Here at BMD, we're taking a tag-team approach to reviewing Twin Peaks: The Return - not what we normally do for show reviews, but a practice that's yielding dividends in the variety of takes we're getting. Like the rest of you, I’ve been watching in dumbfounded bafflement, piecing together dream logic that often makes sense more emotionally than narratively. And like anyone still watching at this point, I'm adoring it.
Agent Cooper’s escape from the Black Lodge may have ascended into full Lynchian surrealism, but his subsequent return to reality - via doppelganger Dougie Jones - has unfolded in a relatively straightforward fashion. The story may be strange and supernatural, but David Lynch and Mark Frost tell it methodically and conventionally, allowing Cooper’s long road to rehabilitation to take the time it needs. We hang on every milestone straining to draw out his former self - his first coffee, the case files, the policeman’s badge - like we’re watching an Alzheimer’s sufferer looking at old photos. It may be slow, but that process of rediscovering humanity feels true, largely thanks to Kyle MacLachlan’s performance - by turns delightful, inscrutable, and achingly sad. “Wake up,” entreats one-armed Mike from the Black Lodge. “Don’t die,” we implore along with him. Maybe Twin Peaks: The Return is, as its title suggests, simply the story of Cooper returning from the Black Lodge, undoing two decades of spiritual abuse. Does it have to be anything more?
Whether it needs to be or not, it is. Consider Cooper’s return from the perspectives of Janey-E (Naomi Watts, acting almost in a vacuum) and the improbably-named Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon, too young to watch the show he’s in). They’re experiencing the strange phenomenon of a flawed but beloved father figure turning catatonic almost overnight, all the while owing $50,000 to gangsters. They may not be brought to epiphany, as Dougie’s boss is, by his cryptic drawings of ladders and stairs, but they both love him still, despite the circumstances. I almost dread the emergence of the “real” Cooper, presuming it’ll manifest in Dougie rather than the evil doppelganger in FBI custody. Those poor Joneses.
Meanwhile, in Twin Peaks, organised crime continues to flourish as ever, with Balthazar Getty’s Red menacing young Richard Horne (last seen doing menacing of his own in the Bang Bang Bar) with philosophy, threats of violence, and magic tricks (including the same “heads I win, tails you lose” trick that got me outrageously drunk at a Christmas party one time (don't fucking ask)). The scene establishes Red as a quietly unhinged psychopath, but more importantly sends Horne on a coke-fuelled road rampage, ending with the shocking hit-and-run death of a young boy playing tag with his mother.
And holy shit, folks. That scene. An agonising build-up, melodramatic music, and A+ featured-extra work (especially the slow facepalm from a friendly truck driver) pull together into one of the most incredible and uncomfortably hilarious scenes of the new season so far. It’s witnessed by Carl Rodd (a noteworthy figure in Fire Walk With Me and the Secret History of Twin Peaks book, played by the wonderful Harry Dean Stanton), as is what appears to be the kid’s soul or essence escaping into the sky. Curious stuff, especially to [SPOILERS] a possible former alien abductee.
Equally shocking: the awl-murder of new supporting character Lorraine (and others) by dice-rolling hitman Ike “The Spike” Stadtler (little-person actor Christophe Zajac-Denek). While Ike's awl may have been broken, so were his victims: Lorraine's is a sudden and brutal killing, heralded only by a piece of hip-hop music that will surely haunt the show again. Given that Dougie also appears in Ike's target dossier (as sent by the character played by Patrick Fischler, who I will forever know as the Winkie’s Diner Guy), Cooper/Dougie may well have some spiky trouble coming his way shortly.
Meanwhile (again): taking a piss in the station men’s room, Deputy Hawk happens across a Buffalo nickel, which leads his attention to a Nez Perce-manufactured stall door - and to what's inside it. Those who read Secret History know the Nez Perce tribe holds significance in the world of Twin Peaks, but surely this is also the clue Hawk’s been looking for - the one that “has to do with his heritage.” What’s in the multi-page note he finds in the door? Are those pages from Laura Palmer’s diary? A message from the Black Lodge? Or something else entirely? Regardless, the note represents forward movement in Hawk’s attempts to discern what happened to Cooper. The two ends of that mystery crawl, inexorably, towards each other; it’s only a matter of time before they meet.
The final major reveal, of course, is the one given the least screen time: that of Diane - Diane Evans, to be precise - drinking, as Albert expected, at the Max Von Bar in New York. (Turns out that cut to the Bang Bang Bar was a red herring.) We’ll surely see more of Diane in the coming weeks, but for now we have to come to terms with Diane really, actually, being a flesh-and-blood character and not just a dramatic device. Fan theories that she was Cooper’s imaginary friend, or dead, or whatever, have been struck down (hooray!), replaced by the great Laura Dern. Only Dern could pull off playing this iconic, never-seen character, and I’m excited to get to know the woman who received all those voice recordings all those years ago.
Other images of note: the 119 lady continues to chant “119”. Double-R Diner waitress Heidi giggles irrepressibly at (at least until Cooper’s return) #1 pie customer Miriam’s inane stories. Doris and Frank Truman’s marriage (possibly my favourite new relationship on the show) continues to be defined by screamed lecturing over seemingly insignificant worries, while asshole Deputy Broxford hilariously mocks their deceased son’s PTSD. The number six makes a prominent appearance. A dime spins seemingly endlessly in mid-air. And a traffic light stops on red. You could spend hours decoding these symbols into plot points, and many Redditors already have, but to me, that's a waste of time.
Twin Peaks logic is all about feels, not reals. And boy, are Lynch and Frost bringing the feels.