrating, moving and confounding, often for the same reasons. Many of the negative things you could say about this installment reflect back its best meanings. Agent Cooper’s Dougie-ish, childlike state taxed our patience. Just grow up already, right? And yet his condition was intrinsic to the episode’s critique of adulthood and all of its degrading and worthless concerns. It grieved our quickness to run away from innocence, an idea most viscerally expressed in the form of Richard Horne, a punk in a rush to grow up, running over a child amid a stoned fit of “Don’t call me a kid!” pique. Similarly, Part 6 spent too much time trying to make us care about characters we don’t know, or don’t know well, or might never know. And yet, the stories were all about acquiring a heart — or not — for the strangers among us. We could be Carl and bravely choose to attend to the suffering others. We could be Chad and be indifferent to it. Toughen up, wussies! Soldier through! Survival of the fittest and most calloused: that’s what life is all about. Right?
At long last, Diane — Agent Cooper’s much-discussed, never-seen secretary and tape-recorder muse — showed her actual face, and it belonged to Laura Dern, framed by a platinum blond bob and radiating worldly sophistication and world-weariness with a mere look and a single line of two words. Her spectacular turn-to-camera intro was made more memorable by the fact that it was the only bit of Diane we got. We kept waiting for our storytellers, David Lynch and Mark Frost, to return to her, but since they really, really needed those scenes of Dougie doodling or pastry connoisseur Miriam raving about Norma’s pies, we never did. Even with Ike the Spike wreaking homicidal havoc and Hawk discovering a clue (pages from Laura Palmer’s diary?) tucked inside the oddest of places (the panel of a toilet stall door), the part of me that wanted more progression and action was stymied. But the part of me — and it’s a bigger part of me — that loves pure Lynchianism and digs his work as a collection of artfully crafted moods was captivated.
The first of several laughs in Part 6 came at the start, when we realized the episode was going to begin right where Part 5 ended: with Cooper lingering at the statue of the cowboy sentinel outside the offices of Lucky 7 Insurance. It was the first signal that Twin Peaks wasn’t going to be advancing Coop’s story by much this week. But I was immediately captivated by the feeling of the scene. Set at night to some bluesy sax, we watched Cooper struggle with the sleeve of Dougie’s oversized green blazer while trying to cradle a stack of case files. My podcasting partner Darren Franich thinks Cooper was trying to emulate the statue by turning his cuff into the shape of a gun — an act of childish play. I like this idea. But in Kyle MacLachlan’s performance, I also got the sense of a guy trying to wriggle out of a straight jacket, an idea that also goes to the episode’s themes, given that the life of Dougie Jones is basically a stifling prison for Cooper’s mind.
After an establishing shot of the top half of the statue, the remainder of the scene focused on the lower half, which got me looking at its shoes. Not boots — shoes. Loafers, it looked like. This was no symbol of the mythic American West — this was a symbol of the mythic American West appropriated and adapted by the corporate interests that built and manage this business park. Where have all the cowboys gone? Into insurance, apparently.
A police officer tried to shoo Cooper away as if he were poopy pigeon. He gave Cooper something new to fixate on, another symbol to tug at Cooper’s buried self — the copper’s badge. Officer Reynaldo (Juan Carlos Cantu) did our helpless hero a solid by driving him home, and Janey-E took in her wayward “Dougie,” as she always does. She was once again more of a mother to him — feeding him, making him do his homework, scolding him, cleaning up after his messes — further framing Cooper as a metaphorical child. Lynch continued to use color-coding to cast shade on the promises of American materialism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses striving by embellishing the scene with hues of creamed corn “Garmonbozia,” or “pain and sorrow.” A golden yellow lamp on the table illuminated a stack of manila case files telling tales of human catastrophe and a manila folder containing a photo documenting Dougie’s infidelity. She let the envelope sit for a while, unopened, maybe dreading the contents, like an anxious parent putting off looking at her kid’s report card.
Janey-E sent “Dougie” upstairs to say goodnight to “Sonny” Jim Jones. The boy’s room was conspicuously decorated with very boyish things that also spoke to America’s Manifest Destiny myth. A strip of artwork depicting cowboy and Indian scenes circled the room. Model rocket ships were on the shelf. Sonny’s pajamas were covered with cars. (He was reading a book with a blue cover, part of a series stacked on a bedside table. Hardy Boys novels, perhaps?) Sonny patted on the bed, inviting his father to sit. Cooper offered a potato chip. The boy said no, he had just brushed his teeth. Cooper set one down on his starry bed spread, anyway, because mind-challenged Cooper doesn’t yet recall the importance of good dental hygiene. FUN FACT! I feel terrible about this, but I must confess I didn’t immediately recognize the actor who plays Sonny, even though I should have. He’s Pierce Gagnon and he had a small but important role in Tomorrowland, a film I helped to write and produce. (He played Nate — a character we named after my youngest son!) Sorry, Pierce. Too distracted by my color theories, I guess.
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