Aaaand we’re back in the room. As previously, these posts will detail plot points for episodes in the third season of Twin Peaks and so WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS THROUGHOUT.
Following the bracing one-two punch of the opening double bill, one imagines a number of fair-weather fans will have been weeded out by Lynch’s no-holds-barred approach to his and Mark Frost’s beloved baby. In 1990 there was nothing like Twin Peaks on television and there is nothing like it today either. As the opening two parts have settled (as much as they’ve managed to in such limited time) their confounding elements feel surpassed by the sense of thrumming creative electricity. Something that is only heightened here.
Part 3 is markedly brighter than the episodes that have preceded it… but it’s also – and this is some claim – a frontrunner for the strangest hour of television out there. We left Special Agent Dale Cooper hurtling through space as he exited the Black Lodge. What follows only accentuates the show’s newfound levels of odd. But, crucially and parodoxically, while Twin Peaks shoots for the outer limits, it’s also starting to feel more focused and coherent, in its own absurd way.
This newfound brightness comes courtesy of the shimmering Nevada desert, but is not something we’re greeted with right away. Part 3 opens with a staggering near-wordless sequence which conjures memories of Eraserhead even more acutely than the antics just experienced in the Black Lodge. Cooper descends through space to a new place, one which I’m going to refer to here as The Purple Realm, for lack of a better explanation. Suffering no injuries from his fall, Coop finds himself on the outside of a strange skyscraper like structure which overlooks an eternal ocean. He enters a room through a window and we’re presented with another deeply unusual mezzanine space (all of the show’s supernatural rooms feel like representations of the inner self, of limbo or purgatory, and this is no exception).
An eyeless woman speaks backwards as we’ve heard previously as an extremely ominous pounding is heard through the walls. She climbs a ladder and Cooper follows, exiting the room through a hatch. The exterior of the room has changed dramatically. The purple sea is gone and we’re back in the vastness of space. The eyeless lady throws a lever (another open nod to Eraserhead) and she is catapulted into space after being electrocuted. Major Briggs’ disembodied head floats through the infinite and says “Blue rose” – a phrase that fans of Fire Walk With Me will be instantly familiar with, referring to Gordon Cole’s special cases which involve the paranormal (or so one assumes). Reacting passively, Cooper decided to return inside.
Here he is greeted by another woman (Phoebe Augustine who played Ronette Pulaski) and his attention is drawn to the time (2:53) which was mentioned previously in the Black Lodge if I’m not mistaken. On a Nevada highway, Evil Dale struggles to keep control of his vehicle as, in the Purple Realm, the Good Dale is sucked through an electronic device in the wall, losing his shoes. One might expect Evil Dale to be yanked cruelly out of our plane of existence as the doppelgängers cannot exist side-by-side but, as he mentioned in the cafe scene in Part 2, Evil Dale has a contingency plan. Time to meet a third Dale Cooper; a decoy somehow manifested by Evil Dale (one assumes) and going by the name Dougie Jones. Dougie is overweight, wears a mustard jacket (a deliberate callback to Blue Velvet?) and is sleeping with a young black woman named Jade (Nafessa Williams).
While evading capture causes Evil Dale to have a violent car accident and also to become violently sick (spewing up a ‘garmonbozia’ a.k.a pain and sadness – see Fire Walk With Me), his plan does work. Dougie Jones is transported to the Black Lodge in his place and Cooper arrives back in our world via a wall socket. But he is not his old self. Whether the process has had a profound effect on him (understandable) or some other causes are at work is unclear, but he has been left childlike, with no sense of agency and only the ability to parrot the speech of others without seeming to comprehend meaning in language. He finds the key to his room at the Great Northern Hotel in his pocket but this doesn’t seem to trigger any substantive connections. Jade drives him to a casino and urges him to seek medical attention. On the way they manage to evade a professional hit orchestrated by Evil Dale’s henchmen through a typically absurd scenario.
It’s perhaps also worth noting that before his exit, Dougie Jones complains of a numb arm (which Teresa Banks experienced) and is seen wearing the green ring from Fire Walk With Me, which is possibly how Evil Dale orchestrated his trick as it has been established to work as a gateway between worlds. When Dougie returns to the Black Lodge, he melts and The One Armed Man (Al Strobel) returns the ring to the plinth we’ve seen it nestled on before.
As outrageous as all this sounds and, frankly, is, it’s remarkably focused and consistent, which is a marked change from the wandering narrative we experienced previously. Those early scenes from Part 1 feel like necessary set-up; a by-product of attempting to tell whatever story Mark Frost and David Lynch have in store for us here. I’m starting to appreciate why these episodes were released all together, encouraging us to ‘binge’ on them. This feels like a story with disparate strands coalescing, something which may have proved far more difficult to connect with had we been asked to experience it once a week over the course of a month. While the action in Nevada takes up a significant portion of Part 3, we’re gradually seeing more and more of the town of Twin Peaks as things progress. Frost and Lynch have done some immense (in the literal sense) world-building here. They’ve expanded the Twin Peaks universe, hopefully in service of something. The result is that the show is starting to feel truly epic (and we’ve another fifteen hours to go).
While the Cooper/Dougie story seems to have settled Lynch’s attention, it isn’t the only story strand that Part 3 concerns itself with. We’re afforded more tantalising glimpses of whatever it is Dr Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) is up to out in the woods. In Part 1 we saw him take delivery of a number of shovels. Here we see him spray-painting them gold using a complex rigging contraption. He was never overtly connected to the mystical elements of Twin Peaks in the prior seasons, but his sensibilities might suggest an openness to them. I do wonder whether he has acquired some knowledge (perhaps via the Log Lady) and is in the process of preparing for something which will eventually help Cooper. We’re left to speculate.
Also in Twin Peaks at the sheriff’s station, Hawk (Michael Horse), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) pour over the evidence of the Laura Palmer case following the Log Lady’s tip. We’re not quite there yet, but the material they’re given suggests a more substantive contribution going forward which will be very good news for a lot of viewers. Gradually the familiar is creeping back into Twin Peaks, though the method of delivery is still notably off-kilter with the show’s previous style. Adding to the sense of things coalescing is the welcome reappearance of FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (the dearly departed and much missed Miguel Ferrer) and Lynch himself as FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole. They’re seen discussing the Glass Box murders from the staggering opening to Part 1 when they receive word of the return of Cooper, though they’re headed not for Nevada but for a South Dakota prison.
Back with Cooper/Dougie, things grow even stranger when he is left to his own devices at the casino. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from The Walking Dead star Josh McDermitt notwithstanding, Cooper starts winning big on the slot machines by playing the ones he sees a Black Lodge symbol hanging over. Some good luck force is evidently guiding him down a path that one assumes will lead back to Twin Peaks somehow. The episode closes out with a song from The Cactus Blossoms playing at the Roadhouse in what seems likely to become a regular way of cutting to credits, like a little Jools Holland-style palette cleanser at the end of a strange, strange dream.
This is willful, divergent, brilliant television. Either things are starting to feel more honed or the narrative is starting to naturally show more purpose, but Part 3 has a momentum that was missing from the prior installments. We’re definitely headed somewhere. That’s a welcome thing to feel. And that kooky warmth that felt so conspicuously absent is gradually returning (see Lucy’s admission to having eaten evidence). The mystery of Ruth Davemport’s murder is presently stalled, but that’s fine for now. I’m assuming its relevance will become clearer. The show’s troubling depiction of women, however, isn’t helped by the addition of Jade whom we first meet completely naked. Here’s hoping the eventual return of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) or new agent Tamara Preston (Chrysta Bell) allow the show a little more female agency and some of that R-E-S-P-E-C-T Benjamin Horne was talking about.
For now, Part 3 is a crazy, rollicking ride, whats more it feels like *an episode* as opposed to an amorphous installment. I’m optimistic. I’ll cover Part 4 in a couple of days’ time.