The Kids Are Seriously Not Alright, Really I Mean It: Twin Peaks episode 11

Scenic Buckhorn, South Dakota.

The 11th hour of the new Twin Peaks predominantly takes place in three locations, as the scope of the story slowly narrows and moves closer to focusing on the actual town of Twin Peaks. Let’s swallow some frogbug and descend.

Buckhorn

The Buckhorn storyline reveals the location where Bill and Ruth supposedly found the Zone, which on the surface is a nondescript vacant property (the Dead Dog Farm of Buckhorn) before closer inspection uncovers a gaggle of creeping Woodsmen and what appears to be a portal to another dimension. The sequence of Gordon staring into the swirling vortex as it ever-so-slowly begins to transport him — paralleled with a ghostly Woodsman who sneaks into the police car and murders Hastings — plays as extraordinarily unnerving, loaded with a sense of dread that eventually becomes unbearable. The tension thankfully breaks upon both Albert pulling Gordon away from the hypnotic gateway, and Gordon’s subsequent deadpan delivery of the obvious when he observes “he’s dead” at the partially decapitated corpse sitting in the cop car.

Of particular note is Diane, who seems nonchalant and non-nonplussed at the image of an interdimensional burnt hobo spooking towards her, but then later sees fit to mention what she saw to everyone as if she’d been unsettled by it. She’s also not particularly moved by Hastings’ bizarre demise, coming off as cynically resigned to the inevitable horror that is approaching. (“There’s no backup for this”). Later, Albert spies her memorizing the coordinates found on the arm of Ruth Davenport’s body. Diane is very hard to read in these scenes, and this really makes sense for her character. She remains a mystery despite us now having met her in the flesh; her true motives, feelings, and thoughts are still tightly wrapped and heavily guarded.

Twin Peaks

In what feels like the most time spent in Twin Peaks so far, we witness a handful of developments, both plot-wise and character-wise. Right off the bat, we’re given a startling piece of information: Miriam survived her attack by Richard and has been discovered crawling in the bushes by a group of kids, beaten and bloody but very much alive. This is great because Richard is terrible and deserves to be caught for about a thousand different reasons, though by now he may have already skipped town.

Andy is still theoretically heading the investigation into Richard’s hit-and-run killing of the little boy in episode six, though that investigation has largely remained off-screen. What we do see in this hour is Sheriff Truman and Hawk discussing Hawk’s mystical map of Twin Peaks, one which includes darkly suggestive symbols such as black flames and, of course, evil corn. It also features the third appearance of the symbol on C-bag’s playing card; when Truman asks about it, Hawk warns him “you don’t ever want to know about that,” which is pretty much the most frightening response possible.

To make the scene even creepier, the Log Lady calls Hawk at this very moment to tell him “there’s fire where you are going,” because Hawk and Margaret are always trying to out-cryptic each other. (They both win). It feels without a doubt that the coordinates Major Briggs has given to Frank and Hawk are the same ones that Gordon, Albert, and Tammy will be following, again foreshadowing a convergence of these different storylines.

But the White Tail peak of the many things happening in Twin Peaks this hour involves Becky. Enraged that Steven is out somewhere with another woman, Becky demands to borrow Shelly’s car, almost kills her mom in the process, and then storms with a loaded gun to an apartment building where she proceeds to unload the clip into a door. The scene ends by showing that Steven has been hanging out with the long-lost Gersten Hayward (a fact which is easy to miss as Alicia Witt is almost unrecognizable at first, or at least she was to me). The whole thing — especially poor Shelly being flung from the hood of her own car — is really horrifying, the out-of-control-ness of Becky and Steven’s relationship palpable. It’s as if Jim Morrison and Pam Courson never hit it big or were particularly interesting and moved to a trailer park somewhere in the Northwest. Shelly, Norma, Carl . . . they all want to help in some way, but are rendered powerless to actually change or fix anything.

This all culminates in a sequence that ranks as both a highlight of the episode and a highlight of the new series in general. We begin at the RR, where it’s finally confirmed that Bobby is Becky’s father. It absolutely radiates off the screen how concerned Becky’s parents are for her, and Dana Ashbrook continues to show why he’s a standout of this iteration of Twin Peaks, as Bobby visibly struggles with trying to remain caring but firm. Madchen Amick perfectly captures Shelly’s heartbreak at her daughter falling into the same trap that she did at that age, and Amanda Seyfriend nails the well-intentioned but delusional perspective of a young person making all the wrong choices and convincing herself otherwise. For anyone who has ever watched a loved one keep repeating the same mistakes while insisting that they’ll stop, Bobby and Shelly’s helplessness here is immediately relatable. Their anxious discussion reaches a false, humorously abrupt but nevertheless relieving resolution when Becky agrees to stay at her mom’s, but the peace takes a turn for the bizarre at the sudden arrival of Red.

Yes, apparently Shelly really did hook up with this intense drug dealer/magician, and she immediately transforms back into the excited teenager who fell for Leo Johnson . . . a good heart that easily melts for charming-but-dangerous men. Shelly seems almost possessed by his presence, and the look on Bobby’s face (a potent mix of longing and concern) shows that all is not well. Before Shelly can fully compose herself, gunshots ring out, and then the scene hits the next level.

Outside, Bobby (going into deputy mode) pinpoints the source of the gunfire: a boy who found his dad’s handgun in the back of the family minivan and began firing. As Bobby diffuses the situation, he notices father and son striking the same posture while wearing the same clothes, a similar look of clueless apathy on both of their faces. The woman in the car behind them, angry that traffic has come to a standstill, refuses to lay off the horn. Lynch loves to suggest the breakdown of order by using traffic jams and car horns, and he employs that here, the endless honking growing from annoying to downright grating the longer it continues.

When Bobby attempts to diffuse this situation as well — Dick Tremayne was right, a peace officer’s work is never done — he’s greeted with a hilariously rambling monologue from the very angry old woman, upset that she’s running behind schedule. At first, this moment feels like a throwaway, a bit of comic relief tossed in for fun, with this pissed off version of Lewis Carroll’s rabbit reading Bobby the riot act about how some people have places to fuckin’ be.

Then she reveals the reason for her haste: in the passenger’s seat is a sick little girl (her granddaughter? daughter? niece?). The child emerges out of the darkness like some kind of zombie, or maybe Regan from The Exorcist, sitting up as if being pulled by an unseen force and then drooling green vomit all over everything. Like that, the scene lurches from the hysterical to the horrifying — somehow remaining amusingly absurd while also making a sharp plunge into the deeply unsettling — because it’s entirely unclear what is happening or why, everything seized by a nightmare logic that has no interest in explaining itself.

David Lynch is terrific when it comes to letting scenes transform from one thing into another at the drop of a hat, and that happens at least three times during these moments inside and outside the RR. Tragic, sweet, lovely, disturbing, disgusting . . . Lynch covers all the bases in about 7 or 8 minutes. Tonally, this could have been a disaster, but it works perfectly as the progression of events unfolds, the show breaking its own rules every few minutes but somehow keeping it all of a piece.

It’s hard to miss the undercurrent of this sequence, which is that something is seriously wrong in Twin Peaks. A sickness is growing, passed from one generation to the next, but now it’s beginning to manifest in more extreme and ominous ways. Becky’s denial about her abuse, a little boy firing a gun into a crowded diner, a mysteriously ill girl drooling ectoplasm everywhere. The kids are not okay here. This also feels like it dovetails with Richard’s increasingly monstrous behavior, Ella’s grotesque armpit rash, the child being run over, Gersten Wayward and Steven. A darkness is coming, and the young people of Twin Peaks are feeling it.

Las Vegas

Then we have the thematic opposite of what’s happening in Twin Peaks. For Dougie-Cooper, everything is starting to go swimmingly, which is really saying something as this episode initially finds Coop with not one, but two sets of gangsters who want to kill him. But lo and behold, with a little help from the Black Lodge and a cherry pie, Dougie is not only spared, but actually become friends with the Mitchum brothers.

It may have seemed like an odd choice when Jim Belushi was first announced as a cast member, but he is stellar in this episode, acting in a dual role as buffoonish comic relief on one hand and the man who saves Dale Cooper’s life on the other. Of course, he’s been manipulated through a dream sent by Mike and then placated by a check that Bushnell cut for him and his brother, but all the same, he saves Cooper. The Mitchum brothers are likely some of the best friends Coop will ever have, as it’s abundantly clear they will let no harm whatsoever befoul the man they believe to be Dougie Jones. In one scene, Cooper has gained allies and protectors, two things of which he’s in desperate need as long as C-bag is still alive.

From the beginning of the Dougie storyline, there has always been an aspect where Cooper is trapped in the mundane details of the suburban life he never got to experience. That’s still in play. Take Cooper glimpsing the Excalibur casino, yet another mythological reminder of what happened to him on his final night in Twin Peaks. He needs to wake up, just as the One-Armed Man said.

However, there’s another side of this story that has also revealed itself, and that is the idea of bliss. As a childlike being experiencing life and the world anew, almost everything is magical to the rebirthed Cooper. In the supposedly boring minutae of everyday existence, he finds marvels: coffee, pancakes, elevators, sex, a bag of chips, shiny police badges, more coffee. He effortlessly spreads that weird joy wherever he goes, such as making Sonny Jim laugh, or helping people win at the casino, or the scene when insurance salesman Frank realizes that, yes, he really does like that green tea latte after all. This Cooper is the spiritual bliss to the walking embodiment of fear and menace that is Mr. C; two perfectly polarized sides of the same person, adding yet another dimension of meaning to the show’s title.

The episode’s final scene ranks as this hour’s other highlight, as Cooper rediscovers the joy of cherry pie while the Mitchum brothers look on. The phrase “damn good” strikes a chord in him, and he seems to have a brief moment of fleeting awareness. The homeless lady from episode four arrives and tearfully thanks Mr. Jackpots for saving her. And the piano player at the restaurant dips into a quieter tune that briefly sounds like a rearranged “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” which again stirs something in Cooper.

While Coop doesn’t regain his memories, the wonder and relief and happiness of this scene ends the episode on a note of hope: that even in a world of growing darkness and sickness there can be cherry pie, lives can be saved, and people as repellent as the Mitchum brothers can trust in a miracle and taste some measure of divine sweetness.

More Thoughts That Happened:

  • In a continuation of the endangered innocence theme, the mere sight of those three kids playing catch at the beginning of the episode invokes immediate feelings of dread.
  • Carl is shaping up to be the Jesus of Upper Washington State. He’s a lot more approachable in this newer incarnation than in FWWM.
  • Are the Woodsmen, seen by Gordon through the vortex, hanging out in the same strange house that Laura visited in her dream? Or maybe the convenience store? Or a twisted version of the Palmer house?
  • Peggy Lipton has no lines in this episode, but her eye acting alone says everything that needs to be said. Norma has watched Shelly go through this countless times in various capacities — and Norma herself went through it with Hank — and that weariness comes across in every expression.
  • Does Shelly wear a ring around her neck because she’s a widow? If so, my guess would be that Leo died in Windom’s cabin and Shelly went on to marry Bobby. But Lynch and Frost have made it clear they’re in no rush to answer these, and many other, outstanding questions. (We also still don’t 100% know for sure that this is the exact same universe as the previous show).
  • As there’s a real devil-comes-to-town feel with his character, it’s hard not to shake the feeling that Red’s arrival at the RR in some way relates to the chaos that follows, even if it’s only on a symbolic level.
  • Every time Margaret shows up, I’m afraid it’s the last time we’ll ever see the Log Lady.
  • As a handful of others have pointed out, Alicia Witt’s one and only previous appearance on Twin Peaks (episode 8 of the original series) ended with her playing piano over the credits. This hour also ends with someone playing piano over the credits.
  • While definitely evocative of “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” Angelo Badalamenti’s somber piece for this episode is most reminiscent of “Rose’s Theme,” one of his more memorable compositions for The Straight Story.

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