Twin Peaks: The Return, Part Twelve

“It’s a goddamn bad story, isn’t it, Hawk?”

Warning: This review begins by discussing internet fan slang, devolves into a discussion of September 11th, redeems itself slightly with a swerve towards Angel, and ends by talking about the most important thing: how important it is that you keep your own blood.

Two terms have entered the lexicon of internet fandoms fairly recently: fan-service and trolling. (To consider how recently their common usage is, ask yourself if we used them to describe Lost.) I tend to avoid these terms, for reasons my definitions will make clear:

On its face, Fan-service describes a moment in a TV show or film (let’s stick with TV for this review) in which the creator does something that the fans, typically on social media and in comments sections, have been clamoring for. However, the term is almost always used pejoratively, as in the following sentence: “Having Romeo and Juliet finally get together is totally just stupid fan-service, since obviously Romeo belongs with Rosaline.” In other words, “fan-service” really means “the creators didn’t give me what I want; they gave me what other people want.”

Trolling, on the other hand, is a term we know all too well. On social media and in comments section, a troll is a person who makes a controversial, often illogical, statement in order to provoke an angry reaction. In terms of television criticism, a showrunner might be accused of trolling if they refuse to give the fans what they want or seem to be delaying it for no particular reason other than delay. As with “fan-service,” of course, “trolling” often devolves into “They didn’t give me what I want and/or expected, so [sticks out tongue and makes farting sounds].” Or, “the deaths of Romeo and Juliet are totally just Shakespeare trolling the shippers! Ha ha ha!”

I’m defining these terms not because I think you, Dear Reader, are an internet-illiterate fool who still talks about “The Facebook.” Rather, I’m defining them so you can understand that when I say that this episode is a bizarre mix of fan-service and trolling, I have been reduced to the very vocabulary that I despise.

“Part Twelve” is fan-service for those fans who equate a disjointed, sluggish narrative with high art. But this episode also trolls both fanny fans and antsy fans.

For example, Audrey Horne’s disgust with her husband’s inability to act. She becomes wildly impatient when listening to his phone call, which is only half-intelligible since it’s only half-heard. In that scene, Audrey stands in for the antsy fan.

Just like Albert stands in for the antsy fan when he politely waits for Gordon’s female companion to get off the darn couch. Gordon seems to take pleasure in watching her wiggle, preen, and giggle. Albert, like me, does not. And since Gordon is Lynch, we could make the argument that the female-companion scene is a mise-en-abyme: it stands for the structure of the series as a whole, in which the viewer (Albert) anxiously awaits forward movement (her leaving the room) while the director (Lynch/Cole) luxuriates in the pleasures of delay and a fine Bordeaux.

Love Lynch’s avant-garde rejection of narrative movement? Then you might think these scenes are trolling the antsy fans, who are doing it wrong anyway. Hate the way that the original series’ focus on stories within stories has become a scattershot, disorganized mess of irrelevant vignettes? Then you might think these sluggish scenes are just fan-service for the Lynchian purists who equate sluggishness with high art.

Personally, I’m a traditionalist. I like some element of movement that contributes to suspense. That doesn’t mean that I demand a trick ending: I’m almost never surprised by the end of a Marvel movie, but the suspense comes in the pleasure of wondering how we’ll get there. With Twin Peaks: The Return I’m not clear on where we’re going, and I’m not enjoying the process of getting there, since we still don’t seem to be getting anywhere.

And that’s where my September 11th comparison comes in. (I warned you, didn’t I?) One of the takeaways from September 11th was the lack of interagency cooperation that created inadvertent blind spots. (Young people, if you don’t know: that’s why the Department of Homeland Security was invented.) In retrospect, with the beauty of 20/20 hindsight, we can think about September 10th, 2001, as the day in which everybody was spending way too long getting off the couch, drinking Bordeaux when they should have been drinking damn fine coffee.

The TV Show Angel dramatizes that challenge in the episode “Apocalypse, Nowish,” when Angel spends a few minutes wondering whether he should organize his weapons alphabetically or by the damage they can inflict. We know the apocalypse is happening, and part of the suspense is waiting on tenterhooks for our vampire hero to realize it.

Twin Peaks: The Return is like the federal agencies on September 10th: a lack of interagency communication is blinding them to what we know is happening. Cooper is (almost) back. Evil Cooper is up to no good. !!There are two Coopers!! And the Woodsmen are…Uh, I don’t know how to end that sentence. The Return is like a movie that pretends to be about September 11th, but is really about the day before. Antsy doesn’t begin to describe the result (for me).

It is also like “Apocalypse, Nowish.” When Angel was organizing his weapons cabinet, he thought he was being productive. The main characters think they are being productive. Evil Cooper is arranging assassinations. Gordon and Albert are edging ever closer to discovering the vital fact of the show, that there are two Coopers and something is happening in Las Vegas. Hawk is on the lookout for trouble with Sarah Palmer. Ben Horne is thinking of Dale Cooper’s room key. Each character is doing something, albeit slowly and with many digressions, but none of them are doing the most useful thing, and none of them know yet that they need to engage in some inter-agency, or inter-plot-thread, cooperation.

And that’s where we can see fan-service and trolling come into play once again. The final scene, in which the young women talk about people we haven’t met in the Roadhouse, puts us in the position of Gordon and Albert wondering about Las Vegas: wondering what it is we don’t know. (To use Rumsfeld’s term about WMDs in Iraq, we are still in the realm of the unknown unknowns for many of these characters.)

With Audrey Horne—well, her mere appearance might be dismissed as fan-service, since she’s a fan-favorite, but that’s the pejorative, egotistical way of viewing a returning character’s return. Is it trolling? Like the young women in the Roadhouse, Audrey talks about things and people we know nothing about. But we do get hints: she’s unhappy in her marriage, she’s cheating on her husband, her husband doesn’t really live up to the standards set by Cooper. Or even by Billy Zane.

Is she Richard Horne’s mother? (Who else could be, since Ben Horne is his grandfather?) Is Evil Cooper the father? Those questions and challenges, if they’re accurate, are 25 years in Audrey’s past. But they matter to us, as viewers. They matter to the plot of The Return, in that Richard Horne’s parentage might matter to Evil Cooper. And that parentage—as well as Audrey’s responsibility for her son—might even connect to the weirdest scene in the entire episode, when Harry Dean Stanton tells his resident that he needs to “keep [his] blood.” A hint that Evil Cooper’s son has significance for what is to come?

Or maybe it’s just be fan-service wankery and trolling the internet theorists. Because at this point, nobody knows.

Damn Fine Coffee:

• “Blue Rose”: basically a Lynchian X-Files.

• Do you think Sarah Palmer is possessed by Bob? She spoke to herself in the third person and seemed to switch between personalities at both the grocery store and with Hawk.

• Ben Horne is chipping in for Miriam Sullivan’s healthcare. That’s nice of him.

• Dale Cooper was the hero of the original series. Is David Lynch trying to position Gordon Cole into that role in The Return?

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

3 comments:

Billie Doux said...

This review pretty much makes the revival worth it for me. But then again, I'm a big fan of Josie's prose, but a non-viewer of Twin Peaks.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Well damn, there you go. She beat me at my own game.

Keith Kotay said...

Another exquisite review, Josie! This was almost a throwaway episode for me. I normally watch the episodes twice before commenting, because I often miss things the first time--especially dialogue if the cast is not enunciating (not their fault, I have been known to wildly misinterpret song lyrics as well). In this case, I wasn't really interested in watching it again, but I decided to give it another chance last night.

There were incremental plot advances in several story arcs, but they almost seem like teases at this point. Perhaps the most significant was Diane saying "Let's rock!", which is the title of the episode. Unfortunately, there wasn't much rocking in this one, more like the band tuning up. Still, we may have some confirmation that Diane has met The Man from Another Place--and that means she could be a doppelganger, or at least has visited the Lodges (possibly a long time ago, before TMFAP evolved into the Tree).

It seems like Richard Horne has to be Audrey's son, and I'm guessing that Cooper's doppelganger is the father. He probably took advantage of her, and she may have realized that he wasn't the Dale Cooper she once knew. Therefore, she never acknowledged the father, which is why Richard's last name is 'Horne'.

The interesting scenes involve (1) Sarah Palmer, (2) Cole and his female guest, and (3) Audrey and her husband Charlie. Sarah seems to be on the verge of a breakdown (and something strange may be in her kitchen), but I believe this is more of a foreshadowing of events to come in Twin Peaks than anything important in itself. I think Josie's analysis of Cole and his guest is spot on--although the premise for her being in his room was very odd (as was Cole joking about the missing daughter).

We finally see Audrey, and she is married to a very short man who seems to be the antithesis of Dale Cooper. This scene has a strange feel, which made me wonder if it was taking place in the real world. The scenery and clothing seemed outdated, but there weren't any typical Lynch clues (flashing lights or strange sounds) that it was in another reality. It would appear that this is a marriage of convenience, as Audrey has a lover and her husband doesn't seem to mind--he also mentions a 'contract'. The people they are discussing don't seem to be people we know. There is no mention of Richard Horne.

Also, the short scene of Dougie and his son playing catch is very Theatre of the Absurd. That may be my favorite scene in this episode. I'm actually glad I re-watched this one, as I seem to experience less 'frustration' the second time--perhaps because I know what's going to happen and therefore I can relax and enjoy the absurdity...