So let’s just get the most obvious thing out of the way, upfront and center, right now: We saw Diane.
We. Saw. Diane.
An unveiling 27 years in the making, the mysterious recipient of Agent Cooper’s taped messages now has a last name (Evans) and a face. And a platinum wig. And she looks like Laura Dern and she’s played by Laura Dern because oh my god we met Diane and she’s Laura Dern.
Of course, we got nothing else Diane-related other than confirmation that she’s not a cassette player, coffeemaker, or delusion, but something is better than nothing here.
And perhaps we needed a reveal like this because the episode otherwise had some extremely unpleasant moments, from gruesome to tragic.
On the Vegas side of things, Cooper is continuing his Dougoise lifestyle, though thankfully Janey-E has started piecing together that something seems seriously off with him. I know a lot of people have drubbed this storyline because it’s unrealistic that more folks wouldn’t have noticed how Dougie suddenly has the mind of a child, but I’d like to point out a couple things. First, it’s been well established that Dougie has a drinking and gambling problem, so his strange, flakey behavior is not entirely out of character. Secondly, this is Twin Peaks. People don’t act like normal human beings on this show. The humor of Twin Peaks is partly rooted in the absurd interactions between characters, which is stylized and awkward. This isn’t hyperrealism. That said, there’s often a kernel of truth in its portrayal of the odd ways that people behave, and how we don’t always do things that make sense.
Cooper’s intuition gets a workout here, as the mysterious green light directs him to highlight fraud being committed by fellow insurance agent Anthony Sinclair; what begins as nonsensical childish scribbles becomes Coop-Dougie cluing his boss into a massive scheme going on at Lucky 7. This is the closest Cooper has come to being Cooper again, though it’s not discernible if he even understands what’s going on in any substantial way.
Meanwhile, the One-Armed Man has sent him the message “You have to wake up. Don’t die.” In case it’s not obvious what that means, the episode spells it out by introducing us to Ike the Spike, a diminutive and totally ripped hitman who prefers to violently gore people with a personalized icepick. The scene of Ike murdering three women, including Lorraine (the person who failed to execute the hit on Dougie), is so violent and disturbing that it unfolds like a bad dream. Even worse is that Dougie Jones is next on Ike’s list, and it is very very apparent that Ike neither shows mercy nor does he spare innocent bystanders. The Jones family is in trouble. Big trouble.
Not all is grim in Vegas, though, as Janey-E confronts the sharks to whom Dougie owes a significant amount of money. Janey proceeds to put them in their place, in the process excoriating them for participating in the moral decline of society, even going so far as to mention that she and Dougie are actually not that well-off and don’t deserve and can’t afford this crap. This scene is a standout for Naomi Watts, whose performance will hopefully quell the doubts that some have regarding her character. It’s important to remember that we immediately sympathize with Coop because we know he’s Coop; Janey-E doesn’t know that. She thinks this is Dougie, and it’s crystal clear at this point that she’s put up with Dougie’s addictions, aloofness, and absence for far too long. Similar to Skyler White, she’s fighting to save her family, because no one else will. (Also great to see that one of the henchman is played by Jeremy “Henry Thomas Charles Manson” Davies, most famous for his turn as Daniel Faraday on LOST).
Aside from Vegas, the rest of the hour takes place in Twin Peaks. Richard, our creep of the week from the previous episode, finds himself upstaged by Red, Balthazar Getty’s character who flirted with Shelly at the Roadhouse earlier in the season. But let’s hope Shelly steered clear, as Red is revealed to be a drug dealer with an intensity bordering on Frank Booth levels. In between weird karate-like moves, complaining about his liver, and mentioning The King & I, Red performs a freaky as hell magic trick with a dime, one that unsettles Richard to the core. It’s not totally apparent if the magic trick was “real” or if Richard is just high beyond belief, but it doesn’t matter. Red means to psychically terrorize Richard, and it works. As we later see, this proves to have devastating consequences for the entire community.
Before those consequences, we are reacquainted with Carl Rodd, whose Fat Trout Trailer Park looks to have relocated just outside of Twin Peaks. The world-weary Carl brags about still being alive despite smoking every day for 75 years, and then has coffee alone in a park, where he takes in the sight of the trees and the sound of the wind blowing through them. Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch are always a natural fit as actor and director, and it’s a joy to see Stanton reprise Carl, one of the standout new characters from Fire Walk With Me.
But that happiness at seeing Carl again is quickly shattered. Richard, completely keyed up on drugs and fuming that Red had the nerve to keep calling him “kid,” flies into a fit of road rage and attempts to run a red light in his truck, in the process running over and killing a young boy. This scene is horrifying, no other way to put it. Lynch actually shows the accident instead of keeping it off screen, provoking a visceral reaction. (The moment seems almost like an answer to the previous episode, where the 1–1–9 lady’s child narrowly avoided being killed by a car bomb).
As people stare, dumbstruck, Carl runs to the mother as she holds her dead child. Beforehand, he witnesses a light emerge from the boy and float up past the electrical wires and into the sky. As he comforts the woman, he radiates a compassion that impacts not only her, but everyone in the vicinity, as if he’s some kind of spiritual figure offering a moment of healing grace as others bear witness. It plays as a deeply reverent moment, almost religious, with Angelo Badalamenti’s sparsely used score returning to the foreground with a haunting piece that recalls “Fred’s World” from Lost Highway.
I am well aware that some folks are taken out of the scene by the acting of the extras, who make very obvious “I am reacting to something sad!” gestures. Some are arguing that Lynch is using that to disarm the scene by making it ironic. Others are saying it’s meant to be a comment about how people lack genuine empathy. And some just think it’s bad acting and Lynch couldn’t be bothered because he’s 70 and collecting his goddamn paycheck, thank you.
Personally, I feel that all these miss the mark. There’s a couple of things happening here. My own reading is that Lynch isn’t portraying this exactly as it would happen in real life; as stated above, there’s a form of holiness to this scene, and the people watching are reacting in the heavily dramatized manner that’s often a characteristic of religious iconography, or even a music video. Also, Lynch has a tendency to focus on awkwardness instead of cutting away from it; he’s always had an inclination to emphasize odd rhythms and unpolished moments.
To me it doesn’t feel like these people are being assholes who don’t care and just want to gawk. This little boy is dead and it’s too late, so people stand there, not knowing what to do because nothing can be done. It’s easy to balk but even in real life, we often react in ways that we would normally otherwise dismiss as clichéd. We frankly look somewhat absurd when we don’t know what to do. Again, there’s a kernel of truth here. There is a truth in many clichés. And the sadness that moves through the bystanders demonstrates the empathic holy moment that they’re witnessing. Perhaps Carl is amplifying that feeling of empathy or perhaps the bystanders would’ve felt this way no matter what, but this scene is built on a shared, collective spiritual experience, with Carl taking on a mystic role.
(As for Lynch trying to be ironic, I’m sorry but he’s never seemed that detached as a filmmaker. Though he often tries to wrest absurd humor out of extreme situations, I just don’t see him mining the death of a child for sardonic laughs).
Back at the Sheriff’s Department — which seems to have become the nucleus of all Twin Peaks-bound storylines, just as it was on the original show — Hawk discovers several mysterious pages hidden in the door of a men’s room stall. Many of us already suspect what these pieces of paper are: in all likelihood, Hawk has found Laura’s extra-secret pages from her secret diary, the ones containing Annie’s message “the Good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can’t leave.” It could turn out to be something totally different, but it’s ingrained enough in Twin Peaks lore that someone was meant to one day find these pages, and we’re probably seeing that happen here. This will be the first step to people finally figuring out that Cooper At Large is not the real Coop.
The episode ends on a melancholy note, with the revelation that Doris Truman is not some harpy who torments her husband for fun, but that both she and Frank are still reeling from the suicide of their son, who was a soldier. This type of bombshell immediately casts both characters — and their strained relationship — in a totally different light, and (similar to Janey-E) probably caused many people to rethink their opinion of Doris. We likewise had a similar moment for Richard Horne . . . not that he becomes sympathetic exactly, but we can now see he isn’t the uber-confident sexist jerk he appeared to be when we first met him. He’s desperately insecure, paranoid, and wracked with a deep self-hatred (a trend which will probably continue after causing the death of a child). One of the strengths of the original series was that its characters often weren’t who they initially appeared to be, and that’s been carried over here. Like the town itself, every person has hidden layers.
So, we’re now officially a third of the way through the new Twin Peaks. Thus far, the series has been well-received critically and by fans, though the Dougie Jones plotline seems to be wearing on the patience of more and more viewers.
Building on the concerns about the Dougie story and its willingness to meander, it’s been speculated that this is Lynch and Frost’s way of padding to fulfill an 18 episode obligation. When this revival event was first announced, Showtime had committed to 9 episodes. Following their much publicized falling out and subsequent reconciliation with Lynch, the episode order was upped to 18. It’s been oft-assumed this is because Lynch was able to negotiate a sweeter deal to get even more Peaks on the air. However, there’s little evidence that much actually changed in terms of content. It’s a known fact that Lynch and Frost had already written the script before presenting it to Showtime; they spent a year or two getting it exactly where it needed to be. It seems unlikely that they would agree to something where they had to suddenly double the amount of material. This new Twin Peaks was not written in terms of individual episodes, either. Instead, it was written as a long film to be divided into hour-long segments during editing.
No, most likely the real factor here is that Lynch paces things much, much slower than an average director. On a typical movie or TV production, a page of script is about a minute of film. With Lynch, one paragraph of stage direction could easily turn into ten minutes of screentime. Even a brief conversation about handing someone a phone book will be filled with so many pauses and odd details that it can take forever. So aside from some rewriting to accommodate casting issues, I doubt that anything was majorly expanded. More likely there’s around nine hours of script, but Lynch was realistic about the fact that he’d end up with twice that. Almost all of his films are way too long when initially assembled, and he has to cut them down severely. With Twin Peaks, we’re finally seeing what a Lynch movie looks like when not forced to fit a certain running time.
This is one-third of the way through that movie. I can’t wait for the next two-thirds.
More Thoughts That Happened:
- DIANE SRSLY XOMG!!!!
- Diane’s last name is Evans. This is also my last name. A nod to me, perhaps? (don’t ruin it let me have this pls)
- “Fuck Gene Kelley, you motherfucker!” might be my favorite Albert line ever. I am yelling it the next time I have trouble with an umbrella.
- Though theorizing doesn’t go very far, it seems reasonable to conclude that the hit out on Dougie is because he needs to be killed in order for Mr. C to continue thriving. The One-Armed Man already explained that one of the two Coopers has to die. Evil Cooper doesn’t appear to be at the top of this food chain, however. Currently all signs point to Jeffries, but that could be a complete misdirect.
- Heidi is back, as is her famous giggle. We also meet Miriam the schoolteacher, with whom I am now in love, and my horrible internet alter ego will commence writing some slash fiction about this scene in some godforsaken subreddit. Seriously though, I am very worried for Miriam, as she’s the eyewitness who can put Richard in jail, and they both saw each other.
- One of Carl’s residents is an as-yet unseen woman named Linda, hearkening back to the Giant’s clue about Richard and Linda. We’ve already met a Richard, so this is possibly the Linda we’ve been looking for.
- In keeping with the Where The Hell Is Deer Meadow? theme that has plagued fans since 1992, this episode further confuses things by implying that Carl’s trailer park has moved, but then uses the same filming location from FWWM. The mysterious supernatural utility pole has also followed, which seems pretty unlikely, but I guess supernatural utility poles can do that? Mark Frost’s book actually places Deer Meadow a couple of towns away from Twin Peaks, while Fire Walk With Me implied it’s either in lower Washington or northern Oregon, and the pilot episode said it was in Washington, and jesus I give up. It says “New” Fat Trout Trailer Park so I’ll choose to believe it’s not the one from the film until someone in the series says otherwise, which will probably happen in the next episode because Lynch and Frost don’t care about our feelings.
- Speaking of filming locations, many have already pointed out that the intersection where the accident occurs is the same site where Gerard confronted Leland and Laura in the prequel.
- Carl most definitely has some sort of special ability, which builds on his “I’ve already gone places” line from FWWM.
- Assuming these are the missing pieces of Laura’s diary, who would have hidden those pages? Come to think of it, how did she even write in her diary, considering she had already turned it over to Harold before Annie’s message? On the other hand, Donna found a page from the diary dated the day of Laura’s death, so this is probably another Where is Deer Meadow? situation.
- Deputy Chad seems to be the embodiment of every horrible “hey I’m gonna say this awful thing because I’m just tellin it like it is, man” internet troll. From now on, I’m calling him 4Chad.