“My log has a message for you: Something is missing, and you have to find it.”
If ever there were a more aptly vague mission to wrap into a Twin Peaks premiere, it’s the above, uttered by everyone’s favorite woodland mystic — The Log Lady — to Deputy Chef Hawk. As might be expected from any foray into a David Lynch universe, the first two episodes of the return tee up a lot of questions as open-ended as that assignment; given that Lynch is a long-game kind of guy, odds are it’ll take all 18 installments even just to claw around the edges of the answers, much less get our full hands on them.
I should note that I didn’t watch the original Twin Peaks – more accidentally than anything; I’m not anti-David Lynch, but I’ve also never really offered him my dance card. Until now, Blue Velvet was the extent of my David Lynch experience (and even if you love that movie you may understand why things ended there, intentionally or not). So while that perspective or lack thereof might be useful at times, I realize that it will also leave me open to especial vulnerability when it comes to picking up nuance, or recognizing patterns, Easter eggs, and other themes. It also definitely means I am not precious about Lynch’s work, or about the original pilot (which I didn’t entirely love the other day when I attempted it), so it may be a good sign for Twin Peaks: The Return that I was entertained by the first two hours, and am more than willing to hop on this motorcycle. I did wonder if it was diluted in a way — it felt more accessible somehow — or if the intervening years of knockoff projects have simply inoculated me to the bizarre wonders of The David Lynch Experience. But tucking into the scope of it, be it the stories or the technical stuff, or the gorgeous visuals, was a satisfying experience. Even the confusion was pleasant, almost as if we’re at a place where I can stand back and admire it rather than being sucked in and whipsawed by its tricks. I’ve watched it two or three times now, and I’m not sorry I did.
And it’ll be complicated to cover, so our approach may necessarily vary week-to-week (as we’ve done for other programs, we’ll be sharing recapping duties). It’s not because Twin Peaks defies criticism; rather, it can be difficult to talk about simply because, week to week, moment to moment, figuring out what’s relevant and what may connect is a crapshoot. You can change your mind four times, be sure each time, and be wrong. We’ve got some visuals and more granular detail up above, and below, I’m going to try and compartmentalize the storylines — kind of like setting the buffet for you so that you can snack on what you like and then decide if you want to go in for seconds.
* Please note: This recap only covers episode 1 and 2, so please do not discuss the others until they, too, have been recapped.
Where is Agent Cooper?
Still in the Black Lodge, or the Red Room, or whatever you want to call it. Lo these 25 years later, he’s still hanging out in there with a placid expression on his face — occasionally pocked with stress or tension — as people flit in and out like computer projections, speaking in that trademark halting backward-played-forward style. (For real: Apparently, here and in the old Twin Peaks, Lynch had them learn their lines phonetically backward and move backward through their blocking, and then he reversed the footage so that the audio and visuals are technically correct but feel several degrees off. Kyle MacLachlan is the only one who’s doing it normally. It’s quite brilliant, technically, as it really does throw you way the hell off.)
It’s here that Agent Cooper sees BOB’s one-armed cohort, and also Laura Palmer. She slinks in wearing a black gown and, after much blinking, says things like “I think I know her (about Laura) and “sometimes my arms bend back,” which she should really add to her resume because that’s quite a skill. Dale makes her repeat that she is Laura, and she asserts that she’s dead, “yet I live.” Then she opens up her face, which has a blistering light erupting from within it (as I assume mine does as well), and looks at him, all, “HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?”
Dale also sees what looks like a brain on a tree, though it calls itself The Arm, and Leland Palmer begging him to find Laura — whose Lodge incarnation got sucked screaming into some other netherworld, because of course. There are NEVER enough netherworlds.
Finally, Dale is told that he cannot truly leave the Black Lodge until his doppelgänger is back inside. And yet, on a spectral level, he appears to leave anyway; see the New York City storyline for that.
What’s that about a doppelgänger?
That would be Agent Dale BOB Cooper, a.k.a., the version of him that was possessed at the end of season 2. This Dale has long hair, tanner skin, a gruffer voice, and zero compunctions about shooting people in the side of the face. It is SHENANIGANS AHOY. It is rife with ocular tomfoolery, or as I would have said evasively in my ER recapping days, lots of toes are harmed in the making of this story arc. I think of this Cooper as Agent Creeper. And Agent Creeper is busy framing people for each other’s murders (see the Buckhorn storyline) and engaging in casual homicide of his own. Kyle MacLachlan is very macho-cheesy in that part, in a way that I found amusing and made for an effective juxtaposition with the more earnest Dale Cooper in the chevron-floored purgatory, but he also walks in this man’s pants like he has a permanent wedgie he’s afraid to pick in public.
Agent Creeper’s two hangers-on, Ray and Daria, are supposed to help him get information from someone who will apparently only talk to Ray. “She’s Hastings’s secretary,” says Ray. “She knows what he knows.” (Hastings, you say? Jump to the Buckhorn section for more on that.) Ray and Daria were going to double-cross Agent Creeper for money, but he finds out via some magical instantaneous tape-recorder of doom and blows Daria’s toe right out of her… foot. But Ray has been arrested, and is in federal prison, so that’s where Creeper is headed next: As he tells Ray, he wants this information. “Want. Not need,” he spits. “I don’t need anything. If there’s one thing you should know about me, Ray, it’s that I don’t need anything. I want.” (Do you need him to repeat that, or do you want to move on?)
This info may be connected to the fact that Creeper is due back in the Black Lodge within a day, but has no intention of going. He’s using some creepy machine to communicate with someone he believes is Philip Jeffries (David Bowie, RIP), but isn’t. “I called to say goodbye,” the voice says. “You will go back in tomorrow, and I will be with BOB once more.”
And who was in the hotel room next door while Creeper killed Daria? Jennifer Jason-Leigh, all jealous and horny and playing a lady whose name appears to be Chantal. If we never see her again, it will mean that her entire cameo is limited to Agent Creeper commenting on her genital moistness. Hope the paycheck was good.
What is Buckhorn?
Buckhorn is a town in South Dakota where Agent Creeper appears to be doing his malevolent mischief. We also get what could be a self-contained mystery — or, could not be; we won’t know until we’re there — in which a pair of dead bodies is discovered. Except it’s the head of a lady (with a toe, er, absent) and the rest is a significantly larger man. As of yet nobody seems to know where the rest of them are, but the lady, Ruth Davenport, is the librarian at the local school. And the prints in her house belong to Principal Bill Hastings. Yep, Hastings again. Could that be the same Hastings to which Creeper and Company referred, because Agent Creeper IS involved in this story.
Hastings is portrayed by Matthew Lillard, whose distractingly hammy blend of buggy eyes and twitchy lips and aggravated huffing works well in a David Lynch joint; Lynch likes his audience off-kilter, and Lillard’s acting is the very definition of that, and is I suspect harder than I imagine to get right. The gist is that Hastings/Lillard insists he wasn’t there, but he dreamed the crime — a very Twilight Zone kind of plot — but his wife Phyllis is going to let him rot in jail. Now, I like Phyllis. Her reaction to her husband getting arrested is to tsk, annoyed, “But THE MORGANS ARE COMING TO DINNER.” Will no one show compassion for Phyllis’s pot roast? Who commits a crime before a dinner party? It’s so rude.
“F**k you. I know about the affair,” Phyllis taunts her manic, panting husband, who can’t figure out how he managed to kill anyone. “LIFE IN PRISON, Bill. Life in prison.” Bill angrily accuses her of sleeping with his lawyer, George — which may be true because when Phyllis leaves, she tells George, “He knows. Don’t walk me out. I’ll see you later at my place.”
Oh, but she won’t. Because guess who’s there? Agent Creeper. “What are you doing here?” Phyllis asks, amused. “You did good. You followed human nature perfectly. This is George’s gun,” he says, before shooting her in the toe and then tossing the gun casually aside. Poor Phyllis. And what are The Morgans going to eat now? Jessica, DID ANYONE CALL THE MORGANS? I hope The Morgans are in the next episode at a diner, loudly complaining about not being fed the day before. [Yes, we’re quite put out about this. -J]
The end of the story: We pan from Matthew Lillard, wailing in jail, to a stunned, startled, charred visage of a man sitting a few cells away. It’s some severely freaky shit. He’s staring, open-eyed and pained, just to the right of the frame before he dissolves and floats out of frame. Is he the manifestation of Matthew Lillard’s worst nightmare, or an actual spectral being, or did we all just pick the wrong week to quit sniffing glue?
Jane Adams is the other recognizable face to pop up in this story. The whole police department in Buckhorn feels like a nod to Fargo. Their reactions to seeing the chopped up and mismatched corpse pieces: “Oh boy.”
What’s New York City’s story?
This also feels extremely Twilight Zone. There is a buzz-cut, square-jawed, and affectless dude who is paid to sit on a couch in a locked-down room and watch a plexiglass box. It has a porthole view of the city, for what purpose we don’t know, and several cameras filming whatever happens inside it — which is, for the moment of course, nothing. Buzz Cut’s job is to keep an eye on it, on the payroll of “some anonymous billionaire” (he says with as near to a breathless twinkle as he gets), and replace memory cards. Long story short, Tracey, the flirty girl who brings him lattes — the one who somehow knows how to find him, yet knows as little about The Box as we do — ends up inside the box with him when the guard conveniently disappears, and the two of them start to bang hungrily. This is of course exactly when the box turns gray and foggy, then black, and a blurry being starts to materialize. It is fuzzy and faintly alien, and vibrating with… bloodlust, maybe. Because it charges them, and… eats them? Beats them into a pulp? Both? All we see is blood spatter. It is a herky-jerky screechfest that actually reminds me, both in the way it’s cut and the way sound is used, of the moment Laura Palmer is metaphysically yanked from the Black Lodge — and whether it matters or not, or whether that’s intentional or not, this one happened first.
Agent Dale Cooper missed the Face Eating action by mere moments. Later in the episode(s), The Black Lodge drops him onto the ceiling of the box and he sinks into it momentarily, coming closer and further and closer and further to the mouth of the box before falling somewhere else altogether. Then Buzzcut and Friendly come back in for their bonefest, and we know what happens next: death, because nobody ever gets to have sex without consequences this close to the beginning of a thriller.
Wait, We Go To Vegas, Too?
Yep. For one scene. Career “Hey, It’s That Guy” Patrick Fischler plays a guy sitting behind a desk. He hands cash to an underling, who nervously asks, “Why do you let him make you do these things?” Fischler essentially instructs his underling never to work for a guy like that. (Although Underling may already work for a guy like that, given that he works for the guy who works for the guy like that.) We know nothing else. What happens in Vegas will, for now, stay in Vegas.
So What The Hell Is Going On In Twin Peaks, Then?
Not a ton, honestly. Yet. For now, we mostly see it through Deputy Chief Hawk’s eyes. He gets a call from everyone’s favorite lover of lumber, The Log Lady, and she delivers him the ominous mission that he must find what is missing: “It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper. The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This is a message from the log.” So, Deputy Chief Hawk has Lucy the Kooky Receptionist dig into a bunch of old files, and then goes by night to a big old burbling well in the ground that looks like a massive blackhead.
We get one scene at the hotel. Ben Horne’s brother Jerry is helping keep the place afloat with his edibles business; beyond that, we get our first true celebrity cameo in the form of Ashley Judd as Ben’s assistant Beverly. She has two lines. Who even knows if we’ll see her again. That’s the trick of summarizing Twin Peaks, which I liken to trying to adapt Harry Potter books before the series was finished: You just have no idea if a detail you’re omitting will turn out to be a pivot point.
The hour more or less opens with Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) accepting delivery of at least four shovels, and declining help with whatever digging he’s got on tap. I’m sure it’s totally innocent. Sometimes a guy just needs an orgy of shovels. And Grace Zabriskie, a.k.a. Laura Palmer’s mother, is chain-smoking on her couch and watching violent nature documentaries.
The Bang Bang Bar pops up at the very end. Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) is hanging out at the bar, giggling with friends, and making eyes at a lurking Balthazar Getty and his ominous finger guns. She also sticks up for the perceived sweetness of one James Hurley (James Marshall): “He was in a motorcycle accident. He’s just been quiet since. James is still cool. He’s always been cool.” He’s clearly hot for Special Guest Star Jessica Szohr, who seems the wrong age for all this. He does have a kid with him — a teen. Is it HIS kid? And Shelly mentions her daughter being “with the wrong guy” and how she can just tell something isn’t right. Her child’s name is Becky. Does she have good hair? WHEN WILL WE KNOW.
I feel like I need to convene with the log about a lot of this. That thing is gossipy. Maybe we can bring it to Drinks With Broads.
[Photos: My TV, or in the case of the good ones, Suzanne Tenner/ SHOWTIME]