'Part 16' gave fans what they've waited, uh, 15 parts for—and it was worth the wait.
Of all David Lynch's mysteries, perhaps the most enduring is this: Are we dealing with a master of manipulating the intellectual and emotional experience through unconventional pacing, or a guy who really, really needs an editor? Or both?
It's definitely true that time works differently in Lynchworld: Some moments are dragged out almost beyond what the viewer can endure, and other scenes take place more or less between frames. The dilation of time, especially, is characteristic. I read the oral history of Twin Peaks this summer, and one of the recurring themes was David Lynch asking people to slow down: Play music slower, walk slower, draw out shots and scenes. It's genius. It's riveting. Sometimes, it's excruciating, too.
The torment of suspended animation, the denial of catharsis, is extraordinarily effective within an episode. Over the course of a show, only the most trusting fans don't start yelling, "GET COOP BACK ALREADY!"
This was the most satisfying episode of Twin Peaks yet, making me simultaneously think all the frustrating moments have been worth it and but couldn't it all have gone at this pace and taken maybe 60 percent as long? Could it, or would changing the pacing have ruined it? Would Coop's return have felt this damn good if we'd sat through just a little less of Dougie fumbling and drooling and pissing his way to the top? Would that brief shot of a bare-faced and stammering Audrey in a white room (I think you called it, babe!) have been as gloriously disorienting if we'd cringed over one agonizing Audrey-Charlie fight, instead of three?
What about Richard Horne—did we hate him enough right away to make his death by electrocution cathartic, or did we need the stark, grueling scene where he robbed his own grandmother? Are we really going to feel, when all of this is over, that it was enhanced by the story of the green-glove man, or that it dealt satisfactorily with that glass box in New York City? In short, if Lynch had been reined in just a little, would we have a better show, or a worse one?
Maybe these are all stupid questions. The Twin Peaks we got is the one we have, and right now it feels like a treasure. The revelation that Diane is a tulpa cries out for a rewatch: How long has she been a construct? How long has she known? Did we ever meet the real Diane? (Is Naido the real Diane? She's in the sheriff's station, and her name has a lot of the same letters, but otherwise I'm not sure how that would work. I guess it's more likely that Naido is using tulpa Diane as a mouthpiece.)
Richard's demise is deserved, of course, but also intriguing: Did he stumble into something that a human body can't handle, or were the coordinates a trap meant for Doppelcoop, who deliberately used Richard as a canary? If so, who was coordinating their coordinates, if you will, and how? Doppelcoop got coordinates from Diane, Jeffries, and Ray. Two sets of coordinates pointed to this rock: Which, and were they working together? And where do the other coordinates lead?
Despite opening with a self-indulgently Lynchian long headlights-at-night shot, this episode dipped a toe into conventionality, and honestly that's part of what made it so cathartic. There were comeuppances: Richard Horne's painful death, Chantal and Hutch's execution not for being hired killers (the bumbling Las Vegas FBI didn't even seem to notice their stakeout) but for being a couple of assholes.
There were answers we already knew: Yes, Richard Horne was Doppelcoop's son. There were sitcom-style implausible happy endings: The Mitchums aren't typically welcomed by law enforcement, but this is a new day, because Cooper knows they both have hearts of gold. (Would anyone else watch a whole side show about the Mitchums?) There was the promise of another happy ending in the future, when Dougie walks back through that red door for good and neither Janey-E nor Sonny Jim realizes that he's another tulpa because they kinda take everything about Dougie onboard without fuss. There were familiar songs and predictable comic beats. "What about the FBI?" said Bushnell Mullins. "I am the FBI," I said. "I am the FBI," said Coop a second later. Normally if I can predict the dialogue of a show, I roll my eyes. This time I screamed.
It's wonderful to live on Lynch time, when a pan down a hallway lasts forever and a whole season is reconfigured in a blink. But it's these temporary drops back into human time, when plots are a little less lofty and people get their just deserts, that make the show gratifying on more than just a cerebral level. I can't wait for next week.
Notes for Peaks freaks of old:
- I was a little worried that Cooper coming back would feel like fan service, even though it's clearly narratively necessary—that they would, I don't know, make a cheap donuts or coffee reference immediately so we would all elbow one another and go, "Yup, that's Coop!" But "Bushnell, pass me some of those sandwiches, I'm starving" was classic Cooper without being, you know, ha ha classic Cooper.
- Did anyone else get verklempt when the Twin Peaks theme started playing in the hospital? Yes you did.
- Audrey's dance has gotten a little more ostentatious since she was in high school. Or perhaps this is the dance she was always doing in her head.
- This isn't about old Peaks, but I just need a place to put it: I really wish tulpas hadn't been ruined for me by all of this stuff. I am having a hard time taking shocked whispers about tulpas seriously! And now you have that problem too. Let us suffer together.