Twin Peaks Decaps — Episode 3.01 — “The Return, Part 1”
Here we stand, at the dawn of a new era. Let’s watch some prestige television.
If you are new to me and my Twin Peaks writing, which describes everyone on this earth except for maybe ten people, you might not expect that I would kick off season three by avoiding actual discussion of the episode for as long as possible, to an infuriating degree, not unlike the room service waiter at the start of season two who takes six hours to call for a doctor, and then doesn’t.
However, in a surprising and clever double-bluff, what someone who is familiar with me would expect is exactly what I’m gonna do.
Sorry if the blunt self-awareness detracts from the charm of it all!
(Oh, and it’s not “season three”, apparently. And these aren’t “episodes”. But I’m gonna call it season three, and I’m gonna call them episodes, even though I love Twin Peaks like no other piece of art, lowbrow or highbrow or middlebrow as may be. I’m not gonna say “parts”. I’m not gonna say “the eighteen-hour 2017 installment”. I mean, I will probably say both of those things, yes, even more than the one time I just did. But I mostly won’t.)
My purpose here is to discuss the parts — the episodes — and try to get a view of what they might mean for the rest of the installment — the season — and how this all does or doesn’t relate to the series — the series — in general.
But my previous highly subjective and mildly deconstructionist (if I understand that word at all and I’ll be honest with you and admit that I probably do not) recaps of seasons one and two were written with two advantages:
- I have been an obsessive Twin Peaks person since seeing Fire Walk With Me in the cinema for the first time, which is the first Twin Peaks I really saw other than scraps of a couple of late episodes, and, I know, that’s a crazy way to be introduced to the series but there you go, life’s fuckin’ messy.
- I have watched seasons one and two so many times, I can’t even say, but it’s sitting at a dozen at least for the weakest and most skippable episodes, and multiple dozens for the good ones, and they’re mostly good ones, so. Plus I’ve read a ton of stuff in books and online about the show from various analytical points of view and done a fair bit of my own theorizing and research, all with the compleat work at hand.
This allowed me a certain amount of whimsical flippancy, or flippant whimsy if we’re on twitter and counting characters, since I knew the material inside and out, and could referentially reach back and forth through the story with relative ease. Oh, what fun we had.
What’s different now is that I am writing these recaps — which I decided to call “decaps” because it was cool and edgy and I wanted to distinguish myself with a made-up word that would be easy to search for even before I knew that soon the show would be presenting me with an actual decapitation to deal with, spoiler — in real time as the episodes are released week-by-week (or in the instance of this week, four-in-a-night, R.I.P. my sleep pattern as I try to cram three more of these out by next Sunday*).
So I lose point 2. And a likely effect of that could be that my decaps, which previously dealt with little details of the writing or direction or acting that happened to grab my attention and how they informed the series, or ways in which an intentional foreshadowing versus reaching back in time for exploitable details to interpret overcreditably in the present comparison becomes unresolvable for anyone outside of the production process who is looking back upon the work years later to distinguish (but is still fun to guess at), or how certain things played differently to a 1990 audience than they do now to a 2017 sensibility, will now need to take things as they come without knowing what comes after.
The good news is that this yolking to the inevitable and linear arrow of time that the more abstract philosophical elements of the story do their best to deny even in the face of the unavoidable truth that we are all, every one of us, dying, as its arc is by gravity pulled gently downward just enough to miss the apple sitting atop each of our lovely heads like golden crowns, as we stand, most of us mercifully blind to its flight, frees me up to not give a shit about spoilers.
I don’t have any.
So there will be a lot more speculation about what things might mean, about which elements are more or less potentially significant than others, about all sorts of stuff that will be clear enough, by Lynchian standards, a year from now when we’ve seen the finale-part and even had the chance to watch this new season over a few times more and we’ve read a few smarticles about What It All Means (Or Doesn’t) and so forth.
Guessing, is what I’m describing. But relatively educated guessing.
OH, THERE’S MORE OF THIS?
Look, I just can’t shake the feeling that these decaps are going to get more normal as writing qua writing (“as writing as writing”). My earnestness will take over like an inhabiting spirit and my snark and punnery and obfuscatory fictional elements (I don’t really have a lawyer, for example) will fall away and I will start to write in a less labored and more sincere vein and who the fuck needs it?
I mean, I’m still pretty obviously mentally ill, so at least there’s that.
Anyway, now that most of you have closed the tab and moved on to something else, I’m going to start discussing the first of the first four partisodes of seasonstallment three of Twin Peaks pretty darned soon. But I remember I was in the process of telling n00bs what to expect from me as a writer.
What To Expect From Me As A Writer:
- occasional swears, ALL CAPS, “Anyway”, “Meanwhile”, “And speaking of”
- (if the first four hours are any example, I should add “probably” and “maybe” and “possibly” and “I dunno” and “WTF” to that)
- accidental typos, which will be fixed, and intentional typos, which won’t
- subheadings that sometimes seem to act as though motivated by an intelligence independent of myself, such that they may argue with me or attempt to direct and/or mock my flow of genius-level writing and analysis in ways that aren’t exactly disrespectful but more like a friend taking a firm hand in the proceedings, but still, watch your tone, subheadings
- long sentences
- self-aware jokes (e.g. “long sentences”)
- my lamentations about how much work I put into these
- my complaints about other stuff
- wildly unjustified digressions
- relatively unjustified Justified references
- a metric buttload of abstruse references to other media as well, some by David Lynch but most not; there will definitely be some Hall & Oates in there too, if I can manage it; I’m pretty sure I can
- this picture of Hawk whenever I might be revealing more about myself than I had intended (especially, but not exclusively, when it pertains in some way to my straight/white/cis/male/western/anglophone privilege):
So there’s that.
- “So there’s that.”
THE ACTUAL TOPIC OF DISCUSSION
My log has a message for you.
If you are familiar with the previous seasons of Twin Peaks, and I cannot say often enough that it’s pretty weird for you to be reading these if you aren’t, but that’s not a judgement against you, go for it, then you probably remember the statues in the Red Room and/or White/Black Lodge(s). They stood (among other places) at the end(s) of the intermediary hallway(s). One has arms, the other doesn’t.
Twin Peaks being what it is, and Twin Peaks obsessives being what they are, there has been discussion about what that arm difference may signify. I myself spent a lot of time thinking about it years ago (and have completely forgotten any conclusions to which I may have come).
This difference is highlighted here too, so at some point (probably soon) I’m going to have to go back and re-examine those old Red Room scenes. But today I am mostly concerned with another totemic item: Cooper’s lapel pin.
OR MAYBE PINS
We start the Season That Isn’t A Season with a somber meeting between our hero, or at least he used to be our hero, and maybe he still is,
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper.
He’s on more of a loveseat or a daybed than a chair, maybe? He’s talking with the Giant — or, as he seems to be named for now, “???????” — in a black and white scene reminiscent of those familiar Red Room scenes of yore, although this room feels as much more intimate as any room with marble floors can be. The familiarity extends to the relationship dynamic, as ??????? is conveying cryptic clues to Cooper, and Cooper is stating that he understands.
Then Coop just frickin’ disappears.
The whole thing is initially evocative of Lynch’s first feature, Eraserhead, with the black and white and the gloomy soundtrack and the unexpected and garbled vanishing act. Yet the stronger association for me was with the hotel-room framing device — “device” is maybe too strong; “suggestion”? — used in Inland Empire, and this won’t be the last time this episode that those scenes come to mind. Maybe it’s just because this is the starting point, but it feels like if by the end of the season you were to pin everything that happens onto a board and connect them all with colored strings to codify the relationships between them, the story fragment of the world that these black and white Lodgesque scenes (assuming there will be more) represent would be in the very center.
Or along the top. I don’t know what kind of organizing system you’re using.
Anyway, without making a whole thing of it just yet, let’s check in on Cooper’s lapel.
Here, in the black and white clue delivery space, we have a classic spartan no-pin lapel situation.
One could speculate that this represents Cooper at his purest, his most stripped down, his most essential. The suit, his uniform, certainly reflects something of his personality, and if I have a working hypothesis here it’s that the presence or absence of pins on Cooper’s lapel while in the otherrealms says something about his existential state in that moment, or at the very least they serve to contextually group scenes through commonalities of pin arrangement. Maybe it will all amount to nothing, maybe it will spur some ideas, like the statues.
So any — OH GOD I FORGOT
- the credits, at excessive length and in numbing detail
I have been kind of obsessing about the credits — the peculiarities of the font in its analog-home-video generation, the changes as it moved to dvd and blu-ray/HD streaming, the on-again/off-again attention to issues of kerning, the time they literally spelled someone’s name wrong on a solo opening title card… As an ex-graphic designer and typesetter and an ex-quality assurance specialist and manager and a current persnickety asshole with loads of free time, I will happily go on and on about the topic.
But I won’t today, other than to note that in the first episode of the new season, there’s lights and stuff, and we get some flashback stuff about the Red Room and the high school, and then this happens,
so it’s official now. And we get a spectacular drone shot drifting past those famous falls from above,
which is pretty as hell and a little intimidating. And it’s red drapes now so we’re definitely in the right place,
but they’re pretty turbulent drapes, like the turbulent falls, and that’s probably not an accident, because since these guys
have been having people ask them about more Twin Peaks for a quarter of a century, oh god I’m old, and they probably have some tension to work out so of course things are going to be turbulent.
Mark Frost certainly had some success in that time. But his subsequent television project got canned despite its cult appeal, an occurrence which was probably getting a little tired for him by that point I have to imagine. And his Arthur Conan Doyle novels somehow haven’t become movies yet.
David Lynch certainly had some success in that time. But his subsequent television project got turned down at the pilot stage, and yes he turned it into the most acclaimed motion picture of, it is in some places argued, all time, but still, frustrating. (Plus his last happy ending was for Fire Walk With Me, in which the protagonist is brutally murdered but then she gets to see an angel, The End, and no I don’t count The Straight Story because I’m not convinced people are reading that movie right.)
Don’t expect much coziness is what I’m saying, and what I think this credit sequence is saying. Familiarity, yes. Nostalgia, no.
At any rate it ends with a spinout over the zigzag floor that nauseated me a wee bit so fuck that, it doesn’t get a cool gif. (Plus I really have to keep the screenies down to under sixty, for pity’s sake, it’s only an hour-long show.)
the ??????? dispenses some clues to Coop: Brooklyn’s in the house; 420 blaze it; the Richard and Linda Thompson album I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight; a bird in the hand makes Jack a dull boy; get on the microglitch ambient loopcore train before Pitchfork does.
The ?iant talks backwards but Cooper speaks normally, which is significant (and you’re saying “yeah, I know, I’ve seen the show before”, but just wait), and here’s something pretty and current and warm and maybe some of those old feelin’s will come floodin’ back into my cold heart.
THE TRAILER FROM THE TRAILER
In the promo campaign deluge that somehow simultaneously popped up nearly everywhere and told us nearly nothing, we saw a ramshackle trailer home in the forest and wondered whose it was, and now we know. Dr Lawrence Jacoby, seemingly retired, or at least no longer living at his office, or working at his home, whichever.
He’s receiving a delivery. It’s mostly shot from a distance. Other than the contents, which are weird due to being a lot of identical shovels, the whole thing is pretty banal. It’s also the first scene set in present-day Twin Peaks. It’s obviously going to take on some huge significance later on, but right now I’ve watched up to part four and while I have a little more data it is not yet information.
It is soothing, just “being” here. But I’d like to know more. And that leads me to something I may as well bring up now as later.
Imagine the old Twin Peaks was an old tube television. It was good and you loved it but you don’t have any anymore.
Now there’s a new digital television called Twin Peaks so of course you’re going to get it. But instead of that one warm channel you used to receive, where there was trouble and pain but also happiness and comfort and everything was bathed in warm light and restrained itself to reasonably comprehensible and consistent borders and yes those borders were pretty weird and shaky sometimes but at least you could basically feel the ground under your feet, instead of all of that, now there are a half-dozen channels or more that you flip through, and some of them are weird places and some of them are more normal and some of them are waaaaay out there but what most of them are is Not Twin Peaks.
But they are. Because that’s what it’s called.
The channel analogy and how it relates to the jump-around quality of Lynch’s Inland Empire is in part yoinked from this review by Joel “Lost in the Movies” Bocko, which strengthens and formalizes the notion I and others had been kicking around as the premiere approached that what we’d really be getting from the new Twin Peaks was a show that was part Twin Peaks and part Mulholland Drive and part Inland Empire, etc. And we do see direct references to, and indirect influences from, all of those Lynch projects and more.
But this Inland Empire mode of storytelling, which Lynch moreorless fell into post-Mulholland Drive — when having just released the film that would make every film authority on earth revise their GOAT lists, he simply couldn’t get adequate financing for another project, said “fuck it”, and went guerilla with a pretty bad video camera and something far less than a plan — was so liberating to him that it seemed logistically unlikely we’d ever see a standard-release film from him again, since the notion of subjecting himself to the restrictions of the industry would just chafe too much to tolerate when maintaining complete freedom was an option.
Without rehashing the on-and-off drama of the occasionally-very-public Showtime negotiations, Lynch got an offer he could work with, he and Frost came up with ideas they could build on, and the rest is unspooling at something like one hour a week for the next fourteen weeks.
YOU CAN JUST SAY “NEW YORK”
Now let’s go to a creepy building that appears to have a smooth outer wall with no protrusions or weird holes in it, at least on the side we’re seeing.
And here’s a weird hole.
To cut from Twin Peaks to such a radically different location and then to spend a long time there in what is the first real real scene of the story is what somebody somewhere probably would still call a “boss move”.
So what does it suggest to us?
First, this is an fancy set doing some rich environmental storytelling and we’re probably going to spend some time here.
Second, whoever we meet here is probably going to be super-important,
and we’re likely to see a lot of them in the future,
The stuff that happens here can be summed up in a quick sentence — or could be by someone who is not me — which leads me to believe that Lynch largely wrote this scene since it goes on for six days. Basically, the young man is Sam, he has the weird and secret job of watching that box,
and maintaining the cameras whenever someone barks at him to do so. The camera uses digital memory cards and he stores them in an overly elaborate and spacious storage container that already contains dozens of cards and has space for many dozens more. A young woman who is Tracey and who works at a nearby coffee shop is sweet on him and brings him coffee. She’d like to go inside with him but nobody is allowed to. It’s clearly a weird scenario.
Probably it’ll work out fine.
I’m over three thousand words and I’m barely into the episode at all. Scene-wise, I mean. This glass box sequence was pretty long so in that sense I’m doing fine, but it’s the first real scene with any actual story to it so far — barely, but still — and pace is the trick here, so I’d best move on to some other happenings.
BEN & JERRY HAPPEN
The Brothers Horne! Just goes to show how bleak and abstract things have been so far that these two creepers can make for such warmth and welcome!
Ben’s seeming tired and maybe a little jaded with his straitlaced business approach and banal hoteling concerns, though his general wholesomeness looks to have held over from his season two rebirth relatively intact.
Jerry, who, if you remember this shirt
was clearly a twentieth century cokehead, is now apparently a twenty-first century weed fiend and is finally contributing something of value to the Horne Family Accounts while looking like Willie Nelson got shot out of a circus cannon through a Value Village.
Also Ashley Judd is here and since she’s Ashley Judd she’ll maybe get more to do in the future? Like, more than nothing? Like, it’s gonna be a runoff between Ashley Judd and David Dastmalchian to see what good actor gets the least to do but at least gets to have been in Twin Peaks at all?
(I am happy this season exists and I am happy for every performer who got to be a part of it but I do worry that the cameos in small parts may start to get a little distracting, is all.)
Anyway, since we’re in Twin Peaks let’s head over to the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department.
TWIN PEAKS SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Here at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, we spend a little time on a little sequence that reminds us what Lucy is like when she has to deal with other people or they have to deal with her, and shows us that she and Andy are married now, and informs us that there’s a second Sheriff Truman now instead of the one Sheriff Truman we were used to having, and don’t go any further with it, there’s nothing good about it, except that Hawaii is probably good, at least good enough for Michael Ontkean to get his permanent Jacoby on and refuse to leave it in order to resume his role in the show.
The upside of this dereliction of duty is Robert Forster. And the upside of Robert Forster, aside from the inherent upside of ever Robert Forster, is that maybe there will be a scene where this alleged Sheriff Frank Truman gets to meet with Detective Dave Mackley from Buckhorn for a little mini Mulholland reunion,
a reminder of what could have been — [Ron Howard narrator voice] but wasn’t — which I will still be sad about but not quite as sad as I used to be.
Since the Harry version is “sick”, one notes, one cannot help but imagine that they are saving room for Ontkean to maybe change his mind or his heart in the instance of some future potential fourth season. But if the result is that I get to watch Robert Forster watch Michael Cera — sorry for getting a bit ahead of things — then I will accept the trade-off even as I miss Harry’s persistently lopsided haircut and horniness-clouded judgement.
EXT. — A RURAL ROAD — NIGHT
Oh, it’s a car, and it’s not a Coopery car, but since it’s a car we somehow know it’s Cooper, even though the aggressively empty music doesn’t really fit what we know about Cooper, it’s a car and there’s no way it’s not gonna be Cooper when the camera goes up and shows us the driver. I mean it wasn’t just me, right?
So here’s this guy, and he looks like Cooper. But this is not the Cooper we expected, even though we expected Cooper to not be the Cooper we expected. His competence suggests a Cooper. Eventually he is called “Mr C”, which suggests he may be a Cooper.
Of course, he’s the Other Cooper. The Other we’ve been wondering about for, depending on who and how old and how cool we are, up to twenty-six years.
Other Cooper does not easily portmanteau. Oooper. See?
Lynch has confirmed that to him, he is simply “Cooper’s doppelganger”. But as we all know, David Lynch isn’t very creative, so I’m going to keep trying.
I have seen him referred to as “Dirty Cooper”. I like this, it fits and it sounds good and is fun to say. Dirty Cooper. If you knew nothing about Twin Peaks or the actors and you had a very specific aphasia where you could not understand people’s names when they are spoken on television but you watch this episode and then were asked by someone in the room with you to identify which character was “Dirty Cooper” you would get it right.
But I prefer to have my own personal and inferior thing, so I am calling him Booper.
- It’s a good portmanteau of Bad Cooper.
- It’s a passable portmanteau — or parsmantableau — of BOB-Cooper.
- It forces me to imagine him giving a small cat a boop on the nose.
- Yes, Booper is a cat person. Don’t give me any guff on this.
So he shows up at this Night Trailer in the woods and immediately allows me to get my Justified reference out of the way by nonchalantly disillusioning the shotgun-wielding weiner who is ostensibly guarding it.
Then he goes in and picks up these two,
through what arrangement still unclear, as they are being kept in a back room until summoned and they check out when they leave, but what’s apparent is that they are somewhat hapless. From moment one, I do not have a good feeling about the future of their haps.
These two, on the other hand,
They’ve got nothin’ but time.
Life is their oyster.
I’m sure we’ll follow them through many adventures.
Or maybe this.
BUCKHORN, SOUTH DAKOTA
calls these guys
because of this apartment
and this smell.
Of course, any time you see something like this
on a show, you know there’s trouble ahead, and if you happen to remember this
you’re probably tensing up even more. But relax, it’s only Ruth, a librarian.
Back to some warmth.
Margaret is dying. And this is because Catherine Coulson was dying. And she and Lynch have been friends long enough and collaborators long enough and cool long enough that of course they honor the reality of her situation.
This is David Lynch cleaning Catherine Coulson’s pretend leg stumps in a film short from a long time ago. It’s not the full thing, but that’s okay.
I’m glad we get to see Catherine and Margaret one last time.
I hope we get to find out why Margaret has two phones.
She’s talking to Hawk. She tells him some things that are important for the plot. Something is missing and he needs to find it. And she tells him something else that relates back to that bookshelf in Buckhorn.
Hawk doesn’t fully understand Margaret. But he probably gets closer than anyone else does. That is enough for him to proceed.
if we look over at Buckhorn, Mackley and his forensics person Constance have a name to go with some fingerprints, and a nervous local school principal to go with the name, and a shifty wife to go with the principal.
And then we bounce back to Twin Peaks where Hawk is pulling out some evidence relating to the old Laura Palmer case, which became the old Agent Cooper case, and that’s a good time for Lucy and Andy to talk about who Cooper is and that he’s mysteriously missing, in case this is the first Twin Peaks we’ve ever watched, which, nice of them but pretty weird of us, frankly.
Plus Hawk auditions for a new “Are You Just Gonna Keep Going With That?” pic for me to deploy at strategic points in my concise and vital autotherapy-in-which-I-also-talk-about-a-tv-show.
But just to stay in shape, since this show is gonna take a lot out of us, let’s jog back once more to Buckhorn, because I haven’t shown you the principal suspect, the suspect principal, yet.
Everyone’s all omg it’s Matthew Lillard. Since I know who he is but have never seen anything he’s in before, I get to know why the omging is happening without having any preconceptions of my own to overcome. To me he’s just this guy he’s playing, and he’s making a totally passive (so far) character crackle the whole way through, which is not only compelling as heck to watch but whether it turns out he is a murderer or he isn’t it’ll seem totally believable and foreshadowed either way, which, suspicious me, makes me wonder if perhaps we’ll never definitively find out at all.
One thing is certain, though… this slick handsome state police guy is gonna get killed.***
Too slick. Too handsome. “Just here to help.”
So as we end this installment,
Lillard is in jail — and I said I have no investment in him being Matthew Lillard yet I keep calling him by his name instead of his character’s name, which I have to look up every time, it’s Bill Hastings and again I went “oh, yeah” when I saw it but somehow that won’t help until I’ve typed it out way too many more times — and Lillard’s wife is shiftier than before even,
and there’s a scrap of human in the trunk of Lillard’s car, which they have to move a cooler to find, and given the scene in the librarian’s bed you (like me) probably expected them to open the cooler and find something. But nope.
Just this scrap of human.
Woof and/or Uh-oh.
* Spoiler alert: I won’t.
** Fun Fact: that’s David Lynch’s wife.****
*** Disclaimer: my predictions about things are usually wrong.
**** BZZZZT, incorrect, Mary, not Emily. Different Stofle.
I passed over the second Justified reference of the episode, which is that Hank the twitchy handyman was played by Max Perlich, who was pretty twitchy by the end of his time as underqualifed crime boss Sammy Tonin as well.
2/3/4 are gonna be late, I expect to be caught up by 5.
I’m just sick about it.