by Benjamín Harguindey
Twin Peaks is taking a brief hiatus after the insanity that was the last episode (palate every minute, there’re only so many left). Let’s take a quick five minutes to gather our bearings and ponder on the five biggest enigmas the David Lynch and Mark Frost‘s show has stacked up so far.
Dale Cooper’s Fate
What the show is about, essentially, at least according to Showtime president David Nevins: “The core of it is Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks“. Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is fated back to the titular town in one form or another, and there is much expectation how and when Twin Peaks will catch up to his predicament (one of the show’s more coherent, steady subplots involves the Sheriff’s Department’s attempts at tying up the loose ends on the Laura Palmer case).
Cooper began this season still trapped in the Black Lodge, only to be siphoned out in the second episode, reinstated back to reality in the third and anointed as “Dougie Jones” by the fourth (a ploy by his doppelgänger to withhold Cooper’s identity). Since then he has been going through the motions of household drama and workplace intrigue in a state of catatonia, disregarded by all those around him for comedic effect.
Guided by Black Lodge visions and served by an extraordinary luck (or is it?), Cooper shows signs of improvement and recuperating his old self. It’s a slow, slow process but everything points out to him eventually retaking his old self. The question remains when will this happen – will this be the show’s climax, reserved for the final episodes? – and more importantly how it will happen. Who’ll finally get to him? His chummy boss Gordon Cole (Lynch)? Old flame Diane (Laura Dern)? Will a tour of Twin Peaks do the trick? Or will it be something random yet unexpectedly significant?
His Doppelgänger’s Plan
Up until the last episode, Cooper’s doppelgänger had coolly stayed one step ahead of everybody. He’s a man with a plan, not the force of whim and chaos that was BOB (Frank Silva). The big question mark here is, what exactly is his plan, and to what end is he executing it?
Early on the doppelgänger was troubled by Cooper’s imminent return, though he quickly disposed of him by rerouting him into a decoy. No clue on how he created such a decoy – a man with a full life, complete with a wife (Naomi Watts) and son – or what is his endgame. So far he’s framed a man for a double murder, then killed his wife and framed her lawyer, slain two of his accomplices, blackmailed the prison warden with the word “strawberry” and activated a mystery box in Buenos Aires.
Is it all in the name of prolonging his existence? Is he trying to secure his freedom in the real world, breaking the shackles of the Black Lodge for good? Or is there something else at stake?
Whatever he’s doing he appears to be on a race against Phillip Jeffries, a bit character from the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), where he was played by David Bowie. Bowie supposedly died before retaking the mantle of the FBI agent. So is that really Jeffries on the other side of the phone? Has the character been recast? Transmuted into something else, like the Man From Another Place? We’ll find out if and when he reappears.
The Brothers Truman
Early on it was reported one notable absence from the returning cast: Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman, arguably the series’ co-lead or at least credited as such during the original run. The actor has retired since then, and in his stead he’s been replaced as Sheriff and bemused voice of reason with brother Frank Truman (Robert Forster).
Lynch and Frost had to work around the death and absence of several key performers, like using stock footage of Frank Silva as BOB, writing the death of Don S. Davis (as Major Garland Briggs) into the plot and replacing no-show Michael J. Anderson with a talking tree. For Harry they devised a terminal illness, of which we’re frequently reminded through his brother’s telephone calls.
Insisting upon the absence of Harry Truman seems quaint, especially when they could’ve easily dismissed him for good with a simple line of exposition. But because he’s mentioned and alluded to so many times throughout the show, there is a sense of expectation that something will happen with him. At this point he must either die off-screen to this mysterious disease – something of a pointless low blow – or be rid of it, in which case why bring it up in the first place?
Is there any chance we’ll see Ontkean in a surprise appearence, perhaps in a pivotal reunion with Cooper?
Eight episodes in and nearly halfway there, most of the show’s returning cast has been accounted for (however small their part). The two notable exceptions to date are Everett McGill – the actor came out of retirement to reprise the role of Big Ed Hurley – and Sherilyn Fenn as fan-favorite Audrey Horne.
Audrey was one of the characters who fell victim to the finale’s limbo, last seen cuffed to the door of an exploding bank vault. In episode seven Dr. Hayward (Warren Frost) shed some light on her fate – she fell into a coma – but did she ever wake up from it?
Since the beginning fans have theorized on the nature of Audrey’s role in the show’s revival. Would she belatedly fulfill her character’s original purpose as Dale Cooper’s love interest? Now that Diane Evans has been introduced as the “she” in Cooper’s life, that seems unlikely. What are the odds of her being that anonymous billionaire banking the glass box experiment? Holding her character back like this feels conspicuous. Hopefully she gets a role worthy of the character’s notoriety and does more than casually turn a cameo like most of the returning cast.
Without a doubt the eighth episode of the new season has been the most divisive, probably most enigmatic slice of Twin Peaks to date. Set over multiple time periods, shot mostly in black and white and scored with little to no dialogue, the episode is a psychotropic rave, throwing in the atom bomb, the creation of good and evil, a hellish convenience store, projectile-vomiting beings, vicious killer lumberjacks, a race of burrowing toad-like parasites and even a full-length Nine Inch Nails music video.
There is little to connect it to any of the preceding seven episodes or indeed the preceding two seasons, except for some mythology gags and a déjà vu to Lynch’s previous avant-garde work, like The Grandmother (1970) and Eraserhead (1977). What did it all mean? And it connects back to the show how?
Perhaps the episode works as an origin story of sorts. Man distilled evil in the form of the atom bomb, which in turn begot the demon known as ‘Bob’, and in turn the gods (or are they?) distilled good in the form of Laura Palmer. Years later, the seeds of that ancient evil are reaped in the form of a plague that suddenly sweeps across the desert and haunts the populace into unkowing sleep. Yes, the images are reminiscent of a 50s B-horror movie, but it cannot also be a coincidence that Twin Peaks itself appears to have stood frozen in cheery 50s glam while evil unkowningly prowled about. Even if there’s no immediate sense to the careful choice of words in the Woodsman’s chant, or indeed any of the cryptic lines uttered throughout the show, episode eight feels like Twin Peaks’ own epic poem.
The question is how the hell do you follow that.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).