'Twin Peaks' Is Finally Starting to Make Sense, Maybe
"Part Five" introduces even more plots and characters, but some of the puzzle pieces are slowly fitting together.
Imagine you've spent four hours watching someone slowly, precisely decorate a room with an inexplicable grab bag of items: a balloon over here, a boot over there, a toy car, a bucket, a candle. It's been mystifying to watch, but you shrug and look for interesting resonances, some kind of pattern in the noise. Maybe the balloon and the bucket are the same color, or the candle makes it look like the car is on fire. Interesting! Probably! This person knows what they're doing, after all. There must be a reason.
Then they flip a switch, and the candle burns through the string of the balloon, which floats up and knocks over the bucket, which spills water on the car pushing it down a ramp to hit the boot, which kicks you in the ass.
That's kind of how Twin Peaks is feeling this week: like the pins that were set up in the first four episodes are starting to knock one another down. The pattern they're making is still hard to read, but if Lynch can pull this off, it's gonna be a Rube Goldberg machine of epic proportions.
It's happening just in time, too. The first four episodes, which were officially released two a week but actually made available in one orgiastic marathon of weirdness on May 21, sent up a head-spinning whirl of plots and characters, some of which have necessarily lain all but untouched for a while. I almost groaned aloud when a man we've never seen before appeared this week, scolding a younger man we've never seen before for his sloppy résumé—but the young man turned out to be Steven, introduced in episode two when Shelly Johnson complained "my daughter's with the wrong guy." (The older man, incidentally, isn't really a new face either; he's Mike Nelson, the drug-running football player from the original series, who went by "Snake" and expected people to take that seriously even though it was clear that he would grow up to look like a mean principal from an 80s movie, which he did.) Just when our brains started to creak under the demands of new plot lines, the existing ones have begun to grow connective tissue. We'll keep meeting new characters and encountering new questions, but they're starting to fit somewhere. Or rather, we're starting to see where they fit.
That murder in Buckthorn, South Dakota, for instance, which we haven't heard about since the beginning of "Part Two"? That storyline's back, but it only showed up to explain what it's doing here. That plot, in which a woman's severed head was found in bed with a man's headless body, took up fully half of the first episode but had no apparent connections to any other part except that it featured a murdered woman, a criminal investigation, and briefly, someone named Hank. Now, though, we learn that a wedding ring was found inside the unidentified male body—and it's Dougie's. And then, in the Pentagon, an officer informs Colonel Ernie Hudson that she's heard from police in Buckthorn, and "we got another database hit for prints from Major Garland Briggs." Old Peaks fans will know Major Briggs as the wise, polysyllabic Air Force officer affiliated with Project Blue Book. But even new viewers will know him as Bobby's father, and the floating visage that intoned "Blue Rose" as Cooper struggled to escape the Black Lodge.
We also know that all the prints at the murder scene have been identified as belonging to the local principal—except the prints of the unidentified body. Is Garland Briggs the Buckthorn John Doe? And if so, what was he doing eating Dougie's ring? There's plenty left unanswered still, thank goodness, and probably plenty that will remain unanswered for the entire run of the show; I trust David Lynch not to be too pat. (DoppelCoop making a phone call that sets off every alarm in the police station and then turns the device he dialed into a rock is one of my favorite impenetrably bizarre moments yet.) But if I'm going to have questions, and I hope I will, I much prefer questions like: "How did Garland Briggs's body wind up in South Dakota 25 years after he died?" And, "Who's this woman who put the hit on Dougie and why does she and DoppelCoop have access to the same blinky box?" Instead of "wha'??"
As the show itself starts to cohere, Cooper, too, is starting to gather up the threads of his old life. Outside Dougie's office, he gazes wistfully at a cowboy statue with an outstretched gun, aping its posture. Inside, he seems to recognize the concepts "agent" and "case files," and imprints on coffee cups like a baby duck. He's an audience proxy par excellence right now, the only person even more at sea than we are. Maybe as Cooper returns to wholeness, or at least re-learns how to pee—which I'm ready for, my lord—we'll also come to understand this world in which he's found himself. For perhaps the first time this series, there's reason—beyond faith—to believe that day will come.
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Notes for Peaks freaks of old:
- As soon as DoppelCoop looked in the mirror, I chirped out "how's Annie?" Glad the show went there with me.
- I'm pleased—and surprised, given that Don S. Davis died nine years ago—that Major Briggs seems poised to play an important role in this series. He was so pivotal in so many ways to old Peaks. He's the one who confirms the Giant's message, the one who first mentions the White Lodge, the one to whom Sarah Palmer relays the message "I'm in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper, I'm waiting for you." Also I just happen to adore him personally (I cry every time I watch him tell Bobby about his dream). "Naked dead body" isn't the fate I would have chosen for him, but I'll certainly accept "driving mystery."
- I'm deeply curious whether Shelly's daughter is also Bobby's daughter. Her name offers no clues. Apparently, she's married to that schmendrick Steven, because according to the credits they both have the last name Burnett. (Although he doesn't wear a ring. Did Major Briggs eat that too?)
- Oh, speaking of which: That rapey psychopath smoking in the Roadhouse? He's named in the credits as Richard Horne.
Follow Jess Zimmerman on Twitter.