THE SHOW “Twin Peaks: The Return”
WHERE | WHEN Series finale airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Showtime
WHAT IT’S ABOUT FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is flying to Spokane, Washington, and then on to Twin Peaks, accompanied by the brothers Mitchum, Bradley (Jim Belushi) and Rodney (Robert Knepper), who are also owners of the Silver Mustang Casino. Cooper is no longer mild-mannered, semi-comatose insurance salesman Dougie Jones, but a lawman on a mission — to vanquish the “Evil Coop” (also MacLachlan) once and for all. This is the 17th and final episode of the Mark Frost and David Lynch sequel to “Twin Peaks,” which aired on ABC from 1990 to ’91. The finale was not made available for review.
MY SAY Some years ago, a soon-to-be-famous novelist and self-confessed Lynch freak, David Foster Wallace, tried to make sense of the currently fashionable term “Lynchian” over the course of a long essay before finally conceding that it’s like “one of those [Justice] Potter Stewart words ... you’ll know it when you see it.” Indeed, we sure knew it when we saw it over these 16 episodes.
Lynchian was in the colors (smokey blues, deep reds) and in the various bands that played the Bang Bang Bar — a wondrously surreal mix of fringe indie rock acts that seemed to drift in on a moonbeam (like the Veils or Au Revoir Simone). Lynchian was in the countless images — psychedelic non sequiturs that defied logic (the woodmen...Senorita Dido...The Evolution of the Arm... "This is the water, this is the well. Drink full and descend.")
Lynchian was in the background music — occasionally just a long, low whine, like the soundtrack to a nervous breakdown.
We certainly knew it when we saw it in the humor and violence, often conjoined. Recall the climactic scene last week when the aggrieved accountant shot up the van carrying the husband-wife hit squad. Cue to the Lynchian Mitchum brothers who witnessed the bloody mayhem from a safe remove. “People,” explained Rodney, “are under a lot of stress, Bradley.”
But primarily we knew it from the story. “The Return” was the tale of one Dougie Jones, who existed in a semi-fugue state in Las Vegas for most of the series before finally locating his inner Agent Dale Cooper just last week. He did this by sticking his finger in a wall outlet. Electricity is very Lynchian. As it turns out, Las Vegas is too.
Now that we’ve established that “The Return” was Lynchian, what did all this mean? You’re on your own there, friends. These past few months, countless web posts have followed various clues like crumbs to various rabbit holes, down which other crumb trails have been laid. For example, Evil Cooper and Diane (Laura Dern) are likely “tulpas,” or emanations from another mind. Depending on your familiarity with Tibetan mysticism, this is either helpful or maddening: What then does all that mean?
For true-blue fans, in fact, the great joy of “Twin Peaks: The Return” was in the act of submission. Only after realizing that the pursuit of meaning, logic, or even solid information was a fool’s errand could you then settle back to enjoy the countless pleasures this had to offer. For example, there were over 200 speaking parts here, most as fleeting as a scream in the night. At least one mostly comprised a scream in the night. Each was flawless. There were callbacks for at least a dozen original characters, each as welcome as the return of an old friend, and in a couple of instances, as melancholy as a departed one. (The Log Lady’s Catherine E. Coulson and Agent Albert Rosenfield’s Miguel Ferrer died after production ended.) The omissions were perplexing (most notably, Michael Ontkean’s Sheriff Truman) but hardly destabilizing.
And even with those detours through the dreamscape of its co-author, the story did make sense. Credit there must go to Frost, who is the hedgehog to Lynch’s fox. He knows that TV series need plots, and gave this an engaging one.
There was some fan blowback early on about Dougie, to wit, when would the beloved Cooper return? But Doug had his own charms, while 16 episodes of Cooper’s coffee-loving Dudley Do-Right would have strained fan patience. In any event, MacLachlan pulled off Dougie and Evil Coop brilliantly. Credit for this triumph also belongs to him.
BOTTOM LINE The single greatest pleasure of the 2017 TV season.