TV Recap: Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 5
“We both know this tune, don’t we?”
Having had two weeks to watch, rewatch, pick apart, and live with the first four hours of the return to Twin Peaks, it was almost hard to believe there was more waiting on Showtime this past Sunday night. Strange though it was to experience the grand event of its premiere, it was even stranger to feel it settling into the schedule of a traditional television show. It still feels futile to recap the events in any straightforward way, as the story forms itself into Lynch and Frost’s mystery finger trap. The tighter the threads pull together, the more confounding their intersections become.
Multiple parties want Dougie Jones dead, unaware that Dougie has vanished and been replaced by the wandering shell of Special Agent Dale Cooper. Cooper is lost and helpless at work in Dougie’s insurance agency job, but coffee, along with trigger words like “agent” and “case file” are pushing him closer to lucidity. His coworkers imply they’ve been pulling his weight during binge-induced absences, a tension made worse when flashes of green in his vision lead Cooper to finger a co-worker as a liar. Meanwhile, sinister overseers of the Silver Mustang Casino are taking a serious interest in Cooper’s “Mr. Jackpots” shenanigans, and Dougie’s car is blown up in the parking lot of the empty house where he’d had his tryst with Jade. This seems to trigger some kind of response in the drugged-out mother across the street, almost as if she’s been waiting for exactly this turn of events. And speaking of Jade, she finds the Great Northern key Dale left in her car and drops it in the mail per the instructions on its fob.
Back in Twin Peaks, Mike “Snake” Nelson, last seen left confused by his relationship with Nadine Hurley, twenty-five years prior, is running an auto dealership. We catch up with him as he’s telling a pathetic young job applicant named Steven to get his life together if he ever hopes to get hired anywhere. Steven turns out to be the husband of Shelly’s daughter, Becky, who seems to be in constant need of financial help from her mother. We get to see Norma for the first time as she encourages Shelly to intervene in this problematic marriage, a suggestion that carries enormous weight in light of their individual romantic histories. And, in perhaps this episode’s grand centerpiece, we learn why Dr. Jacoby was painting those shovels gold. He’s hosting some kind of internet pirate radio show inviting his audience to dig themselves out of “the shit” like some kind of hippie Alex Jones. Among his fans are the stoned-in-the-woods Jerry Horne and, glimpsed in the office of her drapery business, Nadine Hurley. The whole sequence is a wonderfully diverting showcase for Mark Frost’s brand of political satire.
Meanwhile, things just keep getting stranger in South Dakota. The headless body found in Part 1 turns out to somehow have Dougie Jones’s wedding ring in its stomach. Agent Tammy Preston finds anomalies in Dale Cooper’s fingerprints. And speaking of fingerprints, the late Major Garland Briggs’s prints are found at the murder scene, triggering an investigation by the Pentagon, where a colonel and lieutenant have tracked fifteen other such occurrences in the twenty-five years since Briggs’s death.
And dark things are afoot with the doppelganger Cooper, who checks in his prison cell mirror to confirm that Bob is still with him. He disturbs the warden with an oblique reference to a “Mr. Strawberry”, before using his one phone call to somehow set the prison’s alarms off and deliver a message, "The cow jumped over the moon.,” before falling silent again. Part 5 is bookended by an alarm in a dank basement in Buenos Aires, triggered by both Doppel-Cooper’s call and one from a woman overseeing the assassination attempts on Dougie Jones. Anyone who’s seen Fire Walk With Me should be unbearably intrigued by this, knowing that one other Twin Peaks character has ties to Buenos Aires: Phillip Jeffries.
The most truly unpleasant moment of the series thus far occurs in the Roadhouse, where we meet a rebellious young man inhaling cigarettes directly under a “No Smoking” sign. A woman from the next booth asks for a light, and he lures her in for the beginning stages of a sexual assault. The scene leaves us on a cliffhanger as to where this will lead, which is a bit of a questionable choice for this episodic format. The young man definitely follows in the footsteps of Frank Booth and Bobby Peru in the Lynch canon of evil perverts, and just as in Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, it’s clear that the action is meant to be horrifying and in no way titillating. But the fact that the scene is left unresolved for another week (at least) leaves one feeling a bit queasy. The intriguing element here, though, is hidden in the end credits, which reveal this abhorrent young man’s name: Richard Horne.
The fifth part of Twin Peaks's return picks up the vague mystery threads heretofore established and begins weaving them into a Lynchian tapestry. The forward momentum is becoming clear, even as the big picture surprises us with unexpected connections. How is the Jones family intertwined with the South Dakota murder? What is the doppelganger’s endgame? And how does Garland Briggs figure into any of these mysteries, a quarter-century after his death? What will prove the final key to unlocking Cooper’s psyche? I feel we’re nearing the end of the entertainment value that can be wrung from his babbling state, and look forward to the grand payoff of having our favorite Special Agent back at last. At any rate, Kyle MacLachlan’s multi-role performance has already been a tour-de-force.
If Part 5 makes one thing clear from a filmmaking perspective, it’s that Lynch is working with a next-level cast of character actors. Naomi Watts continues to imbue Janey-E Jones with a deceptive amount of depth, Brett Gelman gets put through hell as a casino manager, and even seemingly incidental characters like Jane Adams’s Constance Talbot and Nafessa Williams’s Jade are graced with an amount of personality that defies their limited screentime. Entering here are even more heavy hitters, like Tom Sizemore as Dougie’s shady coworker, Robert Knepper and Jim Belushi as the Silver Mustang’s enforcers, Candy Clark as Mrs. Truman, and Amanda Seyfried as Becky, who alongside Get Out’s Caleb Landry Jones as Steven, is echoing the questionable life choices of young Shelly and Bobby. The most exciting addition here might be Ernie Hudson as the Air Force colonel following the trail of Garland Briggs.
The deceased actors of Twin Peaks are hovering around the margins of this new series, as everyone seeks them with a satisfyingly metatextual resonance. Catherine Coulson, Miguel Ferrer, Don S. Davis, and Frank Silva have already made their presence felt, be it physically or spiritually. The Log Lady instigated Hawk’s ongoing investigation, Albert is haunted by his past failings, Briggs manipulates the clues from the beyond, and Bob lingers in scenes that rival his original appearances for shuddering terror. All the while, Phillip Jeffries unexpectedly emerges as the “Big Bad” of the series. Dare we dream that David Bowie shot a scene before he died? I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but I am nonetheless delighted that his ghost casts such a long shadow here. Whatever happens, something unfathomable is afoot in Buenos Aires, while the pieces in play inch toward the town of Twin Peaks.