TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN: THE RETURN: “The Absurd Mystery Of The Strange Forces Of Existence”
The closing credits of TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN’s “Part 3” end with the words, “In Memory of Don S. Davis and Miguel Ferrer.” Davis played Major Briggs in TWIN PEAKS’ original run, and he appears in THE RETURN in archive footage after passing away in 2008. And Ferrer, of course, played beloved FBI agent and notorious sourpuss Albert Rosenfield, appearing in eleven episodes of THE RETURN, starting with “Part 3.” In January 2017, four months before Albert returned to our screens, Ferrer died of throat cancer at the terribly young age of 61. I miss him.
Albert’s only in the last eight minutes or so of “Part 3,” but his presence is an immediate balm, one of the soothing, unbreakable ties binding THE RETURN to TWIN PEAKS of old. Like everything familiar in THE RETURN, he is deepened here, complicated, matured. We get a moment of the old comedy – Albert hollering at poor deaf Cole (David Lynch himself) – and we get plenty of Albert’s no-nonsense competency, his bone-deep proficiency at the work of being a federal investigator. But we also get this one brief, poignant line delivery, a moment of wistfulness at odds with Albert’s gruff exterior. After hearing that his old colleague and friend Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has been spotted, Albert sighs to Special Agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell), “The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence…” and then, snapping back to the wry grump we met in 1990, “How about a truckload of Valium?”
“The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence” is the subtitle of Lynch’s unfinished film project RONNIE ROCKET, a surrealist tale dealing with many of the Lynchian hallmarks we see in THE RETURN (and, well, in just about everything he makes): electricity, deformity and “idealized 1950s culture.” It’s also a description of TWIN PEAKS itself, its early ‘90s version and the far weirder and darker masterpiece we got in the summer of 2017. There’s plenty of absurd mystery in even the most straightforward episodes of TWIN PEAKS’ early run, but THE RETURN is more interested in bigger questions, stranger questions, confronting the very forces of existence themselves and asking all of us to travel a little further beyond our pie and coffee jokes.
It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful, that this contradiction is spoken aloud by Albert, who is the most confounding contradiction from the moment we meet him marching into the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, pissing off everyone he comes across, even Twin Peaks’ most placid residents like Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), Andy (Harry Goaz) and Doc Hayward (Warren Frost). His big city bluster and devastating skill at crafting an insult bring out one of the earliest signs of the cool steel hidden beneath Cooper’s gee whiz affability, and it provokes the otherwise gentle Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) into throwing a punch. Albert knows how to get under everyone’s skin.
But after a season of contempt and barely disguised incivility, the third episode into Season 2 shows an unexpected side of Albert, some compelling nuance that at last explains his friendship with the much kinder Cole and Coop.
Let’s go ahead and transcribe that resplendent monologue:
Now you listen to me – while I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchetman in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I'll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method... is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.
What a marvel. We spend an entire season chuckling at the tantrums of this apoplectic snob (although even at Albert’s worst, Ferrer instills him with a dignity that makes us like him when we shouldn’t), only to discover that vast depths pool beneath the surface. Albert, that hostile, no-fools-suffering loudmouth, is a pacifist.
What I admire most about THE RETURN is how easy it’s not, how little it looks like a reunion, how utterly unconcerned Lynch is with giving the fans what we want. But there are exceptions here and there, bright, tiny gifts sprinkled among the dark uncertainty: Norma and Ed gazing at each other with love in their eyes in the Double R Diner, Dougie’s first blissful sip of coffee. And Albert – wonderful, bad-tempered, consistent yet surprising Albert. Ferrer was taken from us too soon, but that we were given this last visit with his best-loved character is a miracle worth cherishing.