The most narratively-dense episode of the season, and a fan-favorite return.
Ever since the artistic if obtuse triumph that was episode eight, Twin Peaks: The Return has been on a narrative tear, jamming each subsequent episode with an abundance of plot on all fronts: the unravelling and occasionally violent saga of Dougie Jones in Las Vegas, the coalescing mystery around bad Coop and his cohorts, and the various goings-on in Twin Peaks that all seem to be swirling around energetic emanations from The Black Lodge. The title of episode 12, “Let’s Rock,” hinted that this would be a particularly revelatory hour; the phrase comes from both the original series and the prequel film Fire Walk With Me. In the series, these are the first words spoken by the Man From Another Place to Agent Cooper in the latter’s dream of The Black Lodge. In the film, it’s written on the windshield of Special Agent Chet Desmond’s (Chris Isaak) car after he disappears from the Fat Trout Trailer Park during the investigation into the murder of Teresa Banks, who, of course, was the first victim of BOB/Leland. So, to me, this title suggests a couple of things: one, perhaps we could expect another glimpse of “The Evolution of the Arm,” or what the Man From Another Place has turned into, and two, someone’s going to die, disappear, or reappear. Was I right? Kind of. There was no glimpse of the Evolution of the Arm, but there was a major reappearance. Let’s rock.
Things began this week in South Dakota where Tammy, Albert, and Gordon are sharing a bottle of wine. They toast “To the Bureau.” Albert hunkers down and gives Tammy “what she needs to know:” in 1970 the Air Force shut down Project Blue Book, which we in the audience know from the original series was a (real-life) Air Force commission looking into the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The project’s conclusion? UFOs don’t exist, which, of course they do, so this was obviously a massive cover-up. Albert goes on to say that a few years after the project was dissolved, there was another, more-secret task force formed by the military and the FBI to focus on cases PBB couldn’t resolve. The name of this new project? “Blue Rose” – GASP! – after something said by one of the case studies just before she died; it suggests the answers to these unresolved cases can’t be solved except by an alternate path “we’ve been travelling ever since.” Albert says Cole appointed Philip Jeffries to head the group, and three others to be a part of it: Albert, Chet Desmond (played by Chris Isaak in the first half-hour of Fire Walk With Me), and Dale Cooper. Albert points out he’s the only one of this illustrious group who hasn’t disappeared without a trace, which makes appointing new people to the task force something they’re reluctant to do. Until now. They want Tammy to join them. She accepts without a moment’s hesitation. They toast to this, then Cole gets a text that Diane is on her way. Moments later, Diane enters the scene through a dark red curtain. Foreshadowing much? She’s invited to have a seat and offered a drink, kind of. Everyone thus lubricated, Albert gets back to it: they know Diane’s work with Coop in the past makes her aware of the Blue Rose Task Force, so they want to deputize her on a temporary basis (despite knowing she’s in cahoots with bad Coop). She plays coy, but agrees: “Let’s rock,” she says. And I screamed out loud.
In the town of Twin Peaks, Jerry Horne emerges from the woods, running across a field. He looks stoned and scared. No explanation is given, presumably he’s still just wandering the woods lost, and the next moment we’re in a grocery store for our first glimpse of Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) since the pilot. She’s in the liquor aisle – yes, you can buy liquor in grocery stores in Washington State; it’s awesome – and adds a carton of Salems to her liquid banquet once at the cashier. But something about the impulse bags of jerky behind the counter attracts her attention, and not in a good way. She mentions them to the cashier, tells the girl she doesn’t recollect seeing this particular brand here before; she wants to know what kind it is, and if its smoked. Its turkey jerky, the cashier informs her. Sarah seems bothered by this on a spiritual level. She asks if the cashier was here when this new-fangled jerky came in. The girl was. “Your room seems different, and men are coming,” Sarah says. The cashier is getting freaked, and I am too, because it sounds like she’s talking to Laura. The cashier is a blonde teenage girl, for what that’s worth. “I am trying to tell you,” Sarah continues, “You need to watch out. Things can happen. Something happened to me. Something happened to me.” Then she starts to say “I don’t feel well” over and over and slips into a conversation with herself, or rather, a conversation with someone now in control of her, telling her to leave this place, get in the car. She obeys. Who’s in there with Sarah? Leland? Laura? Phantoms of both?
A hop, skip, and a jump away at the Fat Trout Trailer Park, Carl Rodd stops an older fella name Kriscol as he passes by and asks if he gave blood last week. Kriscol did. Carl then asks if he installed a new propane tank for Jenkins. Kriscol did. Carl asks if got paid for that. Kriscol didn’t. Carl rattles off more chores he knows Kriscol did for free then hands him 50 bucks and gives him a discount on his lot fee that month. Carl doesn’t like an old guy like Kriscol giving his blood just to eat, and this is his way of putting a stop to it. Nice gesture, this; that’s the Bookhouse Boy in Carl (yep, it hasn’t been mentioned on the show, but Carl Rodd is an original BB; see Mark Frost’s Twitter account after episode 11 for verification).
Cut to Las Vegas where Dougie is enjoying an afternoon of catch with Sonny-Jim in the backyard. Dougie, given his metaphysical status, is naturally not very good.
Then just like that we’re back in Twin Peaks and there’s a musical cue we haven’t heard much this season, the original “Laura Palmer’s Theme” by series composer Angelo Badalamenti, and the scene that accompanies it is fitting: a Twin Peaks Sheriff’s vehicle pulling up to the Palmer house. In the vehicle, Hawk. Inside the house, the fan still spins. You know which fan. Hawk knocks. Still spinning, the fan. Sarah eventually answers. Hawk’s there because of what happened in the grocery store, people were worried. Sarah plays it off as a minor episode and says she’s fine now. Then comes a sudden noise from inside, like clinking dishes, which makes Hawk ask if there’s someone in the house. She says there’s no one, but I’m thinking she’s got the bagboy tied up in there; I don’t know why, it’s just a gut feeling. Hawk tells her if she needs anything, anything, she should call him. She’s blasé about this and shuts the door in his face. We remember from the original series that Sarah had a touch of the second sight; she, like Cooper, had visions of BOB, and she also saw a white horse on occasions. Now she’s hearing things, though, she’s conversing with someone in her head, and I can’t believe it’s just mental illness. We’re going to see more of this, I believe.
Jump to the Twin Peaks Hospital where Miriam Sullivan, the victim of Richard Horne’s savage beating, is hooked up to all kinds of machines, alive, but unconscious.
This turns out to be another brief scene, however, and next thing we know the narrative’s back with Diane. She’s drinking alone in the bar, a martini. A text comes in from “unknown,” which we know means bad Coop. “Las Vegas?” it asks. “THEY HAVEN’T ASKED YET” is her all-caps reply.Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME
At The Great Northern Beverly (Ashley Judd) interrupts Ben Horne to let him know Sheriff Truman, Frank, is here to see him. Ben welcomes the Sheriff and asks what this is all about? Franks cuts to the chase: Richard, Ben’s grandson, killed that little boy in the hit-and-run, and he also assaulted Miriam, intending to kill her, because she witnessed the incident. Miriam is in intensive care, Frank says, without health insurance, and the surgery she needs is expensive as hell (are you listening, Congress?). Frank thinks Ben should foot her bills, and Ben agrees. He says Richard has never been right, not since birth (because he bad Coop’s?). Ben then recounts the number of run-ins Richard and Frank’s brother Harry, the former Sheriff, had over the years. Ben asks if Harry knows about these latest developments. Frank says he does. Ben then asks about his grandson. Frank informs him Richard is on the run. This is followed by an ask from Ben after Harry’s health, which is the same, then about Miriam’s health, which is tenuous, and of course the dead boy’s parents, who are predictably distraught. Good-Ben, it seems, survives all these decades after the mental break that altered his cutthroat personality back in season two. Ben then points out something he was going to send Harry: the old Great Northern room key, room 315, that was mailed to the hotel anonymously (though we know it was done by Jade after finding the key in her Jeep where Dougie/good Coop dropped it). Ben thought Harry might want it as a memento since it was Dale Cooper’s key and the two of them were close. Frank is willing to accept it on Harry’s behalf and mentions the case he’s currently working on involve Agent Cooper, notes the strange coincidence of the key showing up at the same time. Frank takes the key for Harry as he thinks it will “mean a lot to him.” I’ve said it before, but it’s just so, so nice how much a part of the story Harry S. Truman still is despite actor Michael Ontkean not actually being on the show (by choice; he’s left the industry). Beverly pops back in. Ben shares the bad news about Richard, then shares details about the boy, namely this plum: he never had a father. Oh god, that pretty much means Audrey was raped in her coma by bad Coop. Ben then shares a touching story about his own father and a bike the old man got him, and has Beverly arrange paying for all of Miriam’s medical expenses.
Cut to the coolest scene open in Twin Peaks history: Gordon Cole relaxing on a couch with a beautiful, exotic, much younger woman (Skyfall’s Berenice Marlohe) lying against him, glasses of wine on the table, as he regales her with tales of his FBI adventures. A knock at the door interrupts. Cole answers. Albert lets himself in and asks Gordon to excuse his guest. He sends her to the bar. She responds in French and makes a sultry, patient exit. Like he does in wine, Gordon has exquisite taste in women, and this one is TOTALLY into him. Play on, player. After putting up with a turnip joke and a bit of language trivia, Albert gets to it. He shows Cole the text exchange from bad Coop and Diane. Cole wonders what they haven’t asked her about. No answer is immediately forthcoming, so Cole tables the brainstorming until after his date. A long silence passes between the two men. Cole squeezes Albert’s shoulder and says that sometimes he really worries about him. End scene.Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME
A van parked on a quiet road outside a house. In it Hutch (Tim Roth) and Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are discussing if there’s time to torture their intended target. Wendy’s (the restaurant) comes up, but then the target arrives. Hutch takes aim through a rifle scope. The target is an older man, seen from behind. Two shots kill him, and there’s a heartbreaking scene of a little boy running out to find his father’s body. As for the killers, “Wendy’s is calling.” That’s some cold shit, but I get it; Baconators are delicious.
Next up, gather ‘round the squawk box kids, it’s 7:00 and time for another episode of Dr. Amp’s anti-everything web-rambles. Nadine, as usual, watches with rapt attention on her computer at home. Doc’s once again peddling his gold shovels with which to dig yourself out of the shit, metaphorically, though it’s still a shovel, so literally too, I guess. It’ll run you $29.99 (plus shipping) per shovel. Nadine says hers is working for her; we saw it displayed prominently in the show window of her silent-drape-runner store a couple episodes back.
And then the biggest gut punch of the season to date…
We cut mid-Amp ramble to a scene of goddamn Audrey Horne. AUDREY HORNE. She’s alive and in an office of some sort, standing across the room from a short, squat, bald, and bespectacled man, Charlie (Clark Middleton), who’s sitting behind a desk. Audrey looks worried. Turns out she’s in Twin Peaks. She says she’s going to The Road House because it’s the one place they haven’t looked for him. Naturally, we assume she’s talking about Richard, her son (though this has yet to be officially stated), but Charlie, while explaining why he can’t go with her at this time of night, calls the direct object “Billy.” He suggests they go tomorrow but this offends Audrey. “Billy” has been missing for two days, and she won’t wait. They argue back and forth, and then Charlie says she shouldn’t “talk to her husband that way.” Wait, hold up there. WTF?!?! They’ve been together a little while, it seems, but Audrey’s done with this bullshit, and furthermore she’s in love with this “Billy” character. She dreamed of him last night and he was bleeding from his nose and mouth, which makes her think he’s in trouble, thus her urgent need to search for him, despite the hour, despite the chances, despite everything. Still a stubborn firebrand, our Audrey. I’m swooning. She says she has to find “Tina,” who she can’t stand but who was the last person to see “Billy.” She then mentions some papers she asked Charlie to sign, but he’s not sure about doing that without running them by his lawyer, to which she suggests, menacingly, running them by “Paul.” “Paul” sounds like a heavy. There’s mysterious mention of a contract between them, Charlie and Audrey, meaning their marriage, but it’s more business-oriented than that. This arrangement of theirs was obviously never about love, not on her behalf at least; there’s something more desperate between them, and it originates with our girl. But she’s willing to go back on everything for “Billy,” and this convinces Charlie to accompany her to The Road House. Before they go, though, Charlie suggests calling “Tina,” and learns that “Chuck” was the one who told Audrey that “Tina” said she was the last to see “Billy.” Honestly, at this point I screamed at my television “who are all these fucking people???” because this scene is so densely expositive that it was almost impossible to follow, as my rambling sentences testify. Anyway, Charlie shares the info that “Chuck” stole “Billy’s” truck recently and “Billy” called the Sheriff to this effect. And? They found the truck later that day, called “Billy,” but he didn’t press charges. Billy, I finally realize, is the fella Andy interviewed about his stolen truck several episodes back; Billy set up a roadside meeting with the Deputy for which he never showed. He’s also the character being searched for at the end of episode seven, remember? Someone pops into the Double RR during the closing credits and asks if anyone’s “seen Billy?” No one had. My bet, Richard killed Billy too, or Billy skipped town thinking Richard was going to kill him. All of this news seems surprising to Audrey but she’s goes with it and tells Charlie to call “Tina.” Charlie does. “Tina” answers and starts to give him an earful for calling so late. Charlie asks if she was the last person to see “Billy?” The reply startles him, but he reveals no details in his side of the call. Audrey is frantic for the information. The conversation takes a dour-seeming turn – “Unbelievable what you’re telling me…I won’t…I promise…” and then ends. Charlie says nothing. This pisses off Audrey. But still, Charlie says nothing.Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME
Back in the South Dakota bar, Diane is shutting the place down. She’s actually hanging around after closing, which every bartender will tell you is a dick-move, but at least she apologizes for it. She checks her phone and it triggers a flashback to the coordinates written on then headless body of Ruth Davenport, found outside The Black Lodge portal where William Hastings (Matthew Lillard) died last episode. She searches these coordinates on her phone. The locale? Twin motherfucking Peaks, y’all. Gather ‘round all ye faithful, there’s a showdown on the horizon. Oh god this is all so good.
Then a black screen, the sound of wind in a confined space, a roar that builds then ebbs over a quarter-minute and we’re in The Road House for the closing number by The Chromatics, their second time doing so this season. But there’s still a little more narrative before we go. Two young attractive women, Abbie (Elizabeth Anweis) and Natalie (Ana de la Reguera, Narcos), slide into a booth with a couple Heinekens. Abbie asks where’s “Angela.” She hasn’t been seen for a day or so, Natalie says, but she might be with “Clark,” which surprises Abbie, because she saw “Clark” and “Mary” in this joint a couple nights ago making out. So many new names. “Angela’s” gonna go nuts over this, Abbie says, because she’s way into “Clark.” She won’t be able to take this, especially after “losing her mom like that.” Then a sudden intrusion by an older, sloppy dude, Trick, who’s jacked because he got run off the road on his way over. He shares this story then offers to buy a round. As he’s at the bar, the girls mention Trick used to be on house arrest but is off now, obviously. The significance of this? I don’t know. And as such, the episode ends.
Okay, so there was a lot going on this episode, maybe even too much upon first watch. And yeah, some of the scenes were lengthier and more exposition-heavy than they had to be, but this is Twin Peaks, where the major and the mundane are given equal consideration. The difference between good horror and great horror – never forget, ultimately that’s what Twin Peaks is, a thrilling horror fantasy with absurd elements – is that good horror scares you from the first to the final frame by staying in your face; great horror lets you rest between the scares, it makes you wait for them, try to anticipate them, dread them, in the end making the emotions they conjure more resonant. Every episode we get that’s chock-full of exposition will be countered. My prediction? One, maybe two more episodes like this and then the denouement begins, which is bound to be a narrative delivered by surreal imagery more so than dialogue. Remember the finale of season two? Think that but longer, darker, stranger, and absolute.
12 episodes down. Six to go. The home stretch starts next week. Til then.