Twin Peaks: The Return boldly marches to its own beat, not just in terms of presentation and aesthetics but fan expectations as well. Lynch and Frost’s return to all these beloved characters has been particularly light on nostalgia and fan service. Who in their right mind would have predicted the almost total lack of Dale Cooper, for instance? It’s not the show anyone anticipated, but that is also one of its biggest strengths.
Tonight’s episode, however, offered two major sequences that truly felt like the sequel show many of us were waiting for. Both were deeply emotional - one happy, one heartbreaking - and they bookended a rather bleak outing with reminders that there is still good in this often awful, violent world. Evil in Twin Peaks clearly has the upper hand, which makes any sign of love and kindness shine that much brighter.
So Lynch and Frost finally let Ed and Norma have their love. They are going to get married and I honestly hope we never see them again. What a surprising, simple, and joyful conclusion to what has always been one of Peaks’ sadder storylines.
And on the other side, Lynch and Frost took the time to memorialize Margaret Lanterman, the Log Lady, who calls Hawk one last time to announce her impending death. As Hawk calls a meeting including Truman, Andy, Bobby and Lucy to break the news, it’s hard not to see the scene as a farewell to Catherine E. Coulson as well. Peaks often inspires laughter, fear and awe, but never have I felt as emotional as when the light dimmed from Margaret’s cabin.
The rest of the episode was business as usual, which is to say a ton of amazing things went down. The best bits involved the dual Coopers. Mr. C finally makes it to the Woodsman’s infamous convenient store - which acts as a terrifying way station to other nefarious places - where he confronts Phillip Jeffries, now in the form of giant tea kettle. The two discuss the identity of the mysterious Judy, who Jeffries claims Mr. C has already met. Jeffries’ role and motivation in all this is still not clear, especially since there appears to be misinformation in the mix, and now that the big confrontation has gone down, I suspect it never will be. Right now I’m much more interested in Mr. C’s anger at not getting the answers he needs. We’ve rarely seen him emote like that, and I’m excited to see what Judy means for him. Speaking of not emoting, Mr. C also meets his son (?) and beats the shit out of him before inviting him on his next adventure.
Meanwhile, we get what is likely to be a major breakthrough with Dougie Jones, who while curiously pushing buttons like a child, accidentally turns on Sunset Boulevard right at a moment that allows him to hear the name Gordon Cole. The familiar name jars something loose in Dougie and he finds himself beckoned by an electrical outlet. We leave Dougie on kind of a cliffhanger as he (don’t try this at home kids) electrocutes himself by shoving a fork into the outlet. It’s a fool who expects the real Coop to wake up each week, but with only three episodes to go, it’s very tempting to wonder if that knocked something loose.
I still have no idea what to think of this Audrey story. Of all new Peaks’ mysteries this is least engaging simply because we’re not offered enough information to properly weigh it. Given how amazing the show is otherwise, I have faith this is by design and just requires more patience for a payoff. But given that it’s also Twin Peaks, who knows.
We’ve seen a lot of little stories in Twin Peaks that don’t have anything to do with the show’s main plots, some as a reason to check in on old characters, and some that I believe are there just to illustrate the town’s rotting soul. To that end, the saga of Caleb Landry Jones’ Steven appears to have concluded with the declaration of high school graduation and a bullet to the head. I’m cool with this.
I’m also extremely cool with Lynch and Frost not making us wait long for Chekhov’s Gardening Glove to get some action. Yes, Twin Peaks has a superhero who punches so hard it can make a ZZ Top MP3 skip. Given his proximity to all those other wackos in the Twin Peaks jail, I don’t think we’re done with this guy yet.
But even with all this activity, when I think about episode fifteen, it’s going to be the emotional bookends I remember most. It’s easy to get lost in the darkness of Twin Peaks and forget Lynch and Frosts’ fondness for these characters. I’m so thankful for the show each week, whatever it chooses to give me. But I’m especially thankful for this one, which really did feel like a service to fans.