‘Twin Peaks’: They who set the fires, and he who puts them out
Season Three, Episode Fourteen — “The Return, Part Fourteen”
By Brad Sun. Never before have two phone calls been more exciting. “Part Fourteen” begins with Gordon Cole finally making contact with the season’s two key locations of Las Vegas and Twin Peaks. It’s a bittersweet sign that, with just four hours remaining, Twin Peaks: The Return is at last heading into its endgame. Save for one shocking exception, this is done primarily through characters sitting around and talking to each other. Specifically, telling stories.
First, Albert tells the tale of “Lois Duffy and the Blue Rose”, a case of a woman murdering herself (or, at least, a version of herself) that leads to the start of Cole’s ongoing investigations into the unnatural and inexplicable. Cole himself has a story to tell too, a dream featuring Monica Bellucci (playing herself), who apparently serves as his frequent spirit guide.
This story is more abstract than the last, beginning in a Paris cafe and bleeding into a flashback of Cole, Albert, and Cooper’s last encounter with Phillip Jeffries (from Fire Walk With Me). Monica comments on the subjective nature of dreams and memory, cryptically highlighting the ongoing cycle of visions and shifting identity that surround Cole’s team of investigators.
But it’s Diane who drops the biggest puzzle piece of the sequence, revealing that Janey-E is in fact her estranged half-sister. It’s a development that at first may feel random, even narratively convenient, but makes sense if one follows the poetic logic employed by Cole and his agents. The Return has, after all, been filled with siblings — the Hornes, the Trumans, the Mitchums, the Fuscos, and, of course, all the different Coops running around. And, like the various Coopers, Diane and Janey-E do seem like opposing versions of one another — one sweet on the outside but shallow and materialistic within, the other filled with deep wells of feeling encased behind a salty exterior. Both, of course, are inextricably tied to a different Dale.
But South Dakota isn’t the only place filled with revelations and unexpected connections. Back in Twin Peaks, our quartet of Truman, Hawk, Andy, and Bobby are finally journeying to Jackrabbit’s Palace. The theme of storytelling again comes up, as Bobby reminisces about the tall tales he and his father would create together, all while the good-natured officers endearingly participate in a mysterious tall tale of their own. Garland’s instructions lead them through the lush forest to a striking discovery — the eyeless woman that Cooper first encountered in “Part Three”, and another gateway to the other side.
It’s Andy that’s taken by the vortex this time, leading to a meeting with the Giant, who introduces himself as “The Fireman.” It’s now Andy’s turn to hear a story, and he’s told, well, everything.
Glimpses of the entire season and beyond are absorbed by Andy, who then returns to Twin Peaks with a newfound determination and clarity of purpose. While it’s unclear precisely what Andy now knows, it’s interesting to note that once again Frost and Lynch seem to be tying spiritual enlightenment to a certain kind of pure-hearted simplemindedness. It’s evident in Cooper’s life as Dougie Jones, and can arguably be seen in Gordon Cole as well, who not coincidentally was almost taken by a vortex himself in “Part Eleven”.
There’s two more stories shared this episode, this first between James and his friend Freddie while they’re both working as security guards at the Great Northern. Freddie’s tall tale again involves an encounter with the Fireman, who grants him a devastatingly powerful punch and a mission to head to Twin Peaks.
Of all the stories shared, this is the one with the least clear connection to events, but also perhaps the most intriguing, elevating the Giant/Fireman to a god-like figure shaping mortals’ destinies and even bestowing a mystical artifact, even if it takes the form of a green rubber glove. From the atomic awakening of “Part Eight” to Freddie’s plainspoken cosmic journey, the scope of Twin Peak‘s mythology continues to expand, even as the season reaches its final hours.
Finally, at the Roadhouse, we’re shown yet another conversation between and about characters we barely know. In a masterful moment of trolling, we’re made to believe that one of the women might be Audrey’s daughter, only for her to dramatically reveal that her mother’s name is Tina. After an hour filled with fan pleasing developments, it’s only fitting that the episode ends with a cheeky prank to keep the audience on their toes. And as all the puzzle pieces continue to fall into place, revealing a beautiful but still inexplicable whole, we’re left with this impossible riddle: We’re like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream. But who is the dreamer?
“Oh boy.” – Albert, after hearing Cole had a dream about Monica Bellucci.
BEST MOMENT: “Part Fourteen” was mostly about the act of storytelling, but it wouldn’t be The Return without at least one shockingly violent moment of horror. In the most grindhouse sequence yet, Sarah Palmer removes her face, then rips out the throat of an aggressively lecherous trucker. It’s wonderful.
EPISODE’S MVP: This episode was truly an ensemble effort, with each new revelation sold by the cast’s performances and the viewers’ connection to their characters. But once again, Grace Zabriskie steals the show with her frighteningly raw performance as Sarah Palmer. Savage and brutal, yet somehow still heartbreaking and pitiable, her scenes remain a highlight of the series.
SLICES OF PIE:
– Could the Giant’s moniker of “Fireman” allude to his status as a creature of ultimate goodness i.e. someone who puts out fires? Fire has frequently been brought up as a symbol of darkness, from the Woodsman’s repeated, “Gotta light?” to Fire Walk With Me. Both Garland Briggs and the Log Lady’s husband were also killed by fire.
– When Sarah opens up her face, we see a series of images including a hand with a darkened ring finger, the same evil finger that Cole told Tammy about in “Part Seven”. Laura also removed her face at the beginning of the season, though hers was filled with golden light.
– The conversation between the two women at the Roadhouse again brings up zombie-like behavior, similar to the girl in the car Bobby saw and the grotesque prisoner that Chad encounters this episode.
– This episode is dedicated to David Bowie.
9 out of 10
Next: “The Return, Part Fifteen,” in one week.
Before: The Return, Part Thirteen,” here.