TV Recap: Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 10
“What a fuckin’ world.”
When the two original seasons of Twin Peaks moved into syndication on Bravo in 1993, David Lynch wrote and directed a series of “Log Lady Intros” to play before each episode. Catherine Coulson reprised her role as Margaret Lanterman, speaking to us, the audience, directly. She welcomed us into her cabin and spoke about the contents of each episode in metaphors that came from that perfect Lynchian space where the cryptic meets the plain. These one-minute pieces gave the show’s co-creator a way to comment on it as directly as he ever would, but they also did something much more important for the world of Twin Peaks. They established Margaret as someone who not only understands everything that happens in her strange little town, she understands us. She knows we’re watching, and she wants to make sure we take from Twin Peaks, the television show, the things we need most.
“To introduce this story, let me just say it encompasses the all,” Margaret said before the pilot. “It is beyond the fire, though few would know that meaning. It is a story of many, but begins with one, and I knew her. The one leading to the many is Laura Palmer. Laura is the one.” Laura couldn’t tell her own story, but the Log Lady was there to guide us through it. Many beings surrounding Laura Palmer knew we were watching; you could see it in the way Bob and Mike would glare at the camera, warning us away from things we weren’t ready to witness. This motif has continued into the revival, creeping in when Bob stared at us as Dale Cooper’s doppelganger escaped from prison. But in the tenth hour, titled “Laura is the One”, the idea that Twin Peaks watches us back truly blossoms.
Let me be honest with you, though this may border on the unprofessional. I don’t feel like recapping this episode in the typical fashion. I’ve never really been comfortable simply presenting a plot summary of any given installment of Twin Peaks, something I mentioned in my reaction to the premiere and have struggled with each week since. Lynch and Mark Frost’s surprise reveals and confounding twists provide no shortage of moments to marvel at, but it’s the way those moments play out that make this television event worth talking about. Part 10 was the most difficult segment yet to grapple with (yes, more challenging for me than Part 8), and reducing it to story beats does nobody any favors.
Taking center stage this week is the abhorrent, repellant, despicable, and all-around horrific excuse for a human being known as Richard Horne. Attempting to clean up after his hit-and-run in Part 6, he visits Miriam, the impossibly sweet witness to his getaway, and leaves her bleeding (but breathing) on the floor of her trailer, with gas creeping from her oven to a candle. She has sent a letter to Sheriff Truman about his guilt, and he orders noted piece-of-shit Officer Chad to intercept it.
Richard then pays a visit to Sylvia Horne, assaulting her and demanding the code to her safe. Johnny, still injured from his accident last week and strapped to a chair, is forced to watch helplessly as his mother is attacked. In contrast to the encounter with Miriam, which plays off-screen to leave its horrors to our imagination, this disturbing scene unfolds in our face with an intensity that recalls A Clockwork Orange. The most shocking revelation, though, is that Richard is Sylvia’s grandson, seemingly confirming the theory that this sniveling monster is the son of our beloved Audrey. Where is she? We still don’t know, but it’s hard to imagine her allowing her offspring to turn out this way.
Ugly domestic violence is also occurring at the Fat Trout trailer park, where Steven is screaming at Becky about money. Carl Rodd, sweetly playing guitar outside for the benefit of no one but us, overhears the racket and delivers his appraisal seemingly straight to camera: “It’s a fucking nightmare.” Carl, you may remember, bears the same kind of awareness as the Log Lady, and is just so tired of the awful things people do to each other. Harry Dean Stanton, who turned 91 this past week, continues to imbue him with a world-weariness so real it feels mystical.
Intrigue continues to unfold in Vegas, where the insurance scams and casino scandals are pointing everyone in the direction of Dougie Jones, though none of them realizes Dougie has been replaced by Dale Cooper. Yes, still. Our Special Agent is finally seeing a doctor, which leads to Janey-E seeing him shirtless for the first time, igniting a long-dormant lust for the man she still believes to be her once out-of-shape husband. They have sex, and while it’s clearly a euphoric experience for them both, we obviously have to have some complex feelings about this.
If there’s a shining light upon a shore of joy in this hour, it’s in a brief, seemingly inconsequential scene at a restaurant. Remember when I pointed out the chemistry between Albert Rosenfield and Constance Talbot last week? Well, they’re on a date, and it seems to be going very well. We can’t hear their conversation, but Gordon and Tammy are delighted that their misanthropic friend has found an equally grumpy partner. Talbert is real, people, and it is beautiful.
But there’s trouble for our F.B.I. heroes, as Tammy has decrypted the texts between Diane and the doppelganger which imply collaboration. Even more shocking, Gordon has a vision of Laura Palmer (specifically, footage of the moment in Fire Walk With Me in which she realizes Bob is in her father), and we are left to wonder not only about what Diane’s up to (I still feel there’s something more complex than meets the eye here), but why Laura’s memory is crying out to us.
Laura has been out of focus for most of the revival. We saw her vanish from the Red Room in Part 2 and the Twin Peaks police have been digging into her case files, but she has remained a faded memory of a long-dead girl all along. Now, though, as this grim and violent episode draws to a close, the Log Lady returns to remind us of the one that leads to the many. She’s calling Hawk again, but she’s on speaker phone, unencumbered, clutching the log, speaking directly to us. “In these times, the glow is dying,” she observes. “What will be in the darkness that remains?” She reminds Hawk of “the good ones” who are with him still and encourages him to watch, but it’s impossible to shake the feeling, as the late Catherine Coulson gazes into the camera with eyes full of empathy, that she’s talking to us too. Our glow is dying, and Twin Peaks is reflecting the toxicity all around us. But it’s not over. Margaret reminds us, though we can’t yet be sure what this means, “Laura is the one.”
I rarely touch on the Roadhouse musical performances in these recaps (though each song is definitely carefully chosen to reflect the story’s themes), but this week is special. As the Log Lady’s call ends, Lynch takes us to the Bang Bang Bar to reintroduce us to Rebekah Del Rio, Mulholland Drive’s voice of truth in dreams. Wearing the black-and-white chevron of the Red Room, she sings “No Stars”, a ballad from 2011 composed by Lynch, Del Rio, and John Neff. Uninterrupted by cutaways or credits until nearly the end, the song reminds us that we aren’t alone in the darkness. “Don’t be afraid,” Lynch and Del Rio implore us. “We’re with the stars.”
Twin Peaks Part 10 is a difficult watch. I don’t blame anyone who drops this revival here, or is no longer comfortable with the level of violence, particularly towards women. But I disagree with anyone who claims the show lacks empathy for its characters or its audience. Terrible things are happening, yes, but they aren’t being shown to us carelessly. There are no antiheroes here, no cool badasses operating in moral grey areas. There are heroes, villains, and lost souls, all existing in extremes and hitting us square in the core of our emotions. Twin Peaks is subjecting us to the evil that men do (frightened white misogynists, particularly), in order to remind us how much we need to help each other to face it. Whether it succeeds or not in expressing its themes is hard to say with eight hours left unseen, but as someone who has always found a particular kind of comfort in Lynch’s work, I feel him reaching out here, reassuring us that nightmares don’t last forever.