I confess I had to eat humble pie — probably a cherry pie would be most appropriate — after watching Twin Peaks: The Return “Part 16” this week. A few reviews ago I was convinced we’d never see the real Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) again and, given how strange the narrative has become thus far, David Lynch would be perverse enough to leave Cooper trapped inside Dougie. How wrong could I have been?
But first, Lynch has a number of hanging subplots to deal with and, against many expectations, efficiently closes them down to make way for the resurrection of said Agent Cooper. After last week’s clearing of the decks, “Part 16” continues along the same course. The signature highway at night returns us to Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan), recently reunited with ‘son’ Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) after his visit to the convenience store and meeting with Phillip Jeffries. All the business about coordinates–three sets received from Ray, Jeffries, and Diane among the scheme of things–literally provide a fork in the road, to “that place”. According to Mr. C, only one set of the coordinates is different from the others, and the other two lead to this bleak promontory. Richard agrees that checking out the two that agree would be logical.
Mr. C clearly suspects something and sends Richard up the hill to investigate the stone megalith. It’s a trap, presumably set by a combination of Major Briggs, Jeffries, and Ray in order to return Mr. C to the Lodge. Richard fries in a flashing bolt of electricity as he stands on the stone at the crest of the hill. Ancient stones hold ancient sacrificial powers, it seems. It’s all witnessed by comedy stoner Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly), looking increasingly like a Woodsman in negative, spying through the wrong end of his “bad binoculars”. His view of the world is one where everything appears remote and smaller but where there also appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Mr. C confirms what we’ve all suspected for a while with his parting “goodbye my son.” Which then leaves us with the vexed question of Linda. Linda? Remember, back in “Part 1” the Giant told Cooper to remember the names “Richard and Linda”, and Linda was mentioned again in “Part 6” when Mickey took a ride with Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) to go and pick up Linda’s mail. She was described as a disabled veteran who had just been given a wheelchair from the government after waiting for six months. But who is she in this realm of dreams and doppelgängers? Is she another of Mr. C’s offspring?
Perhaps an answer lies with Diane Evans (Laura Dern) who is due to receive a new text from Mr. C., simply stating : – ) ALL, will set off some unconscious trigger in Diane. It’s almost like she’s been conditioned to reveal all to Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), and Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell). Some have theorised it actually instructed her to kill all the FBI agents, or that it simply meant Mr. C was smiling at them all having discovered and defeated the trap set for him. In the Twin Peaks universe it probably means all of this. Note also that the message wasn’t delivered when sent at 2.05am. It’s received later by Diane at 4.30pm.
Those numbers have a bit of significance. In “Part 7” Deputy Andy agreed to meet the farmer at this time to talk about who was driving his truck in the hit-and-run incident. The Giant also told Cooper in “Part 1″ to “remember 430”. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Chester Desmond and Sam Stanley arrived at Deer Meadow (the original location of Carl Rodd’s Fat Trout trailer park) at 4.30 and, later in the film, the autopsy of Teresa Banks, whose murder Desmond was investigating, takes place at, you guessed it, 4.30.
Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon) attend Dougie’s bedside after his close encounter with the wall socket. “When people go into a coma, they can stay there for years,” she gloomily tells an optimistic Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray). Sonny Jim seems to grasp the obvious with his observation about electricity and comas. It’s interesting how the electronic beeps of Gordon’s surveillance equipment overlap with the pulsing noises coming from Dougie’s medical monitor, and how it appears that Gordon can hear the medical monitor chiming away within all the surveillance chatter, as if he’s attuned to Cooper’s imminent revival.
The arrival of the Mitchum brothers (Robert Knepper, Jim Belushi) and their entourage, offering refreshments and help to stock up the provisions at Janey-E’s home, neatly sets up another of the subplot closures. We know that Dougie’s assassins Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Hutch (Tim Roth) are lying in wait outside the Jones’ home. Their paths are going to collide with the Mitchum brothers.
The FBI and the brothers arrive at the Jones’ residence just as Chantal and Hutch run foul of the ‘accountant’ (Jonny Coyne) whose drive they’re blocking. For an accountant he seems very prepared, is boasting some heavy artillery, and is wired up in similar fashion to Gordon Cole. Maybe that’s reading too much into our farewell to Chantal and Hutch and how their plans were scuppered by bad parking. “What the fuck kinda neighbourhood is this?” asks Bradley Mitchum as they observe the resulting, bloody mayhem. “People are under a lot of stress, Bradley,” his brother Rodney observes dryly. It’s wonderfully absurd in its collision between the darkness of the Lynchian universe and the sunny banality of domestic American life.
That familiar humming (the same one we heard back at The Great Northern in Ben Horne’s office), heralds Cooper’s return. Summing up the frustrating amount of time it has taken for him to reappear, one-armed Mike (Al Strobel) in the Lodge observes, “You are awake. Finally.” Cooper is apprised of Mr. C’s failure to go back into the Lodge and is given the Owl Cave ring. Once on Mr. C’s finger, it will force him to return. Importantly, Cooper asks Mike to “make another one” from a sample of his hair and the golden pearl in Mike’s possession, the seed that all the tulpas are made from in the Lodge. There’s a suggestion here that Cooper might not return from the final clash with his doppelgänger in Twin Peaks or that he wants a decoy Cooper created to fool Mr. C.
While the return of Cooper is a fantastic, punch-the-air moment, exemplified in that final “I am the FBI” retort to Bushnell Mullins’ question “what about the FBI?”, it’s also a rather moving farewell to Janey-E and Sonny Jim. As he prepares to take the plane to Washington and possibly his own death, the soundtrack surges into life with Angelo Badalamenti’s cherished Twin Peaks theme. Nostalgia, for now, is allowed. Cooper was clearly aware of what was going on trapped inside the shell of Dougie and pays homage to his boss: “you’re a fine man, Bushnell Mullins. I will not soon forget your kindness and decency.” The scene soars with a sense of relief because at last the light has returned to shine into the darkness as Cooper drives Janey-E and Sonny Jim along a highway drenched in sunlight.
But the Twin Peaks theme immediately and painfully cuts off as Diane receives, and her recall is triggered by, Mr. C’s text. What follows is quite distressing as she walks along the corridor to meet Gordon, Albert, and Tammy on her mission to tell-all about that last night she met Mr. C. Laura Dern is, like Kyle MacLachlan, exceptional in this episode. The sense of dread and the descent into self-loathing she conjures up is palpable. She, like Dougie, has been living in a semi-comatose state. The memories of that night awaken her and then culminate in the confession to Cole that Mr. C raped her. The trauma of it and her journey to the “old gas station” (the convenience store is likely what she means) has been embodied in this version of Diane, an amalgam of Dern and Lynch’s collaboration that has carried through from Blue Velvet (1986) to Inland Empire (2006). Realising what she’s done, Diane also confesses she sent Mr. C the coordinates to “the sheriff’s station”. That’s the station in Twin Peaks where next week’s finale is heading.
Once again, Lynch explores the themes of identity, of morally good and evil versions of human beings, of the roles that men and women play. In his book on Frank Herbert’s Dune, Jeffery Nicholas notes appropriately and similarly that “goodness is a sleeper that must awaken” in Lynch’s film adaptation, and it must do battle against evil dominance. Crying “I’m not me” as she reaches for the gun in her bag, Tammy and Albert shoot Diane. She’s immediately whisked out of reality and we next see her in the Red Room of the Lodge. Mike proclaims “someone manufactured you”, Diane acknowledges this, and with a “fuck you” her head disintegrates into black flames. She’s reduced to one of the golden pearls that marks her out as a tulpa of the original woman. But where is the real Diane?
Cooper’s farewell to Janey-E and Sonny Jim at the Silver Mustang casino is heartbreaking. “You’ve made my heart so full,” he tells his proxy wife and son. They are a family he insists. “Dougie… I mean… I will be back,” he promises them. This again suggests that a tulpa of Cooper might return in his place, the one he instructed Mike to construct. Janey-E is only now realising that the man she once knew has completely changed and the one addressing her isn’t Dougie. He assures Sonny Jim he is his dad, will return through that red door and, this time, will stay for good. As the camera pulls back from a tearful Janey-E, her life altered by the arrival of this angelic figure, it takes in a slot machine displaying the icon of a scarab beetle. How ironic that, as Dougie’s story ends and Cooper’s begins again back in the Silver Mustang, an Egyptian symbol of renewal and rebirth appears on screen.
As regular as clockwork, we’re back at the Roadhouse for the final scene. And what a scene. As Edward Louis Severson’s song “Out of Sand” plays on themes of identity, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and her ‘husband’ Charlie (Clark Middleton) arrive. She’s finally managed to get her coat on and leave the house, clearly looking for the missing Billy. When Charlie raises his glass in a toast to them both, she grouchily responds “here’s to Billy.” However, what seems to be a regular night at the Roadhouse turns into something surreal and nightmarish.
The MC (J.R Starr) announces “Audrey’s Dance” and the dance floor clears. Angelo Badalamenti’s quintessential music begins, and Audrey is practically hypnotised into performing her signature jazz dance. It’s an uncanny scene about our yearning for nostalgia and, specifically, about our yearning for the original Twin Peaks of our youth. If anything, this new series has been about ageing, mortality, and identity, and I suspect that Lynch wanted to meditate on these ideas. The scene is quite cruel. It felt like Lynch was commenting on how we want these characters to be like they were, and how, despite their resistance or reluctance, they must perform as older versions of themselves to the old tunes we know and love. This picks up on central ideas about the audience’s relationship to television, fictional characters, and their worlds.
As Audrey gets lost in the dance, a fight breaks out and the spell is broken. She runs to Charlie and cries “get me outta here!” There’s the familiar buzz of electricity and a jump cut shows Audrey staring into a mirror in a white room, gasping “what, what, what?” So… is Audrey, like Dougie and Diane, in a coma? Is she deep in therapy? Is she a tulpa and the original Audrey is trapped in one of the Lodges? It’s a scene that knocks you on your head because you’re left questioning if, indeed, the Roadhouse exists solely for Audrey and if Twin Peaks itself isn’t some bizarre 25-year-old reality created by the forces in the Lodge.