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Twin Peaks

Romance and Death Are All the Rage on 'Twin Peaks'

Last night's episode was vintage 'Twin Peaks,' right down to its warped sense of soap opera.

by Jess Zimmerman
21 August 2017, 7:35pm

Courtesy of Showtime

Twin Peaks gets retro this week, returning to form in several different ways—one of those ways, of course, being that even when it returns to form it still feels very new. This episode revisits the most burning questions (and some of the most enigmatic characters) of Fire Walk with Me, and combines them with the focus on love and relationships that characterized the original series. The mysteries flicker through the love scenes, and vice versa, each briefly distorting and briefly replacing the other, like a burning convenience store gradually turning into a stand of trees.

First, let's talk about that room above the convenience store, which we learned last episode is also called "The Dutchman's." In Fire Walk with Me, it was just a room, presumably located above a real convenience store (in the original series, MIKE describes it as being "among the people"). Now, the store is burned out and abandoned, and the upstairs room is also a portal to a mysterious motel, which is itself a portal to that black-and-white world where the Giant and Naido reside. What hasn't changed? Some of the inhabitants: Many of the spirits that were seen in this room in FWWM are gone, but the Woodsmen and the long-nosed, white-faced, never-explained Jumping Man remain. And, of course, its status as a way station between worlds.

"Who's Judy?" Doppelcoop demands of the bell-shaped, spouted device that seems to house the soul of Phillip Jeffries. (We've seen four of these so far: on the roof of the cube before Naido falls off into space, in the Giant's living room, in the ballroom with the device that releases the Laura-sphere toward Earth, and now this one. Is each a conduit to a specific soul? Major Briggs's face does float by shortly after the first one is activated. Or is it more of a network, a way of moving the dead around like electricity through wires? The devices look a little like insulators; maybe they are.) Doppelcoop can't know, of course, that every Fire Walk with Me fan has been asking this for 25 years—but David Lynch can, and does. The implication is that we're returning to mysteries left unexplained in the movie, and that we may start getting some answers—but who knows if they'll be any use. (The one Jeffries gives Doppelcoop isn't really, though it's tantalizing. "You've already met Judy," he says.)

The other old storyline that comes back this week wraps up in a more satisfying way, though it briefly looks like it won't. Decades after Big Ed loses his true lover a-courtin' too slow, the woman he married instead has had a change of heart thanks to Dr. Amp's golden shovel. When he gets to the Double R to tell Norma the good news, it looks like he's once again just a moment too late—but Norma is only meeting that douchebag Walter to tell him in the Norma-est possible way to shove his franchising deal. Then she comes back to Ed and kisses him, and, yeah, I cried. Love doesn't come easy in Twin Peaks, but sometimes it comes with patience.

Photo by Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Other times, well, you get Steven and Gersten, whose extramarital affair looks to have ended in a drug-fueled suicide. Or Hutch and Chantal, bonding over murder and fast food. Or James's crush on Renee, whose husband is so violently jealous that he'll beat a man for saying hi to her. Or Richard Horne getting a fraction of the beatdown he deserves from the person we might be about to find out is his father. Or Audrey and Charlie, so devoted to sniping at each other that they can't even manage to get out the door... to look for Audrey's lover.

My boyfriend asked tonight whether Audrey is maybe still in a coma, and we're watching not an excruciatingly drawn-out marital spat but a psychodrama in which she tries to wake up. There really is a missing man named Billy, and a woman named Tina really was the last person to see him, so if we're merely witnessing Audrey's inner struggle it has some connection to the real world, but the idea has merit—not least because Audrey said two weeks ago, "I feel like I'm somewhere else, have you ever had that feeling, Charlie? Like I'm somewhere else and somebody else, you ever feel like that?"

The relationships, or anyway most of them, are wrenched and deformed—but the interest in relationships, the centering of how humans circle one another and fall in love and get hurt and, yes, lose one another (R.I.P. Log Lady, whom we mourned in 2015 and mourn again now), is vintage Twin Peaks, and something that hasn't dominated the show this season to the degree it used to. (Original Twin Peaks was billed as a sort of warped soap opera, right down to its own soap-opera-within-a-show.) I'm glad to see it surfacing again.

In many ways, Twin Peaks has always been its own doppelganger: a "good" show focusing on human relationships, however twisted, and a "bad" show (or movie) that's too strange, too incomprehensible, too gross, too oddly paced for normal TV. The "good" parts, at their strongest, are emotionally engaging, the "bad" ones intellectually engaging. The best episodes of the old Twin Peaks mix the two in about equal measures; the worst lean toward the former to the point of being profoundly boring and dumb, whereas Fire Walk With Me is so heavily weighted towards the latter that I didn't rewatch it until it became clear that I had to. Mark Frost and David Lynch worked as a creative partnership because Frost brought the heart and Lynch the brain. This season has been brain-heavy, and I'm glad to know the heart still beats.

Notes for Peaks freaks of old:

— Can someone check for me whether Jeffries's lines in this episode all come from existing footage? It seems like they might, but I suppose it's also possible that Lynch corralled David Bowie into recording some lines two years ago. I mean, Catherine Coulson's in this, and she died before Bowie did. But she's also not David fucking Bowie. (It's also possible Lynch had someone mimic Jeffries's broad Fauxmerican accent and just credited them as Bowie.)

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