Twin Peaks: The Return, like its predecessor, doesn’t flinch from depicting violence towards women. This variation of ‘the evil that men do’ has been a central theme of the entire series — even when men were possessed by supernatural forces beyond their control— and women have often been aligned against the simplistic codification of whore/madonna, saint/sinner. Twin Peaks continues to use violent sexualised images of women, victimised through the application of male misogyny, repression, and aggression.
In this way, “Part 10” makes for very uncomfortable, if fragmentary, viewing. And it does little to counter the criticism made by Diane Hume George that Twin Peaks “fed America’s collective hunger for wounded, maimed, tortured dead women.” Indeed, the bulk of the hour is very much predicated on the relationships (abusive or otherwise) between men and women, as the narrative continues to unfurl. The town of Twin Peaks itself seems to be collapsing under the weight of this violence.
It opens with Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), child killer and drug dealer, tracking down Miriam Sullivan (Sarah Jean Long), the Double R customer who witnessed his hit and run in “Part 6”. He beats her to death after learning about a letter she sent to Sheriff Truman, wherein Richard would be implicated if anything happened to her. Lynch doesn’t show the assault in any detail, preferring to maintain a long shot of Miriam’s mobile home, complete with a rather redundant guardian angel gnome in the garden, accompanied by sounds of the attack on the soundtrack. What we don’t see is more chilling than displaying anything overtly gory.
We also get confirmation that Deputy Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello) is as corrupt as we suspected, when Richard calls him after the deed’s done and gets him to intercept the mail. Hopefully, Chad’s treachery will be revealed as, later at the Sheriff’s Department, Lucy does acknowledge Chad’s suspicious behaviour as he makes up various excuses to go and meet the mail man (“I’m thinking what a beautiful day it is”) and remove Miriam’s letter before it can reach Truman.
Lynch leaves the murder scene with a slow tracking shot towards the mobile home’s door. He cuts from the cheeriness of the sun-dappled exterior to the banality of the domestic interior, as Miriam expires in a pool of blood adjacent to an open oven door accompanied by the hiss of escaping gas.
The scene switches to another moment of domestic abuse, as Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton), happily strumming a guitar and singing the country standard “Red River Valley” (a.k.a “Cowboy Love Song”) in the Fat Trout Trailer Park, is almost hit by a red mug that hurtles through a trailer home window. He acknowledges the row but doesn’t stir. The occupants of the trailer are the coke-addled Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) and Shelly’s daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried), last seen driving off in the bliss of a drug high in “Part 5”.
Steven’s life is clearly disintegrating and it’s all Becky’s fault. His verbal and physical abuse is as far away from the idyll of the “Cowboy Love Song” as one can get. The relationship here has a dependency on drugs, minimum wage, poor housing, and unspoken acts of sex and violence. For Steven and Becky we can simply read it as a repetition of the destructive Shelly and Leo Johnson marriage in the original CBS series. If the tagline of Twin Peaks: The Return is “it’s happening again”, then Lynch is certainly sticking to a central trope in his work: the destruction of the small-town American dream under constant barrage from male oppression and violence, especially towards women.
The affects of mental abuse and cruelty are emphasised in the scenes that follow. We check back in with the Mitchum brothers, Rodney (Robert Knepper) and Bradley (Jim Belushi), and their gambling empire. As Rodney checks the books, one of the three pink-frocked blonde waitresses (they’re named Candie, Sandie, and Mandie), whom we last saw during the assault on the former casino supervisor Burns, attempts to swat a fly. The incongruity of Candie (Amy Shiels) chasing the fly and Rodney’s deep concentration on his accounts offers some Lynchian humour, but it twists into a scenario of possible humiliation and violent threat when Candie inadvertently bashes Rodney on the head with a TV remote in her fly-swatting attempt. That Candie becomes hysterical and frightened speaks to the overwhelming fear that this man generates.
Rodney watches a news report (a wonderful parody of inane news programmes and the techniques used to turn news into entertainment) about the assassination attempt on Dougie (Kyle Maclachlan) and the subsequent arrest of Ike ‘the Spike’. As Candie continues to torture herself and melodramatically sobs “can you ever love me?”, the Mitchum brothers realise that Dougie is none other than “Mr. Jackpots” himself.
Later, Candie’s dispatched to meet with Dougie’s dubious colleague Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), whose insurance claims Dougie has reported to their boss. Sinclair, unknown to the Mitchum brothers, is embroiled with Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) and has been sent to set up the Mitchum brothers. Todd aims to ensure Dougie will become a target when he is pinned as the one responsible for a policy that failed to cover the Mitchums burned down casino.
Dougie, meanwhile, is getting a check-up with his doctor. Janey-E (Naomi Watts) is concerned about her husband’s recent gambling and drinking, and the downward spiral he’s intent on pursuing. It’s only now she realises he’s changed physically as well as in personality. Noting his weight loss, Dr. Ben (John Billingsley) asks during the examination “Dougie, have you been exercising?” This is enough to alert Janey-E to what a fine physical specimen Dougie has suddenly become.
The colour red becomes prominent again. We’ve already had the coffee mug thrown out of the trailer window. We return to the red door of the Jones’ home and the red shoes that Janey-E wears as she commences her seduction of Dougie. It’s a scene both disturbing and hilarious as she gets Dougie into the bedroom for that sex scene. It’s enough to wake Sonny Jim from his slumber.
Janey-E clearly sees her married life undergoing a renaissance, but she’ll be in for a shock when she discovers that the husband she thinks she knows is actually an FBI agent. Absurdity aside, the end of the scene offers a rare expression of genuine love in the series. It fades slowly to black as a soft, almost romantic, section of score plays over it. It can also be compared to the lovely little moment where Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) share some light relief at the sight of Albert (Miguel Ferrer) having a quiet dinner with Buckhorn’s coroner Constance Talbot (Jane Adams). Both scenes offer a brief respite from the storm that follows.
Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) is also back, yelling at his internet audience about the iniquities of the modern world (something about electric clippers being used to “shear our world off” and the rip-offs perpetrated by the big pharm companies), whilst imploring them to purchase those golden shovels on his Dr. Amp show. Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) is watching again from inside ‘Run Silent, Run Drapes’ — a play on the film Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) — the business she said she always wanted to start up. Lynch offers a lingering, Edward Hopper-inspired shot of the store front, complete with a golden shovel on display. It’s a lingering political sub-text that seems appropriate given the times we’re living in.
Richard Horne arrives at his grandmother’s house, where the unfortunate Johnny (Eric Rondell), having run amok and sustained a head injury last week, is restrained and consoled by a weird electronic teddy bear that lights up as it repeatedly intones, “Hello, Johnny. How are you today?” Lynch combines this with the syrupy tones, from Mantovani and his orchestra, of “Charmaine”. You’ll recall this song from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) as Nurse Ratched dishes out the patients’ medication. Here, it forms the incongruous backdrop to an assault and robbery as Richard throttles his grandmother Sylvia (Jan D’Arcy) while a frustrated Johnny attempts to break free from his restraints to help her. It’s a shocking, bewildering scene, and Lynch really drags it out to nightmarish effect.
Finally, Gordon Cole has a revelation outside his Dakota hotel room, and the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) calls Hawk (Michael Horse) to impart wisdom, which concludes a disjointed but memorable episode. Gordon sees a vision of Laura Palmer as Albert arrives to inform him that Diane’s been receiving and sending messages on to Mr. C. Her reply “they have Hastings, he’s going to take them to the site” confirms she is not the friend she used to be to the FBI, and that the coordinates mentioned last week were extremely relevant.
The Log Lady has an equally important vision of Laura to pass on to Hawk: “Hawk, electricity is humming. You hear it in the mountains and rivers. You see it dance among the seas and stars and glowing around the moon. But in these days, the glow is dying. What will be in the darkness that remains? The Truman brothers are both true men. They are your brothers. And the others, the good ones who have been with you. Now the circle is almost complete. Watch and listen to the dream of time and space. It all comes out now, flowing like a river, that which is and is not. Hawk, Laura is the one.”
Is Laura destined to complete the circle and restore the equilibrium of the universe? Only time and space will tell. Let’s hope the next 8 episodes are flowing like a river…