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Twin Peaks is showing us its strange, familiar face again

“Remember the dog legs”

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Laura Dern, Kyle MacLachlan (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)
Laura Dern, Kyle MacLachlan (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)
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Twin Peaks

"The Return, Part 7"

Season 3 , Episode 7

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The most striking characteristic of the Twin Peaks revival is its patience. The series has always been more interested in creating mysteries for viewers to lose themselves in than in solving them for us. In the series’ return, co-creators and writers Mark Frost and David Lynch have let that patient, meditative approach to storytelling expand to hilarious, exhausting, even distressing lengths. It’s devastating, and I love it. But “The Return, Part 7” is nowhere near as cryptic as it could be.

Sweeping up the Bang Bang Bar (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

This episode even makes a subtle spectacle of its accessibility. After six episodes ending with music playing in The Bang Bang Bar, the audience should be primed to expect “Part 7”’s late-in-the-episode roadhouse scene to signal the ending. If it were, it would be an audacious ending, long empty minutes as an employee patiently sweeps up the empty dance floor and another stands behind the bar, while “Green Onions” plays in the background. I laughed out loud, expecting this wordless scene to carry on, leaving us to wonder for another week about the bearded bartender who’s the exact likeness of the late Jacques Renault (because, like Jacques Renault, he’s played by Walter Olkewicz). I was almost disappointed when instead the phone rang, breaking the spell and giving him a chance to speak.

Jean-Michel Renault (Walter Olkewicz) (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

“Part 7” also features Hawk refreshing Sheriff Frank Truman on the finer points of the Laura Palmer case, which has the helpful side effect of being sure viewers, too, know that Jacques Renault is dead, and that Leland Palmer killed him. This scene even mentions that Leland is Laura’s father and that she had a secret diary from which four pages were missing, and it shows us three of them. It’s an unexpectedly thorough briefing from a series that’s always expected viewers to keep up, even after an absence of a quarter-century.

Warren Frost (Mark Frost’s father, who died early in 2017, and to whom “The Return, Part 7” is dedicated) reprises his role as Doc Hayward, Donna’s father, friend to Harry and Cooper, and their companion on several investigative outings. Doc Hayward recounts for Frank Truman the details of Cooper’s condition upon his return from the lodge all those years ago. “We all knew Coop, but that morning he was acting mighty strange,” Doc says, describing Cooper sneaking out of his hospital room. “He turned and looked at me and…” He pauses, giving the moment its full weight. “… I saw that strange face again.”

Diane, reluctantly flying to South Dakota (Laura Dern) (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

It’s uncanny to see someone with a face you know, especially a face you love, acting in a way you don’t. (Think of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, which taps into a horror so easy to identify with that it’s remade generation after generation.) Diane, Coop’s beloved secretary, is so shaken by an encounter with Dark Coop that, more than 25 years later, just the prospect of coming face to face with him again has her drawn and shaking and knocking back vodka from airplane bottles. She doesn’t say what he said (or did) to her at their last meeting, but it shattered her. It still does.

Janey-E Jones must be nearly as shaken by Dougie’s unexpected reaction to a murderous attack. Dale Cooper’s instincts spring to the surface as Ike “The Spike” (not nearly as effective with a gun) rushes them. Snapping out of the stumbling fugue he inhabits as Dougie, Cooper shoves Janey clear, forces Ike’s trigger hand to the ground where his shot discharges harmlessly, and drives his arm against Ike’s throat. It’s a little taste of A History Of Violence right in the middle of Twin Peaks, complete with a swooping cut to news footage that’s as unlike Twin Peaks as anything in the revival so far. A bystander (Stephanie Allynne) sums it up: “That guy didn’t look like any victim. Douglas Jones, he moved like a cobra.”

“Squeeze his hand off! Squeeze his hand off!” (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

Plunk in the middle of this uncharacteristic scene is perhaps the most Lynchian element possible. Amid all the action, the “evolution of the arm” appears to Cooper, hissing, “Squeeze his hand off!” Cooper does just that, crushing Ike’s hand until a fat scrap of skin adheres to the grip, to be peeled off later by a forensics team.

Like the pile of litter that the barkeep is patiently sweeping up, the action is accumulating, and so are the clues. After Diane’s visit, Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield are certain the man in that South Dakota federal prison isn’t Dale Cooper. Dark Coop’s mysteriously garbled greeting is explained in some detail, along with his fingerprints, one of which is reversed from Cooper’s originals. The reversed ring finger (“the spiritual finger”) coincides with the reversed word in his 10-word greeting to Gordon: “I’m yrev, very happy to see you again, old friend.”

“This is the spiritual mound, the spiritual finger.” (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

So Gordon and Albert know for certain who Dark Coop isn’t. So does Diane. Col. Davis and Lt. Knox (Adele René) know the prints their system flagged are definitely those of Maj. Garland Briggs and that the body found at Ruth Davenport’s murder scene appears to be him, though it’s roughly 25 years younger than it ought to be. Everyone’s learning who everyone is… or isn’t. We even know who Mr. Strawberry is. He’s a dog, a dog connected with a secret of Warden Murphy’s (James Morrison). And it’s a secret so dark, he’d rather let Dark Coop walk free than let it get out.

The credits identify Olkewicz’s character as Jean-Michel Renault. His relationship to Jacques isn’t confirmed, though like Jacques, he’s connected to One Eyed Jacks. It’s a safe bet they’re brothers, not only because of their identical appearance but because “Part 7” harps on brothers, explicitly and implicitly. The episode opens on Jerry Horne calling his brother Ben in a panic, blurting out words that could be lifted straight from Dougie or from Dale Cooper. “Someone stole my car. Didn’t I tell you?” he begins, and ends with the wail, “I don’t know where I am!” Not long after, Frank Truman calls his brother Harry, planning to ask his opinion of the pages from Laura Palmer’s diary, but he’s prevented when Harry gives him bad news about his treatment.

What the bad news is, and what the treatment is for, isn’t clear, but the sorrow on Robert Forster’s face is. As Janey tells the trio of cops at Dougie’s office, there are more important things than reporting a car stolen, and there are more important things than asking your mortally ill brother about a 25-year-old case. Those cops are brothers, too, or so it seems from the credits, which list them as Det. T. Fusco (Larry Clarke), Det. “Smiley” Fusco (Eric Edelstein), and Det. D. Fusco (David Koechner).

(Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, Don Murray, Larry Clarke, Eric Edelstein, David Koechner) (Screenshot: Twin Peaks)

Dark Coop warns Warden Murphy to “remember the dog legs,” and he means the dog legs he’s stashed away along with incriminating evidence. But a dogleg can also mean a sharp turn, a sudden reversal, or a twist. A twist like Diane coming all the way to South Dakota just to draw the curtain down on Dark Coop after two minutes, or like Dougie Jones, secretly occupied by an FBI agent, taking down a hitman with no trouble. Or like Gordon, who prefers to communicate in code, explaining the meaning of a reversed word and a reversed fingerprint. Or like Dark Coop, who Gordon thinks he’s got locked safely away, heading off into the night with Ray. Even in “The Return, Part 7,” which accommodatingly holds our hands as it reminds us of the show’s history and guides us into its future, it’s smart to be braced for one sharp turn after another.

Stray observations

  • It’s not only Dark Coop and not-Dougie who are behaving strangely. Deputy Andy Brennan is unsettlingly commanding in “Part 7.” He’s arranging secret meetings. And Andy has a Rolex, which the camera makes a point of showing off. If Andy is a dirty cop, I am going to cry like… well, like Andy used to.
  • “Fuck you, Tammy.”
  • Doc Hayward thinks Cooper—actually Dark Coop—might have visited Audrey Horne while she lay comatose, recovering from the bank explosion. I do not like to consider what this might mean about Richard Horne’s parentage.
  • “You control the curtain and the microphone.”
  • Facing down loan sharks, staring down three police detectives, then grappling with Ike “The Spike”? Janey really is a tough dame.