A startling contrast of emotions and moods pervades “Part 15” of Twin Peaks: The Return. With a sense of impending closure as we hurtle towards the finale, it begins with a gloriously bright, sunny morning. The camera swoops over the trees and mountains, and then the scene cuts to the distant figure of Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie), purposefully marching down the highway with her golden shovel on her back. A series of fades suggests this is a long march until she reaches her destination, Big Ed’s Gas Farm.
Highways, always a central motif in Lynch’s work, are the beginning and ending of life’s journeys in Twin Peaks. Outside the Gas Farm, Nadine’s long held jealously and bitterness regarding Ed’s (Everett McGill) love for Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) evaporates. It’s a positive outcome from watching the ‘Dr. Amp’ podcasts that’ve enthralled her, and her brief meeting with Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn). She’s truly shovelling herself out of the shit. We know Nadine has certainly been one among many psychically damaged residents of the town, “a selfish bitch” who manipulated Ed but was saddled with her fair share of trauma. This moment of redemption seems genuine. She sets herself and Ed free. It’s a very uplifting conclusion and not unlike the end of Lynch’s The Straight Story (1999).
Ed has his doubts and says “tomorrow, you’re gonna wish you never said these things”, but she reassures him that the walk on the highway has provided something of a mental catharsis. She implores him to love Norma and then marches off again, shovel over her shoulder. The final close up on Ed’s face is very moving, and McGill completely conveys the man’s sense of release and realisation that his love for Norma may no longer be unrequited.
The stumbling block is the presence of Norma’s business partner, Walter (Grant Goodeve), but even that brief subplot is shut down. As Ed sits meditatively at the counter of the Double R, dreading that his opportunity has vanished and Norma will stay with Walter, Nadine’s catharsis seems to be echoed in Norma’s own attitude and reflections. She asks Walter to buy out her other franchised diners because she simply wants to take care of her “wonderful family”. The family called Twin Peaks.
Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” (the perfect song for the agonising and frustrating 25 year courtship of Ed and Norma ), comes to a thundering climax as Walter slopes off, Norma wraps her arms around Ed, and a marriage proposal is accepted. So there is light in the darkness of Twin Peaks. As Lynch once professed: “the more darkness you can gather up, the more light you can see. To me, love is like light.” This whole 10-minute opening ends with shots of mountains, blue skies, and white clouds.
But the darkness still gathers on a highway to hell, the lightness of the opening scene eclipsed by Mr. C’s (Kyle MacLachlan) pursuit of Phillip Jeffries down a twisting road, à la Lost Highway (1997), and it fades into the sound of sparking electricity. Presumably following Ray’s directions, Mr. C pulls up to a very familiar convenience store. It’s like an alt-Big Ed’s Gas Farm, the flipside to the sunny world we’ve just departed. “Part 8” determined the emblematic store was a nexus point for the arrival of the intra-dimensional entities and, as Mr. C climbs the stairs into a disorientating series of rooms and passageways, we hear Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” on the soundtrack to remind us this is the ongoing aftermath of the Trinity test.
More than anything, we’re back in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) territory, as Mr. C and the Woodsman that greets him flicker and vanish into a hidden dimension to the accompanying crackle of electricity. Have they now entered what Ray referred to as The Dutchman’s? What is this place? It’s more than just another dimension. Is it a prison?
If so, then it’s by way of a room that matches Laura Palmer’s painting in the prequel, itself an inter-dimensional gateway, and it’s accessed by a Woodsman throwing a switch to open the gates. There we briefly see a masked character, referred to by Jeffries as ‘The Jumping Man’ (Carlton Lee Russell), and mentioned in the description of the meeting above the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me. Oddly, the mask is superimposed with what looks like the face of Sarah Palmer. After last week’s shocking reveal about Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriske), her direct connection to the Lodge spirits seems confirmed.
Mr. C is then escorted through more disorientating spaces, a corridor that briefly turns into thick, creaking woodland, and a staircase that seems to go on forever and previously appeared during Cole’s brief look into the vortex in “Part 13”. He crosses a motel parking space that replicates the same lot where Leland Palmer met Teresa Banks in the film. To get to see Phillip Jeffries, a strange man/woman in a dirty bathrobe and speaking backwards, has to unlock a door for Mr. C. It again suggests this might be a prison and there’s a certain parallel with freedom and incarceration that runs throughout the episode. We’ll get back to that.
Under telltale flickering fluorescent lights, Phillip Jeffries materialises as another of those bell-shaped, crackling terminals. It’s just like the ones we saw in The Fireman and Naido’s domains. Clanking sounds, electrical buzzes, and the general ambience rekindle the atmosphere of Eraserhead (1977). The object produces a cloud of steam and Jeffries’ modulated voice, provided by actor Nathan Frizzell, informs Mr. C that it wasn’t him that sent Ray to kill him and they’ve always been able to talk.
We get another flashback to David Bowie as Jeffries in Fire Walk With Me, offering us another bit of the puzzle: “I’m not gonna talk about Judy. We’re not gonna talk about Judy at all.” Like Mr. C, we’re all asking who is Judy and why didn’t Jeffries want to talk about her back in 1989 when he visited the FBI in Philadelphia? Jeffries seems convinced that Mr. C is actually Cooper, but we know he isn’t. Perhaps that’s why he gives Mr. C a set of coordinates. They look like those on Ruth Davenport’s arm, the numbers leading to Twin Peaks. Is Judy there?
Jeffries tells Mr. C he’s already met her, and before Mr. C can enquire further a ringing telephone plonks him back outside the convenience store and the long-awaited encounter with Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), who’s tailed him from the arm wrestling action at The Farm. Holding him at gunpoint, he recognises him as Cooper with “the fancy FBI suit”. Richard also reveals that he is, as speculated, Audrey’s son. If the evil Cooper from the Lodge ‘visited’ Audrey in the emergency room after the explosion at the bank, could he be Richard’s father?
Relieving Richard of his gun, Mr. C drives off with him, but not before sending a text to an unknown recipient: “Las Vegas?” Perhaps this is sent to Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Hutch (Tim Roth), to check they’ve carried out his order to terminate Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler). We see the assassination later in the episode, and it significantly leaves “one to go”, who could be Dougie. The convenience store vanishes in a blaze of light and smoke, leaving behind the stoic, silent woodland at the end of an astonishing scene, where particular praise should be lavished on the extraordinary sound design, which has been a very strong element since the series started.
We cut to another overhead shot of the woods in daylight. Becky’s strung-out husband Steven Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones) and Donna’s sister Gersten Hayward (Alicia Witt), last seen evading Becky’s angry attack in “Part 11”, are hiding out. Steven babbles incessantly “I did it” through his drugs overload, and threatens to kill himself with the gun that Gersten desperately attempts to take off him. The pressures collapsing in on Steven are appropriately manifested in the huge, suffocating trees they nestle in. They’re distracted by a man walking his dog. It’s retired news reporter Cyril Pons, played by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost, and his arrival prompts Gersten to flee behind a tree. A shot rings out, but we’re not sure if Cyril’s copped it or if Steven’s finally put us and him out of our misery. The trees seem to close in on Gersten and the soundtrack is then full of atonal rumbling, crashing, and screeching noises. When Cyril eventually turns up at the Fat Trout trailer park, to tell Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) what he’s seen, we can perhaps presume Steven’s been given his own freedom from the story.
James Hurley (James Marshall) and green-gloved benefactor of The Fireman, Freddie (Jake Wardle) stir up some trouble in The Roadhouse, when James’ attentions to Renee (Jessica Szohr) wind up her jealous husband Chuck (Rodney Rowland). After James is attacked, Freddie downs his two assailants, and probably gives them brain damage by using his super-powered fist to come to the rescue. They both end up in jail, sharing time in the company of squawking Naido (Nae Yuuki), the parroting drunk (Jay Aaseng) who we think is Billy, and the increasingly exasperated Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello). It’s ironic that this time Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) is on the other side of the bars, as the hand of the law dishing out rather then receiving jail time.
Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan), meanwhile, is tucking into some chocolate cake. After he randomly stabs the TV remote, a screening of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950) sees Cecil B. DeMille enquiring about a character named Gordon Cole. It sets off a reaction in Dougie that compels him to approach the electric wall socket. He emerged from a similar socket and suddenly he’s drawn back to it, and thinks nothing of sticking the prongs of his fork into it. He succeeds in fusing all the lights and screams out. Could he have been shocked back into the familiar persona of Cooper? Or is Lynch merely teasing us?
Another, more heartfelt departure is the final appearance of Margaret Lanterman, a.k.a The Log Lady. Played by Catherine Coulson, her desperately sad and shocking announcement of “I’m dying” on the phone to Hawk (Michael Horse) sees Lynch’s reality and fiction overlapping, a blurring of the lines to pay homage. Catherine died shortly after production had started in September 2015, but had managed to complete a number scenes for Twin Peaks: The Return. She’d been involved with Lynch’s work since the beginning, appearing in his short film The Amputee (1974) and serving in a production capacity on Eraserhead (1977). The episode is dedicated to Margaret Lanterman, just as the first episode was dedicated to Coulson herself. It’s fitting and very bittersweet that she returns again as The Log Lady to dispense some final advice to Hawk: “there is some fear in letting go.” It’s the least cryptic, most human pronouncement she could possibly make. However, she leaves us one more puzzle too: “watch for that one. The one I told you about. The one under the moon on Blue Pine mountain.”
In the final scenes of the episode, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) is becoming increasingly frustrated with ‘husband’ Charlie (Clark Middleton). She’s finally reached the door and has her coat on. She’s almost about to escape from her own prison, be that her coma or psychiatric care. However, Charlie keeps undermining her with his complaints, and when she questions who he really is he takes off his coat and sits down. In a rage she attacks and throttles him. At the same time, in the Roadhouse a young girl is forced out of her seat by two bikers. She crawls across the floor into the dancing crowd and lets out a bloodcurdling scream. The credits roll over the motel car park where the strange woman in the bathrobe stands guard outside the motel room. It’s been nother mind bending week in Twin Peaks.