TV: Twin Peaks S03 E14 – Reviewed

"She's not dead... not wrapped in plastic!"
The third season of Twin Peaks has played out like exactly no other TV show ever. This bizarre, experimental, fever-dream of a series has instead felt very much like one giant movie split into chunks; indeed, it was actually written that way. As a result, the episodes tend to defy the television form, lacking in beginnings, middles, and ends, with scenes appearing and then vanishing to presumably set up something later (or maybe just to be flashes of bizarreness in and of themselves; this is David Lynch, so who knows). The perfect analogy that keeps coming to mind is that for the first almost half of the season David Lynch was scattering pieces of a huge jigsaw puzzle, giving us incomplete fragments that will presumably build up into a bigger picture later. I have loved (pretty much) the whole thing, mind you, but there is no denying that it is willfully scattered to the extreme, though brilliantly so. Over the second half of the season, the great pleasure of Twin Peaks: The Return has been seeing these pieces start to fit themselves together. Seemingly disparate parts of the plot have connected in often-unexpected ways, things that seemed random or insignificant have taken on deeper meaning in relation to other pieces, and we are starting to see the basic framework of the sweeping narrative web that fits it all together. This week's episode, titled We Are Like The Dreamer in a perfect metaphor for the season as a whole, did possibly more connecting and puzzle-piece-placing than just about any other episode, and the result was both richly rewarding and very surprising. Still all very dense and baffling, of course (as is the wont of David Lynch), but for Twin Peaks season three, this is what one would call a rapidly-paced, narrative-driven episode. And it may be one of the best installments yet.

At long last, we are seeing the (first of several, no doubt) puzzle pieces fall into place that (might) bridge the gaps between Hawk's team in Twin Peaks, Gordon's team in Buckhorn, and the hapless life of Dougie Jones. It is still only a tantalizing hint at the shape the narrative might take over the final four episodes, but it is at least enough to get an invigorating sense of the larger schemes at work, which look an awful lot like the machinations of fate (or those of the Black Lodge). These linkages are at times very surprising, at times downright hilarious (the dry-yet-wacky humor of both Gordon and Lucy just never gets old), and at times very creepy indeed. Some of them are payoffs for things that we have been hoping to see happen, while others are totally out-of-left-field surprises that left me with my jaw on the floor. One of them in particular now ranks right alongside episode 8's Woodsman sequence as one of The Return's creepiest moments. The episode even provides some not-entirely-expected but very welcome clarification of mysteries that have been left dangling ever since Fire Walk With Me and its Missing Pieces. The episode also includes the season's most surreal imagery since episode 8 – nothing on quite that level of hallucinatory madness, but stuff still more than weird enough that it would have blown viewers' minds on the original series.

"Welcome to my favorite dive bar. Drink full and ascend."

All of it is acted quite brilliantly by the show's ever-growing ensemble. In addition to Lynch and Kimmy Robertson's still-great awkward comedy, the show makes excellent use of a few of the other returning characters. Once again Dana Ashbrook is excellent, showing a subtlety of acting and a genuinely emotional dynamic range that he never really got to explore in the old series, when his Bobby Briggs was so perpetually over-the-top. Ashbrook remains an unlikely favorite of mine among the returning characters: his arc is genuinely moving, and he handles the material far better than his manic-teenager performance of old would have ever lead me to expect. I really hope that this season leads to him getting a second career boost as a dramatic character actor. Also excellent, though less unexpectedly so, is Grace Zabriskie as the long-suffering, possibly-mad Sarah Palmer: she has long been one of Lynch's most eerie and unnerving muses, and that has never been more true than here. Her performance in this episode provides one of its strongest moments, and will truly get under your skin. And while we will likely still be debating until the end of this season and beyond whether James is actually (or ever was) cool, James Marshall gets some pretty strong material to work with here, to at least show us that the character he has aged into is quite a bit better and more interesting than his Roadhouse-favorite theme song. His scene ends up being another unlikely standout, although in this case it is largely because his co-star in the scene steals it out from under him with a wonderfully bizarre monologue.

"Bobby is a real cop, and I'm just a
security guard... will I ever be better
than that guy?"
The jigsaw puzzle is still far from complete (which is a bit alarming, if not at all surprising, considering that there are only four episodes left), but a lot of work got done on it this week, and the results are very strong indeed. Some fans will undoubtedly still be left frustrated by what plot points still remain un-addressed this close to the end, but as is becoming ever more clear by the week, the Return in the show's subtitle doesn't refer to the act of having returned, but to the journey of getting there. Much like our long-suffering and conspicuously absent Agent Cooper, the return we are taking is a long, complex, and meandering one of almost mythical proportions, and that is exactly the point. Cooper represents all that is good and just in the world, and just like our actual reality, the present world of Twin Peaks is one that is chaotic, mad, and full of upheaval. It isn't yet a world that Cooper would fit into; or rather, it is a world that Cooper has been forced out of. In that regard, his absence is thematically very important, and it makes a lot of sense that his return is such an arduous process: such chaos is not so easily calmed, and tipping the scales back to any sort of neutral will take a lot of work from all parties involved. If Cooper is what humanity should be at our best, Dougie Jones is what we are now, sleepwalking through the madness just narrowly avoiding death, and re-gaining that old consciousness can't be easy. The Return is a quest as mystical, meandering, and full of detours and dead ends as The Odyssey (which is, like this, essentially a saga about going home) for Cooper and his fellow Twin Peaks inhabitants and visitors. The key to really enjoying this iteration of Twin Peaks is to know that it is all about the journey, and not the destination. Episode 14 is one of the most fascinating stretches of the journey yet.


- Christopher S. Jordan

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