Notes on Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 4

Twin Peaks Part 3 (screen grab) CR: Showtime

  • The beginning of this episode introduces ‘Mr. Jackpots’, the name that launched a thousand works of fan-art, from gifs to t-shirts. (On that note, it really is incredible just how much the show’s fans have produced in such a short amount of time. If you aren’t keeping up with it all on twitter then you’re really missing out.)
  • The picture on the wall in the casino manager’s office reminded me of the picture of Kafka in Cole’s. Which is to say, it seems significant. It seems like we’re supposed to notice it. The picture, it turns out, is of Howard Hughes, one of history’s most famous reclusive millionaires. We know, as well, that a reclusive millionaire was responsible for the mysterious glass box business in New York. Is there a connection…?
  • Am I alone in thinking there’s something vaguely ominous about the red front door that sets Dougie’s house apart from all the rest? Cooper seems startled when he sees it – but then again, everything appears to strike him as strange and new. In the Insidious films a red door – located in ‘the Further’, the series’ own otherworld – leads the would-be heroes into the lairs of the films’ central antagonists. I know it’s most likely a coincidence, but that’s what I was reminded of here, and it gave me a little shiver. Was the Red Room able to materialise in Dougie’s bedroom because, as elsewhere, it coincided with a specific set of co-ordinates…? In that case, does the red door signify a connection to the Red Room (a connection Dougie doesn’t know about, but whoever is responsible for the property’s construction might)? Once again, I suspect I may be reading too much into things.

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  • As Cooper and the limo driver stand outside Dougie’s house, an owl flies overhead and the driver makes a remark about finding owls spooky. Owls were very spooky in the original Twin Peaks as they had ties to the spirit world. As the Giant told Cooper, in the season two premiere, ‘the owls are not what they seem’. Owl iconography was woven throughout the original series – for example, the Briggs family had a table-lamp shaped like an owl. In a similar vein, an owl cookie jar appears on a kitchen counter in Dougie’s house.
  • Janey-E’s discovery of the money recalls a similar moment in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive – and in both these scenes it’s Naomi Watts playing the character who discovers the money. It really does feel like all of Lynch’s work is getting incorporated into the new Twin Peaks, and I’m curious to see how far he and Frost take this.
  • Paul is in the North Pole.’ I love this line – it is pure Twin Peaks, both in the writing and the delivery.

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  • The return of Denise Bryson (David Duchovny) is a special moment. The character was one of the highlights of season two, but not a character that Lynch ever worked with, either behind or in front of the camera. But this scene was always going to be problematic. While it is still the case that shows cast cis male actors in trans roles, this is something that is increasingly, and rightly, frowned upon. One trans viewer, Samantha Allen, has written affectionately and critically about what made Denise ‘such a radical trans character on TV’ 25 years ago, and about the character’s return. I’d love to read more trans responses to Denise – if you know of any, please let me know in a comment below!
  • Cole reminds me, in this scene with Denise, of my grandmother after I initially came out: instantly accepting, in a very sweet way that came as a lovely surprise, though still capable of uttering the occasional ‘clanger’ due to deeply ingrained cultural assumptions. I think the worst (and by worst I just mean awkward) thing that my family ever said to me, immediately after I came out, was that they didn’t want to know about my sex life. Well, that isn’t a subject a person is likely to want to discuss with their family anyway. Though the topic here is gender and not sexual orientation (two very different things), when Gordon screws up his face at Denise’s mention of hormones I was reminded of that. That reactionary fear, amongst the straight and the cis, of receiving ‘TMI’ (too much information). But, when you truly know and love people, the occasional moment of silliness amounts to little or nothing in the face of the love that underlines everything else they say and do. And in one short scene we do get the sense of a history between these two characters, and of a deep wellspring of affection – which is impressive, given that this is the first time the two characters have appeared together on screen.
  • Also, Gordon’s line about telling ‘those clown comics’ in the Bureau ‘to fix their hearts or die’ is remarkably powerful. Cole doesn’t tolerate intolerance and neither should we. Thus, in its own weird, awkward, slightly cringey and yet still lovely way, and with righteous anger, Twin Peaks does more to confront transphobia than most other TV shows (heck, than most other media). And it has a trans woman working as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – a ‘wonderful dream’ in the ‘terrible nightmare’ that is Trump’s Amerika.

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  • Over at Twin Peaks Sheriff Station we meet the new sheriff, Frank Truman (Robert Forster), Harry’s brother. Frank was introduced in Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks (2016) and is standing in for the sick Harry just as the actor is standing in for the sick Michael Ontkean. Robert Forster, incidentally, almost played the role of Sheriff Harry Truman back in the day. I would be very surprised if his character doesn’t get to appear opposite Agent Cooper at some point.
  • It’s strange to discover that the Sheriff Station has this massive back room at the end of that hallway. Here the sheriff gets news that a kid died at their school desk following a drug overdose. It seems there’s still a lively drug trade in Twin Peaks’ high school(s) after all these years. Is it significant that they’re Chinese designer drugs…? If they aren’t coming through Canada, via the Renault cousin working at the roadhouse, then how are they getting into town? And if they are coming through Canada – is Bobby, who now works for the police department, letting them slip through? (That would be a real shame, since he does appear to have cleaned up his act.) Who are the drug runners, this time round? And are the Bookhouse Boys still about, and running their own investigation…?

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  • Michael Cera makes what I hope won’t be his only appearance as Wally Brando. Here I have to be honest and say I’m not familiar with Marlon Brando’s work outside of Superman (1978). Shocking, I know. But you don’t have to be intimately acquainted with Brando’s oeuvre to find this scene utterly hilarious (though I’m sure there’ll be more than one or two viewers left scratching their heads). I can’t help wondering if there’s a little Dick in him – Dick Tremayne that is, who may or may not be the young man’s biological father. This does feel like what might happen if you were to cross Lucy Moran’s eccentricity with Richard Tremayne’s pomposity and sartorial flair.
  • Bobby Briggs, working for Twin Peaks’ police department! The local drug dealer who killed a cop has become a man. But will that past come back to haunt him?
  • Bobby’s line here, about his urge to urinate, calls to mind Coop’s from season one. That, in my book, is all the proof one needs that Bobby is now an honest, straight-talking guy (and probably now a Bookhouse Boy).

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  • When Bobby catches sight of Laura’s portrait, and ‘Laura’s Theme’ kicks in, we see the return of that boy who broke down in Dr. Jacoby’s office all those years ago. Boy, can actor Dana Ashbrook cry!
  • Just in case you weren’t sure you were still watching the same show, Bobby’s shock on seeing Laura’s portrait briefly reunites us with the Twin Peaks that was, among other things, a teary-eyed, warmly lit melodrama. Just as Coop is feeling his way back towards who he was, so the series is slowly feeling its way back to Twin Peaks as it was.
  • One lovely detail in this scene that I noticed: as Bobby starts crying, Andy’s hand seeks out Lucy’s. Is Lucy comforting Andy so he doesn’t cry, as he was prone to do, back in the day? (And does Andy still cry? Or is Bobby the department’s new designated crier?)
  • Bobby reveals that his father, Major Briggs, died in a fire at his station just a few days after Agent Cooper (the ‘bad’ Cooper that is) paid him a visit. This tells us what happened following The Secret History of Twin Peaks’ thrilling cliff-hanger. Fire, as any fan will know, is one of Twin Peaks’ most potent and ominous symbols; I couldn’t suppress a shiver when Bobby mentioned it here. It’s very easy to believe that the bad Cooper would set fire to the station, originally set up to investigate the town’s otherworldly secrets, in order to destroy whatever the Major knew. But was the Major’s body ever recovered…? In a grand pulp fiction tradition, when someone dies in a fire and there’s no body to bury, that’s usually a sign that a character can and probably will be brought back ‘from the dead’ at some point. Meaning that body found in Ruth Davenport’s bed might still be the Major. That the corpse’s fingerprints have a military classification reinforces the suspicion that the corpse belongs to the Major. There’s something darkly amusing about this; after all, ‘that information is classified’ was something of a catchphrase for the Major.
  • At this stage, I have to ask: why is Al Strobel credited as playing Philip Gerard? Philip Gerard was a travelling shoe salesman and the human host for a supernatural entity called Mike. Unlike BOB/Leland, Mike/Philip look identical. But surely it is Mike that Strobel is playing in the Red Room…? I’m tempted to say here, at least at this stage, that it might be a mistake to read too much into this, as I can imagine Lynch taking a cavalier ‘same difference’ approach to Mike/Philip. Alternatively, it may be the case that Mike/Philip won’t be seen to operate in quite the same way as BOB. And as other commentators are beginning to point out online, the emphasis on characters losing their shoes as they pass in and out of the otherworld might eventually connect back to Philip Gerard’s career as a shoe salesman.

Part 4

  • There’s a thrilling moment in Dougie’s bathroom as Cooper peers into the bathroom mirror and touches his reflection. It’s a nod to the original series’ final scene, where the bad Coop smashed his head into the bathroom mirror and saw BOB’s reflection. This is underlined by the fact that Dougie’s pyjamas are eerily similar to the pyjamas Coop was wearing at the Great Northern 25 years earlier. For those with a penchant for psychoanalytic theory, it might be worth considering this scene in light of Jacques Lacan’s ‘mirror theory’. So far Coop has been responding to how others perceive him. Now he can finally see himself, and that person looks familiar.
  • You know that something special is going to happen when Coop sits down to pancakes with maple syrup. It’s almost the same thing he had for breakfast one morning at the Great Northern Hotel oh-so-many years ago, just minus the bacon. And then, as the scene draws towards its climax it dawns on you: coffee! Coffee! The whole scene has been building to this moment. Coffee. What effect will it have? An alarming effect, as it turns out. Coop doesn’t so much spit it out as spin his head round and throw it out. He then grins and says ‘HI!’, as if seeing Naomi Watts’s Janey-E for the first time. Though Coop still has a long way to go, one suspects that the coffee has done more than anything else so far in kick-starting his road to recovery. When the cup was placed before him there was a look of instant recognition – a real ‘lightbulb’ moment. ‘A path is formed by laying one stone at a time’, as the Giant once said, and between this and the mirror scene it looks as if two large stones have been placed. How many more does this path require? And will viewers be able to stay patient in the meantime?
  • In Part 3 Miguel Ferrer was still recognisable as Albert, but he came across as a slower, older Albert whose rough edges had perhaps been smoothed over in the past 25 years. And then along comes this car scene and, after Cole’s line about Cossacks, the sudden exclamation of ‘CARSICK!’ Yep, he’s still the irascible Albert we all know and love!

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  • C’s ‘reunion’ with Gordon and Albert is a deeply unsettling scene. We see flashes of the Agent Cooper we recognise, in the smile and the thumbs-up he gives to Gordon. But it all feels wrong, wrong, wrong. This isn’t ‘our’ Coop. This feels more like a guy playing the role of ‘FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’, in a weirdly wooden performance. In fact, it’s not just that he’s playing the role of Agent Cooper badly; it’s that he’s not convincing when it comes to playing the role of a human being, either. As others have noted (and as Cole appears to tacitly acknowledge, when he says that there was something wrong in this Cooper’s greeting), Mr. C initially says ‘very’ backwards: ‘it’s yrev very good to see you again, old friend’. When recording scenes set in the Red Room, the actors (with the exception of MacLachlan as Agent Cooper) speak backwards, and this is then played forward in post-production. Mr. C, perhaps as a consequence of his car accident, seems a little bit dislocated from our reality and is thus betraying his Red Room origins through his backwards speech. He is, after all, a darkly distorted mirror reflection of the Coop we know.
  • Albert and Cole’s exchange at the end of the episode is electrifying. Once again, we hear talk of Phillip Jeffries, David Bowie’s character from FWWM. What exactly is the nature of Jeffries’ business with Mr. C? Who was the FBI’s man in Colombia, and why was he killed?
  • Another reference is made to ‘blue rose’ (‘It dudn’t get any bluer’). Since its introduction in FWWM a ‘blue rose’ case has been understood to mean a case of otherworldly import – or at the very least, that which cannot be readily explained or rationally understood.
  • Regarding the mystery woman Albert and Cole intend to bring into this, my money’s on Laura Dern as Diane.
  • Playing out this episode are Au Revoir Simone with ‘Lark’. The title fits in with Twin Peaks’ bird theme, as the series in its entirety is replete with references to, not just owls, but nightingales, robins, mynah birds, etc. The lyrics chime with the original series: with Major Briggs’s fear ‘that love is not enough’ and with the doomed romance of Laura Palmer and James Hurley.

 

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