Last week, the two-part premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return set the table for what we can expect over the next few months. This week, parts three and four puked creamed corn all over that table.
A good homework assignment for attempting to shoulder the intense amount of imagery we’re being given by Lynch in this continuation of Twin Peaks is to spend some time with his other creative facets, namely his extensive background in painting, sculpture, and video installations.
As explained in Jon Nguyen’s documentary, David Lynch: The Art Life, before Lynch ever thought of picking up a camera, he channeled his unique way of viewing life into drawing, painting, and sculpture. In 1964, Lynch attended Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts for one year (didn’t like it), then tried out the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, before finally finding himself as a fully fledged creator of beautifully strange things at the AFI Conservatory in Los Angeles. It’s here he took over unused horse stables to make his first feature film, Eraserhead, a heady and uncomfortable entry into full-length filmmaking that took five years to finish. It was finally completed in 1976.
Knowing that drawing, painting, and sculpting led Lynch to explore even more ways to bring what he sees in his head to life is helpful while struggling to digest what we’re seeing here in these new “parts.” The idea of a painting, which can’t push you towards an intended meaning using movement or sound, but can only put the stink of a mood into the air, is the best way to think of Twin Peaks: The Return. Do these things that we’re seeing mean something? Maybe. But is any detected meaning the point? No. The seed of a feeling has been planted in you, but you ultimately sprout it yourself. There’s no one “answer” to be found in the things that Lynch is showing us, but the maddening effort put into trying to arrive at one is half the fun.
In 2012, the Tilton Gallery in Manhattan hosted a selection of Lynch’s art for an installation called Tilton Gallery presents: David Lynch, which I was lucky enough to attend mid-week at a time of day where I practically had the place to myself. Even surrounded by sunlight and white walls, Lynch’s work throws out a feeling that is both terrifying and relatable. If you’ve ever told someone out loud, “I feel so crazy right now, but I don’t know why,” that’s the mood he’s going for, and that’s the mood he so often achieves.
The grand finale of the Tilton Gallery exhibit was housed in its own room, pitch black in stark contrast with the rest of the gallery, and set up with one long bench for seating, positioned directly in front of a screen. Sitting there, staring into the darkness, a humming filled the room, and then a white egg appeared — very small — on the screen. The egg came closer and closer, while the humming got deeper and deeper, vibrating the bottom of your ear, and then the egg twitched and popped.
What did it mean? Who knows. Probably nothing. Do I still think about it a handful of years later? Yes. That’s Lynch’s gift. A prime example of all of this is part three of the new season of Twin Peaks, which we’re about to *click* unpack right now. *finger snap*
Remember that part in Fire Walk With Me when Donna asks Laura, “Do you think that if you were falling in space… that you would slow down after a while, or go faster and faster?” And Laura answers “Faster and faster. And for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire. Forever… And the angel’s wouldn’t help you. Because they’ve all gone away.” Well, that’s more or less where we find Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) after having been expelled from the Red Room of the Black Lodge, onto the outside of the mysterious glass box in NYC, and into what appears to be literal space as he makes his re-entry into whatever dimension the majority of Part Three takes place in.
His fall through space lands him in what looks like a purple hued sewer and he looks out over a vast body of calm water (the River Styx?) and then pushes his way through two glass doors into a room that is something like the inside of a lighthouse, or the other side of a switchboard panel. An Asian woman in a velvet dress with no eyes (Josie?) is trying to tell him something, but her voice comes out dreamy and nothing can be heard. There’s a thing on the wall that also looks switchboard/radio-esque and is labeled with the number “15.” The significance of that number, and other intentionally highlighted numbers that follow in Part Three, is not yet known.
The woman in the red dress guides Cooper (the identity of every character so far can only be an assumption, this is important) up a ladder onto the top of the structure which looks like a black box (like the box in NYC?) with a thick antennae on top of it. The woman pulls a lever that’s on the side of the antennae and then gets electrocuted into space. As Cooper stands there confused, a huge apparition of Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis) floats by in front of him and says “Blue Rose,” which, if you remember from the original seasons and Fire Walk With Me, is Gordon Cole’s code for cases having something to do with Project Blue Book, a government-run investigation of UFOs.
Cooper goes back down into the lighthouse/switchboard structure and there’s another woman sitting on a couch in front of a fireplace (Phoebe Augustine, who played Ronette Pulaski in the original series, as well as in Fire Walk With Me), who checks her watch just as it hits 2:53. As this happens, we flash to Evil Cooper driving down a road looking ill. Ronette (???) tells Cooper “when you get there, you will already be there,” and then implores for him to hurry because her mother is coming — a force unseen — but heard by a banging on a door that looms nearby. Soon enough, Cooper gets sucked into a switchboard panel marked with the number “3” and his shoes fall off as he disappears.
For some reason, this makes me think of The Wizard of Oz and that film’s use of shoes to show that someone has left a place, entered a place, or is wishing to return to a very, very distant home — all strong themes and points of repetition for both Parts Three and Four. (It should be noted that Lynch has made references to Oz in prior works, most directly in Wild at Heart, and loosely in Mulholland Drive.) Once Cooper has been sucked from one place to another, Evil Cooper loses control of his body and flips the car he’s driving. Immediately following this, he pukes a chunky yellow substance (creamed corn-ish) with a ribbon of black goo laced through it. He tries to keep this substance inside of him by clasping his hands over his mouth, but it can’t be contained. This creamed corn stuff is thought to be what the original Arm/Man From Another Place called “Garmonbozia,” which means “pain and sorrow.” Although, why it looks like creamed corn and not, say, a handful of peanuts, is yet to be explained.
Just as we think we’re coming to some sort of understanding as to what’s going on here, like smoke through our fingers, it gets away from us. Now we meet a new character, Dougie Jones (also played by MacLachlan), a realtor who’s enjoying an afternoon delight with a sex worker named Jade (Nafessa Williams) — you know, like the jade Owl Cave ring? — in an empty home within the Rancho Rosa complex. (Trivia: Rancho Rosa was the decoy working title for the filming of the new season.) Dougie is wearing the Owl Cave ring and complains that his left arm is numb, two major call backs to the original series and Fire Walk With Me. Jade gets up to shower and electricity hums through an outlet as Dougie barfs up more creamed corn/Garmonbozia, but this batch doesn’t have any black in it, because he’s not evil.
All of a sudden, Dougie finds himself in the Red Room with Mike/The One Armed Man (Al Strobel) and he tells him, “I feel funny.” Mike tells Dougie (who, we now notice is also not wearing any shoes) that he’s been manufactured for a purpose, but that purpose has been fulfilled. Once he says this, the Owl Cave ring falls off Dougie’s hand, his head turns into a small black butthole mouth (kind of like the new version of The Arm), and then changes again, this time into a gold marble. Mike picks up the marble, the Owl Cave ring, and places them both on a marble (or is it formica?) pedestal.
Now, we’re back to the room in Rancho Rosa and Cooper comes in like vapor through that outlet we were shown before and takes over Dougie’s body. He’s wearing his signature black suit and his hair is back to tip-top Cooper form. Jade, who we come to learn is one very patient and helpful sex worker, comes out and seems surprised to see him looking extremely different — although not that surprised — and rushes them out of the house and into her very ’90s looking yellow Jeep. Before getting in the car, she notices Cooper doesn’t have any shoes on. She goes in to find them for him and comes out with a pair of brown shoes, which are presumably Dougie’s. Cooper finds the key to his room at the Great Northern (good ‘ol room 315) in his pocket and for whatever reason this moment is extra delightful to see. That room at the Great Northern seems like a whole other world now. And it was.
Jade starts to drive Cooper towards home, but he doesn’t know where home is anymore. A team of thugs are seen on a stake out for Dougie, but Cooper ducks down to grab his Great Northern key at the exact moment Jade passes them, and the two squeak by undetected. Immediately after this, we flash momentarily into a sad home occupied by a strung out mom and her young child. The mom yells “119! 119!” and then takes a pill. There’s a large red balloon on the ground behind her and “without chemicals, he points” involuntarily tickles our memory while watching.
Back at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Hawk Hill (Michael Horse), Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz), and Lucy Brennan (Kimmy Robertson) are going though the evidence from the Laura Palmer case trying to figure out what the Log Lady meant when she said “something is missing.” Lucy makes a noise similar to the noise Laura made in the Red Room when she was sucked into the air and confesses that she ate one of her chocolate bunnies. From here we flash to Dr. Jacoby’s (Russ Tamblyn) trailer home setup where he’s built a contraption to help him paint an assembly line of shovels gold. The clatter the shovels make while blowing in the breeze sounds a lot like the noise the Victrola type radio made in the first part when The Giant told Cooper to “listen to the sounds.”
We soon arrive at the Silver Mustang Casino, where Cooper is dropped off by Jade, who gives him $5, and instructs him to go inside and call for help. Completely out of sorts, he wanders among the slot machines and sees a Red Room symbol glowing above one of them — and each time one appears, they lead to a winning machine. The symbol is kind of in the shape of a woman’s long skirt, and at least for me, Audrey Horne popped in my head, an image further exacerbated by the use of “Audrey’s Dance”. In hindsight, the only association we have with gambling in the Twin Peaks universe is at One Eyed Jack’s, and Audrey’s dad owned the place, so … maybe we’re onto something? Probably not.
Back at the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, Gordon (Lynch), Albert Rosenfield (the late Miguel Ferrer), and Tamara Preston (Chrysta Bell) look over the evidence of Sam and Tracy’s deaths back at the glass box warehouse in NYC. As they sit there mystified by the chain of events and terrifying imagery — the likes of which lead to a hilarious “What the hell?” by a flummoxed Cole — the FBI Deputy Director is taken away by a phone call where he’s informed that Cooper’s in trouble. “We’re headed back to the black hills of South Dakota,” he tells Albert and Tamara. Of course, they don’t yet know that it’s not necessarily “Cooper” they’ll find there.
Part Three took us on such a journey over the river and through the woods, as it were, that the comparatively upbeat nature of Part Four comes across like a cool breeze. We reconvene with Dougie back at the Silver Mustang Casino, who is making dreams come true by setting off winning slot machines left and right. A man named Bill Shaker (Ethan Suplee), who works at Allied Chemicals, recognizes Dougie as someone he knows, but all Dougie cares about during this conversation is trying to steal a sniff of the hot dog he’s eating.
Bill helps Dougie figure out where home is (Lancelot Court, the house with the red door, naturally) and then a floor attendant named Jackie (who’s played by Sabrina S. Sutherland, who also played the concierge at the Great Northern, aka the one who yelled “The Norwegians are leaving!”) alerts the casino eyes in the sky that Dougie is heading out (all too coincidentally, by yelling “He’s leaving! He’s leaving!”). Because he’s not exactly bolting away, security stops Cooper and brings him to ticking time bomb Supervisor Burns (Brett Gelman), who gives him a mildly threatening talk before sending him off in a limo ride home, courtesy of the casino. After a mildly humorous drive through the suburbs of Las Vegas, the limo driver (Jay Larson) — who, like Jade, also exercises an exceptional brand of patience — finds Dougie’s house with the red door. Together, they stand outside the limo in a daze, just in time to see an owl fly by overhead, which seemingly prompts Dougie’s wife Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) to come out and yell at Dougie for missing for three days.
From this point, a lot of facts and bundles of new information come at us in rapid fire. First up, Cole meets with Denise (David Duchovny), who is now the Chief of Staff for the FBI and gives Gordon the go-ahead to take his team (Albert and Tamara) to South Dakota. Interesting to note that while waiting for Denise to begin their meeting, Cole sees a bundle of red roses on the seat next to him. Roses always seem to be code for something in these instances. We’ve come across black roses, and blue roses, but red roses are new.
Now we’re back in Twin Peaks proper and learn that Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) is a deputy at the police department. He sees a picture of Laura Palmer amongst the evidence laid out in the conference room and breaks into tears as the titular theme plays. Lucy and Andy are there, too, and this feels like a safe enough space to give the first bit of major criticism on this new season: The role of Deputy Andy Brennan did not age well, and Goaz’s performance subtracts more than it adds. Hopefully this ends up being for a reason, but right now, it’s just cringeworthy.
Beyond this point, we learn that Lucy is traumatized by cell phones, Sheriff Truman’s brother, Frank Truman, is now the acting Sheriff in charge (played by Robert Forster, who Lynch wanted for the original series as Harry before casting Michael Ontkean, who passed on reprising his role), and Lucy and Andy’s kid, Wally Brando (Michael Cera) rolls in on his motorcycle to give a Marlon Brando impression that seems sort of unnecessary.
Part Four wraps up with two major threads…
Cooper is now trapped in the life of Dougie. He sees a vision of Mike in Dougie’s home, who says, “You can see me, can’t you?”, and then tells him that he’s been tricked. Mike shows Cooper the gold marble from Part Three and says, “One of you must die now.” We’re getting the hint here that Evil Cooper “manufactured” this holding pattern for the real Cooper to save himself some time. While figuring out how to make his way around Dougie’s house, Cooper meets Dougie’s son named Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon), and they exchange familiar smiles and shoot each other thumbs up. This might be a wild idea, but it’s possible the thumbs up hints that Sonny is the new host for The Giant? In fact, when Cooper first sees the child, he clutches his belly where he was shot in his room at the Great Northern and met with the waiter, aka the Giant’s previous host, for the first time.
The second thread, and the one we close with, is Gordon and his team meeting with Evil Cooper at a South Dakota maximum prison facility. Rather quickly, the three realize that this isn’t Cooper, especially Albert. At one point, he makes eye contact with Evil Cooper and appears to get physically ill. Shortly after, while Gordon cranks up his hearing aid to talk to Albert in private, Albert confesses that he authorized the long lost Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) to give Evil Cooper some information — namely, the identity of “their man in Columbia,” who ended up dead a week later. Gordon tells Albert that before they make another move, they need a certain person to get a look at Cooper. Who could this be? Well, as we guessed, Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) should be able to see him for who he is, which may or may not kick off Part Five, which we’ll be talking about on June 4th.