With “Part 5” of Twin Peaks: The Return we learn more about the web of terror created by the now incarcerated Mr. C, the leathery-faced ‘alternate Coop’ dodging the Black Lodge’s demand he return to their mystifying realm. When I say learn, that might not quite be as clear cut as it sounds. Mr. C, Dougie and Cooper (all played by Kyle MacLachan) are, obviously, interconnected, but Mr. C’s tentacles of power may now involve a strange woman with a bruised face, credited as Lorraine (Tammy Baird), giving orders to the two thugs watching Dougie’s abandoned car.
Their failure to terminate Dougie sees her nervously sending the message ‘Argent’, via a Blackberry, to a weird device sitting in a bowl, in a room lit by a single and very dirty light bulb. This is in Buenos Aires, it later transpires, and it’s where David Bowie’s FBI agent Phillip Jeffries disappeared to in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992).
We assumed that Dougie was being stalked by the thugs in a car because of the debts he owes, but when wisecracking Buckhorn forensics officer Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) finds Dougie’s wedding ring inside the stomach of the headless corpse found in “Part 1“, it seems Dougie’s troubles run much deeper. And furthermore, why are Major Garland Briggs’ dabs, who allegedly died in a fire, all over this crime scene? The Pentagon gets twitchy and despatches one of their officers, Cynthia Cox (Adele René) to investigate.
The Coop we know and love, using Dougie as a vehicle, has walked away with 30 slot machine jackpots totalling $425,000, and caused a bit of a fuss with the Silver Mustang Casino management. Burns, the manager, has been afforded some permanent gardening leave by the owners; the angry, violent Mitchum brothers, Bradley (Jim Belushi) and Rodney (Robert Knepper). The assault is given a Lynchian twist with a cut to three waitresses done up in pink silk, calmly observing the violence with one of them making strange hand movements.
The heart of “Part 5” is the tragedy of Coop. He’s become an infant, with his adult personality still struggling to emerge, and shuffles through life as a somnambulist occasionally sparking to life by key words like “coffee”, “agent”, and “case files.” He seems to have formed some emotional connection to Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon), and Lynch fashions this into a deeply melancholic moment when Dougie wistfully watches Sonny Jim in the car. Is this perhaps a recognition on Dougie/Coop’s part that the innocence of childhood is regretfully lost to us?
It’s underlined, too, by the little boy (Sawyer Shipman) left alone with his addict mother (Hailey Gates), whose curiosity about Dougie’s abandoned car across the street, and the device planted underneath it, leads to a scene where a gang, trying to steal the car, are caught in a fireball and incinerated. It’s funny and horrifying at the same time, and pitches childhood as a far darker experience beneath the mid-American banality of the Rancho Rosa surroundings.
Janey-E (Naomi Watts) drives Dougie to his offices at Lucky 7 Insurance. He’s steered around the workplace into meetings and to the bathroom by colleagues and, seemingly, as an idiot savant, has a supernatural power to detect lies when oleaginous agent Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), who shares a sleazy lifestyle with Dougie beyond working hours, reports on insurance cases to their boss Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray). This outrage results in Dougie landed with case files as homework to prove to Mullins he’s still worth employing. Dougie ends up worshiping a statue of a cowboy drawing a gun in the parking lot until the police have to take him home. Again, it seems Dougie is responding to a stereotypical image of American law enforcement; an essentialist version of Coop, perhaps.
Women are not treated with much respect in Lynch’s world. Janey-E has to nag and baby Dougie and, back in Twin Peaks, Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) is harangued by his wife Doris (Candy Clark), who becomes apoplectic at his attitude to the burst pipes and car repairs that dominate her life. In “Part 6” we eventually find out the sad reason why she behaves in this way.
Worse still is the impending doom signalled by the drug-fuelled relationship between Shelly’s daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried) and her addict partner Steven (Caleb Landry Jones). Steven’s just been read the riot act by employer Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger), a former jock and drug dealer but now a reformed man like his friend Bobby Briggs, and is using Becky to raise cash for another score. When we finally catch up with Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Shelly (Mädchen Amick) at the Double R Diner, they both watch with a sense of foreboding and of history repeating itself as the young couple drive off.
Lynch captures that sense of tragedy, the same that surrounded Laura Palmer, in a close up of Becky, high as a kite, temporarily escaping from her surroundings as the sweet melodies of the Paris Sisters’ 1961 tune “I Love How You Love Me” plays over the scene. It’s pure Twin Peaks in its light/dark and good/bad ironic oppositions.
Later, a threatening undercurrent erupts in the scene at the Bang Bang Bar when a young man, credited as Richard Horne (Eamon Farren as Audrey’s son, perhaps?), flaunts the no-smoking regs, threatens to rape a young girl asking for a light, and then bribes the good-for-nothing Deputy Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello). Everything, Lynch suggests, goes in cycles. Each generation seems to produce its litter of bad boys (corrupt and violent men), and the young women (the Madonnas and whores), who fall for their male bullshit, then end up abused or dead. It’s a very bleak worldview.
The other moments to relish, significant or otherwise, include a reappearance of sex worker Jade (Nafessa Williams), who finds Coop’s Great Northern Hotel room key and mails it back to Twin Peaks, the seismic result of Mr. C’s one phone call entitlement that turns the device in Buenos Aires to a lump of metal and throws the jail’s security systems into chaos, and the answer to our puzzlement over Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) gilding a delivery of shovels. Turns out he’s webcasting as ‘Dr. Amp’, ranting about the world sinking beneath vast global conspiracies to, among others, an appreciative Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) and a stoned Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly). And the solution to escaping this quagmire is to purchase one of Dr. Amp’s shovels and “Dig yourself out of the shit. $29.99!” It’s not only Lynch offering us a solution to the tangling threads of his story but also a pithy comment on real world politics and the gilded pledges of that man in the White House
“What the hell are all these childish scribbles? How am I going to make any sense of this?” asks Dougie’s boss Bushnell Mullins in “Part 6”. Many viewers may be asking the same of Lynch at this stage, but Dougie’s onto something. After a receiving a message from one-armed Mike (Al Strobel) in the Black Lodge (“Wake up. Don’t die”) he’s managed to form some esoteric connection between several insurance cases. Mullins, at first baffled, suddenly comprehends something deeper in Dougie’s scrawling and make sense of it. Imagine therefore that the whole series is a set of Lynchian scribbles.
“Part 6” has new clues laid out for us. We don’t know what exactly they mean, but they might resolve some of the jigsaw. So far, the episodes have slowly been mulling over The Log Lady’s ambiguous entreaty to Hawk (Michael Horse) that something was missing, and its retrieval was connected to Hawk’s Native American heritage. An Indian-headed nickel and a missing rivet on a toilet door lead to a set of notes concealed behind it. It’s an example of the intuitive powers of detection, the dream-like connections in one mundane action of dropping a nickel on the floor, that Coop would be the first to recommend.
MacLachlan’s performance as Dougie is touching, sad, and frustrating. Coop is in there and recognises certain touchstones, such as the police officer’s badge as he’s brought home to “the red door” and the worried Janey-E. His plight is underscored with melancholy by the Johnny Jewel track, which seems to act as Coop’s theme for these scenes. His relationship with Sonny Jim is focused on the childish joy of clapping hands to turn the boy’s cowboy light on and off. This reminded me of what Greg Olson said about Lynch and his childhood in David Lynch: Beautiful Dark: “As a boy, the world struck Lynch as being a composition in primal Light and Darkness.”
Janey-E takes control of Dougie’s debts and deals with his blackmailers directly after receiving a picture of Dougie and Jade together. She finally starts to properly question the whereabouts of his car, his wallet and, most importantly, his identification. As Dougie looks at the case files, Lynch cuts to one of those enigmatic traffic light shots he used so frequently in the original Twin Peaks, suggesting a crossroads at the point where our reality meets that of the Black Lodge and from where Mike can deliver his message.
Meanwhile, remember that cliffhanger where Albert (Miguel Ferrer) speculated about the one person who could help him and Gordon Cole identify if Mr. C was Dale Cooper? Albert knew which bar she went to drink at. Lynch pays that off by briefly showing him in the pouring rain tracking down the never seen, until now, Diane from Coop’s famous dictation tapes. Laura Dern’s the occupant of the bar stool at Max Von’s Bar and gets just two words of dialogue as Diane, but here’s hoping she’ll have a significant part to play in the next episode.
The troublesome Richard Hurley is moving in dangerous circles. He meets with Red (Balthazar Getty) and his gang to sample the drugs Red’s expecting to push now he’s visited the area. Red comes across as another version of Frank Booth from Lynch’s Blue Velvet, contemplating the study of hands while making some martial arts moves, stamping violently because of his liver problem, and asking Richard if he’s seen The King and I. “Just remember this, kid, I will saw your head open and eat your brains if you fuck me over. You can count on that,” he warns Richard.
After flipping a nickel, mysteriously delivering it to Richard’s mouth and philosophising on the yin and yang potential of winners and losers, Red’s patronising attitude doesn’t go down well with Richard. He takes his anger out in a bout of reckless driving. This leads us to another scene that once again calls back to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. We’re reunited with Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton), the owner of the Fat Trout trailer park, originally the home of Teresa Banks and investigated by FBI agents Chester Desmond, Sam Stanley, and Dale Cooper. He witnesses the aftermath of Richard Horne driving out of control and running over a young boy; a child he’d been happily watching in a park playing with his mother only moments before.
For Twin Peaks fans this takes place on the same intersection where one-armed Mike verbally abused Leland Palmer in the film, so there’s a feeling this is already a tainted place. As the child dies, Carl sees the boy’s life force leave the body. He also, as in the film, is again drawn to consider a telegraph pole marked with a series of numbers: 6 being the largest on it. Don’t ask what the significance of all the numbers littering the series is, however, because there doesn’t seem to be any rational explanation. I’m simply reading it as something to do with the occult power of symbols and numbers.
Remember the sequence from “Part 1”, set in Las Vegas, with the mysterious Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) and his assistant Roger discussing their involvement with “someone like him”? Duncan’s back and sees a strange red block appear on his computer screen. It triggers him to open a safe and take out a white document with a black dot on it. This seemingly leads to Lorraine and Dougie being targeted for liquidation by a hit man that the credits lists as Ike ‘The Spike’ Stadtler (Christopher Zajac-Denek).
Lorraine is murdered in a gory encounter with ‘The Spike’, and next on the list will surely be Dougie. Once he repairs the titular murder weapon. Dougie, now inhabited by Coop, is back in his regulation FBI black suit at Lucky 7 Insurance. Hopefully, this is a signal that Coop is finally reasserting himself as the stakes get higher, the clues get stranger and the dark age descends.