Twin Peaks season 3 episode 9 review: This Is The Chair

Twin Peaks sets up the second half of the limited series with a mostly coherent episode 9...

This review contains spoilers.

3.9 This Is The Chair

I’ve read that David Lynch sees this return series as a giant film and that he’s casually dismissed cutting it into episodes as a kind of haphazard affair, simply chopping it into 18 hourly chunks. This rings semi-true. We’re halfway(!) through this limited series and still being introduced to new plotlines and characters with little to no hint of who they are or how they play (if they even do) into what we already know. On the other hand, I think Lynch is downplaying his approach to editing these. Accidental or not, individual episodes do come off feeling like coherent wholes, at least tonally. I’ve come to expect (though perhaps it’s foolish to expect anything) that episodes will alternate between abject Lynchian horror and slow-drip piecemeal mystery-revealing. Last time on Twin Peaks, we got Lynch-waterboarded, so Part 9 is comparatively about as kind on the senses as this new series has yet been.

Twin Peaks’ return has inspired a great deal of debate, much of which comes down to whether it’s actually any good at all. It continues to defy conventions so extremely that it’s near-impossible to assess its quality the way you would anything else. Some people think Lynch has lost it, and there are certainly aspects that might support that. It’s got loads of scenes that drag indulgently. It regularly repeats information we already know, or reinforces character traits that are already crystal. At times, it looks bizarrely ramshackle and low-budget. On the opposing side, there are the Lynchophiles who view all of this as good and integral. David Lynch knows what he’s doing and if you don’t enjoy any of it, the fault must lie with you.

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I’m certainly not in that latter camp. Twin Peaks: The Return has bored me in places, and it’s had the occasional line of dialogue or bit of imagery that’s just plain goofy. Regardless, two things remain irrefutable: I missed the show during its week off and, when the episode ended, I was disappointed there wasn’t more. (Also true but not very relevant to this particular episode is that, even if I find moments laughable, Lynch’s work will never, ever stop scaring the crap out of me.)

I enjoyed this most recent part a great deal. However, I can’t help feel a bit like a trained monkey dancing to Lynch’s nefarious tune. He and Mark Frost have been so slow and teasing with their reveals, inching mysteries along at a sickly snail’s pace, that I may have loved this episode simply because I was learning stuff (however minor) and because I had to wait a whole extra week before I was able to do so.

It’s not for nothing that we’re being forced to stick to Showtime’s release schedule. With anyone besides Lynch at the helm of this thing, I imagine it would’ve been released all at once to be binge-watched (after all, it is meant to be one big film). I know some people are waiting for the whole shebang to finish running before they dive in and I wonder how approaching it in this way will affect their feelings about the production overall. The anticipation of each new episode is contributing to the experience and bolstering the slow-drip approach. Watching multiple episodes one after the next might just amount to an exercise in continual frustration. I feel like there’s something annoying about having all the content sitting there waiting for you, but continually finding that so little of it contains answers.

I’ve spent this review speaking about the limited series as a whole and I’m fine with that. I’ve never been that into breaking Twin Peaks down to its smaller elements, questioning the significance of each little plot moment. I’m just grooving to the vibes, man. But, okay, here are some of the things that stuck out to me.

It was so good to see Matthew Lillard again. His performance remains great. He’s childlike in his sorrow and watching him cry makes me want to cry. The two Coopers in Major Briggs’ messages are, of course, from the original series, but have now been imbued with greater significance and, just as with Laura’s missing diary pages, witnessing developments in these mysteries from so long ago gave me chills. The part with Cooper staring at the American flag as “America the Beautiful” played was goofy as all get-out. That Diane is seemingly in cahoots with Mr. C was a devastating reveal that’s got me really worried. And, holy crap, I was elated when those cops lifted Coop’s fingerprints. Let’s hope this will lead to Gordon Cole coming to pick up his boy soon (to reiterate: we’re already halfway through the entire series).

In the end, Part 9 was a good plot-progressing time, the polar opposite of Part 8’s challenging surrealism and terror. I enjoyed that one; it’s stuck with me tenaciously (“This is the water…” is still repeating in my head), but this part was, comparatively, a comfort, full of welcome rewards for having stuck it out this far.

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I have to assume next week Lynch is going to beat up on us again.

Read Joe’s review of the previous episode, Gotta Light?, here.