This review contains spoilers.
Part three of Twin Peaks: The Return feels like it marks an exciting turning point for this limited series. In my review of the first two parts, I said I found them intriguing but terribly unwelcoming, slow-moving and dour. The premiere engrossed me and piqued my interest, but I can’t say I much enjoyed watching it. I was left hoping for some of the whimsy of Twin Peaks’ past to find its way back into future instalments.
Part three begins with an extended sequence of mind fuckery in line with the parts preceding it but, after a long stretch of abstraction, things begin to move a little more quickly as more concrete plot elements fall into place.
To comment briefly on that opening sequence, some of it is just gorgeous. The purple environment Cooper drops into at the start is so simple looking yet so effectually otherworldly. The sequence, in full, lasts a good fifteen minutes and—with all those banging noises and rewinding/fast-forwarding effects—tests the viewers’ patience at times. But it is deeply engrossing despite this and the pacing absolutely makes our time spent there all the more transporting.
Then (after a lot of genuinely stomach-churning vomiting) we meet another Cooper lookalike, Dougie, and his prostitute friend Jade (Nafessa Williams). What I love about these characters, and others we meet later, is they feel like normal people outside the otherwise uncanny Twin Peaks universe. Considering how often Lynch favours people speaking unnaturally in stunted sentences with lengthy pauses in between, it’s worth calling attention to the naturalistic dialogue that he and Mark Frost are capable of when they’re so inclined. Dougie commenting on what he witnesses in the Black Lodge mirrors what we’re all thinking (“That’s… weird”). It feels as though our experience may be mirroring Coop’s, being reeducated into the world as the influence of the Black Lodge ebbs away.
Part three also sees the return of David Lynch as Gordon Cole and anytime Gordon Cole’s onscreen it’s an instant injection of joy into the proceedings. Another welcome, familiar face is the sadly late Miguel Ferrer as Albert Rosenfield. We also meet new FBI agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell), who, incidentally, is meant to be the agent who reviewed and wrote comments throughout Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks book. She also happens to share her initials with the titular town’s. Other than that, all we really know about her character so far is she enunciates things sultrily and has an exaggerated sway to her walk.
I’m glad we’re checking in with Hawk, Lucy, and Andy regularly, but I’m a little less enthused about how they all seem borderline brain-damaged. Their drawn-out scenes are sort of funny but it’s a little suspect. Lucy was never this spacey before and, with age, Hawk has evidently become verrrrry slowwww. I’d say this was just a stylistic choice that’s the same for every character across the board, but Jade speaks at a normal clip and Alfred and Cole still sound about like they always did, so I hold out hope that things back in Twin Peaks have somehow gone all weird and lethargic ever since Coop’s disappearance and perhaps his return will coincide with the return of these characters’ senses.
Mainly, however, it was exciting to witness Coop’s escape from the Lodge and to watch plot threads begin to more clearly reveal themselves.
“Albert, I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all.”
I rewatched the original series not long ago and was surprised to find I was disappointed that it wasn’t quite weird enough. In my memories of Twin Peaks, I recall the supernatural elements co-existing regularly alongside the soap opera stuff. But that’s not actually the case.
The pilot is surprisingly close to being a straight-up soap, just one that’s more tragic and ominous because it’s directed by David Lynch. The Black Lodge doesn’t show up until two episodes later and, after that, a lot of the weirdness is relegated to dialogue through discussions of Cooper’s dream and his spiritual approach to case-solving.
As far as actual imagery goes, there isn’t a whole lot of truly bizarre content over the course of the original show’s run. Twin Peaks of old settled into some pretty conventional dramatic storytelling rhythms. Worse, sometimes other writers and directors tried to imbue Lynch’s imagery with some logic to make it fit with everything else, which just made it into a super-corny supernatural soap opera on par with Passions.
This is why, with Part Four, I’m more excited about Twin Peaks’ return than ever. It all takes place in the real world, with elements of the past continuing to pop up. We get more Gordon Cole and check in with Denise Bryson (David Duchovny). I challenge you to resist the nostalgia chills when Bobby Briggs, now a cop, sees the iconic Laura Palmer photo and her old theme music kicks in. The Return has continued to be very stingy with its use of Angelo Badalamenti’s score, so this feels like a big moment and, further, another indication that we are being slowly but surely guided back to the town and its many intersecting dramas.
I don’t expect, nor do I want things to return to exactly the way they were. Better, I now dare to dream we may be on course for the rose-colored glasses version of Twin Peaks that exists in my mind, the Twin Peaks with all the whimsy and drama, but intermingled with Lynchian weirdness throughout.
In a way, we’re already there. The original series was not afraid of getting majorly goofy at times and, let’s be honest, Mr. Jackpots, while genuinely hilarious, is also, a tried and true cartoon plot.
Read Joe’s review of the previous two episodes here.