Sunday, June 11, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return - Part 06

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017) finally won me over fully in Part 06. David Lynch and Mark Frost have taken such a radically different approach to this show over their original series that it can be difficult to adjust to the new wavelength. But the show is hitting its stride and I can feel the personality of the town of Twin Peaks begin to reveal itself through this new show's inciting incident, the tragedy of Richard's fatal hit and run. It reaches the exquisite heights of unapologetic emotion that only Twin Peaks is capable of taking us.
There is something disturbingly touching about Dougie (Golem-Coop, Dougie-Dale) loving the lawmen, their handguns, and badges as we start where we left off last episode. Dougie seems to be contorting his hand and sleeve of his jacket to try to mimic the statue of the old western cowboy and his outstretched six shooter, but in vain, never quite emulating the pose. But this statue and what it represents to the mentally blocked Agent Cooper stuck inside Dougie seems clear.
As police officers find Dougie loitering aimlessly near the statue, Dougie becomes enamored with the badge. The police eventually deliver Dougie home to Janey E, who seems to be at a loss about how to handle Dougie. The old Coop seems spark out slightly as he tries to touch the officer's badge, apparently desperate to explain his own identity with this totem of law enforcement. But no one understands or cares what Coop is trying to say, dismissing him as the eccentric Dougie.
It is unclear why Janey E is not more concerned than she seems about Dougie's inability to communicate or focus on his tasks. Twin Peaks poses an interesting question of whether or not the entire personality and demeanor of someone living in the burbs can change overnight and yet no one really notices. Even those closest to the man. This Kafkaesque nightmare continues for poor Agent Cooper, who is forced to live out the relatively mundane existence of Dougie.
In a surprisingly emotional father-son bonding moment, Dougie helps tuck in Sonny Jim for bed. The boy seems, possibly, almost preternaturally tuned in with his father's change and yet seems very fond of Agent Cooper's attempts at filling Dougie's parental shoes.
One starts to sympathize and feel sorry for Janey E who discovers Dougie's infidelity from photos in a manila envelope left outside their home earlier. Blackmail from a bookie loan shark wanting to retaliate for Dougie not paying off his debts with him. Janey E seems mostly annoyed by Dougie's cheating and gambling, but is surprisingly adept at getting things straightened out and setting Dougie back to work.
Lest we forget Agent Cooper is still stuck in Dougie, Phillip Gerard-Mike, the one-armed man appears and pleas with Agent Cooper to wake up and not die. This interlude with the Lodges raises the stakes considerably, implying there is a risk of Agent Cooper possibly getting lost to oblivion if he does not wake up or if he dies while in this Dougie form.
This brief but important interchange opens the way for some important questions we opened with in previous parts to be reexamined. For instance, if Mr. C (a.k.a. BOB-Coop, or Doppel-Dale) did create Dougie in the first place as a trap for Agent Cooper to fall into upon reentering our Earth reality, then does that mean that Mr. C is the anonymous billionaire who created the glass box in New York City? It seems more and more likely.
And is it actually possible for Agent Cooper's consciousness to just wake up? If so, what is Cooper waiting for? Is Cooper competing with Golem-Dougie for use of this brain and mind? Is there a chance that Dougie, who we last saw transform into a small golden sphere in the Black Lodge, might be able to return his consciousness into Dale's new physical form, too? The constraints of this body-swapping magic are unclear, as are Cooper's choices. Is Cooper hesitant to assert himself as a dominant personality in Dougie because it could destroy Dougie's personality forever in the process? Does Coop want to rescue Dougie somehow, too?
Meanwhile, Gordon Cole sends the curmudgeonly Albert on a mission to find and enlist the help of Diane, the anonymous woman on the other side of Agent Cooper's tape recorder sessions in the original series. Although never seen or heard, Diane was a ubiquitous presence in Cooper's private moments of introspection and deduction.
It is worth noting that Special Agent Albert Rosenfield has always been a cantankerous and confrontational character from his earliest appearance in the classic series up until this modern day. And there is something telling that even Albert seems a little hesitant about approaching Diane for help. Does he just think this task is beneath him? Or is there more to it?
And we get one of the great character reveals for the series as the Lynch mainstay Laura Dern appears as Diane in the flesh. This casting finally confirms once and for all that Diane is in fact a real woman and not one of many theorized multiple personalities that Agent Cooper allegedly developed after being stabbed in Pittsburg, which was a fun far-fetched fan theory some Twin Peakers have been pitching for twenty-five years. But Diane is here, at last! I just wish we had more time with her this episode.
We get a beautiful establishing shot of a huge lumberyard in Twin Peaks, which makes me wonder if the Packard Sawmill was rebuilt in the intervening 25 years. Since Catherine Martell would have been the only survivor of the Packard family after her brother Andrew and husband Pete were killed in Thomas Eckhart's bomb in the safety deposit box of the bank, Catherine would be left alone to rebuild on the ashes of the former sawmill.
I believe what proceeds from this point of the episode onwards is the longest, uninterrupted running time we have had in the town of Twin Peaks since the show returned. Although not one hundred percent clear yet, it seems as though the lumber industry in the area might be being used as a cover for the drug trade in the area. This would explain a lot about the trail of drug problems being investigated on the periphery of the main plot.
Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) is sampling some drugs from Red (Balthazar Getty) when things of a supernatural bent begin to happen. Someone practices an elaborate, seemingly impossible magic trick for the first time on screen in Twin Peaks since Mrs. Tremond's grandson (Austin Lynch) made the creamed corn disappear and reappear again for Donna Hawyward in the original series.
This coincidence causes me to wonder whether or not Red and the aspiring magician grandson of Mrs. Tremond might not be one and the same person, just twenty-five years older and crazier. The aging timetable is actually consistent with my theory, so let's keep a pin in this theory and let it hang there for a while and see if future episodes corroborate this theory.
But in addition to this crazy magic trick, Red mentions a couple of other non sequiturs: there is something wrong with his liver and he asks if Richard ever watched The King and I (1956). Interestingly, back when Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) was possessed by BOB in the original series, he compulsively sang the famous song "Getting to Know You" from the musical The King and I with piano accompaniment in the Great Northern's Restaurant area.
Why is Red performing supernatural magical acts for his underling, Richard Horne? Maybe as a form of intimidation? Who knows. But it does seem to unhinge and destabilize Richard even more than usual, especially as Red adds a little dig at the beginning by calling Richard "small time" and then again at the end of their bizarre interchange by calling Richard "kid." And repeating the insult again poignantly after Richard objected. And the very specific and gruesome threat of violence he promises Richard is very unnerving, even without the theatrics of the dime trick.
Interestingly, American coins of currency notably come into play in two scenes this episode. First off, a dime is used in Red's magic trick with Richard. Then second off, Deputy Hawk discovers the lost missing pages of Laura Palmer's Secret Diary by trailing an "Indian-Head" Buffalo nickel as it falls and rolls around in the Sheriff's station men's room. I wonder if there is any significance to this strange parallel?
Between the drugs, supernatural magic trick, and insult, Richard is even more perturbed than usual and seems to be the primary reason why he gets into the hit and run accident with the little boy soon. One gets the impression Richard is a powder keg of frustration and low self-confidence on the best of days, let alone just after being made to cower in fear from his boss Red.
Many of you will remember that the "Fat Trout" Trailer Park was where murder victim Theresa Banks lived back in Deer Meadow, Washington. And the manager of her trailer park was none other than Carl Rodd, who was played to perfection by the great Harry Dean Stanton back in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). He must have moved his business concerns a few hours drive up north to Twin Peaks in the intervening 25 years, because now the "New Fat Trout" Trailer Park is open for business here in town.
Apparently Carl gets a ride about everyday from a guy named Bill at a certain time in the afternoon. Mickey bums a ride with Carl to pick up the mail for someone named Linda. This name is important since The Giant and Cooper exchanged a cryptic message about Richard and Linda in the opening black and white prologue scene of the entire series. And something about the number 430 and the phrase "two birds, one stone." It is hinted that Mickey might be Linda's husband and that Linda lost the ability to walk from an injury she sustained in war fighting in Afghanistan.
Miriam is a sweet grade school teacher who cannot get enough of Norma's cherry pies. At last! Someone on the show is eating cherry pies again and complimenting Norma's cooking! It took six hour-long installments for us to reach this important milestone, but we finally made it here. Together. Miriam is about as sweet as sweet can get, earning non-stop German giggles from waitress Heidi (Andrea Hays).
Yay, Heidi is back for her fourth notable appearance in the show! Her first appearance was late for work in the Pilot, late for work in the series finale, and with a gushing nose bleed the last time Laura Palmer did the Meals on the Wheels program in Fire Walk with Me. The appearance of Heidi seems to always accompany some momentous occasion in the Twin Peaks universe and could be considered a harbinger for something bad about to happen.
Truly, for an episode filled with many important parts from first-time screen actors, we get a stellar performance from Lisa Coronado in the part of the mother of the hit-and-run victim. As far as I know, her character may never show up again, which is a shame since she conveyed so much with her time on screen without a single word of dialogue.
Eamon Farren's Richard Horne doubles down on his horrible reputation to perform one of the most callous and senseless acts of unintententional violence and manslaughter ever on screen. Of course one can draw universal parallels with Richard's neglectful crime with anyone who drives under the influence of a mood-altering substance or who drives too recklessly while feeling overly emotional or angry. Which is, unfortunately, an all-too-common occurrence.
To some degree, David Lynch has always had a predilection for filming scenes of car violence and accidental tragedies on the road. Nearly half of David Lynch's films feature car crashes and road rage, from Wild at Heart (1990), to Lost Highway (1997), even the tame The Straight Story (1999), and David Lynch's magnum opus Mulholland Dr. (2001) actually opens on a horrific car accident.
Vehicular violence is a recurring subject in David Lynch's oeuvre, and that honestly makes a lot of sense since a large proportion of unnatural human deaths is the direct result of tragic automobile accidents. Although Richard screams out in annoyance, he does not seem particularly sad about his mistake. And it is not lost on Richard that Miriam got a good, long look at him behind the wheel of the truck as he plowed through that unfortunate boy. A crime Miriam would be particularly sensitive about being a child grade school teacher.
While the brutal murder of Laura Palmer rocked the town of Twin Peaks 25 years ago, as it well should have, I do think David Lynch and Mark Frost might be commenting on the ubiquitous and routine deaths of children and young teenagers that take place in society much more frequently are not typically given as much attention.
It is worth noting that on average two thousand of children and young teenagers die every year in the U.S. from something as seemingly mundane as a car accident. While hit-and-run attacks only comprise a fraction of that statistic, it is still a massive problem.
I have read critic's reviews of this episode comparing the frantic Twin Peaks bystanders who cover their mouths or shake their heads and look down, averting their gaze from the crime scene, as being a possible allusion to the town of Twin Peaks having looked away from the clear signs of Laura Palmer's abuse and yet not saying a word about it or doing anything substantive to save her from her own father.
And while I think there is more than a hint of truth to that symbolism, I also think there is a condemnation of sorts for recreational Twin Peaks viewers who checked out and stopped watching the original series upon discovering the horrible truth about who murdered Laura Palmer. It was shocking and a lot of people did not want to talk about the TV show after that bleak revelation. The unfortunate prevalence of incestuous child molestation and acts of murderous filicide is still a taboo subject matter to discuss in polite society twenty-five years later.
When most of us face brutal tragedy on this level, our first instincts might be to turn away and avoid processing the horror of it. It is an emotionally devastating experience to witness something horrible happening to someone else.
But David Lynch and Mark Frost seem to suggest that actively witnessing and helping is the far more heroic act. Instead of turning away, the typically ornery old Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) actually goes out of his way to confront the stark reality of the car crash and enters into the fray to try to make things better. Unlike dozens of other people standing around aghast, Carl Rodd actually follows the cries and screams of violence and actively runs over to the sobbing mother who is cradling the lifeless body of her son.
Strangely, Carl Rodd seems to have something in common with Dougie and can see overt physical manifestations of typically spiritual phenomena. But instead of seeing an indicator light telling Dougie if someone is lying, or a floating Black Lodge fire symbol hovering over slot machines yielding lucky jackpots, Carl Rodd seems to see the spirit of the boy depart him and enter the great electrical superhighway invisible to most men.
Carl Rodd seems to receive confirmation at this point that the boy is beyond resuscitating or saving. So rather than run over to perform CPR, he does the only thing he can and extend out a hand of comfort and mourn with those who mourn.
In one of the most powerful moments in the history of David Lynch's filmography, Carl Rodd acts like an angel of sorts and helps a devastated woman know she is not alone in dealing with her pain. I have heard that reaching out and supporting people like this does have a dramatic impact on those suffering through extreme trauma. I think sometimes we are afraid to reach out, we just want to retreat to our own private shells. But David Lynch and Mark Frost encourage us to connect to our fellow human beings amid tragedy. We never know how much a little humanity can help.
I cannot help but cry heavily each time I watch the scene play out and even as I sit here writing about it, the emotion is overwhelming. These are the kind of scenes that make Twin Peaks a remarkable viewing experience. No one else really captures these kind of moments with quite so much pathos and humanity as does David Lynch.
And to give credit where credit is due, I think David Lynch and Mark Frost do an admirable job of shining a light on many dark topics without crossing the line into emotional exploitation for its own sake. It can be a very delicate line to ride between these many extremes and earn the emotionally stirring payoffs we receive. I can say they definitely earned every moment of pain and sublime beauty they gave us this episode.
And in a strange parallel with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) the end of Carl Rodd's scene again preludes a camera panning down from the power lines to series of numbers stamped on the telephone pole below. What does it mean? Is the disappearance of Special Agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak) somehow related? I hope when Cooper returns, Desmond returns, too. Everything seems tied together.
Our favorite toadie (probably of BOB-Coop / Mr. C), Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler), returns with an emergency red square fading on to his screen. This takes him by surprise at first, causing a clear look of concern and worry to pop up on his face.
Again, as noted in last episode's analysis, BOB-Coop / Mr. C seems to have a superpower of sorts with hacking computers and manipulating electricity. Well this red square seems to do the trick, causing Duncan to reach into his personal vault with a special folder only marked with a single black dot.
This manila folder with the black dot reminds me of Robert Louis Stevenson's inter-pirate death mark known as the "Black Spot," which he mentions at the start of his acclaimed adventure novel Treasure Island (1882).
Although Duncan is very careful to not allow his fingerprints on the envelope, we do get a hint that this routine is not the first time Duncan has had to get people killed on orders from BOB-Coop / Mr. C. And as the next scene reveals, he apparently keeps a little person named Ike "The Spike" Stadtler on retainer to handle particularly sensitive problems.
Although Mike's Arm, a.k.a. the "Little Man From Another Place," has evolved into a neuron-pulsating brain-tree, we apparently do get another little person back in the show as this quirky, diminutively sized hitman revels in his fetish of stabbing people with a custom-made ice pick. He studiously traces the contours of the face on the photos of his future victims, using his murder spike almost like a painter's brush. Ike apparently feels a fetishistic joy in killing up close and personal with his ice pick.
Ike ultimately stabs the photos of his future victims in the face, implying that killing is not just his job, but some kind of sensual pleasure, too. This is certainly one of the most peculiar killers brought into the series to date, which is quite a feat. Looks like Mr. C wants Dougie / Agent Cooper finally eliminated and the former hit contractor who failed to kill Dougie previously is to be punished simultaneously. Is Mr. C just trying to cover of his tracks? Or does he like to maintain a ruthless reputation?
Honestly, I am one of Twin Peaks viewers who has been pretty annoyed with the Dougie story line up until now. It feels a bit too much like a stalling tactic, holding back the pleasure the audience should be feeling at seeing Agent Cooper back in action. Instead, the characters, plot, and audience have been forced to deal with a literally mentally retarded variant of our favorite character. I sometimes wonder if at some point Dougie-Coop is not going to go full on "Leo Johnson" and start spitting and murmuring, "New shoes...."
But for whatever reason, the Dougie story has finally earned enough street cred with me by Part 06 to make me care about him, his family, his workplace colleagues, and his organized crime enemies that I actually enjoy watching the subplot even when I am always hoping each episode that this next episode will be the end of Dougie and the beginning of Agent Cooper.
But at this point, I feel like we are just going to have to live without Agent Cooper until the very last episode of The Return. The titular Return is probably referring to Cooper, hence this series will likely end with Cooper back and restored to his former self. Or if David Lynch and Mark Frost are feeling particularly cruel to their audience, they might just kill off Cooper permanently, leaving us with Dougie potentially forever.
While I would normally get angry in revolt at just the thought of that kind of subversion of audience expectations, the truth is that Kyle MacLachlan and his supporting Las Vegas cast is so enjoyable to watch now that I will just sit back and enjoy the fireworks and just hope for Cooper's Return sooner rather than later. This would not be quite so difficult to process if it were not for the fact that these 18 parts of Twin Peaks might be the last episodes ever made.
I mean, it is hard for me to get too angry with David Lynch when he gives us Jeremy Davies as the loan shark thug "Jimmy." Jeremy Davies is probably most recognized for his memorable roles as the eccentric genius Daniel Faraday from LOST (2004-10) and as the cowardly Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan (1998). If ever there were an actor born to be in David Lynch projects, it is Jeremy Davies. He is a remarkably underrated actor and always adds something special to all his roles.
We then get a rather bizarre murder spree as Ike "The Spike" makes his way through security and eliminates the first failed assassin contractor. The strangely upbeat tune playing over the scene as he brutally stabs to death three women in a row is particularly disconcerting.
And things just get even more grim when Richard Horne examines the front grill of his truck to discover visible blood stains from hitting and killing the boy earlier. Richard shows exactly zero amounts of guilt or shame, just complete fear at possibly getting caught by the police or punished by Red. For whatever reason, Lynch and Frost seem determined to set up a completely irredeemable human being in Richard Horne, a difficult task for actor Eamon Farren, but one he seems committed to perform with everything he has got in him. I cannot help but respect him for delivering such a creepy performance that you cannot see a photo of the actor without freaking out a little.
Thankfully, the Log Lady's log's premonition that Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) would discover something missing from the Agent Cooper investigation because it had something to do with Hawk's Native American heritage did not take too long to come to fruition. Personally, I hope there is a little more to it than this, too, particularly because Hawk is one of the few characters on the show with a knowledge of the Black and White Lodge.
But Deputy Hawk follows his intuition and discovers a trail of clues leading him to missing pages from Laura Palmer's Secret Diary. There is a lot of confusion extant about the show's continuity of what is written on these pages because in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), BOB rips out the diary pages BEFORE Laura dreams of a bloodied-up Annie Blackburn telling her about the Good Dale and Bad Dale.
And since Laura immediately takes her Secret Diary to Harold Smith for hiding, there was allegedly no time in which Laura could have written down the Annie dream unless she drove back to Harold's place off screen and wrote additional pages that were also subsequently lost later and stuffed down the men's room door.
What these continuity hounds fail to consider, though, is that Laura Palmer very likely dreamed this dream of Annie on multiple occasions. In fact, the way Laura Palmer reacts to Annie's presence in her bed in her Fire Walk with Me dream is actually consistent with being something Laura has dreamed at least once before, since Laura does not get alarmed at all until she discovers she is now holding the Owl Cave Symbol Ring, something that was ostensibly new to this likely repeating dream.
Although we know Deputy Chad (John Pirrucello) is on the take when we saw him accept bribe money from Richard Horne in an earlier episode at the Roadhouse, he is still a surprisingly brazen asshole to his co-workers, even messing with Deputy Hawk for busting open the men's room stall door.
And if that was not enough to make us feel unmitigated disdain for him, in the next few minutes Chad goes on to criticize the Sheriff for his shrewish wife, even after knowing she was never the same again after their child committed suicide recently. Instead of showing a modicum of humanity and holding back his criticism, Chad doubles down and compares the Sheriff's dead child with a cry baby for not being able to cope with the stress of being a soldier during the war in Afghanistan.
This makes two references in Part 06 to veterans going through a difficult time returning home from the war in Afghanistan. Linda was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down and had to wait six months for the government to send her an electric wheelchair. And now we have reference to Sheriff Frank Truman's son apparently having trouble coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and committing suicide as a direct result.
It is often the patriotic minded people of small towns who fill out the ranks of the military, so after a prolonged conflict they also tend to be the areas of America that suffered through the worst consequences of fighting our wars. And Twin Peaks is not immune to this phenomenon, bearing some serious scars from the conflict.
I heard one reviewer call Deputy Chad "a piece of shit." Although I typically strive to find a slightly more enlightened way of describing a reprehensible character like Deputy Chad, the truth is that that was an apt description for him. Deputy Chad is a miserable excuse for a human being and his graft and corruption is apparently the opening that Red and Richard have been using to keep the drugs flowing into town without the Sheriff's Department being able to track the source.
And then at the very end of the episode, Sharon Van Etten sings the melodic "Tarifa" to a crowd of swaying Roadhousers. In the final analysis of Part 06, I have to say that I felt like this segment of The Return holds up best on its own of all the parts broadcast so far. It feels like a complete dramatic thought fully realized and satisfying on its own. To a greater extent than ever before, it actually feels like we have returned back home in the town of Twin Peaks again.
And while I still miss many of the characters and mystery payoffs that are allegedly still ahead of us, I finally feel the safe and secure again back in the hands of David Lynch and Mark Frost. And I feel completely reassured that we will indeed go on a meaningful journey by the time Part 18 ends.

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