‘Twin Peaks’: I am who I am… who I was, I will never be again
Season Three, Episode Sixteen — “The Return, Part Sixteen”
By Brad Sun. In many ways, Twin Peaks: The Return has been a show about waiting. From Sam staring intently at the mysterious glass box way back in “Part One”, to Big Ed at the Double R’s counter just last episode, so much of the series is structured on the buildup and release of anxious anticipation.
All this is paralleled by the viewing audience who has watched, sometimes patiently, sometimes not, as Frost and Lynch have slowly and methodically weaved their twisty tale of violence and intrigue. “Part Sixteen” brings this all to the forefront while finally unleashing some of the season’s most significant payoffs yet.
Let’s get straight to the longest wait of all: after twenty-five years in the Black Lodge, and a few days bumbling around Las Vegas, Special Agent Dale Cooper has returned. “Finally,” Mike says, echoing our relief.
Frost and Lynch at last reward us (or, some might say, stop fucking with us) by bringing back a quick-witted Coop already completely up to speed and ready for action. It’s Dale Cooper who has always set the tone of Twin Peaks, and now that the brilliant G-Man is back on the case, we shift gears away from the slow menacing burn of Evil Coop to the peppier pace of the original series. And as the Dale we all know and love makes up for lost time, bidding a heartfelt farewell to his adopted wife and child before booking it straight to Twin Peaks (with the Mitchum entourage in tow), we begin to grasp why it was so important to delay his return until the series’ last few hours.
When he made his debut back in 1990, marveling boyishly at Douglas Firs and hanging upside-down in his hotel room, Dale Cooper was as much a mystery as the rest of the colorful Twin Peaks cast. But in the decades that followed, he’s grown into a pop culture icon — an incorruptible, coffee-loving paragon of compassion and decency. His very presence brings a sense of security and calm, and for The Return, Frost and Lynch needed to make sure we felt the exact opposite of that. To truly sell the new series’ dark and looming menace, they had to leave us without our intrepid guide. His absence made the unknowable dangers that much more more terrifying, and simultaneously imbued his resurrection with all the momentous and spiritual weight of Aslan roaring and leaping his way through Narnia.
But even as we delight in Cooper’s return, we’re reminded that the end of a long wait can often end in tragedy too.
Coop’s return means he must leave behind Janey-E and Sonny Jim, who can scarcely comprehend what’s happening yet know enough to realize a wonderful, miraculous part of their lives is coming to a close. Richard Horne, who presumably has waited his whole life to meet his estranged father, is reunited at last, only to be vaporized soon after, a sacrificial pawn in Evil Coop’s cold calculations.
Likewise, while waiting for Dougie Jones, adorable psychopaths Hutch and Chantal meet their violent fate in a pointless shootout with an aggravated accountant. “Looks like it’s gonna be a long day,” Hutch says, moments before he and his beloved are riddled with bullets.
And then there’s Diane, who delivers the biggest emotional gut-punch of the hour by finally revealing the sad truth behind her existence. It turns out the salty secretary is nothing more than a spiteful revenant, a “tulpa” as Tammy puts it. Like Dougie (and Richard for that matter), she was created by Evil Coop to serve as a mere cog in his larger schemes. Unlike the others, she seems fully aware of her purpose, making her resentment and alcoholism pretty understandable in hindsight.
This means the real Diane, who was assaulted and abducted by Evil Coop years ago, is likely dead, replaced by her tulpa who has waited all this time, stewing in her rage, until she was needed. It’s a sad and unnecessarily cruel move on the doppelganger’s part, giving us one more reason to fear and loathe him as we head into the finale. With only the two hours remaining, all roads lead to Twin Peaks and the long awaited Cooper showdown. Where this surreal journey ultimately takes us remains a complete mystery, but “Part Sixteen” reminds us once again that Frost and Lynch know exactly what they’re doing.
“I am the FBI.” – Special Agent Dale Cooper, back and ready for action.
BEST MOMENT: Ever since her baffling reappearance in “Part Twelve”, Audrey’s scenes have been the most infuriating and fascinating part of each episode. “Part Sixteen” takes the maddening disorientation to another level as Audrey and Charlie finally arrive at the Roadhouse. “Oh, so she’s not in a coma/madhouse/other dimension” you think to yourself, right before she heads to the dance floor to sway dreamily to her signature music from the original series. (It’s one of the weirdest hallucinatory moments so far in a series that features multiple characters taking off their faces.) The scene is interrupted by a sudden burst of violence, then a quick cut to a panicked Audrey staring into a mirror in a white void. And just in case you’re not yet sufficiently mindfucked, we get a reprise of Audrey’s theme over the closing credits, played in reverse Black Lodge style. I love this show.
EPISODE’S MVP: Kyle MacLachlan completes his multi-character acting tour de force by finally returning to his most iconic role. In order for the buildup to really be worth it, Dale Cooper’s awakening had to be perfect, as if the character hadn’t missed a beat since he entered the Black Lodge all those years ago. MacLachlan nails it. Cooper’s signature mannerisms, vocal cadences, and above all genuine kindness radiate effortlessly through every moment. Welcome back.
SLICES OF PIE:
– The same ringing tone that is heard at the Great Northern is in Cooper’s hospital room before he wakes up.
– Check out Candie’s expression while Cooper is talking with the Mitchum Bros in the limo. Actress Amy Shiels nails her character’s hilarious empty-headedness.
– Edward Louis Severson/Eddie Vedder’s song “Out of Sand”, has several lines that could be allusions to Twin Peaks, including “I am who I am/Who I was I will never be again,” a fitting eulogy for Diane and Dougie Jones.
– Audrey may be… somewhere else, but her relationship with Billy carries over to scenes in the Roadhouse and Twin Peaks. How much of what we’ve been watching has been in Audrey’s head?
10 out of 10
Next: The finale, in one week.
Before: “The Return, Part Fifteen,” here.