In the final shot of Twin Peaks’ second season, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) wastes a perfectly good tube of toothpaste by squeezing it all out into his bathroom sink, rams his forehead into the mirror and as he turns, bleeding and cackling “How’s Annie!?” to no one in particular, sneersmiling back at us through the cracked reflection is Bob (Frank Silva).
Twin Peaks: The Return makes mountains of references to its own mythos, but that single 90-seconds might be the only piece of the franchise’s ‘90s phase that’s truly crucial to its continuation. That, and maaaaybe Cooper’s preceding journey to The Red Room. All else ranks as less-than-crucial, or inconsequential.
Nine episodes in, and a sizeable chunk of the main characters from the show’s initial run — Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle/Moira Kelly), Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), Ed Hurley (Everett McGill), Leo Johnson (Eric DaRe) — haven’t yet appeared or, in some cases, remain entirely unmentioned. Meanwhile Special Agent Phillip Jeffries, or someone masquerading as Agent Jeffries (David Bowie), plays a substantial Return role. But the original series never even establishes Agent Jeffries’ existence. In fact, Agent Jeffries only has a few minutes of screentime in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me — the poorly-received 1992 prequel film since viewed exclusively by proactive Twin Peaks fans.
Since Fire Walk With Me wraps up the tale of Laura Palmer’s life and death, perhaps it follows that parties associated with Agent Cooper’s FBI — Jeffries, Director Gordon Cole (David Lynch), the once mysterious Diane Evans (Laura Dern), Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) — take greater prominence in The Return than any of Palmer’s terrestrial plane friends and fam. But that’s the other thing; technically, we haven’t seen a recognizable Agent Cooper since he got sucked into an electrical outlet in Part 3. But even while functionally absent, Cooper still serves as the point of convergence for all other happenings.
I doubt any longstanding episodic television series has ever been this simultaneously great and detached from any real sense of importance to its individuals characters. Heck, Bowie, Don S. Davis, and Silva all died before they could revive their Twin Peaks personas for this 18-episode Showtime jam in person, but that didn’t stop Lynch from including Jeffries, Major Garland Briggs, and, of course, the embodiment of all things unpleasant, Bob.
So if a mid-season recap is in order, the most logical option is the break things down where they stand at The Return’s locations, since hyper-focusing on any specific characters — even, if not especially, Cooper — is a lost cause. Addressing events in chronological order is an even worse idea. If we do that, we have to start with Part 8, and if even The Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson/A Tree) and Mike (Al Strobel) can’t keep track of “Is It Future? Or Is It Past?” then schmucks like us have no hope at all.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Evil Cooper (MacLachlan) created Dougie Jones (Also MacLachlan) in 1997 to circumvent his scheduled return to The Black Lodge. In some respects, Evil Cooper’s plan succeeded. Jones got zapped into The Red Room at 2:53 p.m., and promptly ceased to exist. But Cooper beamed out of an electrical socket shortly after Jones’ vanishing to take his place, and has since picked up his doppleganger’s doppleganger’s routine where it would’ve otherwise ended. This works out awesome for Cooper, because Dougie Jones leads an idyllic dream life. As Dougie Jones, he pulls down more than $400K whenever he drops by a casino. His wife Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) solves all his problems for him. His boss respects and admires him, even though Dougie Jones has no idea how to sell insurance, what insurance is, what buying and selling things entails, or how to go to the bathroom, or how to find his house, or really do anything without a tremendous amount of direction and/or hand-holding from whoever he happens to be around.
Correctly figuring that something’s gone awry with his plan, Evil Cooper puts his international criminal network to the task of snuffing “Dougie Jones” out, but to no avail thus far. Though “Dougie Jones” experiences flashes of remembrances of his old identity — including hand-to-hand combat expertise, lie detection skills, and an intense love for coffee — it remains uncertain whether Cooper will “wake up” at any point during The Return’s unaired nine hours.
Meanwhile, Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) takes care of Evil Cooper’s administrative tasks from a highrise office. I’m certainly not implying Twin Peaks occupies a shared universe, but personally, I can’t hear Todd tell Roger The Intern, “You better hope you never get involved with someone like him,” without hearing Fischler’s nameless Mulholland Dr. character saying, “There’s a man in back of this place. He’s the one who’s doing it. I can see him through the wall. I can see his face. I hope that I never see that face, ever, outside of a dream,” shortly before his demise near the dumpster behind Winkie’s. The same phenomenon occurs when Janey-E yells “At the corner of Genuine and Merlin, by the mall!” just as Betty joyfully declares, “1612 Havenhurst!” when asked where she’s headed.
David Lynch always makes Patrick Fischler afraid of someone, and he always makes Naomi Watts shout an address.
Buckhorn, South Dakota
So we’ve confirmed that the decapitated corpse found in Ruth Davenport’s apartment next to Ruth Davenport’s severed head belonged to Major Garland Briggs, and that Buckhorn High School Principal Bill Hastings (Matt Lillard) spent his recreational hours researching and seeking out parallel dimensions with Davenport, with whom he also did extramarital things, before allegedly murdering the crap out of her and subsequently finding himself locked up. With this performance, Lillard rehabs his street cred, once thought destroyed by the countless ABC Family Channel movies in which he plays the big brother.
The situation looks bad for Hastings; cops found his fingerprints throughout Davenport’s dwelling. But since we know Evil Cooper executed Phyllis Hastings shortly after her husband’s arrest, we can guess Evil Cooper played a heavy hand in Davenport’s death as well. Also, during his escape from the Black Lodge in Part 3, Good Cooper saw Major Briggs’ head floating and talking in a pocket of space. So maybe The Major and Matt Lillard are both gunna be okay?! Probably not, but maybe!
New York City, New York
Not much more to report since the wraith flew out of the mysterious clear box and hacked up the two naked people in Part 1. They’re still dead! The clear box is still mysterious!
White Sands, New Mexico, 1945/New Mexico Desert, 1956
We learn Bob essentially shares an origin story with Godzilla, which isn’t terribly imaginative. On the other hand, the revelation that The White Lodge created Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) as a Counter-Bob explains a ton, while challenging some popular assumptions about the surface natures of good and evil. I mean, we’re told evil can be duplicitous and oblique and difficult to spot except in retrospect. But we never make the same assumption about good. What if Jesus was real but the second coming already came and went a quarter-century ago, and nobody noticed because Jesus was a troubled, murdered teenage girl?
Eleven years later, The Woodsman (Robert Broski) embarks upon a rampage that may wind up the most memorable sequence of the entire Return. If you feel like completely destroying the illusion for yourself, read this interview where Broski comes across like a cuddly ol’ grampa whose main gig used to be playing Abraham Lincoln in elementary school classrooms.
Also, agents of supernatural perniciousness always make sure to incorporate elemental themes into their mantras, for reasons I feel confident we’ll never know. Observe: “One chants out between two worlds — ‘Fire Walk With Me’”/”This is the water, and this is the well. Drink up, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (mobile)
Well, we finally know Diane — who never appeared onscreen during Twin Peaks’ first two seasons, even while frequently communicating with Cooper — has been Laura Dern this whole time. And she says “fuck” near-constantly, which explains why she never appeared on network television. The FBI crew checks in on Evil Cooper during his (metaphorical) cup of coffee in federal lockup, and Diane easily determines this soulless creature isn’t the affable chap she worked with for 15 years. Director Cole agrees something has gone amiss with Cooper, while Rosenfield already suspected as much. With the help of Agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell), Scooby Team Beta also squeezes Bill Hastings for the truth as he understands it, and determines the corpse of Major Briggs is both absolutely the remnants of Briggs while also, paradoxically, 25 years too young to be Major Briggs. Also, Evil Cooper sends Diane enigmatic text messages for reasons that will doubtlessly trouble us all upon their unmasking.
Twin Peaks, Washington
Having found the the torn-out pages of Laura Palmer’s diary either Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), or maybe Laura herself, stashed in the a Sheriff’s Station bathroom stall door, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) has an inkling that Cooper’s stuck in The Black Lodge, although he’s seen nothing to indicate that Cooper’s status has changed somewhat since Laura Palmer’s diary-writing days. Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) weeps uncontrollably whenever he sees Laura’s picture, which is weird, ‘cos he didn’t even seem stressed out back when he first learned of her brutal undoing back in the series pilot. Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) holds down the fort while his brother Harry recuperates from an unnamed ailment. Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) are still comedy sidekicks. I hope Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) isn’t Audrey’s son ‘cos Audrey’s great and Richard is a goddamn sociopath nightmare who shows zero remorse after mowing down a little kid with his truck.
Richard’s maybe-granddad Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) has left the teenage sex trafficking biz way behind him, and these days, hesitates and frets over the mere prospect of an affair with an age-appropriate married woman (Ashley Judd) who hates her husband anyway. Jerry Horne (T-Bird From The Crow) isn’t getting along with his own foot, as his foot may or may not have become sentient (probably not). Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) is doing some sorta vaguely Alex Jones-ish radio show, but it’s just a scam to sell shovels to suckers. Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) still works at the Double R Diner with Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton). Also, Shelly has a teenage daughter now, and worries because her daughter’s dating a dude who can’t competently fill out his own resume much less hold down a job and by all appearances has a little bit of a problem with cocaine. Sky Ferreira lives in Twin Peaks now too, and also does too much blow, and keeps getting fired from waitressing jobs.
Despite being one of those rural, predominantly white ex-industrial communities that probably voted for Trump, Twin Peaks has somehow fostered a booming underground rock and roll scene. Up-and-coming acts all hope a solid gig at The Roadhouse will lead to their big break, and boy howdy, plenty deserve one — especially an impressive new wave bunch called The Nine Inch Nails. Fingers crossed we’ll be hearing more of them in the future! Or is it past?!
‘Twin Peaks’ airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on Showtime. Follow Barry Thompson on Twitter @barelytomson.