Not to be bitchy about random social media commentary, but after the last episode aired, someone tweeted with satisfaction, in re: Twin Peaks: The Return:
“It’s all coming together.”
Look, maybe it is. Maybe every little aside and interaction will pay off in the end. Maybe we really are supposed to spend all our time on this show theorizing about what every symbol and bit of surrealism represents. But honestly? We doubt it very much. We’re not suggesting that we’ve lost faith in the abilities of Lynch and Frost to tell this tale to something approaching a satisfying conclusion, although we suspect their definition of “satisfying conclusion” and that of the audience at large is going to differ wildly. We just don’t think every detour is as loaded with as much meaning as a modern, Reddit-fueled viewership tends to expect from its puzzle-box shows. If you ask David Lynch why he does things or what certain things mean in his work, more often than not, you’ll get the equivalent of a shrug in response. And we don’t think he’s being precious or difficult about it. Twin Peaks is a world where crime investigations are solved by throwing rocks at bottles in the woods or by following a dime as it rolls along a men’s room floor. It’s a world of mystery, intuition, and mysticism, not a world of facts and linearity. Symbols in a world like this must pass unexplained.
Sure, there’s clearly some sort of narrative plan here. As we noted previously, one of the biggest and most pleasant surprises of the Twin Peaks revival is just how easy it is to follow – so long as you don’t get too caught up in wondering why that woman keeps yelling “1-1-9” or how Dougie’s wedding ring wound up in the stomach of Major Briggs’ headless body or whether or not Sonny Jim is blinking backwards or who Mr. Strawberry is or why that guy took an envelope out of a safe when his laptop monitor turned red. We’re not suggesting all of those elements are meaningless, but we’d honestly be surprised – and possibly a little disappointed – if they were all fully explained by the end.
(But surely Miss 1-1-9 is a Lodge denizen and she’s sending out a backwards-speak distress call because 911. EVERYONE knows that.)
There’s a tendency in online discussion of Twin Peaks to smugly assert that everyone else is doing it wrong, so let us be clear: Have fun with this show. We won’t suggest that there’s no wrong way to watch it (because to be honest, we don’t believe that), but we also aren’t going to suggest that surrealist art has some sort of set or “correct” way of engaging it. It’s surrealism. The meaning is found not in the symbols themselves but in your own reaction to them. If your reaction to them is to dive deep in order to find or apply some meaning to them, have fun. Go with God. Or the Log Lady. Whichever floats your boat. We, for our parts, can’t do it. Every time we try to divine meaning out of some random moment or symbol, we instantly feel like we’re losing sight of the bigger picture; the overriding themes of the work so far.
Despite the dark tone of the original Twin Peaks series, there was a lushness to it; a sense that aside from all the death, the people in the story were bursting with life by fucking, scheming, fighting, laughing and crying. The rich greens of the surrounding woods served as an ironic counterpoint to all the doom and darkness found within them. Death in the midst of life – and vice versa. This is not at all the impression that Twin Peaks: The Return gives off. In 1990, Frost and Lynch explored a very 1980s world of troubled beauty queens, teenage passion, mid-life love affairs, business schemes, and the search by a modern mystic in a black suit to find meaning in it all and to put it in context. The world of Twin Peaks: The Return, by contrast, is not lush and green at all. From the drought-colored vista of the Rancho Rosa development to the ominously glowing shots of a Las Vegas and a New York practically drowning in electricity, the world that Dale Cooper has returned to is sterile and lifeless. While the Twin Peaks of 1990 worked hard to seem timeless in its aesthetic, the 2017 version is not only very much of its time, but seems to be trying to say something about it. Rather than a beauty queen wrapped in plastic, we get a decapitated soldier. Rather than a tortured and troubled biker troubadour, we get a strung-out monster barreling through children in a truck. Rather than weird, trippy, drug-addicted psychiatrist burnouts, we get conspiracy-theory loons living in the woods and selling anger. Rather than a waterfall, we get the dried-out husk of an abandoned suburban development. It Is Happening Again – except it’s even darker and less hopeful than it was the last time.
But some things never change in this world, and beautiful, ethereal, wide-eyed blondes are still going to get in the wrong guy’s T-Bird, do a bump, and ride their tumultuous life straight to its early end. Sure, Shelley’s daughter Becky might not necessarily be Laura Palmer 2.0, but boy, did Lynch ever want you to think so. We’re not going to make any predictions about the fate of Amanda Seyfried’s character, but from the moment she did that bump and “I Love How You Love Me” kicked in (a sublime, purely Lynchian moment), we couldn’t help but think “Of course.” Here’s what this story needed to really make it feel like Twin Peaks: a troubled, beautiful young woman on a collision course of bad decisions and their inevitable consequences. We wouldn’t count on this playing out in exactly the same way, however. In fact, we wouldn’t even predict that anything bad is going to happen to Becky. We’re just pointing out how very badly Lynch wants you to think something will. And also to note that Seyfried did an amazing job in what has become one of our favorite scenes of the new series.
Gosh, we’re rambling.
As for the non-saga of Dougie Jones, we have to say, it’s playing out exactly as we assumed. Not the story part of it, because you can never really predict where it’s going to go and we certainly never could have come up with Mr. Jackpots – or anything else that has happened to Cooper since his re-emergence. But when it was obvious that the Coop we have now is nowhere near the Coop who went into the Lodge 25 years ago, we had a hunch that Lynch and Frost were going to string this part out way past the point of irritation to the audience. When the One-Armed Man implored Cooper to wake up, we took that to mean that he wasn’t going to do anything of the sort any time soon and settled in for what may be at least a couple more hours of watching Kyle MacLachlan get confused by doors and shoes. It’s in Lynch’s nature to test the boundaries of an audience’s patience; to stretch scenes out far past their storytelling or pacing limits, to cut away from an explosion just as it happens; to obscure dialogue by having it take place far from the camera or with loud music layered over it. To submit to David Lynch’s aesthetic fully is to commit to some real work on the part of the audience. He’s not going to make it easy and he’s not going to explain himself.
As an aside to this, we keep falling into a trap of wondering if there’s some point to the repeating motif of all the people in Dougie’s life who seem to be unaware of how brain-damaged the person standing in front of them appears to be. On the one hand, the real Dougie didn’t come across like the sharpest knife in the drawer in the few moments we saw him, but we keep trying to figure out why everyone just accepts that he lost 30 pounds overnight, completely changed his hair and hasn’t spoken a sentence in days. Is Lynch trying to say something about identity? About how disconnected we are from each other? How emotionally stunted the modern person is?
Like we keep saying, it’s probably not a good idea to over-analyze or make public predictions about this show. Coop could snap out of it in the first two minutes of the next episode, for all we know. But we’ve mentally packed a lunch and we’re willing to wait it out. As much as we want to see the Dale Cooper we remember, and as irritating as some of the Dougie scenes tend to get (for reasons that have nothing to do with MacLachlan’s performance, which is pretty amazing), we’re pretty okay with how slow the process is and how unexpected the outcome may wind up being. In other words, we don’t trust Lynch to explain anything or to give us a sense of closure in the traditional narrative sense. How could he? For its entire existence as a cultural artifact, Twin Peaks has been defined by its lack of closure and lack of explanation. The idea of Lynch and Frost coming back after all this time to wrap things up in a bow seems more and more absurd the longer we find ourselves back in their world.
And now, random thoughts, theories and ideas, because we can think of no other way to wrap this up:
LAURA DERN AS DIANE. This is a dream come true. We are struggling very hard not to get ahead of this because there’s no way she’s going to be predictable. Of all the things we’re going to have to be patient about, this may be the hardest.
Lynch and Frost have a subtle but satisfying sense of humor and irony regarding the original inhabitants of Twin Peaks. Examples: Mike, Bobby Briggs’ former asshole friend turning out to be so much an examplar of the middle-aged white guy establishment that we didn’t even recognize him until the punchline of his scene: “What an asshole.” Or Shelley fretting over her daughter dating the wrong guy. Like Bobby winding up a deputy sheriff, there’s both an irony and a sadness to some of this; a sense that life really does go on, even as it repeats itself; even as it depicts the inevitable.
Lynch has a thing about shrewish wives. Nadine was always a shining example of this, but Lynch has added Sheriff Truman’s wife Doris to the mix, as well as Naomi Watts’ Janey-E Jones. We have to admit, we sometimes struggle through her scenes, which are played so broadly that we don’t quite know what to make of them. We’ve even toyed with the idea that she’s not any more human than the original Dougie was. There’s something very off-kilter about Dougie’s home life and Janey’s emotional state.
Building on that last point, it’s 2017 and we have to acknowledge that Lynch has less-than-modern ways of depicting women (LOTS of shrews, dream girls and dead bodies) and less-than-enlightened ways of depicting people of color (one hooker and one criminal, so far).
DougieCooper’s triggers – seeing the statue with the gun, the words “agent” and “case files,” the coffee – it’s sketching a portrait of Cooper as we knew him 25 years ago, but in the broadest possible terms. Agent Dale Cooper as a concept.
Shoutout to the funny little Lynchian touches, like Frank at the Lucky 7 Insurance Company discovering he loves green tea lattes, or cutting away to a bunch of bored cocktail waitresses while the casino manager gets beaten to within an inch of his life, or the coroner in Buckhorn, South Dakota trying out her latest standup routine over a headless corpse.
On the flipside of that last sentiment, we want to note something we said in the last review; that the dreamlike nature of Twin Peaks makes the glimpses of horror all the harder to take, like having a dream that suddenly transitions into a nightmare. The little boy getting killed and the woman getting stabbed to death were some of the more horrifying imagery Twin Peaks has ever depicted.
We haven’t even touched Balthazar Getty’s bizarre Frank Booth-lite performance or the return of Harry Dean Stanton as Carl, who … has some sort of second sight?
By the way, the asshole who assaulted the girl in the roadhouse looking for a light and killed a kid with his truck is named Richard Horne. Also, the intersection where he killed the little boy is the same one from Fire Walk With Me, where Mike, the One-Armed Man confronted Laura and Leland Palmer in his car.
There has not been one musical performance in this new series that we haven’t loved. Of all the things to expect from the new Twin Peaks, a killer playlist was not even on our list, but we’re glad we’re getting it.
Kind of loving Chrysta Bell’s sort of dreamy, retro-tinged performance of Agent Tammy Preston. That she appears to have a crush on the young Dale Cooper only solidifies further our first thought on her performance: It’s an updated take on the hyper-feminine, retro-tinged, dreamy, crush-prone Audrey Horne.
“THE FUCKS ARE AT IT AGAIN!”