Five hours into the new Twin Peaks, and I still have no clue what’s really going on, or any idea where this is headed. And that cluelessness — the not knowing — is just so very thrilling . . . and also freeing, in these spoiler-heavy times.
Not that we all can’t start fitting together some basic pieces, especially as they relate to the murders in Buckhorn and to Fear & Dougie in Las Vegas.
My best guess: Briggs didn’t die in the fire 25 years ago. Mr. C staged the accident and kidnapped the Major, holding Briggs hostage for the last 25 years and using him for information and access into Blue Book/Blue Rose. Evil Cooper found Dougie through various Las Vegas crime connections and decided to make him a stooge, swapping out Dougie’s wedding ring with the Lodge ring. Recently, Evil Coop finally killed Briggs, beheading him after forcing him to swallow Dougie’s wedding band. This will implicate the newly reborn Cooper in the Hastings investigation, all part of Mr. C’s attempt to frame his doppelganger for his own crimes.
That’s barely a theory, though, because theorizing about this version of Twin Peaks is virtually pointless. It’s almost completely not guessable as to what is a procedural or mythological mystery that will be answered, and what is a spiritual mystery or stylistic flourish that will remain unexplained. We won’t know until the thing is done, and even then, we might not entirely know.
Probably the biggest cosmic flashlight shining on the episode is that we spend the most time in Twin Peaks thus far this season, by a wide margin. Not only that, but the long lost Mike, Norma, and Nadine all make their first appearances. (I’ve never been so happy to see Mike Nelson, and Gary Hershberger knocked his scene out of the park). Meanwhile, we finally find out what Dr. Jacoby has been up to with those shovels: our favorite hippie psychiatrist has predictably become a left-libertarian conspiracy theorist hawking shit-digging tools, spray-painted gold in true huckster fashion. The idea that Jacoby is now a radio/internet faux mystic blowhard named Dr. Amp just makes perfect sense, as does the suggestion that two of his biggest fans are Nadine (watching in fawning, religiously reverent fashion) and the ever-stoned Jerry.
This scene, delivered by Russ Tamblyn at a level of intensity the series never allowed him, proves absolutely hypnotic despite its intentional obnoxiousness. (“The fucks are at it again!” “WARTS!!”). It manages to capture the surreal, quirky humor of the original series and dial it up to 11. More significantly, by showing other beloved characters watching his broadcast, this moment provides a feeling of unity in Twin Peaks, the type of shared local event that is only possible in a small community like this. The episodes so far had lacked that sensation of Twin Peaks feeling whole, our glimpses of the town brief and scattershot. Here, everything is beginning to feel of a piece, something likely to magnify as we delve further into the season.
Not only are previously established characters continuing to reemerge, but we’re also beginning our journey into Twin Peaks: The Next Generation. And boy, it is not uplifting so far. Shelly’s daughter Becky is clearly in trouble, torn between an urge for stability on one hand and her drug-using husband Steve on the other. A clueless-but sorta likeable-but skeezy fuckup, Steve is very much not meeting with the approval of either Shelly or Norma, and for understandable reasons. The image of Becky staring rapturously into the sky while high on drugs, the Paris Sisters gently playing over the radio, is at once both joyful and sad, evoking the spirit of Laura Palmer. While bliss and love and peace are very real in Lynch’s work — to dismiss his portrayal of them as mere irony is to miss the point — there is nonetheless a melancholy underscore to the scene, Becky’s happiness as much of a drug-induced delusion as it is innocent pleasure.
Then we hop on over to the Roadhouse to meet misogynistic nightmare creep Richard Horne, as well as endure another appearance from Chad, the Deputy Cliff of deputies not named Cliff. To call what happens here unpleasant would be an understatement, with Richard’s barely contained belligerence swelling into an assault on a woman who had the nerve to ask him for a light. The sexual violence here fits fully within the darkness always bubbling in Twin Peaks, a place in which women are all too often victimized by powerful, toxic men. Richard emerges immediately as one of the most hateable characters ever introduced on this show, and it seems obvious he’s here to start shit. And there’s a good chance he’s the first half of the Giant’s reference to “Richard and Linda,” which only makes this more ominous.
Then there’s the troubling fact that he’s a Horne. Does he belong to Ben, another out-of-wedlock child a la Donna? Or maybe Jerry? Audrey???? The last option makes a lot of sense, as Richard’s character would be a perfect window through which to finally revisit Audrey, but at the moment we can only speculate.
At the Sheriff’s Station, Hawk’s attempt to reexamine the Laura Palmer case is moving at a pace that’s exceptionally slow even by David Lynch standards. (Having Andy and Lucy there doesn’t seem to be helping, either). As for the new Sheriff Truman, he’s busy being screamed at by his wife Doris over virtually everything, from leaky pipes to her father’s car. I imagine some are criticizing the performance of actress Candy Clark in this scene, but I actually think she’s great. The whole conversation is edited awkwardly (on purpose), with weird drawn out silences from the stoic-to-the-point of comatose Frank Truman, contrasted against Doris’ shrill and all-over-the-place ranting.
Besides, cut Candy Clark some slack. She has had some very bad experiences in the past when it comes to romantic entanglements with law enforcement:
In Buckhorn, we get a glimpse of the Constance Talbot Morgue Stand-Up Routine, which might be one of the funniest moments in the entirety of Twin Peaks. Lynch and Frost have always enjoyed characters who drop bad puns, but the groaners here (and their absolutely painful bellyflop) are comedy gold. (I can’t overstate how great it is to see Jane Adams on the screen again. She fits so naturally into the world of Twin Peaks, and I hope there’s more to come with her character). Buckhorn’s fingerprint search on the headless corpse has caught the eye of the Pentagon, introducing us to new character Col. Davis, played by Ernie Hudson. Clearly named as a nod to the deceased Don S. Davis, the Colonel will likely be our entry point back into the government conspiracy angle of Twin Peaks, a thread still dangling from the old version of the series.
And of course we have Las Vegas. There’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on down in Vegas. Dougie-Coop is off to his office job, but this is more like the brain-sucked Cooper having the equivalent of his first day of school. Apparently he’s an insurance agent, even though many viewers (including myself) assumed Dougie Jones was in real estate, given that in the previous episodes he had access to an empty suburban home currently for sale. But no, the insurance game it is. Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity this is not, however, as Coop spends most of his time obsessing over coffee, staring somnambulantly at a cowboy statue, and not understanding elevators.
Kyle MacLachlan’s performance here is simply fantastic. The childlike innocence of the newborn Cooper is endearing and at times heartbreaking, as he’s now being forced to learn not only the absurdities of everyday life, but the everyday life that Special Agent Dale Cooper never got to have. The image of a tear streaming down his cheek as he stares at Sonny Jim . . . it’s powerful stuff, despite the inherent silliness of everything at play. Same goes for Cooper having to pee and standing there helplessly in the hallway, confused and in pain. It’s just so difficult to see Coop like this at times, the person we know no longer entirely there, or at least struggling but unable to get out.
All hope is not lost for Cooper’s return, though. In fact, this segment began majorly planting the seeds for Coop to reawaken. He perked up at the familiar words “agent” and “case files,” Cooper’s investigative intuition (aided by a weird green flash) reasserted itself when he called Tom Sizemore a liar, Jade mailed Coop’s room key back to the Great Northern, and the ranger statue on which Cooper becomes fixated seems meant to evoke his time as a lawman.
There’s some interesting discussion going around about the statue, as to whether it’s meant to recall David Bowie (it’s definitely Bowie-esque from a certain angle) or even an image of Jimmy Stewart from The FBI Story, which was Cooper’s favorite movie (as revealed in his autobiography). It’s difficult to make any concrete assertions about that, however, as the statue may have already existed on the filming location, and Lynch tends to indulge in happy accidents as opposed to loading things with meaning in advance. Regardless, that statue in particular seems to be calling to Cooper, and the fact that it’s of someone who enforces law and order is most definitely not a coincidence. (And let’s not forget he was extra focused on the statue’s shoes. Coop lost his shoes when transitioning from the Black Lodge back to our world).
Then we have Mr. C, continuing to find new ways to scare the living crap out of absolutely everybody. First, he looks at himself in the mirror to see if Bob is still with him, a question answered in the affirmative as his face quietly distorts into a subtle suggestion of Frank Silva. Later, he finally makes his much vaunted phone call, preceding it with a super creepy reference to a Mr. Strawberry before causing the prison’s electrical systems to completely malfunction for the duration of his conversation. His message (“the cow jumped over the moon”) reaches a mysterious mechanical box in Buenos Aires which then self-implodes. Okay!
It’s hard not to immediately jump to the conclusion that Evil Cooper’s message is to Phillip Jeffries, especially given that The Missing Pieces revealed Jeffries was in Buenos Aires when he had his time/space incident. In all probability, that is the case. Does this mean we’re verging on a Bowie cameo? If so, it’s being kept top secret, which would make sense as this would be one of Bowie’s final filmed appearances before his death. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Bowie was busy recording Blackstar and overseeing the Lazarus musical, all while undergoing treatment for liver cancer, so the odds that he also reprised his role as Jeffries aren’t particularly great. It also feels as if Jeffries is meant to play a significant role here, one that would require more than a walk-on from a terminally ill man already busy with two other projects. Anything is possible — after all, Catherine Coulson filmed scenes just days before her death — and I’d be thrilled to see Bowie under any circumstances, but I think we have to be prepared for the potential of a recasting. (There’s a rumor on the street about who that might be but I won’t repeat it here, and no, I have zero clue if there’s any truth to it).
So, are Mr. C and Bob one and the same? While this will always be somewhat open for interpretation, Lynch seems to be veering more towards the idea that they are two separate entities. After all, we know Evil Coop is Cooper’s doppelganger, his shadow self made manifest. Bob looks to be attached to him in some way, feeding off of him without necessarily calling all the shots. As we’ve seen with Leland Palmer, this can eventually drive someone crazy to the point where there isn’t so much distinction anymore between their dark side and Bob, but right now, Mr. C seems very much his own person. I must say this is a very clever way to handle Frank Silva’s absence, allowing him to still remain present despite the fact that he can’t physically be in front of the camera.
Looking at the episode as a whole, one could pinpoint a certain recurring theme about America, particularly the current state of the country. Dr. Jacoby has become the exact kind of Alex Jones figure peddling the paranoid fringe ideas that have penetrated the mainstream lately, through questionable “news,” infotainment, the alt-right, etc. (I do think it’s important to distinguish that Jacoby isn’t exactly a Breitbart wannabe. He seems more modeled on the psychonautical anarchism of people like Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna, taken to a histrionic level). And in Las Vegas, this episode clarifies that Rancho Rosa isn’t a new suburban development, but in fact an older subdivision gone to pot, most of the homes in poor condition, either for sale or housing lower income families who’ve been sadly relegated to a moldering neighborhood with plummeting market value. Dougie Jones lives in the wealthier part of town and is coming over to Rancho Rosa to get his kicks. There feels a bit of a parallel between Janey-E/Sonny Jim and the 1–1–9 woman and her son, reflections of each other on different sides of the socioeconomic line. (And my god was I glad that little boy did not get blown up by the car bomb. Not a moment I’m ready to see any time soon).
But while it’s easy to cast this reading — and no doubt the new Twin Peaks is drawing from the world around us — it’s probably a mistake to make it the Theme of the Hour or to overthink Lynch and Frost’s intentions. This was not written to be an episode with its own coherent thematic focus; this is merely hour 5 of 18. However, there’s enough going on here to reflect the real world and be disturbing. Just look at the Rancho Rosa sign, portraying a 50's-style happy family, when the reality is more along the lines of Breaking Bad.
A happy veneer concealing the decay beneath? Welcome to Twin Peaks.
More Thoughts That Happened:
- Tom Sizemore makes my skin crawl no matter what role he’s playing. His work here was excellent, though my favorite role of his will always be Scagnetti from Natural Born Killers. So far, Cooper has seen green flashes and visions of the Lodge hallway. What else awaits? Also, insurance man Frank deciding he likes the green tea latte after all? Feelgood moment of the episode.
- Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper make their debut as the Mitchum brothers, the gangsters I mean owners of the Silver Mustang Casino. The scene of Knepper beating the casino’s floor manager into oblivion is brutal even for this show, and it’s clear these guys are significant heavies. Regarding Belushi and also Amanda Seyfried and Ernie Hudson, I was worried the presence of super-recognizable celebrities would be distracting this season, but so far it hasn’t been that way at all. I didn’t even recognize Ashley Judd or Jennifer Jason Leigh at first, and everybody so far has fit into this Twin Peaks whether they’re an A-list celebrity, returning cast member, character actor, or local extra.
- Now that I mention it, I no longer think of Ernie Hudson as an 80s star from stuff like Ghostbusters. To me he’s always Warden Leo Glynn from Oz, the series that brought the kind of storytelling to cable that has now manifest as Twin Peaks. I love that Hudson has joined the Peaks universe.
- Speaking of the land of Oz, Lynch has a tendency to crib inspiration from that classic movie, so I wonder if Cooper can’t return home until he finds his shoes. If so, I demand that he say “New shoes” at some point, because come on.
- My beloved Heidi finally made her reappearance in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment at the RR. More Heidi, please! Vroom-vrrroooommm!
- The Metaphysical Toad Mystery: Sharp-eared fans will notice that Norma referred to the cook at the RR as Toad. This is hella mega confusing, because on the series, Toad was a customer who frequented the RR and was played by Kevin Young. One could speculate that Toad eventually became the chef at the diner — after all, he had a propensity for inviting himself back into the kitchen — but that doesn’t actually work because the actor playing Toad in this episode, Marv Rosand, played the RR cook in a deleted scene from Fire Walk With Me. Even more confusing is that the cook is identified as Toad in the script for FWWM. So now the characters of Toad and the RR cook have merged into one and it makes pretty much zero sense. (Yes, for some reason I’ve waited until right now to complain about characters with uncertain identities combining in weird ways on Twin Peaks). My only explanation is that Toad Senior is the cook at the diner and Toad Junior is his son. There. Fixed it. Watch your fucking show sometime, Lynch and Frost! (Jk jk. Since FWWM was co-written by series writer Bob Engels and the show had only recently wrapped, almost assuredly this was the intended explanation at the time).
- As is the case with many episodes this season, part 5 is dedicated to a deceased cast member . . . in this instance Rosand, who passed away not long after shooting his scenes. It’s absolutely touching that Rosand’s only prior stint on Twin Peaks was in a scene axed from the movie but that Lynch still made sure to use him again 24 years later. Now he gets to go out in this glorious pop culture phenomenon. I am literally crying while typing this.
The above had me thinking about all the cast members who’ve passed away since the original run. I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge them (please let me know if I missed anyone):
Hank Worden (the Waiter), John Boylan (Mayor Milford), Royal Dano (Judge Sternwood), Ed Wright (Dell Mibbler), Frank Silva (Bob), Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Ron Taylor (Coach Wingate), Royce D. Applegate (Rev. Brocklehurst), Daniel O’Herlihy (Andrew Packard), Tony Jay (Dougie Milford), Calvin Lockhart (the Electrician), Don S. Davis (Major Briggs), Frances Bay (Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont), Ritch Brinkley (Daryl Lodwick), Little Jimmy Scott (Black Lodge singer), Catherine Coulson (Margaret), Marv Rosand (Toad the cook), David Bowie (Phillip Jeffries), Tony Burton (Col. Riley), Don Calfa (Vice Principal Greege), Miguel Ferrer (Albert), Warren Frost (Doc Hayward), Michael Parks (Jean Renault)