The return of Twin Peaks is a lot to process. After each episode, Uproxx‘s Alan Sepinwall and Keith Phipps attempt to hash out what we all just watched.
Alan: Hello, Johnny, how are you today?
Keith: Alan, it’s Keith.
Alan: Hello, Johnny, how are you today?
Keith: Alan, are you okay?
Alan: Hello, Johnny, how are you today?
Alan: Sorry, just got TV’s greatest new catchphrase stuck in my head, thanks to Johnny Horne’s talking teddy bear — with a head designed to resemble the Arm from the Black Lodge — saying it over and over and over again during Richard’s home invasion of Sylvia’s house, a bizarre flourish in an episode full of them.
On the one hand, “Part 10” was overflowing with the kind of basic narrative problems that The Return has been incapable of — or, more likely, uninterested in — solving from the start. Characters like the Mitchum brothers come and go at random, to the point where I occasionally have to reassure myself that this isn’t their first appearance. Becky returned for about 30 seconds, as part of the episode-opening tribute to drug-addled sociopaths abusing women in trailer parks, and later Patrick Fischler’s Duncan Todd had to deliver a piece of bald exposition that was least five hours overdue as he told Anthony what was going on with Dougie, the sketchy insurance documents, the other casino, etc.
On the other, for a relatively “normal” hour of The Return, this one sure was filled with the kind of oddly memorable moments that allow me to mostly shrug off the slipshod, padded nature of the story being told. It wasn’t just the robot bear, but the ghostly Laura Palmer image appearing briefly outside Gordon’s hotel room, or Candie — so slow and scattered, I half-wonder if she, like Good Coop, is really another escapee from the Black Lodge — smacking Rodney Mitchum with a remote control as part of an attempt to kill a fly. (Between that and Kyle MacLachlan’s delightful expression as Janey-E and Dougie had sex, this gave me two of the biggest laughs of the revival to date.) If I had any expectations of The Return making sense, or being well-paced, those flew out the window a month or two ago, but the reward I expect in exchange for not caring is material so bizarre and/or beautiful as to justify the rambling nature of it a show that feels like it was made by Lucy and Andy on that morning where their clock was broken and they didn’t know what time it was, or how quickly time was passing.
Where would you like to begin, Keith? The talking bear and/or the relentless awfulness of Richard? Janey-E being turned on by Good Coop’s ripped torso? The comedy stylings of Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper? Moby randomly cameoing, not as a roadhouse headliner, but as Rebekah Del Rio’s guitar player? Or the magical, incredible name for Nadine’s business: Run Silent, Run Drape, which is not only a hilariously simple payoff to season one’s silent drape runner subplot (she figured it out!), but an homage to one of the great submarine movies ever?
Keith: I think we have to start with Run Silent, Run Drape, which gave me the second biggest laugh of this episode, after that shot of Dougie in ecstasy. You suggested before that we might only ever get that one fleeting shot of Nadine from an earlier episode where she watches one of Dr. Jacoby’s online rants, but if this is the last we see of her, it will be a bit more satisfying. She started the series with a goal in mind and now she’s achieved it. Arc completed. It’s probably worth considering the role technology is playing in The Return, however. For all the ways the town of Twin Peaks still seems stuck in time, always rooted in some 1950s idea of a small town in a remote location, there’s a lot of Skype-ing and online video in this series. Where Dr. Jacoby used be a local eccentric who brushed shoulders with all the other residents, he’s now removed himself to some cabin where his philosophies have turned into manifestoes and his manifestoes have earned him followers, even if they don’t make much sense. Jacoby’s free-floating, angry, broadly appealing, but vague broadsides remind me a bit of Hal Phillip Walker in Nashville. They connect emotionally without having any real logic behind them.
Even halfway through this run, I have no idea if they’re a sideshow or part of the main event, which can be said of most of what’s going on in the series apart from Dougie and Bad Coop and the events immediately surrounding them. I assumed we’d have seen a lot more of Becky by now. The brevity of her appearance here is kind of baffling but it does, as you point out, complement Richard’s trailer park murder earlier in the episode. What’s more, the action at the Horne’s house seems pretty much unconnected to the action going on at the Great Northern. The show can feel a bit cobbled together a la Arrested Development‘s fourth season at times. I do, however, suspect it will pay off our patience.
A more hurried show also wouldn’t have had time for Candie’s fly hunt or her bizarre inconsolability or her frustrating attempt to retrieve Anthony from the casino floor. Part of what I’ve enjoyed about The Return is its willingness to make these digressions and take time with them so that someone like Candie actress Amy Shiels, whom I’d never heard of before, could emerge as a comic highlight.
I won’t say the comic highlight, however. That honor would have to belong to Maclachlan and Naomi Watts, whose newfound lust for the suddenly fit Dougie makes me take back every thought I’d entertained about the role of Janey-E not giving Watts enough to do. Is it significant that such a light moment appeared in an episode surrounded by darkness? It opens with murder and abuse and that scene where Richard menaces his grandmother and Johnny is both rough and endless. Did it feel like there was an attempt to balance one with the other to you, or is the nature of the series finding such juxtapositions by accident?
Alan: With the exception of the largely black-and-white Birth of Evil episode, most of the material not directly connected to Good Coop vs Bad Coop still feels thrown together pretty much at random. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynch was making a point about a good relationship vs. several abusive ones — though Dougie and Janey-E are healthy only in the loosest sense, what with him not actually being her fat cheater of a husband — but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was just throwing scenes together in the editing bay to see what combination pleased him most.
Agreed that Run Silent, Run Drape was a much better curtain call for Nadine than just the glimpse of her watching Jacoby a while back. Lynch and Frost are in a pickle with a lot of the returnees, in that the creators are clearly more interested in this new story than the townies, yet every glimpse of a Nadine or James or Shelly has much more weight behind it because we remember them so well, and watched them for so much longer than someone like Becky, whose brief, intermittent appearances have made her feel so extraneous, they might have been better served not introducing her at all. I want to have more faith that this will all feel satisfying by the 18th hour, but I’ve often found Lynch’s work to be more compelling at the beginning than the end.
This was definitely an episode where the leisurely pacing had real comic value, though. Moments like a turned-on Janey-E flirting with an oblivious Dougie, or Candie taking forever to bring Anthony into to see the brothers, are funny precisely because of how long they go on. Candie whacking Rodney with the remote is something we could pretty clearly see coming from a mile away, but because we actually watch her travel that mile as she keeps chasing the fly, it’s a remarkable comic moment.
I’m also shocked to realize that I’ve made peace with the fact that Dougie clearly isn’t going to turn back into Good Coop until very late in the run of this. With the Mitchums now tricked into going after him, plus the pending arrival of Hutch and Chantal if they fail, it looks like we have several more hours at minimum of Dougie unwittingly fending off assassination attempts before he an possibly remember who he is and head back to Twin Peaks. How do you feel about that probability, Keith? If someone had told you going in that Dale Cooper wouldn’t really be Dale Cooper for the majority of The Return, how would you have responded? And will you, like me, be annoyed if Lucy doesn’t very quickly find the letter from Miriam that Chad swiped?
Keith: I’m weirdly OK with the Dougie/Coop situation. I think I’ve learned to appreciate what Dougie brings to the show and I’m invested in his life with Janey-E and Sonny Jim. It’s not what I expected, but I’m enjoying it, which could apply to much of The Return.
As for Lucy: Are you expecting too much? Sure, she eyes Deputy Chad with suspicion but she’s also eaten evidence before and become befuddled by far simpler mysteries. I do love that, unless you count Richard, everyone hates Chad, who sometimes just seems like the Twin Peaks’ Sheriff’s Department resident Goofus (to Hawk’s Gallant, I guess) but is also deeply involved in the town’s criminal underworld. It’s the kind of place where evil sometimes hides just beneath the surface but the residents seem capable of recognizing the truly awful. Chad gets shunned and even those who ought to be close to Richard see him for what he is. That what he is is openly violent at every possible moment probably helps on that front. Every time Richard has a scene I have to wonder why he’s not institutionalized. Even beyond killing a child and fleeing the scene, he doesn’t seem capable of walking around without creating an incident.
He’s certainly not capable of visiting his grandmother without assaulting her, taking her money, and further freaking out the always-fragile Johnny, a scene made that much creepier by the talking teddy bear/orb thing who keeps asking how Johnny is. (Not great, orb!) This is rough stuff, even by Lynch’s standards and even for an episode that begins with the brutal murder of a woman trying to do the right thing by turning Richard in. He’s not only willing to hurt women to protect himself, he looks for opportunities to do so.
It’s worth reflecting back to “Episode 6,” when Richard encountered Balthazar Getty’s Red to remember that there are dark forces that freak out even Twin Peaks’ resident psychopath. (And worth noting that we still haven’t answered the question of his parentage, even if his Horne connection has been fully established.) We get a brief encounter with such a force when Gordon opens his hotel door — after being interrupted from making a marker drawing of what appears to be a dog with antlers — to be given a brief image of Laura. There are larger forces at work here.
What did you think of that scene and Hawk’s later talk with the Log Lady? It seems like Laura is about to become central again. And has Richard actually fled? Will he end up in the town where James stumbled into a bad remake of Double Indemnity back in season two?
Alan: God, don’t remind me of the lowest point of the many low points of season two. What made Richard’s assault of Sylvia even more unnerving than the orb bear’s repeated catchphrase was the image of Johnny thrashing against the restraints he was put back into after injuring himself last week. The series has always been vague about Johnny’s condition — I always assumed he was autistic, but you told me there’s a deleted scene about Audrey pushing him down the stairs when he was little — but whether he’s aware that his mother is being abused or simply trying to break free like usual, seeing him thrash and wail like that, on top of his mother’s own understandable sobbing, made the whole thing almost unspeakably ugly. I’m surely putting too much faith in Lucy, but Richard is just so monotonously awful — as you say, he’s like an evil Dougie Jones, where you wonder how he’s able to function in society without being institutionalized every two minutes — that I’m kind of hoping to be done with him (whether arrested or gone fugitive) so we can move on to something else. But the more he lingers, the greater my fear is that he’s the product of Bad Coop raping a comatose Audrey after the bank explosion, and thus that he’ll have a significant role to play if the two Coopers actually make it to Twin Peaks before this is all over.
The Laura image (which looked archival, even if I couldn’t instantly identify the moment from the ABC seasons) was interesting, because the credits have listed Sheryl Lee every week, even though her only real appearance (outside of her old photo in the main title sequence) was being yanked out of the Black Lodge back on night one of this. She’s hugely important, but only as a memory so far. I’d like to see more of her — unlike James or Norma, anything involving her still feels directly connected to the new story being told — but as with the real Good Coop, I’m skeptical there will be much involving a more present version of her until close to the end.
The Log Lady’s call, like all of Catherine Coulson’s previous appearances, was poignant just because of how frail and obviously close to the end she is. (Miguel Ferrer is a bit on the gaunt side in his scenes, but otherwise functioning exactly like the Albert we remember, here getting to enjoy a date with Constance from the Buckhorn morgue.) She speaks of electricity, which we know is important (it’s how Good Coop came back into our world, and how the “real” Dougie left it, among other things), of the trueness of the brothers Truman, and of Laura being “the one.” So maybe Laura will have to play a prominent role sooner rather than later.
Keith: I’m looking forward to finding out — or, more likely, not finding out — what it all means when I watch next week’s episode. But, in a programming note, I won’t be joining you next week as I’ll be on vacation. I’ve lined up a replacement, however, so let me just wish you good luck in the woods without me.
Alan: Hello, Johnny. How are you today?