‘Twin Peaks’ indulged itself an hour of mind-fuckery, and not the fun kind
Season Three, Episode Twelve — “The Return, Part Twelve”
By Brad Sun. After eleven episodes of increasingly anxious anticipation, surely every Twin Peaks fan has speculated at some point about exactly how and when Audrey Horne would finally return to the show. Perhaps it would be related to the family drama surrounding her son Richard or her father Ben Horne. Maybe she would cross paths with the newly resurfaced Dale Cooper. Maybe she’d be the one to restore his memories! Well… no. It turned out to be none of those.
In a scene that seems plucked from an entirely different show (and with shockingly little fanfare or context), we are presented with a nasty argument between Audrey and her apparent husband Charlie (played by Clark Middleton). She berates and emasculates him, unrepentantly confessing an affair and demanding his help in tracking down her missing beau. They banter back and forth about at least three characters we know little to nothing about.
Then we’re left hanging when Charlie withholds the apparently salacious news he just heard over the phone. “You’re not going to tell me what she said?!” Audrey screams, echoing our frustration. Indeed, reintroducing a fan favorite character acting so unlikeable in a scene that’s so confusing is jarring, to say the least. Yet it wasn’t the only baffling moment in Episode Twelve.
Dr. Jacoby and his golden shovels make another appearance, and if his rant seems familiar, it’s because nearly the entire segment was recycled directly from “Part Five” (including Nadine’s mesmerized reaction shots). Later on at the Roadhouse, we’re introduced to more unknown characters discussing even more people we’ve never seen or heard of before. Twin Peaks has always delighted in toying with viewers’ expectations, and the disorientation of this string of non-sequiturs creates a disquieting sense of off-kilter wrongness.
Perhaps this is meant to mirror the sudden hysterical outburst by Sarah Palmer early in the episode when, while shopping for cigarettes and booze, she encounters turkey jerky for the first time at the grocery store. Like Sarah, we don’t understand what we’re seeing; we just know it’s not right.
But if there is indeed a point to all this mind-fuckery, it will have to be taken on faith alone for now. David Lynch himself (in the role of Gordon Cole) seems to be entreating us to relax and go with the flow. When Albert bursts into his room with some seemingly urgent news, we’re forced to wait as Cole’s gorgeous French guest collects her things and leaves in a playful and excruciatingly slow performance.
Cole, who’s clearly having a ball even in the midst of mounting danger and Diane’s betrayal, then tells his always serious colleague, “Sometimes I really worry about you.” In other words, the plot can wait. Let’s just have some fun.
Fair enough. Lynch’s work has always been more concerned with tone and thematic truth over literalism. Famously, he never intended for Laura Palmer’s murder to be solved, the investigation serving only as the impetus for a never-ending string of wonderful and strange events. So maybe we should stop fretting about when Dale Cooper will snap back to normal and instead delight at Sonny Jim pegging him with a baseball.
Even still, whether it was the reused footage of Jacoby or Audrey’s unceremonious return, there was something joyless, even mean-spirited, about “Part Twelve.” One expects, even welcomes, a feeling of confusion when watching a David Lynch project, but for the first time since the series’ return, I felt more tedium than intrigue. Like Albert, we get the punchline of Cole’s intentionally awful turnip joke (ironically, a highlight of the hour). We’re just not laughing.
“Next stop, Wendy’s.” – Gary “Hutch” Hutchens, immediately after killing Warden Murphy in front of his traumatized son.
BEST MOMENT: We had a quick glimpse of Sarah Palmer’s sad solitary life early in the series, but “Part Twelve” gave us a deeper peek into her nightmarish existence. Maybe it was Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic score or those damn whirring fan blades, but nothing more perfectly captured that mysterious, ominous feeling of classic Twin Peaks quite like Hawk’s visit to the Palmer residence. Clinking bottles have never sounded so dreadful (as in “inspiring dread”) as when they’re coming from Sarah’s kitchen. Maybe it was just the bag boy from the grocery store… but maybe not. “It’s a goddamn bad story, isn’t it, Hawk?” she suddenly blurts out through clenched teeth. And how!
EPISODE’S MVP: Grace Zabriskie absolutely kills as the still-traumatized Sarah Palmer. Equal parts menacing and pitiable, her unsettling facial tics alone are enough to send chills down anyone’s spine, be it Deputy Chief Hawk, an unsuspecting young cashier, or even Seinfeld‘s George Costanza.
SLICES OF PIE:
– It’s more than a little disturbing that Cole has been watching Tammy since she was in high school.
– Diane’s entrance through red curtains and the phrase “let’s rock” are both references to the Arm, otherwise known as the Man from Another Place.
– The odyssey of Cooper’s room key continues. Now in the hands of the Twin Peaks Sherriff Department, it may yet prove more significant than it initially appeared.
– References to moon cycles and the time of day in scenes preceding the Jacoby sequence further highlight the out of sync nature of the reused footage.
– Audrey’s Billy might be the same person someone (Bing?) was frantically looking for at the Double R in “Part Seven”, who also might be the same person that was supposed to meet Andy about the truck but never showed.
– Audrey and Charlie’s talk of signatures and lawyers is very reminiscent of similarly suspect dealings between Ben Horne and Catherine Martell in the original series.
5 out of 10
Next: “The Return, Part Thirteen,” in one week.
Before: “The Return, Part Eleven,” here.