The best shot of tonight’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return – or Season 3, if you please – came late but was worth it for the reminder of David Lynch‘s sense of humor. Right before we get reacquainted with the seedy business dealings of Walter Olkewicz‘s Jacques Renault, there’s a long take of an underling sweeping up random debris and trash. It’s a bafflingly long take for what amounts to a household chore aided (thankfully) by the strut classic “Green Onions.” It’s also a pretty open nod to the bundling together of story strands that went into “Part 7,” the coming together of a climactic event for the town of Twin Peaks and any and all versions of Agent Dale Cooper.
For Lynch, this might very well be the most boring part of the storytelling apparatus, but it’s really a wonder to behold how confidently Lynch ties all of these things together. One could also see the openings scene, in which Jerry seemingly tastes sobriety for a second and calls Ben for help, as another nod toward building the story rather than indulging his idiosyncrasies fully. For whatever the symbolic meaning of all of this, “Part 7” started to make up real ground on plot here, starting with Hawk and Frank looking over the missing pages from Laura Palmer’s diary. It’s expository but in the unhurried, conversational tone of Robert Forster and Michael Horse, its rendered something much more intimate and careful: an education of how the man known as Bob came to overtake Cooper.
Can we all agree that Frank probably has the coolest desk in the world? I might actually enjoy using Skype if I could get the spy-monitor set-up that Frank has built into his desk, which he uses to phone beloved Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) about the last night he saw Cooper. Of course, there’s also talk of fishing and cooking a hearty breakfast, but Frank seems to be getting his hooks into the case, now only waiting for Andy to get done doing whatever he’s up to with that long-haired miscreant.
Gordon and Albert similarly seemed to get hip to how much more mystifying this new Cooper is, especially after he shakes poor Diane in that interview cell. There was a lot of ominous atmosphere in that scene, intensified by Laura Dern‘s sensational performance that went from defensive to angry to permanently shook in only a minute or so, reminiscent of the interrogation scenes from Inland Empire. She always goes out on a limb for Lynch and here she turns a seemingly small but crucial part into a lovingly sketched, salty, and skeptical creature of foreboding, a no-bull prophet of the plague that Bad Cooper is seemingly about to let loose.
The one storyline that does seem to still be searching around in the dark is the original case of the decapitated body of Major Briggs and the beheaded secretary, which sounds like a Giallo film that never would or should be made. Now seemingly under the purview of the Pentagon and managed by Colonel Davis, played by the great Ernie Hudson, the case continues to be most notable for its introduction in the first two episodes where Matthew Lillard‘s local man about town got lucked up for murder alongside a coal-coated derelict that can evaporate and appear at will seemingly. There is something fascinating about the time jump that Lieutenant Knox reports to Davis, but in this case, it felt like baiting for a bigger scene that’s about to come.
The same could not be said of the scenes between Bad Cooper and the Yankton warden (James Morrison) after the FBI and Diane leave. It’s funny that both Twin Peaks and Fargo operate on the ever-present, ominous presence of a menacing cabal not so off in the distance. What Cooper intimates in these scenes, however, is far more disquieting than anything V.M. Varga has ever said. The scene is sparse and direct and Cooper’s influence is thick in the air, thanks largely to Kyle MacLachlan‘s performance but also in how Morrison plays off of him. When we see Bad Cooper and Ray Monroe (George Griffith) taking off later, ready to continue to spread their murderous plague across the states, followed quickly by the cliffhanger-esque ending, there’s a full and potent sense of the dark power that Cooper and his cronies have at hand here. It gets the heart racing.
As for Good Cooper, he wasn’t featured all that prominently in this episode but his scenes were quite precipitous. After running down the whereabouts of his “stolen” car with the Fuscos (Eric Edelstein and David Koechner), Good Cooper disarmed Ike the Spike (Christophe Zijac-Denek), the killer sent after him and the office manager who called the box in Argentina. In the rush, it was easy to get excited that this would be the moment, that this would be the thing that brought back the old Agent Dale Cooper. It still didn’t happen here but the swirl of emotion running under MacLachlan’s face right after the attack, to me, suggested a stirring of something. To ascribe meaning to it would be, well, meaningless, but one has to imagine he’ll be back at some point. Right?
In an episode with plenty of symbolic power, I was struck also by the volleying noise scene in Ben’s office with Beverly (Ashley Judd), his assistant. Their wandering, playful game of finding where the noise comes is a flirtation but also a kind of professional dalliance, a goofy blowing off of steam with a co-worker. Their inability to locate the noise is no different from their inability to figure out what, if anything, is going on between them. For the record their does seem to be, and when Beverly returns hope to what looks like her dying husband, Tom (Hugh Dillon), one can see her thinking about a life beyond him.
That’s what those that dismiss Lynch as weird just for weird’s sake miss about him as a filmmaker and a writer: his constant insistence on showing a variety of emotional shades in the most seemingly irrelevant characters. “Part 7” was a prime example of that but also of just how enveloping Lynch’s stories can be.