Sunday, July 30, 2017

REVIEW: 'Twin Peaks' - Audrey Horne Finally Arrives and Begins a New Quest in 'The Return: Part 12'

Showtime's Twin Peaks - Episode 3.12 "The Return: Part 12"

Let's rock.

Twin Peaks: The Return has been equal parts brilliant and frustrating. That completely makes it a David Lynch production. There are some episodes filled with forward momentum in the main narrative. There are other episodes that simply produce these strange but beautiful visuals that reveal the darkest depths of humanity. And then, there are other episodes that feel like filler but are full of odd and seemingly random character pairings and interactions. The later seems to be what "Part 12" ultimately is. And yet, it's also the episode that finally brings back Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne. I had no reasonable expectations for this show heading into this season. I just wanted Lynch to dazzle me with an entertaining story. As the season has gone along, he has certainly fulfilled that desire. But I also found myself wondering where Audrey was. The show has made a point to bring back so many of the original characters. Plus, it has invited so many other well-known actors to the party to help fill out this world as the story expands its scope. But Audrey has been missing for all of the season so far. That seemed weird considering how prominent she was on the original show. I really came to miss her and desperately wanted to see what she's been up to in the years since. The season has hinted at her impending arrival. Not in any piece of dialogue that mentions her by name but simply the existence of the rest of her family - including Richard who still more than likely seems like her son. And now, she finally arrives. It's such a strange and peculiar scene too but it's also brilliant in its own way.

The speculation has been high over how Audrey would actually appear in this story. The cast list that was released by Showtime ahead of time made it clear that Fenn would be appearing in the revival. It was just a mystery of when and where. Would she pop up as a crucial piece of one of the main stories? Diane arrived to help Gordon and Albert with their investigation in South Dakota. She has now become one of the more prominent characters of the season because her motivations are still shrouded in so much secrecy. Or would Audrey return for something incredibly random like her brother seriously hurting himself or her mother being threatened by Richard? But none of those options turned out to be true. In fact, it doesn't seem like she has any connection to the main narrative whatsoever. This episode especially feels like one where Lynch just made a bunch of random cuts from story to story. There's no overwhelming thematic through-line that connects everything together in a meaningful way. It can just go from one place and characters to another for seemingly no reason. That's what happens with Audrey's debut. She shows up and the camera just lingers on her. It's an exquisite shot. It's Audrey Horne! She's back on Twin Peaks. The direction calls attention to that fact. It gives it a beat to set in for the audience. And then, the scene delves into what it is truly about.

The twist is that Audrey shows up to introduce a completely new story to the season. That seems to go against every natural order of storytelling in this medium. This is the twelfth episode of an eighteen episode season. All of the plots should have been set up already. Now is the time for them to grow even more complicated and to start merging with one another. But instead, Audrey just randomly appears during the final third of this episode to introduce the fact that a man named Billy has gone missing. Of course, this story has been hinted at before. A previous episode ended with the credits rolling over the diner after a man came in asking if anyone had seen Billy. That seemed like it happened a lifetime ago but time has moved very slowly in this story. The new Sheriff Truman, Hawk and Bobby haven't gone on their adventure in the woods to decipher Major Briggs' message yet. The timing hasn't arrived to that momentous occasion just yet. Instead, the story cuts to Audrey and her new husband, Charlie, arguing about whether or not they should go out and look for Billy. It's a scene full of so much information about what Audrey's life is like now. She's apparently still in Twin Peaks because she mentions the roadhouse several times. And yet, she seems completely detached to everything else going on in the town. She's off worried about Billy and not even being notified that her (presumed) son is a murderer! The new Sheriff Truman delivers that news to Ben and it's absolutely devastating for him. He reflects on the boy never having a father figure in his life. But Audrey doesn't know any of this. Instead, she's entangled in a mess where Billy is missing and a guy named Chuck may be responsible after he stole his truck. Plus, a woman named Tina may know something but Charlie isn't willing to tell Audrey what after a long conversation with her. It's a scene that could be absolutely maddening because it withholds so much information from Audrey and the audience. And yet, it's still so exciting because Audrey is finally back on Twin Peaks!

This hour seems much more focused on the actual town of Twin Peaks than any of the previous episodes. Yes, it spends a considerable amount of time in South Dakota with Gordon, Albert, Tammy and Diane. Those scenes are important as well. Plus, there's a really amusing cutaway to Dougie and Sonny Jim trying to play catch. But the overall purpose of this hour seems to be to exist in the town of Twin Peaks. It's a community where a lot of strange and peculiar things have happened over the years. And yet, it's citizens still go about their lives just like everyone else. Sarah Palmer was seen briefly earlier in the season watching TV and still living in the same house where her family was taken from her. But now, she appears in a grocery store. She appears to go crazy after seeing a display with turkey beef jerky in a spot where it never was before. She becomes fixated on it and starts talking to herself as if she cannot control her actions. It's a really unsettling sequence. It makes it clear that something more is going on with her in this town. Margaret told Hawk that Laura was the one. But Sarah is the only member of the Palmer family who is still alive. She has a role to play in all of this as well. There's been a popular theory online that she was the innocent girl whom the bug decided to crawl into at the end of the phenomenal eighth episode. That's still just speculation. The age probably works out as well. When Hawk comes over to her house, he suspects something else is going on. He doesn't investigate further. But that's a piece of intrigue to really be aware of moving forward.

But again, most of the cutaways to various citizens of Twin Peaks seem completely random and utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. There isn't going to be some big reveal that helps bring all of these different story threads together. There isn't even any guarantee that there will be more to these individual stories than what happens in this particular episode. It's still a surprise to see Jerry still wandering around lost in the wilderness or Dr. Jacoby put on his show to sell some golden shovels. Both of which have been amusing subplots. But I'm not expecting either of them to have some huge meaning by the end of this story. They are just collections of scenes that show the peculiar details of this world. The same can also be true of Carl trying to help his neighbor out with money. Sure, Carl has been a pretty significant character throughout this season. He was there to comfort the grieving mother after Richard ran over her kid. And he was there to help Shelly after Becky drove off to potential kill Steven. And now, he's just a comforting face who wants to help his neighbor so he doesn't feel the need to sell his blood. It's just a feel good kind of story. This show can often be very dark and metaphysical. It lives in the strange details of this world. No one can ever fully understand what's going on. They just have to believe that dreams and visions are more than they appear to be. They are suppose to be taken seriously because they come from somewhere greater. And then, there's just the every day drama that comes from regular people talking about their lives. It seems doubtful that the show will ever revisit James starring at a woman hanging out with Shelly at the roadhouse. Or the girl with the weird rash in her armpit. Or the girl and her friends who were assaulted by Richard. Those just seem like a collection of the vast interests of Twin Peaks. They show that this can be a regular town if people choose to see it that way. This hour once again closes with a scene like that at the roadhouse. This time it's just two friends wondering why their other friends are late. They get worried about their friend losing it after she discovers her new boyfriend is cheating on her. They talk about her being off her medication. And then, a guy just shows up claiming he was just run off the road. Again, it seems doubtful that any of this will be important in the future. The show has established a pattern of that not being true. But the audience can't just fast-forward through these scenes because there's still the feeling that this is the world all of these characters inhabit. Some live these grand, elaborate lives and some don't.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Return: Part 12" was written by David Lynch & Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch.
  • Gordon and Albert bring both Tammy and Diane into the Blue Rose investigation. Tammy seems like she has earned it because she's a good investigator. And yet, she also hasn't seen the things her colleagues have seen. It's more curious why Diane is asked to join. It seems likely that the guys just want to keep her close because of her contact with Evil Cooper.
  • Speaking of which, Evil Cooper asks Diane if the federal agents have asked about Las Vegas yet. They haven't largely because they didn't know to be on the lookout for anything there. But now they do. Of course, these texts also have the side effect of making Evil Cooper seem too all-knowing. That will make him quite the foe to take down at the end of the season.
  • David Lynch just has some great comedic timing. That has always been apparent in his direction of the show. But he's equally strong as an actor. His "He's dead" line from last week was amazing. And now, his story about turnips and kidnappings has a wonderful punchline to it. It's completely unexpected but totally works - especially with Albert's stone cold reaction.
  • The new Sheriff Truman sits down with Ben to tell him the news about his grandson and all that has happened as a result of him running down a boy in the middle of the street. But the scene also serves as a way to bring back the hotel key that was sent through the mail earlier in the season. Now, Ben wants to give it to Harry Truman as a reminder of Agent Cooper. It's a nice sentiment that also has huge importance in the overall story.
  • Chantal and Hutch are successfully able to kill the warden exactly like Evil Cooper told them too. In fact, it is so terrifying because they have no reaction or remorse for their actions. They are doing what they are told. They also just wanna eat. Killing a man gets in the way of their meal time. That's just so frightening. Plus, they kill the warden right in front of his son. It changes absolutely nothing.