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As Dale Cooper wakes up, Twin Peaks dares us to make sense of it—or not

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At times, it can feel like the Twin Peaks revival is daring viewers to make sense of its intricate obscurities and its patient, meandering pace. Like the numbed, muted version of Dale Cooper presenting his work to Dougie’s boss, the show is presenting not a tidy catalogue of evidence, but an impressionistic array of telltale signs. “What the hell are all these childish scribbles?” asks Bushnell “Battling Bud” Mullins (Don Murray, who played Bo in Bus Stop opposite Marilyn Monroe), flipping through his penciled-over case files. “How am I going to make any sense of this?”


In his now-familiar choked stammer, Cooper echoes back the last few words. “Make sense of it.”

Because David Lynch’s work, and especially Twin Peaks, employs the cues of noir—the square-jawed detective with a darker side, the femme fatale, the heavily shaded scenes of light and dark, the murky morals, the “woman in trouble”—it’s easy to expect him to deliver the clues of a classic mystery, to expect he’ll lay out evidence in just enough detail to put the pieces together in a logical pattern. To make concrete, objective sense of it.


Those expectations are destined to be disappointed.

There is sense in Lynch’s work, in his collaboration with Mark Frost, in Twin Peaks, in “The Return, Part 6.” But that sense is overwhelmingly emotional rather than rational, a sensibility and a sensation rather than a solution. Information is everywhere, but it’s conveyed by feeling as much as—often more than—by fact. Why does a red square appearing on an executive’s computer screen mean it’s time to retrieve an envelope from his safe, carefully shielding it from fingerprints? Why does the single black dot on that envelope look so ominous?

We don’t need to know why. We just know it does, and the show proves us right by making that envelope an order to a hitman, and a hitman with an especially gruesome modus operandi. As Ike “The Spike” Stadler (Christophe Zajac-Denek) opens and assaults the two head shots (one of Dougie Jones, one of Lorraine [Tammy Baird], whose hit on Dougie failed), a musical cue suddenly kicks in, ending even more abruptly as he assaults the photos. It’s unconventional; it doesn’t make sense. But it makes a terrible lack of sense, just like Ike’s overzealous ice-pick attacks, only one of which we see—and one is plenty. “Three corpses?” Lorraine asks about the botched hit on Dougie, not realizing she’s forecasting her own death.

A story doesn’t have to be logical to be intelligible, and a clue doesn’t have to be concrete to be clear. Hawk knows that, and Michael Horse conveys that intuitive sense with admirable ease after an “Indian-head nickel” spills from Hawk’s pocket in the sheriff station’s men’s room. His eyes rove around the stall, open to possibilities, and that’s how Hawk finds the Nez Percé logo, the missing screw in the door panel, the handwritten papers tucked in there who knows how long ago. He finds the evidence by being open to sensation and impression, not by sifting through clues.


Twin Peaks—the original, the prequel film, and the revival—relies on emotional logic, not orderly facts. It’s more like a lucid dream than a lucid discussion. There are things here more important, more rewarding, than adding up the numbers that keep spilling out, or parsing out whether the flailing, quaking limbs of the entity that speaks to Cooper before he leaves The Lodge is a limbic system or a leafless sycamore or both or neither.

More rewarding than solving any of the individual puzzles of Twin Peaks is simply being receptive to its larger mysteries and submitting to its aching emotional realities. Watching Cooper-as-Dougie stand, befuddled, before that statue that captivates him, and seeing Officer Reynaldo (that’s Juan Carlos Cantu, who plays Nacho’s father on Better Call Saul) ferry him home with quiet compassion, watching Cooper reach again and again for Reynaldo’s badge, seeing him grasp futilely at wisps of memory: This scene left me with tears in my eyes, and it’s hard to articulate why.


Some of it is the depth that Kyle MacLachlan brings to this stilted, almost silent character. As comical as the Dougie scenes can be, he brings a melancholy to them that necessarily relies on his expression and bearing, not on his words or the reactions of those around him.

“The Return, Part 6” is the most strictly realistic episode of Twin Peaks’ revival to date, taking place mostly this plane of existence. But it’s a heightened reality, as evidenced by the antics of Red (Balthazar Getty) as he meets with Richard Horne for a drug deal. Unlike Richard, whose louche menace is undercut by its theatricality, Red’s stagy swagger has the flavor of Frank Booth. His swings and feints don’t connect, but they feel more, not less, threatening because they’re so erratic.


We don’t know yet what’s in the notes Hawk found. We don’t know how, or why, Garland Briggs’ corpse (or at least his fingerprints, and even on Twin Peaks it’s hard to imagine separating fingerprints from their owner’s body) has shown up in South Dakota. We don’t know how Diane—Cooper’s mysterious, much-debated secretary, appearing at long last and played by Laura Dern—will help Albert and Gordon distinguish between Dale Cooper and the doppelgänger masquerading as him. But it’s enough to know that they believe she will, and that she does exist after all. She even has a last name: Evans.

Or maybe you do need to know what and how and why—why a dot means murder, why Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) can see the life leaving a child’s body, why these long strings of numbers keep spooling out. Even better, maybe you have a theory. In that case, I’m sincerely glad you exist and are reading this, and I hope you’re sharing your insight in the comments. There’s no shortage of details to knit together, including the hit-and-run of “Part 6” that occurs at the same intersection where Gerard rants at Leland Palmer in Fire Walk With Me, and Carl, who’s established a new Fat Trout Trailer Park on the outskirts of Twin Peaks, taking a long look at another electrical pole with another number six on it.


“You have to wake up,” The One-Armed Man urges Dale Cooper. “Wake up. Don’t die. Don’t die. Don’t die.” It’s so close. Can’t you almost feel it? Dale Cooper is coming back. It’s torturously slow, but it’s happening. He’s got his coffee, he’s got his case files, he’s got his smart black suit. Best of all, he’s got that supernatural insight. And he’s starting to wake up to who he is.


These are the essentials of the Twin Peaks revival. Wake up to the possibilities. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Don’t fret so much over the how and why that you miss the forest for the trees. Those trees in Twin Peaks are legendary, but the forest is where the magic happens.

It might sound like I’m dismissing those of you who love working away at Mark Frost and David Lynch’s details—colors, shapes, numbers—like you’re unlocking a puzzle box. I’m not. I just prefer a more intuitive approach of luxuriating in the imagery and the emotions the show conjures up. But let me remind you that this work you are doing tonight is very, very important, and I will be thinking of you (thank you, sweetheart) as I drink this fine Bordeaux.


Stray observations

  • It is happening again: If you have any doubt that Lynch and Frost rely upon cycles in their writing and imagery, look no further than the return of Heidi (Andrea Hays)—or, rather, the apparently constant presence of Heidi—at the Double R. In the 1990 pilot, Shelly teases Heidi for her late arrival, asking, “Seconds on knockwurst this morning?” Then Heidi disappears from the series until they replay the same conversation, word for word, in the season 2 finale. But judging by their banter in “Part 6,” Heidi’s never left the Double R. She’s even got the same giggle.
  • Spoilers for Mulholland Drive: Patrick Fischler appearing as Duncan Todd, the man who unlocks the orders to Ike “The Spike” harkens back to Fischler’s role in Mulholland Drive, where he ventures into the alley behind Winkie’s… the same alley where Diane will find the key after her contract is completed.
  • Richard’s failure to intimidate is clearly on the part of Richard Horne and not Eamon Farren, because the “kid” (as Red insists on calling him) looks more than shaken up by the inexplicable finish to Red’s coin toss, where the dime ends up in his own mouth. He looks sick—sick to his stomach, sick in his heart, sick to the core of himself.
  • We haven’t met a Linda yet, but Carl’s friend Mickey (Jeremy Lindholm) mentions Linda, who’s been struggling to get an electric wheelchair for six months.
  • In an earlier review, I lumped in Jade’s introduction with other intentional uses of the female form to frame scenes. In retrospect, I think that was shortsighted, especially after seeing how the meet-up between Red and Richard uses a black actor as a wordless prop, a nameless piece of background to add to the already formidable threat of the scene. Lynch has never been graceful in his use of characters of color, and the Twin Peaks revival doesn’t seem likely to be an exception. As Neila Orr puts it, it is happening again.