Twin Peaks: The Return – Part 12
At long last, Audrey Horne has returned! Fans who have been clamoring for the character to appear on the new season of Twin Peaks can put down their pitchforks and stop storming the Black Lodge. But I suspect that these fans might not be happy with the 21st century incarnation of their favorite character. The playful girl we fell in love with has returned as a bitter middle-aged woman who harangues her husband when he doesn’t want to help her search for her missing lover. This person is barely recognizable as the girl who once tied cherry stems in knots. David Lynch gave fans what they said they wanted, but not in the way they wanted it.
That’s true of the third season as a whole. After twelve hours of television, Agent Cooper is still a shell of his former self. In his brief screen-time this episode, we see Cooper as Dougie playing catch with Sonny Jim. Coop just stands there blankly as the ball bounces off of his face. We finally got to meet the mysterious Diane, only it turns out she’s up to something. Lynch knows what fans want, but often times he seems to be more interested in antagonizing his audience than playing to their Twin Peaks nostalgia. On the one hand, that’s admirable. On the other, sometimes it can make for frustrating television.
This episode skews in that direction. There are several lengthy scenes in which characters we may or may not know discuss events we haven’t seen involving other characters we know nothing about. Audrey’s return could have been a real crowd-pleaser. Instead, she has a lengthy argument with her husband (a complete stranger to the audience) about whether or not to go looking for a man we know nothing about.
It’s hard to care very much about any of the people involved here except for Audrey and I’m not sure how invested we’re supposed to be in her. When she first appears on-screen, there is no big reveal. In fact, the camera pans right past her as though she were a mere extra. It returns to her as an after-thought much like her husband who is too busy working to go look for his wife’s missing lover. We don’t know much about Audrey’s husband, Charlie, but his reluctance to drop everything to search for the man who is sleeping with his wife seems reasonable on the surface.
The scene plays out for several minutes and most of the useful information is withheld. We don’t know anything about Audrey’s lover Billy except that he is missing. After enduring a barrage of insults, Charlie eventually agrees to call someone named Tina who may have some information about Billy’s disappearance. We don’t know what information Tina delivers, but Charlie deems it “unbelievable”.
On it’s own, this scene isn’t very satisfying. Since we don’t know most of the characters involved, the stakes aren’t very high for the viewer. I suspect that this is intentional and that information will be provided in future episodes that will make these events more compelling in retrospect. But even if I’m right, that doesn’t mean much to someone watching the show for the first time.
It was easier to be invested in the plight of Sarah Palmer even if we weren’t entirely certain what was going on with her. We had seen Sarah briefly in a previous episode. She was sitting in her house watching a violent nature program intently. When we catch up with her, she is in a grocery store stocking up mostly on booze. At the checkout, she starts behaving erratically. Something about the turkey jerky seems to set her off. Sarah begins ranting that “things can happen.” To the store employees who have no idea what she has been through, she seems like a crazy person. We viewers may not know the specifics of Sarah’s current situation, but we know about the things that happened to her and her family. We understand why her state of mind is fractured.
Back at the Palmer house, Hawk drops by to check up on the lone resident. From outside the house, we can see the ceiling fans turning. This is a mundane thing, but in the language of Twin Peaks we know it is an ominous omen. Hawk suspects something is wrong, but the best he can do is offer to help Sarah in any way.
The episode includes another lengthy meeting at the Great Northern Hotel. After it is revealed that Miriam survived Richard’s brutal attack, Sheriff Truman drops by to let Ben Horne know that his grandson is a fugitive. Ben agrees to pay for Miriam’s medical bills once again demonstrating his growth over the last twenty-odd years. He also mentions that Richard never had a father further suggesting that Cooper’s Doppelganger may be the deadbeat dad in question.
This helps inform the scene with Audrey. While it has yet to be addressed directly, we’re invited to fill in the blanks. Poor Audrey has suffered which is why she has become such a bitter, broken woman. Much like Sarah Palmer, the people around her probably don’t understand the depth of Audrey’s pain. At present, the specifics are still being withheld from the audience. But if we’re willing to read between the lines, there’s obviously more going on beneath the surface.
There’s also something going on with Diane, but we don’t yet know what. After Albert and Gordon invite Tammy to join the Blue Rose task force, they extend a similar offer to Diane. Albert explains the history of the task force to Agent Tammy who is offered full membership. But Diane is only being deputized. We know that this is being done largely to keep an eye on her communications with Dark Coop. Diane accepts the offer in a way that connects her to the other worldly forces of the Black Lodge. Her answer of “Let’s rock” is clearly meant to evoke The Man From Another Place. It’s strangely unsettling and suggests that something happened to Diane when she was visited by the Doppelganger decades prior.
A theme of the episode is that we don’t always know the suffering of others. Carl approaches a resident of the Fat Trout trailer park who has been selling blood to make ends meet. Carl asks him about the work he has been doing around the park for free. He compensates the man with some cash and a free month’s rent and tells him to keep his blood. Carl is a guy who makes a point of feeling others’ pain and making amends when he can.
He stands in stark contrast to Hutch and Chantal. We seem them casually carrying out their mission to kill Warden Murphy on the steps of his home. We see the murder from their perspective which means we never see the victim’s face. He’s just a target. When the door opens up and Warden Murphy’s son discovers his father’s body, the killers remain unmoved. Hutch suggests grabbing a bite to eat at Wendy’s.
The episode ends at the Roadhouse with another conversation among characters we don’t know and therefore do not care about. They are discussing a love triangle the audience is not invested in. A third character joins the conversation frantic over a near traffic accident, but none of it really registers with viewers. Are we meant to care about these characters? I didn’t, but I think that might be the point. We’re like the store clerks witnessing Sarah Palmer’s meltdown and mostly shrugging it off.
The question is (and it’s a valid one), does that make for satisfying television. The obvious answer is “no.” Whether intentional or not, a lot of this episode did not stand on its own. I suspect within the context of Lynch’s “18-hour movie” this installment will hold up better than it does as an individual episode of a weekly TV series. But when you are watching the episodes as they air, an installment like this one can be a letdown.