TV Recap: Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 12
“These fucking politicians sing as we gag and cough, sold down the river to die!”
We are all Special Agent Tammy Preston. For a dozen hours of television, we’ve been following David Lynch through his visions, piecing together snatches of evidence, faithfully doing what we can to make sense of Twin Peaks. This week, as the story closes its middle third, he knows we’re ready to take the next step. He leads us now through yet another curtain, though there is still at least one more veil between us and the truth.
This week’s installment opens on Albert briefly explaining the history of the F.B.I.’s “Blue Rose” cases to Tammy. He formally invites her to join the elite task force of which he is the only member who hasn’t mysteriously disappeared. With the first reference since Fire Walk With Me to Chris Isaak’s Chet Desmond and a reiteration of the importance of David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries, Albert realigns the stakes and shows genuine concern for Agent Preston, who readily accepts this monumental assignment. Gordon, Albert, and Tammy toast the Bureau, echoing Diane’s bitter “Cheers to the F.B.I.” in Part 7.
Speaking of Diane, she joins our trio and is deputized on a temporary basis back into the fold. Her knowledge of Cooper’s Blue Rose investigations is needed, and the prospect of learning what happened to her old friend is enough to convince her. Of course, we know that the agents know about Diane’s communications with Mr. C, and this closing of the circle is a tightening of the plot. Whatever the implications, it’s hard to ignore the looming presence of the Black Lodge as Diane, backed by red drapes, echoes the classic Twin Peaks line, “Let’s rock.”
Classic Twin Peaks continues to vibrate onto our screens as we catch up with Sarah Palmer, shopping for an inordinate amount of alcohol. As she checks out, a new variety of smoked jerky triggers some sort of episode that leaves her muttering that “men are coming” while she maneuvers her way out of the store. Hawk checks on her at home, and she dismisses him, though her split demeanor and a strange noise from inside leave him unnerved. Even more disturbing are shots of the ominous Palmer house ceiling fan, a sinister arbiter from the days of Bob’s presence there. Laura used to say her mother was kind of spooky, you know.
Sheriff Frank Truman visits Ben Horne with the grim news that his grandson is responsible for the hit-and-run death of a child, and has beaten the only witness within an inch of her life. A distressed Ben laments that Richard “never had a father” and offers to pay Miriam’s medical expenses. He gives Cooper’s old room key to Frank as a memento for Harry, and suddenly remembers the childhood bike he got from his father. We know Ben retreats from stress using nostalgia, but the distinct lack of mention of Richard’s mother is infuriatingly baffling.
Several small beats slip in between the events of this episode. Jerry escapes the woods at last. Gordon entertains a French woman and makes precious puns at Albert. Chantal and Hutch carry out the hit on Warden Murphy, making it quick so they can grab a bite at Wendy’s. Kyle MacLachlan appears for all of thirty seconds, getting smacked by a ball as Sonny Jim attempts to play catch with his father. We also get a peek into another set of strangers’ lives at the Roadhouse.
And then, suddenly and unceremoniously, here after all these hours of waiting, Audrey appears. But where is she? She’s confronting a strange little man named Charlie, who is apparently her husband, about the need to find her missing lover, Billy (the same Billy, one presumes, mentioned in the subtly surreal ending of Part 7). Audrey and Charlie’s marriage is the result of some sort of contract, and they spend their extended sequence in his distinctly old-fashioned office discussing a number of characters we don’t know. They say nothing about the rest of the Horne family, nothing about the events of the story as we know it, nothing to give us a grasp on what Audrey’s situation really is. Mention of a stolen truck almost lines up with the events of Part 7, but the details aren’t quite right. It seems less certain now that Audrey is Richard’s mother after all, as this episode presents us with scenes about both of them that never reference the other. The only thing seemingly confirmed here is that Audrey’s absence up until now has indeed been significant, as her entrance raises so many more questions than it answers.
It’s easy to forget that this Twin Peaks revival was such a massive undertaking, as it was written and shot two years ago. Lynch and Frost are making some observations about life in America that have always been true, but feel particularly relevant in 2017. Part 12 features a lovely scene of Carl Rodd encouraging a tenant to come to him for help instead of selling his blood to eat, it points out Miriam’s devastating lack of insurance, and continues Jacoby’s ongoing rant about politicians allowing their constituents to suffer. All of this would have certainly been astute commentary when it was written, but the fact that this episode ended up airing this week is as spooky as Sarah Palmer’s psychic reverberations.
Part 12 feels designed to frustrate, to answer questions with more questions, just when we felt like we were getting somewhere. The stage is set for the final third, however, with the plot threads marching inexorably towards each other. Cooper’s location crosses the F.B.I.’s radar for the first time (though they don’t know it yet), as Albert intercepts texts between Diane and the doppelganger about Las Vegas. The triangulation of our characters is completed by the revelation that Ruth Davenport’s coordinates point to the town of Twin Peaks. I don’t know how long it will take for these players to end up in the same location, but I know we’ll learn more about the baffling predicament of Audrey Horne in Part 13, “What Story is That, Charlie?”