Monday, June 19, 2017

REVIEW: 'Twin Peaks' - Cooper and Diane Reunite as Hawk Gets Some New Information in 'The Return: Part 7'

Showtime's Twin Peaks - Episode 3.07 "The Return: Part 7"

There's a body all right.

This new season of Twin Peaks has almost played as a test of the audience's patience. It's almost as if David Lynch and Mark Frost are teasing the audience to see just how far they'll go with the story they are telling. How much time is the audience willing to spend away from Twin Peaks? So far, not a lot is happening in the iconic town. Even when the action does cut away to the characters there, it's to have Lucy and Andy's son giving a Marlon Brando monologue for a handful of minutes or it's the new Sheriff Truman being yelled at by his wife or it's Hawk making only a slow amount of progress on the new riddle that the Log Lady has presented to him. Then, how long is the audience willing to put up with Dougie Jones? He's been a huge part of the season so far. He debuted in the third episode as the amnesiac version of Agent Cooper. The audience and the other characters are begging for him to remember who he is. And yet, that realization has yet to occur. Instead, that story is just about him slowly moving about his day and just repeating phrases and actions he hears and sees from other people. And finally, how long are we willing to wait to revisit some of the iconic characters from the former series? Audrey was a major character on the old show. She's been teased a little bit but Sherilyn Fenn hasn't returned yet. It's all played as one big mystery that reveals the audience's own expectations for the show. Are we willing to go along with everything that Lynch and Frost are willing to do? Or do we just want to get back to Twin Peaks with Agent Cooper as soon as possible?

"Part 7" sees a significant amount of forward momentum. It features a number of really fantastic sequences that makes this the best hour since the third episode which featured that insane sequence that saw Cooper returning to Earth from the Black Lodge. It also feels more like an old episode of Twin Peaks. This season has been great. But the structure of the story has been very different from the old series. That hasn't been completely surprising. Those first two seasons were made in a different time. They were ground-breaking and distinctive. But the new episodes had to do something else in order for the show to be seen that way again. It's been polarizing to some of the audience. These new episodes feel so radically different. It's still clearly a Lynch-Frost story. But the pacing has gotten even slower while the mysteries have only been amplified more. Everything has a unique intrigue to it where it could be the thing that the entire narrative ultimately revolves around. Or it could simply be the latest version of colorful oddities in this world to make it feel like a complete and unique environment. That's the fun of this show. But this episode does provide more clarity over the main story. It also spends more time telling the stories that worked so tremendously well on the old show. The characters and circumstances have changed but the heart is still there. That's what makes this hour so thrilling.

It does feel like the season is heading into its second act as well. We are now more than a third of the way through the new episodes. Everything seemingly important has been set up with a number of the key characters being delayed on their core missions for a little bit. But now, things are starting to go awry and challenge the characters' preconceptions of this world. It's thrilling to watch. Perhaps the best thing of this hour is Laura Dern's performance as Diane though. That character is so iconic and so special to the audience. She was so beloved on the original series even though she never appeared onscreen. She was simply the person that Cooper talked to at the end of the day to detail everything that has happened in his investigation. After being talked about for so long, it would seem impossible for anyone to actually embody her in a way that lives up to the anticipation. Her first appearance was last week but it was nothing more than a glorified cameo. Here, she is actually given a story. It's phenomenal to watch because it uproots the audience's expectations of what the character should be. A woman who curses at everyone she meets and is completely cynic isn't the picture I had in my head. That makes for an odd couple pairing of her and the Cooper of the original series. And yet, that version of Diane may have been different as well. This hour does such a strong job with this story because it feels the importance of time and the effect it has had on Diane in all of these years since she was last with Cooper.

The reunion between Diane and Cooper is so phenomenal as well. It's not the Cooper that she worked so closely with all those years ago. It's instead his evil doppelganger who is in prison in South Dakota. Gordon and Albert have brought her in to give her own opinion about if this man is the Cooper that they all love so much. It's not and Diane knows that right away. That scene where the two reunite is powerful because of the unspoken horrors of it all. Diane refers to a night that Evil Cooper came to see her. Something horrifying happened that night that she can never forget. It's heavily inferred that she was raped by Evil Cooper. And yet, she doesn't come out and say that. Instead, something switches inside of her. Before she saw Cooper again, she didn't want anything to do with this investigation. Afterwards, she's breaking down in Gordon's arms and pleading with him to keep Cooper in jail because he's not the man they know. It's moving to watch because Gordon accepts all of it. And yet, the actual story doesn't keep Evil Cooper in jail any longer. He's been in this place unable to do anyone harm anywhere for a couple of episodes now. But that all changes by the end of this episode. He is able to blackmail his way to freedom simply because he has incriminating information against the warden. He's just so calmly menacing throughout that sequence. This information is so cryptic but it strikes such a chord with the warden. He's scared so much that he's willing to let this mysterious and unknown horror back into the world with his partner in crime. That's going to be so dangerous and really amplify the stakes moving forward.

All of that works so well because it feels like an honest and in depth connection between two characters. On the surface, there is a lot of exposition in this episode that is used to move the pieces around. But the acting brings something new to the mystery. It makes this world feel lived in for the past 25 years. That's important. It's also a significant quality when the action cuts back to the characters in Twin Peaks. Again, the information that's doled out could be very boring and repetitive for hardcore fans of the series. It's the characters there remembering all of the details of the Laura Palmer case. It's revealed that Hawk did find the missing pages of Laura's diary in the bathroom stall last week. That provides him with an excuse to bring the new Sheriff Truman up to speed on everything that happened all those years ago. That's important because this character wasn't there. So, he needs to be told that Leland killed both his daughter and Jacques Renault, that several pages went missing from her diary (one is still missing too) and the events surrounding Cooper's return from the Black Lodge. Of course, it's a little distracting and annoying that the new Sherriff Truman is able to have a face-to-face scene with Doc Hayward (via Skype) and not his own brother. The season keeps bringing attention to the fact that Michael Ontkean chose not to return for the new episodes. His brother continuing to check up on him likely means the character will die at some point this season. And yet, that scene is still so moving because it's the new Sheriff Truman realizing that there are more important things in this world than calling to talk about an old case that may not even be relevant anymore.

That's a message that Janey-E delivers as well when a couple of cops show up to question Dougie about his missing car. She has emerged as a pretty interesting main character this season. Yes, she still fits into the mold of the wet blanket wife who has very little patience with the antics of her middle-aged husband. And yet, the season has also revealed that she's so loving and patient with Dougie while also being tough and assertive to the rest of the world. She has no patience for mobsters who want to be paid an absurd amount of money or detectives who want to focus on the fact that this couple didn't report their car as being stolen. All of this is what we've come to expect from the Dougie Jones corner of this story. However, there seems to be some solid forward momentum to reclaiming his identity as Agent Cooper as well. When Ike the Spike comes to attack Dougie, his old FBI training comes back to him and he's able to expertly take him down and harm no one in the process. Of course, that sequence is still mystifying as well because the tree from the Black Lodge shows up telling Dougie to rip his hand off. A part of his skin is still attached to the weapon when all of this is over with too. It shows that the old Cooper is still in there and is capable of coming out. And yet, the threats against him are slowly getting resolved. So, the urgency for him to return may not be as great as it once was. However, this still feels like a key moment that all of the audience's patience is about to be paid off in a truly epic moment. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Return: Part 7" was written by David Lynch & Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch.
  • For all of this talk about forward momentum and brisk pacing this week, there is also a scene where the audience just watches a guy sweep the floor of The Bang-Bang Bar for a couple of minutes. It's seemingly pointless but continues to show just how strong a grasp Lynch has on the tone and specifics of this world.
  • Walter Olkewicz played Jacques Renault on the original series. This episode reminds the audience that that character is dead. Killed by Leland Palmer. But Olkewicz is also playing the new face of the Renault family. It reveals that the family is still up to no good in Twin Peaks. He works at The Bang-Bang Bar but is also running a prostitution business on the side.
  • After weeks of speculation, Audrey's actual fate is teased for the first time in the story. She survived the explosion at the bank but was in a coma during the immediate aftermath. Doc Hayward reveals this information while talking to the new Sheriff Truman. He also says that Evil Cooper visited her. So now, the audience should be worried about him doing something sinister to her too, right? Should we be questioning Richard's parentage now?
  • Lt. Knox shows up in South Dakota as well. She's surprised to learn that the fingerprints from Major Briggs actually came from a body. It makes this case much more special than all the previous ones. But something more mysterious is going on as well. He's still missing his head. Plus, it's the body of a man in his late 40s who died a couple of days ago - even though Briggs would now be in his 70s.
  • Andy finds himself working on the case of the boy run over by Richard Horne. He's tracked down the owner of the vehicle who is too scared to talk. When he arranges a meeting elsewhere, the guy doesn't show up. So, is that a tease that Red already has so much influence over this area and silenced this guy before he could talk?
  • The story at the Great Northern could feel very detached from everything else. And yet, it feels like a classic Twin Peaks story. The old show was part soap opera too. A love triangle does seem to be emerging between Ben Horne, his new assistant Beverly and her sick husband Tom. I'm intrigued to learn more about these characters.
  • Plus, the inclusion of Beverly reveals that things have changed in Twin Peaks. Not everyone is aware of the rich history this community has with criminal operations, murder investigations and the mystical. She has no idea who Agent Cooper and Laura Palmer are. That works because the passage of time has proven to be such a crucial element of this season.
  • Most of the episodes this season have ended on a musical performance at The Bang-Bang Bar as the end credits roll. This week things are different. Instead, the credits roll during a scene at the diner. It's a nice change that is so simple but very effective as well.
  • This episode is dedicated to Warren Frost who played Doc Hayward (and Donna's father) on the original show. His brief appearance here is important for the story. But it also feels like all the audience is going to get of him this year as he's another one of the actors who passed away following production.