Season Three, Episode Thirteen — “The Return, Part Thirteen”
By Brad Sun. Last week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return was the first real disappointment of the season, a listless scattershot hour that almost seemed to have contempt for its audience. But even if “Part Twelve” doesn’t do much to push the show out of its narrative meandering, it delivers where it counts, bringing back the series’ playful surreality and cryptic intrigue, and even throwing a fan-servicey bone or two to the faithfully devoted.
The fun starts at Lucky 7 Insurance, where Cooper, the Mitchums, and the trio of Vegas girls all burst into the office in a joyful conga line, spreading merriment, bestowing gifts, and causing Anthony Sinclair to literally cower under his desk in fear. It’s a moment so delightfully over-the-top that it would be at home in a Mel Brooks film, and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air for a series that often wallows in bleakness and discord.
Indeed, despite all the looming threats and peril that surround him, Dale Cooper’s stint as the oblivious Dougie Jones is proving to be a truly heartwarming story, his innate goodness and decency impacting everyone he encounters despite his near catatonic state.
This sense of whimsy continues into the next sequence, though it’s infused with a sinister undercurrent thanks to the return of Evil Coop (following his multi-episode absence). What begins as a tense meeting between the doppelganger and Ray’s intimidating cohorts, soon takes a turn toward the absurd as the standoff culminates in a winner-takes-all bout of arm wrestling. It’s not difficult to predict how things will turn out from here, but even when Evil Coop’s adversary meets his inevitably brutal demise, there’s a charming cheekiness to the proceedings — an offbeat mischief that’s demented, yes, but fun too.
The remainder of the episode takes place primarily in Twin Peaks, where the recurring subject of conversation is, fittingly, cherry pie. Norma’s franchise of Double R Diners is beginning to take off, but is doing so by deviating from her signature recipes. “Love doesn’t always turn a profit,” says her money-minded partner, but it does bring people together. The mere mention of pie cheers up a distraught Becky and encourages her to spend time with her mother. Back in Vegas, it’s Cooper’s innocent love of pie that unwittingly leads Anthony to abandon his wicked ways and confess his crimes.
As a weeping Anthony seeks absolution from the clueless Cooper, an ironic paragon of purity, I can’t help but remember Hawk’s words from the original series, describing the Black Lodge as a place “every spirit must pass through on the way to perfection.” Perhaps, when all is said and done, that’s exactly what we’ve been witnessing all along. Perhaps this world, with its sadistic Richard Hornes and lonely Big Eds, is the real shadow realm. And when Dale Cooper finally reawakens, it will not be to the familiar setting of Twin Peaks, but to the promised paradise of the White Lodge, having journeyed through hell to get there. Or perhaps not.
Twin Peaks is nothing if not completely unpredictable, but the fact that “Part Thirteen” could leave me with such a hopeful thought speaks volumes to the surprising sense of optimism that runs through even its darker moments. It is this enduring sense of wonder and sincerity, even in the face of unflinching horror, that has always lied at the core of the show’s best moments and lasting appeal.
“No reason, pal. Nothing happening here.” – Big Ed Hurley, to Bobby Briggs, revealing his acceptance of his failed romance with Norma, with good-natured, heartbreaking simplicity.
BEST MOMENT: After last week’s jarringly unpleasant reintroduction to Audrey Horne, it comes as a complete but welcome surprise to find her second appearance layered with such intrigue. Though it picks up in the middle of her tedious argument with Charlie, their dialogue quickly turns surreal. Audrey begins to question whether she’s still herself, as if suddenly registering how out-of-character she’s been acting. Her thoughts become jumbled, and Charlie’s aloofness turns menacing when he threatens to “end her story.” Has Audrey lost her mind? Is Charlie actually her therapist? Is she still in a coma? Perhaps, like Cooper, she’s been caught in a strange limbo of her own, which would explain her disconnect from the rest of the series’ events. The fact that all these theories are equally plausible is precisely why Twin Peaks remains such a unique and engaging phenomenon.
EPISODE’S MVP: He’s been a hidden-in-plain-sight acting powerhouse for the entire season, but Kyle MacLachlan really showcases the contrast between Evil Coop and Dougie in “Part Thirteen”. Despite both characters being men of few words, it’s not just their physical characteristics that distinguish them. Evil Coop’s silence is a calculating, unnatural menace, his every quirk and tic a reminder that he is a creature that doesn’t belong. In contrast, Dougie’s quiet calm is that of a curious child, taking in the events around him with unfiltered wonder and delight. Lynch has always been fascinated with duality, and in MacLachlan he’s found the perfect avatar to embody this dichotomy.
SLICES OF PIE:
– The green ring, last seen on the original Dougie Jones’ finger, makes a reappearance. Also prominently featured in Fire Walk With Me, its properties remain mysterious, but it seems to operate as a gateway or connection to the Waiting Room/Black Lodge.
– The opening scene at Lucky 7 Insurance, and later dialogue by Janey-E, implies Dougie has not been home since his meeting with the Mitchums. That would mean that “Part Twelve”, which showed Dougie playing catch with Sonny Jim (and reused footage from a previous episode), took place out of sequence.
– Sarah Palmer is watching an old boxing match (possibly connected to Bushnell Mullins?) on a loop. Is this meant to represent the monotony of her daily routine, or is something more supernatural at work?
– Audrey name-drops “Ghostwood”, the name of the mystery-filled forest surrounding Twin Peaks, and also a development project that was prominent in the latter part of Season Two.
– James graces the Roadhouse stage for a reprise of the infamously awful “Just You”. It’s a good humored nod to the original series that lets us know everyone is in on the joke, while still leaving a lingering nostalgic poignancy.
8 out of 10
Next: “The Return, Part Fourteen,” in one week.
Before: “The Return, Part Twelve,” here.