Twin Peaks episode 13: Wherein David Lynch Doesn’t Give a GAF

Yep, it happened, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This episode needs no introduction.

Western Montana

It’s been a few episodes since we’ve seen Evil Cooper, so this hour allows us to catch up with him, and catch up we certainly do. Finally arriving at the criminal haven called the Farm, Mr. C is challenged to an arm wrestling match by Renzo (Derek Mears, looking like a Hulked out Ken Wilbur) before he can claim the ever-slippery Ray. What follows is something that viewers won’t soon forget, as DoppelCoop proceeds to dominate the match despite being a sure lose, toying with Renzo before breaking Renzo’s arm and then collapsing his face with one single direct punch.

For those focused solely on the violence against women this season, this scene does nothing if not highlight the fact that Twin Peaks (and David Lynch’s work at large) is often satirizing what’s nowadays called toxic masculinity. This entire sequence is full of so many ridiculous 80s action movie clichés and pumped up male bravado that it reads very much as a subverting of those tropes. Like Frank Booth and Bobby Peru and Mr. Eddy, Evil Cooper is that ridiculous masculine impulse taken to the extreme. But here he’s also the outsider, the lonely weirdo who initially emerges as a plaything for Renzo and Ray before the tables are turned. This scene is all violence against men — first Renzo’s over-the-top death, then Ray’s torture and murder — and while it’s not the same thing as the brutalization of innocent women, it finds its own disturbing footing.

It’s pretty conclusively established here that Phillip Jeffries wants Mr. C dead, and that it was Jeffries who had the Lodge ring given to Ray in order for Evil Cooper to be transported back to the Black Lodge. I’m not sure why Mr. C is surprised by this information, given that he overhead Ray say that Jeffries ordered the hit on him all the way back in episode 2, but whatever. The planets are aligning, which is made even clearer when Richard emerges among the Farm’s thugs, yet another convergence of this show’s many storylines. Is Mr. C is his father, or does he just admire Evil Cooper’s sinister machismo? We’ll soon find out.

Las Vegas

Picking up from two weeks ago, Dougie and the Mitchum Brothers are wrapping up their wild night out by conga-lining into the office of Bushnell Mullins, while weird choppy keyboard music plays over the soundtrack and Anthony Sinclair looks on in horror. Anthony’s later attempt to poison Dougie himself fails spectacularly, when he mistakes Cooper’s brain-zapped curiosity for Dougie being aware of his plans, a moment of projection if there ever was one.

Tom Sizemore quite simply steals all these scenes, similar to Matthew Lillard several episodes ago. It turns out that Sinclair isn’t the amoral criminal sleaze he initially appeared to be, but is in fact mentally and emotionally collapsing from having made decisions with which he absolutely cannot live. Anthony feels genuinely terrible about everything he’s done, and it has a little extra emotional impact given Sizemore’s own struggles in real life. His cracking and subsequent repentance is just another in a long line of light that Cooper has been spreading as Dougie; his existence is a domino effect changing people’s lives for the better.

Which brings me to the frequent grumbling that the Dougie plot is pointless or going nowhere, or that Cooper is never coming back because Lynch and Frost are mean and trying to hurt our feelings. Let’s not forget, this season opened with the Giant giving Coop a message about things to come; the first scene is essentially Coop being sent on a quest. This entire season is that quest. Dale Cooper has things he must accomplish in Twin Peaks, but I would argue that everything happening in Vegas is a big part of what he needs to do. Yes, he’s in a reduced capacity, but he’s acting as a force of light. This is all part of his journey. We have yet to see the end point of that path, but remember what the Giant himself said about paths. The groundwork is still being laid.

Twin Peaks

What’s going to stand out to most people, though, is the final 15 or 20 minutes of this episode, which provide a heaping dose of smiley nostalgia and then a painful scouring of that nostalgia, arguably Twin Peaks’ two specialties.

First, we catch up with Norma at the RR. The camera casually pans over to her booth to reveal the presence of Big Ed, making his first appearance in the new series. Initially, he and Norma seem to be together, but then Ed hits Bobby with the “nothin’ happenin’ here” line, and the souls of a million Twin Peaks fans dry up and die in a heartbeat. Things get more upsetting when Norma is paid a visit by Walter, a businessman who’s been working with her on a Norma’s RR Diner franchise throughout the region. Using slick bean counter speak, he attempts to convince Norma to use lesser ingredients in her pies in order to cut costs and increase profit. Even worse, it’s strongly suggested that Walter and Norma have a thing going on the side, which only grinds the knife deeper as Big Ed watches and yearns from afar. (What probably says everything we need to know about these two men is that Ed remembers Walter’s name; Walter does not remember Ed’s.).

But this is interspersed with a bit of happiness, as Nadine finally meets Dr. Amp in the flesh. While obviously she’s met Jacoby plenty of times before, both of their lives have changed somewhat for the better by this point, so this meeting is altogether different. It’s murky as to whether Ed and Nadine are married or separated, but Nadine looks to be doing well, and Wendy Robie is clearly having a thrill returning to the role. Jacoby too, despite his hippie libertarian conspiracy theorist ranting, also is doing well in his own way. While it might be a bit early to start Nadamp shipping, this scene offers a lovely moment, a genuinely sweet glimpse into something nice happening in Twin Peaks.

Then we return to Sarah Palmer, who we last saw having a breakdown in a supermarket and then telling Hawk she was fine when she was clearly not fine in any way, shape, or form. This episode subjects us to several minutes of Sarah in her living room as she somnambulantly attempts to drink every last drop of vodka left in her house while the same ten-second clip of a vintage boxing match plays on her television.

There is no other way to put it: this scene is physically painful to watch. Not just in its repetitiveness and its aesthetic stasis, but also in what it’s depicting. This is a ruined shell of a person who has completely given up, and like many people with addictions or in a collapsing mental state, Sarah is almost entirely oblivious to her surroundings, happy to be repeating the same action over and over again as it slowly kills her. Formally, it’s the opposite of something like Requiem for a Dream, but in many ways it’s showing the same thing . . . the cycle of self-destruction which grinds a person into nothing.

More than any other drawn out moment this season, I wanted this particular scene to stop. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s entirely too effective. While largely reiterating what we already saw of Sarah Palmer earlier in the season, here the claws dig deeper, forcing you to feel the complete spiritual hell that is her life. This is also not the first time we’ve watched the cycle of pain and repetition occur in this very living room, since on the original series we heard Leland’s record stuck in a groove when he murdered Maddy, repeating itself just like the clip of the boxing match does here.

We also pick up where we left off with Audrey and Charlie in the previous episode. But what before came across as a depiction of marital discord and midlife crisis now becomes something else, as it’s made exceedingly obvious that something is very wrong here. Audrey is not herself, and she knows it. The sharp-witted and strong-willed person from episode 12 suddenly becomes a confused and frightened child, unsure of exactly who or where she is. Her conversation with Charlie shifts into a new gear of unsettling when he threatens to end her story, one of those classically Lynchian lines that is deeply threatening in its vagueness. “What story is that, Charlie? Is it the one about the little who girl who lived down the lane?” she asks before breaking into uncontrollable sobs. Whatever is transpiring here remains unspoken, ominously draped over the entire scene. Yet again, Audrey Horne is in trouble.

But it’s what follows that is sure to detonate like the nuclear bomb from part eight. In keeping with previous episodes, Lynch cuts away to a musical performance at the Roadhouse. But this time, it’s Twin Peaks’ very own James Hurley who takes the stage to reprise “Just You and I,” his anthem of teenage longing originally performed with Donna and Maddy in episode 9 of the original show.

Easily and objectively the most hated moment from the first incarnation of Twin Peaks, the fact that Lynch chose to recreate it here manages to astound, mystify, amuse, and irritate in equal measure. Many people have chosen to believe that this is Lynch’s way of trolling the audience, his joke to the fans that he recognizes how terrible the song is and now he’s having fun with it. Others think this is Lynch’s very direct fuck you to the James haters, a message to everyone that James is still cool and has always been cool, thank you very much.

I think people should stop flattering themselves. This wasn’t David Lynch’s message to anyone, though in its own way it does rank as kind of a fuck you. Here’s the thing: David Lynch does not care. He’s a 70-year old artist making weird paintings with meat and hanging out with beautiful people in France. He has zero idea what anybody is saying on Twitter or Facebook or chat rooms or message boards. He doesn’t even want to know. I mean this in the best possible way, but the man is oblivious. Lynch couldn’t give a fuck what scathing James meme somebody posted. He probably has no idea that James hate is even a thing.

This moment in episode 13 happens because Lynch likes James, and he likes that song, and by golly, he’s gonna use ’em. “But David Lynch is a genius! How could he actually like James? Why won’t he conform to what I decided his intentions are!?!?!?” Sorry. I know we’ve all gotten used to the creators of our favorite shows being open to audience feedback, particularly because of social media, but that is just not gonna happen here. And I think that’s a great thing. Truly. It’s a great and beautiful thing that Lynch just creates, and does his best to not be influenced by what others are saying. And given his devotion to TM and his avoidance of things that would be too negative or shallow, why the hell would David Lynch even want to concern himself with this bullshit?

Personally, I love James. It’s fine if you don’t — I mean that sincerely; a lot of people I know can’t stand his character — but I love him. I cried when he walked into the Roadhouse and smiled in episode 2, because it was the first moment in the new series where it felt like my friends were back. I mean, of course I think him singing that song on the old series is preposterous. It’s a silly moment. David Lynch knows it’s corny, but like Sandy’s dream in Blue Velvet, there’s a sweetness and innocence to it that is not only not a joke, but very genuine. (Also don’t forget that this scene was followed by one of the most frightening moments in the original series: Bob appearing in the Hayward’s living room. So there’s a tonal reason for it as well).

Like Big and Norma pining for each other or Sarah drinking and smoking herself to death in her living room, James is repeating the past, but in this case it’s not so heartbreaking. Or it is, but in a different way. While one could argue there’s a pathetic aspect to still singing a song from your teenage years well into your 40s, in this case it seems like Lynch is more framing the loveliness of nostalgia. And there’s something real in that song too . . . a sadness, a longing for times long past or that never were, and an earnestness that is painfully true. All of those things — floating in the ether, ineffable, better expressed in the scene than I’m expressing now — move one woman in the Roadhouse audience to tears, and it moved me to tears too (while also making me laugh hysterically).

So yes, David Lynch thinks James is cool. David Lynch does not give a fuck. If he did, this show might not be so great.

More Thoughts That Happened:

  • Frank Collison returns to Lynchland as Farm thug and arm wrestling ref Muddy, having last worked with Lynch in Wild At Heart (“That fuckin’ Bob was so fuckin’ dumb he deserved to die. Asshole!”). But I always remember him as one of the hitmen from The Last Boy Scout, where he witnesses Bruce Willis kill someone just by punching them in the face. Hilariously enough, that exact same scenario played out in this episode.
  • Similar to the musical number, it could be easy to interpret Norma’s discussion with Walter as some Lynch/Frost meta commentary on their brief struggle with Showtime. But while I have no doubt the scene was partly inspired by their dealings with studios over the years, I think Lynch and Frost are more just getting at the difficulties that happen when nostalgia meets reality, and when a place like Twin Peaks is discovered by the rest of the world.
  • I have zero theories as to what the hell is wrong with Audrey. Brain damage from the bank explosion? Is she still in a coma? Is she role-playing with Charlie? No clue.
  • I can’t be the only one who kept wishing one of the boxers on Sarah’s TV would turn out to be Battling Bud.
  • Jessica Szohr returns as Shelley’s friend and James’ crush, Renee. Her emotional reaction to his song makes me hope they made sex into each other later.
  • Big Ed sitting by himself at Big Ed’s Farm, eating lonely soup and playing with matches, has to be the most dour ending so far on the new series.
  • I know there’s been a lot of thoughts floating around about the confused timeline and continuity errors and how they may be Lynch hinting at time travel and alternate universes, but honestly I suspect he just changed the order of a lot of scenes in editing. Ditto with things like weird-looking reflections; Lynch seems to have had them added digitally in post-production, and some of them are a little glitchy, but that’s probably just the CGI and not an actual artistic statement.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store