Wow, Bob, Wow! What a night!
I should be writing this as a film journalist, a film critic, film writer, whatever it is I am. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not sure I can. There’s plenty of that sort of thing out there today, anyway.
Instead I’m going to write this as what I’ve been long before I started this job and what I’ll still be long after I stop it: a bona fide, certified, verified Twin Peaks super-freak. And as such I gotta tell you, with all due respect to my family, friends, and ex-lovers, last night was the greatest two hours of my entire life.
If you saw it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I mean, holy shit, right??? I’m not sure I ever had fully-formed expectations for this new season, but whatever half-developed thoughts I had floating around got blown out of the ether by what I saw. It’s been 10 years since David Lynch released a film, and apparently he’s been using that time to amplify everything that makes him him. We were taken to a world that felt the same but different, familiar but uncertain, and louder in parts, yes, but mostly more subtle, insidious, quiet like the sort you find before the most vicious of storms. This Twin Peaks is darker, more daring, more artful, more confounding, and more capital-L Lynch than anything he’s ever done, and if this is truly to be his last narrative effort as he has claimed, then it’s shaping up out of the gate to be the perfect culmination of an unparalleled career.
Seriously, I’m trembling as I type this, and not just because these first two episodes contained some of the most frightening moments I’ve ever experienced in front of a TV, but also because of how Lynch and his co-conspiring co-creator Mark Frost masterfully returned us physically and emotionally to the town of our collective nightmares. Much has changed in Twin Peaks. Much has not.
First and foremost, Twin Peaks isn’t just in Twin Peaks anymore. The premiere featured four oscillating storylines in four different locales: Twin Peaks, New York City, Buckhorn South Dakota, and Las Vegas. Before we delve into those, though, a few other points of interest.
There are, as expected, two Coops we’re contending with. The first we see, the good Dale, is still in The Black Lodge, but that sentence is coming to an end. More on that later. The second Coop, the doppelganger who escaped The Black Lodge in the season two finale, is in full-on BOB-mode, crappy long hair and all, and leading a trio of criminals in Buckhorn, two thugs and a moll. This is the same Coop who bashed his head into the mirror, the same Coop possessed by BOB, but we don’t learn the immediate consequences of his return, only that it’s been more than 24 years since “Agent Cooper” was seen by anyone in Twin Peaks.
By the way, we learn the above tidbit from the still-together and married-now couple of Deputy Andy and Lucy, whose son, Wally – adorkable – was born just before “Coop’s” disappearance. Given that Lucy was already a few months pregnant at season two’s end, we can infer bad Coop hung around town only a month or so.
Another interesting tidbit we learn from Lucy is that there are two Sheriff Trumans, “one sick and one fishing.” Presumably, the one who’s sick is Harry, and sick probably means really sick, as in incapacitated. I say this because one, we already know the actor who played Harry, Michael Ontkean, didn’t return to the cast, and two, because we already know that Robert Forster, who was offered the Sheriff’s role in Twin Peaks’ original run but had to pass, is playing Frank Truman, Harry’s older brother, who was introduced to fans in Mark Frost’s recent found-document novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Frank, a former high school football star and Green Beret in Vietnam, was Sheriff after his father and before Harry, then left Twin Peaks, vacating the office for his little brother. Though we don’t see him during the premiere, likely the story will be he came back to town and office once his younger brother took ill.
Speaking of returning characters, Ben Horne’s still running The Great Northern but his brother Jerry has left the hotel business for the far more lucrative legal weed industry Washington State enjoys. Jerry’s specific area of interest – bet you could have seen this coming – is edibles. Deputy Hawk is now Deputy Chief Hawk, and Margaret Lanterman – that’s right, The Log Lady – is still translating cryptic messages from her log. The message tonight, for Hawk: “Something is missing and you have to find it.” The first thing I thought about when this was said was Coop’s proclamation in season two that if he ever went missing, he hoped Hawk was the man they sent to find him. Seems like “they” might.
On an off-screen note, Catherine Coulson, the actress who played The Log Lady, died shortly after production began. We’re not sure yet if tonight was all we’ll see of her, but she was note-perfect. The episode is dedicated to both her and Frank Silva, the actor who played BOB, who passed in 1995.
Back to those other locales: We’ve talked about Twin Peaks, and we’ve danced a little with the South Dakota storyline. Vegas we saw in only a single scene in a single office in which a Mr. Todd, played by Mulholland Drive’s Patrick Fischler, gives an errand boy some cash and makes some cryptic comments about his boss, who sounds BOB-level evil. All this is fascinating, if sinister, but by far the most intriguing new note in this discordant symphony is the New York City storyline. In a protected loft in a skyrise, a young attendant watches a glass cube that’s also monitored by various cameras. It’s obvious he’s waiting for something to manifest in the cube, and when it does – during a lovemaking session with his lady-friend – we get the night’s most frightening sequence as the cube goes black, a faceless, blurred being appears inside then breaches the cube and slashes the young lovers apart. I had a real Se7en moment when this was happening, screaming/crying “What’s in the box? What’s in the boxxxxx?” at my TV. Later, we see good Coop manifest in the same cube, but moments before the attack. The connection? Ha! It’s only the first episode, there are no connections here, only dangling carrots. But we do know from the young attendant that the space and the cube is owned by an unnamed billionaire. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts right now that billionaire is Audrey Horne.
In South Dakota there’s been a vicious murder. A woman’s head is found in bed with a man’s body. Only one other set of fingerprints is found in the room, belonging to the local high school principal, Bill Hastings (played by Matthew Lillard). Bill’s having an affair with the dead woman, see, but says he didn’t kill her. He does, however, cop to having a dream about killing her. If we know anything about Twin Peaks, it’s that dreams are never dreams. Hastings has more than a few shades of Leland Palmer to him, which makes us wonder if Buckhorn is where “it is happening again,” especially since bad Coop and crew are there, or at least his crew is until Coop kills them all for double-crossing him. The last to live is Darla, who’s name Coop keeps saying, at least as I heard it, as “Diane.” Coop is seeking some kind of information pertaining to a symbol he shows Darla on an ace of spades. You might have noticed this symbol looks a lot like a bloated version of the old Black Lodge symbol. And this info he’s seeking, it might be in the possession of Ben Horne; when Coop asks one of his cohorts for an update, the fella mentions he’s got an in with the source’s new secretary. Earlier in the episode we met Ben Horne’s new secretary, Beverly, played by Ashley Judd; given the actress’ star quality and the fact that otherwise the Horne scene has no real purpose other than updating characters, expect Bev to be more than just a secretary, kind of like Jones was to Thomas Eckhardt in the original series.
While in Buckhorn bad Coop also murders Hastings’ wife with a shot through the eye, the same wound our body-less victim boasted. Coop/BOB kills different than Leland/BOB; the latter was manic and demonstrative, flamboyant almost, while the former is cold and calm, more seasoned, less personable, and in turn somehow even fucking scarier. The wig MacLachlan is wearing helps. I honestly thought it was Michael Madsen the first time I saw him.
A few more interesting things about bad Coop: he still uses a handheld recording device, this one digital of course; he’s got another Gal Friday, Chantal, and not only do we actually get to see her, she’s played by Jennifer Jason Leigh; and lastly, when he’s done with Darla, he makes a call, one he thinks is to Phillip Jeffries – the missing agent played by David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me – but who isn’t Phillip Jeffries, and who knows about bad Coop’s meeting with Major Garland Briggs. Several things jump out here: one, why is bad Coop talking with Jeffries, who hasn’t been seen since a year before Laura Palmer was murdered? Two, why is bad Coop meeting with Briggs, who was an agent of The White Lodge? Three, who’s he actually talking to? Bowie was supposed to reprise his role in the new season but passed just before shooting began, and Don Davis, who played Major Briggs, passed more than a decade ago, so how their questions get answered is anyone’s guess. All we do know is that the person on the other end of Coop’s call seems to be in a prison elsewhere in South Dakota, a prison bad Coop downloads the schematics of onto his recording device.
As for good Coop, back in The Black Lodge Mike the one-armed man tells him he’s free to leave and Laura Palmer herself sends him off with a kiss and a whisper, just like she did in the original series. Only this time, we see Coop’s reaction to what she whispers, and it seems downright fearful. As he starts to leave, passing a white horse like those seen in the old series by Sarah Palmer in visions, Coop is told the condition of his freedom: his doppelganger must come back before he can leave. Telling him this? “The evolution of the arm,” a.k.a. “the Man From Another Place,” that little guy in the red suit from the original series. He is Mike’s amputated arm, and now he’s a tree with a faceless, fleshy strobe light for a skull. The quirk is gone from the character and now it’s pure nightmare fuel.
Fun fact: the arm likely evolved because Michael Anderson, the actor who played the Man From Another Place, is a grade-A asshole who’s accused Lynch of some truly unseemly and insane things over the years. Good riddance.
Coop starts his rough transition out of The Black Lodge, but only after bumping into Leland, who tells him to “find Laura.” Whatever the hell that means.
A few more familiar faces close out the episode, including Madchen Amick’s Shelly, James Marshall’s James, and Sarah Palmer herself, Grace Zabriskie. Shelly mentions a daughter, presumably by Bobby Briggs, named Becky (who I bet is played by Amanda Seyfried), and we also learn from her that James was in a motorcycle accident of some significance. This struck me as odd, Shelly talking up James, especially when she defends him to other women by saying he was “always cool.” I searched my brain and I can’t think of a single verbal interaction between Shelly and James in the original series, not even so much as a “Hello;” did they become better friends in the interim? More than friends? And why is Balthazar Getty making eyes at Shelly across The Road House? Time will tell (or it won’t, this is Twin Peaks). And if you paid real close attention, you might have noticed there’s a guy who looks an awful lot like Jacques Renault tending bar at The Road House. Only that’s impossible, right, because Jacques was smothered by Leland in the original series. Explanation? Same actor, different Renault. In the credits Walter Olkewicz, the actor, is billed as Jean-Michel Renault, the heretofore unknown fourth Renault brother.
So when all the strobing stops and the smoke settles, we have our basic set-up for the new series: good Coop has to get bad Coop back in The Black Lodge to get free, but bad Coop knows this and “has a plan.” What that plan has to do with Chantal, Bill Hastings, the glass cube and its billionaire, the mystery men in Vegas, and of course the folks of Twin Peaks, only the devil and David Lynch know.
As for us, we know this much: something truly wonderful and strange began last night, and like it did before, Twin Peaks seems poised to forever alter visual storytelling.
Peak TV has come home.