More table setting but still no dinner…
Typically, David Lynch enjoys a long leash in storytelling. For the most part his art is all journey and the potential for an actual destination after the fact. That’s why we love him, that and the sweet pompadour. Due to his insane vision and directing acumen this usually works, re: Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive. When it doesn’t however, ooph! re: Dune, Inland Empire.
Concluding five hours of the Twin Peaks: The Return, Lynch’s leash has lost its slack. A meandering episode, we’re still setting the dinner plates on the table awaiting that long anticipated dinner guest. Unfortunately, Much of the plot pinning and character conclusion or initiation is largely irrelevant to the actual narrative of Twin Peaks. I don’t care about bangers getting blown up trying to steal Dougie’s car or the drugged-up woman across the street. I don’t care about Dr. Amp’s extended infomercial. I don’t care about Shelley’s daughter. Hell, I don’t even care about the super-rapey douche bag in the bar (more on him later).
Why? Not because I want dessert with dinner but because there is no promise of cake after these asparagus scenes. While many of these scenes are true to the narrative structure of the original series, the difference in The Return is that we do not have the connective tissue of the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. All of those countless storylines, in one way or another, weaved back to the nucleus of the story. Here, we don’t have a central mystery. We’ve got a dozen smaller open-ended mysteries that are each on their own island, let alone own state.
Dark Cooper is in prison and is pulling some strings behind the scene but outside of the trio of Federal Agents no one within the show of any importance knows of his existence. The same can be said for Dougie/Real Cooper. Sure, his mystery is when and where his actual identity will return, but can anyone really say that any of his mindless stumbling ties into anything else we’ve seen thus far. Sure, there are threads beginning to weave, like his wedding ring found in a headless body in a morgue, but not enough to offer any direction the currently shiftless season.
The whole Rain Man gimmick that Kyle Maclachlan has been saddled with has been performed admirably but the joke is more than worn thin at this point. With the concept so over-ripe at this point I fear we may be holding onto this version of Cooper longer than we initially thought. Sure, a hooker dismisses his sudden weirdness (and haircut, and different color hair, and change of clothes, and loss of at least twenty pounds, and complete loss of all cognition) Hell, distracted with over $400,000 in cash I can believe Dougie’s wife could even dismiss his weirdness for the night. But at this point, the excuses and oblivious dawdling everyone afford this helpless man beggars belief. It’s to the point a question has to be asked if he is even in the real world at this point. That scenario is more likely than all of these people willfully ignoring this man’s clear need for medical attention- he’s even saying “call for help” at one point. Something is off in this world, perhaps least of Dougie/Cooper.
The mystery of just what Dougie Jones was into grew wider with his wedding ring found in body of that decapitated body- that was the body from the first episode, right? Remember, the ring we saw him with originally was the cursed ring from the Black Lodge- on the same arm that went numb the same way others did in the original season when the barriers between worlds are breached. Perhaps he was not willingly wearing that fated ring at all, perhaps not even aware of it. Rather, a ceremonial transference has been performed that is tied with Dark Cooper’s initial creation of Dougie as a decoy in the first place.
As for that third version, the Dark Cooper, he’s cooling his heels in the clink predicting when his meals will arrive. That slight reflection of Frank Silva’s demonic Bob in Dark Cooper’s prison reflection is a fitting homage to the original central villain. So Dark Cooper is that white eyed doppelganger of real Cooper seen cackling with Bob, but he’s also infused with Bob- much in the same way Leyland Palmer was a host.
Dark Cooper makes a lot of use of that one phone call. Knowing he’s being watched Dark Cooper puts his evil on his sleeve, openly taunting the warden about someone called “Mr. Strawberry”. After some fast dialing sirens and lights go crazy throughout the prison while he utters the words, “the cow jumped over the moon”. And then a black box implodes in a wooden dish somewhere in Argentina as a result, because, yeah… why not? Pretty sure Argentina is where we last saw agent Phillip Jeffries as played by David Bowie in the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me. An agent who has previously gone undercover in the Black Lodge…
Elsewhere in Twin Peaks: Norma’s back! And she’s still at the diner, and so is Shelly! Shelly should have stayed in high school all told. True to form, she’s now a mother with a daughter falling into the very same pitfalls- newlywed and into sketchy dudes with drugs and fast cars. Yeah, that’ll end well.
I felt like I should have liked the Dr. Amp bit and probably will in light of the series as a whole. Taking up so much time in an episode with a lot of listless motion was super frustrating- almost as frustrating as watching him spray all those 29.99 + shipping and handling golden shit shovels.
Now here’s where I lose some of you. And that’s okay, art is subjective.
But I’ve having trouble pretending Lynch is not guilty of the same lazy writing that many harangued the showrunners of Game of Thrones for. Richard Horne (who may or may not be Audrey’s son) is being set up as one of the series big bads. Portraying a man as a sexual predator and using women as nothing more than props for him to threaten with sexual assault to convince the audience he’s the bad guy not only insults the audience’s intelligence, it makes these characters laughable caricatures. Sure, this was the DNA for Leo Johnson in the first series but at least he was anchored into the Bobby/Shelley storyline and the Laura/Ronette angle as well. There was context for his maliciousness. Just many of the other tangential storylines that dominated the episode this had no tether to either the larger or smaller worlds at play.
Here, it is portrayed merely as an insincere footnote to get a quick grip on a new face. Just like his cigarette smoking while in blatant sight of the “no smoking” sign that he broods beside, all his rapey overture is just another notch on the “bad boy” chart. And, well, that’s certainly a character choice.
Lynch’s hyperreality has always been a hallmark of his productions. While we’ve always given Lynch creations like Nicholas Cage’s role in Wild At Heart a wink and a pass, sometimes, one might begin to wonder- is it artistic intent or is David Lynch just out of touch? And is there a reason the two have to be mutually exclusive?
Richard Horne’s initial purpose at the Roadhouse was to pay off Chad, the douchey deputy, of what I can only assume is a bribe involved with those “Chinese designer drugs” coming in from the border. This little interchange is another nod to Leo Johnson, and what’s more, the common factor in both- Bobby Briggs. Once a lackey peddler for Leo, Deputy Briggs is likely to be the one to at least attempt to stop his crooked partner of the very same crime. Throw in some Bookhouse Boys, maybe some sketchy French Canadians and you got one hell of a C story.
Notes From the Black Lodge
- Sheriff Truman whilst played by Robert Forrester shall forever be known as Sheriff (New)man for sake of clarity.
- Sheriff (New)man chewed out from his wife was not a bad bit of small comedy. He’s a patient, gentle man. But he’s also Sheriff, let’s hope we get to see some lawman when the time comes to do his brother justice of his role.
- Jade the prostitute, aka Deus ex Machina, mailing his room key back to Twin Peaks may just be that missing piece that Hawk and Andy are still looking for.
- Mind-wiped Cooper trigger words this week: “Agent”, “Case”,
- Former BFF of Deputy Bobby Briggs and resident high school jock bully, Mike Nelson, makes a nice cameo as middle management. This is perfect use of a callback cameo- it doesn’t distract from the larger narrative, it owns its own space enjoyably. It has an organic context and doesn’t exist solely for fan service as other “old guard” scenes thus far.
- Mind-wiped Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) “Damn good joe.”
- Dark Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) “You’re still with me, good.”