My going theory on Twin Peaks: The Return is that David Lynch alternates between gentle, plot-developing episodes and punishing dives into existential postmodern horror. Well, Part 12 craps all over my theory because I do believe this was the least horrific episode yet. There wasn’t a bit of blood or vomit! That said, it was still punishing, but in a completely different way.
A major feature of The Return has been drawn-out scenes of stilted conversations and Part 12 really pushes the viewer’s tolerance on this front. This episode had enough scenes of people awkwardly conversing in rooms to rival Revenge of the Sith! For an episode titled “Let’s Rock,” which not only implies action but is also a huge freaking deal in Twin Peaks lore, this feels like a prank. (I should note that I believe these titles are informal ones selected by the network; as far as I know, all the episodes are officially just called “Part X.”)
Let me be clear: I enjoyed the episode fine. I’ve seen that some people have become burned out on The Return at this point and have either thrown in the towel or just accepted that they’re going to have a bad time, but might as well see it through to the end. I’ve gone in the opposite direction. It’s not definable to me what it is exactly about The Return that’s allowed it to infiltrate my head like a frog-roach thing, but, over time, it’s only taken up greater residence as I went from feeling tepid and uncertain about the new series to super-eager for each new episode.
So, again, I enjoyed this episode, but I think it’s more just because I’m so on-board with being in this world and learning more about it. In other words, my enjoyment of this episode was more a result of my appreciation for the series overall. The episode in and of itself was, I must admit, a bit of a disappointment. Last week was all developments and action. Part 12 is just the opposite: all conversations, but hardly any new information (or, at least, little information that we can get much out of at this stage).
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The best part of the episode was Sarah Palmer. Since Laura’s death, she’s always had visions and her ramblings in the supermarket (which I think were about the woodsmen) were intriguing (and the cashiers’ reactions were hilarious). It was also really cool that we got a peek into the old Twin Peaks when Hawk visited Sarah at home, we heard Laura’s theme, and got a shot of the ceiling fan. Grace Zabriskie is just an amazing actress and seeing her play Sarah Palmer again, at this stage in her life an understandably broken and cynical person, is a treat (a tragic, deeply sad treat, but a treat nonetheless).
Then, of course, we have Audrey. I’m so glad Audrey is “okay.” I half expected her to be in shock and hospitalized from giving birth to the spawn of evil or something, but she’s apparently just stuck in a weird, unsatisfying marriage to a guy named Charlie (Clark Middleton, who I like a lot just from his brief appearance on Louie). It’s bizarre but completely keeping with the way The Return functions that Audrey’s reintroduction is unceremonious and abrupt. Suddenly she’s just there, cursing her head off at a guy in a study.
Again, I’m very happy to see Audrey in one piece and Sherilyn Fenn’s exasperated reactions are all well-acted and funny. But what the hell do we make of this scene? Richard, who we all assume is Audrey’s son, is on the lam after having killed a kid, but Audrey apparently knows nothing of this, her attention focused instead on a whole slew of people we’ve never met (Billy? Tina?? Paul??? Chuck?!?). At least some of the dialogue here is awkwardly hilarious, with Charlie referring to his work as his “allotted duty” and Audrey explaining “dreams sometimes harken to the truth.”
All told, I enjoyed Sarah Palmer’s scenes and I’m glad to see Audrey, but Part 12, more than any other episode so far, felt like Lynch screwing with us. The scene with Gordon Cole and the French woman is so absurdly drawn out and overacted, I’m positive Lynch thought it was the height of comedy (okay, fine, I laughed at some of it). Also, we literally re-watch Dr. Jacoby’s shit-shoveling ad almost in full. And after Audrey’s (extremely long) scene we meet more completely new characters who name drop even more people we’ve never heard of!
There’s only six episodes to go, Lynch! How long can you do this to us? How long?!