“Part 15” of Twin Peaks: The Return began with a rare moment of clarity, brought on by unmitigated nonsense. Intoxicated by Dr. Jacobi’s internet rants, Nadine releases Big Ed from their relationship, having successfully dug herself out of the shit with her golden shovel. Cue Otis Redding‘s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and Ed bursts into the RR, prepared to sweep Norma off her feet and start planning a wedding. For a moment, however, he is rejected, as Norma ignores him to sit down and speak with Walter, her corporate contact who has been wooing her with promises of more franchising for the RR. Ed had to be forced to walk away from Nadine, while Norma must now tell Walter that she is no longer interested in the franchise and just wants to settle down at the original RR. Then came the embrace and the immediate proposal.
Much like the song that plays throughout the sequence, the emotions at play between Ed and Norma are combustible. Ed asks for a cyanide pill after the perceived rejection and Everett McGill‘s grave, handsome face morphs into a storm of hurt and regret, just for being asked to wait for Norma to finish her business with Walter. Norma’s plainspoken decision speaks to an ongoing anti-corporate (or anti-authoritarian) streak in the series and much of David Lynch‘s previous work but the outcome is plainly satisfactory any way you slice it, even optimistic. Ed and Norma seemed made for each other from episode one and not even the ravages and unexpected incidents of two-and-a-half decades could damage that.
It’s a moment of (possibly fleeting) closure in a series that has shown a general disinterest in bringing storylines to a tidy ending, whether they be new or 25 years old. And yet, in a moment like this, or in Margaret’s final call with Hawk and his subsequent announcement to the sheriff’s department, Lynch and Mark Frost reveal a deep understanding of their characters. Ed and Norma act like giddy teenagers when they realize they can be together because they have been lovebirds for decades now. Their hesitations had less to do with the passage of years than their own self-imposed repression and sense of social decorum in a town where everyone knows one another.
Margaret and Hawk had a much different relationship, clearly, but in her final call to him, there’s a similar unspoken understanding between them that touches on the universal. One of the great decisions Lynch has made in this series is filming the late Catherine E. Coulson with such graceful simplicity. Breathing through an oxygen tank that attaches at the nostrils and sitting seemingly alone with a single telephone by her side, she is presented intimately in the dark, worried about leaving her log or not being of enough help to her friends. Saying goodbye to her old friend, she speaks both of knowing that death is not an ending and fearing the final letting go part, knowing there’s nothing to fear in the transition and yet being rattled by not knowing what the change will be. When Hawk responds, its warm and brief, as if he knows what comes next and remembers how serious that fear feels when you’re on the brink.
There was far less familiarity in the reunion of Mr. C (or Bad Cooper) and the disembodied Philip Jeffries. Most of Mr. C’s storyline here felt like a gathering of answers that only led to more questions, including when we will meet Judy, whose name was only previously pronounced by Jeffries and a capuchin monkey in Fire Walk With Me. As narrative, the entire sequence only points Mr. C in a new direction but Lynch’s depiction of this dark, dank dimension in a convenience store is continuously beguiling and rattling. The schizophrenic fades, the insidious sound design, and the overwhelming literal darkness add to a feeling of being led into a vast, untenable unknown, where doorways act as portals and smoke speaks volumes. If nothing else, Twin Peaks: The Return may be remembered for Lynch’s ambitious and satisfying expression of moods and his eye for visual tone.
What Mr. C was doing, in essence, was connecting dots that never really needed to be connected. Though I have little doubt of Lynch’s ability to create backstory for his characters, my thoughts after Fire Walk With Me had very little to do with figuring out what David Bowie was talking about when he spoke about Judy and seemingly called out Cooper. Mr. C is obsessed with those sort of details and his main practice is to overwhelm, corrupt, and destroy, whereas Dougie drifts along without a thought or care about this new world, enjoying pies and cakes, tanking criminal organizations, and, in this episode, seemingly electrocuting himself in a bid to return to the Black Lodge. It’s telling that at the moment this impulse arrives he is watching Sunset Boulevard, a classic tale of a filmmaking legend who could not let the past rest and becomes corrupted with a desire to return to her youthful stardom.
Letting go seemed to be the theme of this episode, even in its more gestural sequences. Steve’s supposed suicide in the woods only seemed to tease some major event that hasn’t been discovered yet but may very well be the murder of Becky, his estranged wife. The way Caleb Landry Jones delivers the lines in a kind of desperate, pleading mumble makes them almost incoherent but that very tone says more about where he is mentally and emotionally than his pronouncement that he liked fucking his girlfriend (Alicia Witt), who begs him not to use the gun he’s waving around. It’s only when they are separated by the sudden appearance of a wandering dog-walker (Frost) that Steve seems to come to terms with death or, more pointedly, an ending, not unlike that of a TV season or series.
Even the final scene with Charlyne Yi‘s Bang Bang patron being moved out of her booth seemed to echo a frightened uncertainty about change and moving on with life. It’s not surprising that the only people who seem perfectly at ease with their station in life in the world of Twin Peaks is Hutch and Chantel (Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh), who assassinated Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) and his assistant with no fuss or muss. Chomping on hamburgers in their van afterwards, they chat about America as a land founded on and fueled by murder, from the Native Americans on down through the scheming Mr. Todd, only pausing to make sure there’s dessert and complain briefly about packaged ketchup. They don’t have the narrative history of Ed and Norma, and they are ten times more evil than the lovebirds, but even they exude an unforced understanding of one another. Looking up into a beautiful, starless sky, they are at once at peace with one another, their cold and bloody professions, and the inevitable exit they will have to make, alone or together.