It’s tempting to call this week's Twin Peaks: The Return “exposition heavy.” Precious little happens, and scene after scene of dialogue piles up, until by the time we get to the episode's by-now-familiar final minutes at the Road House, we’re watching three people we’ve never seen before sipping Heinekens* while talking about three other people we’ve never seen before. Folks tuning in expecting a ramping up of plot got little more than a sniper’s kill shot and the long-awaited return of Audrey Horne.
But haven’t all the enigmatic moments of Twin Peaks: The Return (even those wordless passages from the legendary eighth episode) been “exposition” in one way or another? Bits of information that either inform a situation we know about, or will eventually inform a situation we will eventually come to know about?
That’s the hope, as we watch Audrey (Sherliyn Fenn) berate her husband Charlie (Clark Middleton) over his reluctance to go out and look for Billy (??), who’s been missing for two days. During the course of this scene, which has all the electricity of a beginner’s improv class, we learn that Audrey and Billy have been fucking, and that Charlie heard from Tina (???) that Billy was last seen by Chuck (¯\_(ツ)_/¯). Audrey also seems to be under some sort of contract with her husband. More later? Fingers crossed.
Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) visits Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) to tell him his grandson Richard is responsible for the death of the boy recently killed at an intersection, and that he subsequently tried to kill Miriam (Sarah Jean Long), the only witness. Confronted with the utter disaster that his progeny and legacy has turned out to be, Ben retreats into a memory of a green bicycle his father gave him.
But it’s not all bad exposition! Back in the Dakotas, Gordon (David Lynch) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) induct Tammy (Chrysta Bell) into the Blue Rose Task Force, and in doing so fill in the viewers on the history of that elite group. Exciting info, indeed. They also deputize Diane (Laura Dern) while keeping an eye on her mysterious text message exchanges.
Also, Gordon Cole Fucks. (Nice to see Skyfall’s Berenice Marlohe in a cameo.)
On the action (or at least non-exposition) front, Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan) sits out the bulk of this episode for a game of catch with Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon). Hutch (Tim Roth) and Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) make good on a promise to Bad Coop, killing Warden Murphy (James Morrison). Back in Twin Peaks, Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) finally makes it out of the woods, while Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie) is still glued to her set, watching Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) foam at the mouth over the state of the government. We know that feel, Dr. J. Across town, Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) continues his efforts to be an agent of good, though swimming against that particular tide seems to have withered the poor old bastard down to a husk.
By the time we’re back at the Road House listening to strangers talk about strangers while the Chromatics play a return engagement, one wonders just how crucial the events of this episode were to the overall arc (and if we should have been taking notes: no fewer than ten new characters seem to have been introduced and/or mentioned in the back half of this episode). Odds are nothing's here without a reason, and one suspects we might need to remember all those new names that were rattled off. But this was an hourlong reminder that Twin Peaks has a long tradition of being more than a little oblique.
Nevertheless, this episode without question earns its Showtime subscription fee. Within this frustrating hour were a pair of scenes that evoked the creepy wiggins of OG Peaks, and both those scenes belonged to Grace Zabriskie. Sarah Palmer is a shell, reduced to the crazy old lady muttering to herself while buying liquor at the grocery store. But thanks to Ms. Zabriskie’s performance (and Lynch’s unsettling sound design), the stain of grief on Laura Palmer’s mother has only become darker and more terrifying - to the residents of Twin Peaks, and to us. Among maybe the chattiest hour of the show’s 27-year history, Lynch turns on the goosebump-inducing dread for a couple minutes - maybe just to let us know he still can.
He still can.
*Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!