There will be SPOILERS throughout this post.
Here’s a hot take for you; Twin Peaks is better now than it’s ever been. How about that? Season Three, or The Return (or whatever you want to call it) has been different, absolutely, and that otherness has perhaps alienated those who wanted the show to continue existing in a bubble, but what we’ve been presented with has been challenging, fascinating, cryptic, hilarious and downright unusual in all of the most welcome ways. This is TV that asks for your contribution, asks you to put down your phone, leave social media alone for 60 minutes, and ask questions of what you’re receiving.
And consistently its asking you to do these things with far greater frequency than ever before. A little personal aside; I live in a house share and I’ve been introducing a couple of people here to the old series in preparation for the new. It always felt beautifully timeless to me before; something held in a perfect bubble. But contrasting old and new reveals how dated some elements of the original series have become. How closely it cleaves to soap opera stylings (even as it parodies these elements), for instance. By comparison, it is rarely as challenging of its audience (though on occasion it really does go there), and the stakes are nowhere near as high. I still love the old show. But the new show provokes me more.
In its infancy Twin Peaks was a murder mystery presented as a challenge to the norms of serialised TV. As it’s mystery wrapped up prematurely thanks to outside pressures, David Lynch and Mark Frost wired in supernatural elements to help make the hard truths of their story easier on the palette. But these more fantastic elements have become of great import as the show further explores the nature of evil on Earth and how it works through men. For a while the show did exist, geographically, within a bubble. Season Two started to expand this arena with James Hurley’s ridiculous misadventures on the road and then Fire Walk With Me took us slightly further afield, but we still remained within comfortable parameters.
Frost and Lynch have, with Season Three, made Twin Peaks a global – even multi-dimensional – concern. At times it’s a volatile expansion and it threatens to burst out of even this sprawling 18 hour running time, but still, the sense of wider risk has become (with the aid of that nuclear test imagery in Part 8) apocalyptic in nature. The show consumes time and space like a mushroom cloud expanding. Things just seem to keep getting bigger…
But anyway, what happened this week?
Kyle MacLachlan has been (I’m sorry) the linchpin of the return of Twin Peaks, taking sole starring credit on every installment. For Part 12, however, that’s merely a courtesy credit. Dougie appears for one, brief, beautifully comic sketch as he and Sonny Jim play catch. Badly. The rest of Part 12 has other concerns, some revelatory, some slightly maddening.
First thing’s first and some long-suspected details are rewardingly confirmed right out of the gate as we rejoin FBI agents Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) communing in a Buckhorn hotel. They sit, rather juicily, in an area cordoned off with red drapes. The echoes of the Black Lodge are striking, although the room has a more pronounced human touch. Mahogany hues. A sense of history, wisdom and culture.
At Cole’s behest, Albert reels off some of the most succinct and revealing exposition in the show’s lifespan concerning the oft-whispered Blue Rose. The information confirms what was well suspected, connecting to Mark Frost’s documented fascination with UFO conspiracies. It goes a little like this. When the government’s Project Bluebook folded, a special unit was formed within the FBI to pursue the questions that were left unanswered. The unit was named ‘Blue Rose’ after the dying words of an unnamed woman who, we are left to assume, encountered some of the otherworldly forces we’ve previously seen. Phillip Jeffries headed the unit, appointing Chet Desmond, Albert and Dale Cooper. It might not seem like much, but it feels very rewarding to see Twin Peaks making absolute confirmations like this after years of ambiguity. It doesn’t take away the magic of not knowing; we’ve enjoyed that for a long time. It might seem like a minor token, but it sets up Part 12 as, potentially, the most gratifying installment yet. Something it tries, for a while, to capitalise on…
Back in the town of Twin Peaks we spend some time with Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriski), a soul who has proven highly susceptible to psychic information. Here a casual trip to a convenience store goes haywire when the presence of a new jerky brand – turkey jerky – sends her into a fretful tailspin. This is classic Lynch; imprinting extreme and disquieting significance on the most unassuming object (remember creamed corn?). The turkey jerky itself may be immaterial, rather we are to understand that Sarah Palmer has touched some intuitive knowledge and it’s something very bad indeed. When Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) pays a visit to the Palmer residence, Sarah acknowledges the incident but hurries to get Hawk to leave. Even more troubling is the very real sense that there is someone else in the house with her (or something) that she doesn’t want Hawk to know about.
This is some of the series’ most chilling work yet. In part because it threatens a character who has long appeared relatively innocent, and in part because of how this is achieved. Lynch has always been a chief architect in the sound of his creations, and Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me were very different to listen to. Season Three has been notably different too, conspicuous for its uncomfortable quietude at times. In Part 12, Lynch repurposes some of the unusual sound cues created for Fire Walk With Me, and he uses them for these scenes with Sarah Palmer. The sounds psychically connect Sarah’s addled day with the sinister spirit beings that haunted her daughter in her final days. They act as sonic death omens and harbingers of dangerous events to come.
They aren’t just used here. One of them is triggered when Diane (Laura Dern), deputised by Gordon Cole, accepts the position saying, “Let’s rock”. This connects back to Fire Walk With Me too. These are the words scrawled on Chet Desmond’s car when he disappears. They’re also the first words uttered in Cooper’s Season One dream by The Man From Another Place. We already know Diane is in cahoots with Evil Cooper, but her utterance of “Let’s rock” suggests a far deeper involvement with the otherworldly evils orbiting the series. Has Diane betrayed Cooper to the fullest extent possible? Or is this all a cunning double bluff? It looks like Gordon and Albert will eventually find out.
These scenes feel like significant developments for the ongoing story, so it’s odd that the most incendiary element of Part 12 became its least interesting / most mildly infuriating element; the sudden reappearance of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). She drops unceremoniously into the story (it’s so abrupt as to be disarming), and its revealed she’s been in Twin Peaks all along. We discover she is married to a small, bald man named Charlie (Clark Middleton). They appear to be wrapped up in some variety of small town feud. The long scene finds Audrey haranguing Charlie. Their relationship seems very similar to that seen between Catherine and Pete Martell in years past. This is an odd and surprisingly unglamorous fit for Audrey that acts as something of a curve ball to expectation (that playful streak the show has presenting itself once again). What’s mildly infuriating is how trivial the matter seems to be that is elaborated on. Names are flung around. Billy. Tina. Chuck. Paul. The relevance of any of these people is outside of our understanding at this point.
But here’s the thing; do we really need new threads when we’re two-thirds of the way now? I enjoy the slight asides as I’ve spoken about previously. But this network of new characters (some of whom we see later at the Roadhouse) feels like a confounding addition as the pace otherwise quickens and as the larger stakes assert themselves. I guess it goes to show that even when the world is coming apart at the seams, the minutiae of small-town life will perpetuate itself. My hopes that Audrey would provide significant insights into the Glass Box mystery have taken a bit of a walloping now, but we’ll see where this new tangent goes. Still, if you could list the different ways I was hoping Audrey would reappear, this wouldn’t have been among them.
Until next time…