Sunday, July 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Twin Peaks' - Dougie Shares Good News While Becky Has a Violent Reaction in 'The Return: Part 11'

Showtime's Twin Peaks - Episode 3.11 "The Return: Part 11"

There's fire where you are going.

A week ago, I took to this space to complain that Twin Peaks: The Return was in stalling mode. After a tremendous eighth episode, it was padding the main story out with very little significant progress. Yes, it has allowed the show to spend some more time with other characters in this world. But it also just reaffirmed everything the show was setting out to do. It was blatantly telling the audience what was and wasn't important. At this stage of the season, that's no longer necessary. As such, last week's episode felt like a lull. The significant events that the narrative has been hinting at don't happen in this episode either. The new Sheriff Truman and Hawk don't venture into the woods to find what Major Briggs wants them to find. Albert, Gordon and Diane don't discover Dougie Jones in Las Vegas. Audrey doesn't make her first appearance of the season. Dougie doesn't remember that he is Agent Cooper. After complaining about it for so long, I've made peace with the fact that Agent Cooper will be in Dougie Jones mode for the majority of the season. I'm still very much anticipating the episode where he finally returns to the man he was. I've ran hot and cold on Dougie Jones this season. He's a very polarizing character. Sometimes he works and sometimes he doesn't. The show has proven it's at its best when the Dougie story is actually compelling. This week it is. So, the show is quickly able to course correct from the problems I feared it had after last week's episode.

Of course, the episode doesn't even cut to Dougie Jones until the final third of the hour. This episode is split pretty evenly amongst the various locations. It doesn't intercut the stories either. It plots itself in one location, tells a whole story, and then it cuts away to the next one. That's an interesting and compelling way to do things at this stage of the season. It opens with a refreshing amount of time on Shelly, Bobby and Becky. Now, the mystery of Becky's parentage hasn't been one of the core questions of the season like Richard's has. The audience knew that she was Shelly's daughter the first time she appeared. But it was still unclear if Bobby was her dad especially since he and Shelly are no longer together and he has a steady job at the police station. This episode does confirm that. But first off, it does a much better job actually giving Becky some agency in the story. Her first appearance made her feel like a new important character in the story. Casting Amanda Seyfried in the role would confirm that. But she hasn't appeared much since that debut. She's been physically abused by her boyfriend, Steven, but that's about it. And now, that violence has finally boiled over and leads to some of the most uncertain sequences of the season.

It's nice to see Shelly and Bobby together again as well. Bobby has been a character of importance this year because of his job. Shelly is a legacy character too but she isn't caught up in the overarching story. She's just a comforting face to see in all of this chaos. It's relaxing to know that she is still working at the diner and serving the fine folks of Twin Peaks. That's what makes it so traumatizing when she is laying on the hood of a car and getting flung from it. That's such a surprising visual. The audience wants nice things for Shelly after the abuse she suffered on the original show. Her life is still marred by her making selfish choices that potentially hurt the people around her. But she's trying to be a good mother. She wants a better life for Becky. But Becky still goes over to a random apartment building and shoots up a room because Steven is cheating on her - with Donna Hayward's younger sister too! That shows that Shelly and Bobby haven't done a great job being parents. And yet, that's followed by a scene at the diner that shows them willing to step up and be the parents Becky needs right now. They've protected her and want to get her out of this abusive marriage. But they both still ultimately abandon her. Shelly leaves to go share a kiss with Red while Bobby literally jumps into action as soon as a bullet comes flying through the window.

It's wonderful to see Bobby as an authority figure. He's actually competent compared to the rest of the new recruits at the police station. He actually has his life figured out. This isn't the path most in the audience probably imagined for him. But it's been really great to watch. He is able to take control of the situation while also be completely mystified by it. He's planning for his adventure in the woods with the new Sheriff Truman and Hawk as well. But him stepping up outside the diner also allows those two to go over the plan and get another reaffirming message from Margaret. Their scene is important because it signals that danger will be coming for them as they try to uncover Major Briggs' message. They aren't even aware of what is happening elsewhere in Twin Peaks. And yet, that doesn't make them seem bad at their jobs because Bobby is more than capable of handling this crime scene. It also doesn't turn out to be an incident of major consequence. The diner wasn't shot up because someone there was being targeted. Red's presence could have suggested that. Shelly doesn't even know that her latest boyfriend is once again connected to the criminal underbelly of Twin Peaks. Instead, the bullet was just an accident. A kid got a gun in the backseat of his parents' vehicle somehow. But this scene grows even stranger with what Bobby sees in the car that ran into that van. It's such a puzzling image to see a woman complaining about not getting to where she's going fast enough and then to see her passenger continue to vomit. It's a strange and peculiar sight. Bobby doesn't know how to react to it. Neither should the audience. It's unnerving in a way that suggests things will only get weirder before this story is over.

And the strangeness of the hour only continues once the story moves to South Dakota. Albert and Gordon actually make significant progress in their investigation of Major Briggs' death. They are actually at the site where William Hastings and Ruth Davenport claim to have spoken with the man who's been missing for 25 years. Upon further investigation, Gordon almost travels to the same alternate dimension. It's different from the way the show usually depicts characters entering the Black Lodge too. That makes me suspect that something else is going on here. The bearded, homeless man who only appear to certain individuals and disappear just as quickly have growing importance as well. They've popped up on a number of occasions throughout the season. They were there with William Hastings when he was first arrested. They were at the morgue with Major Briggs' body. But they were also present for a number of significant scenes in the eighth episode. They were responsible for bringing Evil Cooper back to life. They have a role to play in this universe somehow. They've been affecting parts of this world for awhile now. The audience still doesn't know what any of it means. Gordon is pulled out of his trance before he is able to cross over into this new world. He feels the pull to go but ultimately doesn't.

The power of the bearded, homeless men comes into play once more as well. They brought Evil Cooper back to life. But now, they've killed William Hastings. That's such a wonderfully staged sequence. Diane sees them and knows that someone is coming but doesn't know what. She can't explain it. And then, William's head just explodes. The camera doesn't actually show this horrifying image though. For the longest time, the audience just sees the reactions from the rest of the characters. So, it's unclear just how much of William has been destroyed. The scene does end with that glimpse of his head which is half gone. It's a gruesome sight. And yet, this moment also includes one of the funniest moments of the entire season with Gordon proclaiming, "He's dead." It wasn't a big mystery. He was clearly gone for no rational explanation whatsoever. But it was still a killer punchline to this sequence. But it also forces one to question why these mysterious individuals did this. Was William leading Gordon and Albert too close to something very important? Something that could disrupt whatever it is Evil Cooper has planned for the future? If that's the case, then it's clear that these individuals are bad and could bring devastation whenever and wherever they appear.

And finally, the hour ends with Dougie in Las Vegas once again being threatened with death. So many various characters have come at him with the intention of killing him. And yet, they've all failed. The way he has been able to eliminate these threats has made it seem like Agent Cooper really is in there and playing a much bigger role in Dougie's actions than anyone has suspected. It can't all be chalked up to mystical powers guiding him while he's in this amnesic state. With the jackpots, that's probably true. Plus, he has the One-Arm Man in the Black Lodge guiding him with his gifts that will prove important. And yet, Agent Cooper probably could have uncovered the conspiracy at the insurance agency. That work proves that even though the Mitchum Brothers are sketchy people probably involved with organized crime, they still have a legitimate insurance claim that's worthy of a payout. That proves that Duncan and Anthony are truly the bad guys trying to manipulate the game to their advantage. Dougie proved that. But there is still the underlying tension of him heading into this meeting with the Mitchum brothers who want to kill him because of a false story they were given.

Yes, things are intense out in the desert. But things come to a very Twin Peaks resolution as well with a dream and cherry pie being the things that save Dougie. That's so completely in keeping with what this show is. It's very impressive and absolutely wonderful to see. It's so unnerving because it leaves Dougie's fate up to Bradley Mitchum remembering what happened in this dream. And yet, everything works out. They discover the pie and the check. They are willing to celebrate Dougie as the hero that has saved them from all of their recent problems. This episode closes with a celebration of Dougie Jones. After an entire season where he's been such a frustrating character, this sequence could feel very self-congratulatory. And yet, it's very earned too. Dougie's actions can appear to be very simple. But they have the potential to change so many lives. Dougie may not be aware of that but he has proven to be a remarkable individual. It's a fascinating final scene. At first, it seems like the big moment is about to occur. An old face will appear and recognize him as Agent Cooper or he'll eat the pie and suddenly remember who he is. There's a shift in music that makes it seem like something big is coming. And then, that reveal is ultimately just the lady from the casino in the third episode returning with a completely new lifestyle. She was able to pull herself up out of poverty thanks to Dougie. He changed her life. That's incredible and really rewarding to see. Things are far from over for Dougie Jones. But now, it's fantastic to see him have these new friends who are forever grateful for what he has done for them. That's empowering to see and absolutely feels right.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Return: Part 11" was written by David Lynch & Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch.
  • I have to admit to not recognizing Alicia Witt as Gersten Hayward in that scene. I didn't know it was Donna's younger sister until the credits rolled. I then had to go back and think about the episode in order to get it. In that moment, I wasn't looking for that character to be important. But it being Gersten could signal that this story isn't over yet.
  • It really is strange to see just how easily Shelly will abandon her daughter who she's in the midst of consoling to go be intimate with Red. That's especially true since that relationship really hasn't been seen this season. He stared seductively at her once in either the first or second episode. But that's about it. So apparently, it's a very serious relationship.
  • Norma sure is doing a whole lot of paperwork this season. That's about all that she has done. Every time she shows up, she is in that booth doing paperwork. It almost seems like the same scene played over and over again. She still obviously cares about Shelly and her family. But the diner is still the most important thing to her.
  • Tammy and Detective Macklay didn't see the bearded, homeless men in that abandoned lot. So, they were powerless to stop them from attacking William in the backseat of the police vehicle. It also means they'll be less important than Gordon, Albert and Diane when it comes to understanding what it all means.
  • Miriam is still alive! Richard didn't succeed in killing her. That's not all that surprising because last week's episode had a shot of her body and she was still clearly breathing. But it's taken a lot of effort for someone to discover her. She had to drag herself out of her house and into a neighbor's yard just to be noticed. 
  • Dougie's supervisor isn't worried about needing to payout such a huge policy claim either because he took out a policy so that the company would get a payday should something like this ever occur. So now, he's even more in love with Dougie and his investigative skills.