Diane was the first word we ever heard Dale Cooper say. His longtime secretary and the recipient of all those tapes he recorded about his investigations, she was the empty chair where he directed his exposition, the silent confidante of his fears. If it were 2017, Cooper might have texted her instead, and all we would have seen onscreen was a bubble with three dots in response, cycling endlessly.
The closest we’ve ever gotten to a picture of Diane was a description in The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Cooper, where he called her an “interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer.” Like Laura Palmer herself, Diane never had a chance to speak in the original series. Like Laura, who came to life in Fire Walk With Me, she finally gets her chance. Now here she is: Laura Dern in a platinum-blonde wig, telling absolutely everyone to fuck off.
Albert tracked her down in hopes that she could assess the spiritual contamination of Bad Cooper, but his efforts yielded, as they like to say in the military, no joy. Now, Gordon Cole has decided to take a shot, showing up at her apartment to make a personal request for help. “This is extremely important Diane, and involves something you know about,” says Gordon. “And that’s enough said about that.”
There’s a lot of that in this episode: referencing a certain unspoken knowledge, feeling the weight of it hang, but never quite saying it. Back at the insurance agency, the boss has more questions about the connections Good Cooper very literally drew on the case files — what did they mean, what does it all mean? — after his co-worker Anthony comes in, poking around to find out if Dougie knows too much about whatever vague misdeeds he may have committed. At the prison, Bad Cooper pulls out a word that he knows will indict the warden — “strawberry” — and soon finds his cell door opening in the middle of the night, releasing him back into the world.
The promise of the “puzzle TV” genre — which can trace its lineage directly back to Twin Peaks — is that there’s a clear answer to the strange and often supernatural mysteries they present, a secret and speakable piece of truth that will make it all come together and turn like a key in a lock. This turns out to be either untrue or unsatisfying because once you spin up too many layers of abstruse or supernatural weirdness, it’s hard for it to resolve neatly into a concrete block of knowledge.
To the frustration and delight of its various fans, Twin Peaks has never tried to do any such thing. Sure, we found out who killed Laura Palmer, except did we? The murderer was always just as much a scapegoat as he was a culprit, and the real answer was always bigger, weirder, more unknowable. There was no name you could write on a police report that would ever tell you the truth.
The mystery of Dougie’s insurance files, of Mr. Strawberry, of What Diane Knows might have answers; maybe we will learn them. But it’s equally likely that they exist not to be revealed but as symbols of secret knowledge, placeholders and pronouns that are not meant to have an antecedent.
Back at the Great Northern Hotel, Ben Horne and Ashley Judd hear a hum coming from somewhere in the room, like a finger running endless around a wine glass. Every time they follow it to one corner, they hear it emanating from another. This is what it feels like to contemplate the unknowable: like you can never quite grasp it, like wherever you are, the answer is somewhere else.
The moment Diane meets Bad Cooper inside the federal prison, she knows. It isn’t him; he’s somewhere else. He sits on the other side of the glass in the interrogation room like a leathery-faced Agent Cooper doll-in-a-box, parroting phrases like, “It’s good to see you Diane,” and referencing “that night” when they last saw each other. It seems like whatever happened that night was very bad indeed, and perhaps the reason she said, “Good,” when told earlier that Cooper was incarcerated. I’d like to believe that this doesn’t mean he sexually assaulted her, but since this is Twin Peaks, he probably did.
After Diane makes it out of the prison in tears and gasping for air, she confirms what everyone already suspected: It isn’t Cooper at all.
This episode also offers its first concrete clues and linear connections to the mysteries of the original series, something that a lot of revival shows might have done in their first episode rather than their seventh. But hey, we’re seven hours in and we still haven’t seen a single meaningful conversation with the main character, so I guess it’s all relative at this point.
This is the big one: The papers that Hawk dug out of the bathroom door in the men’s room aren’t just, I don’t know, ghost papers covered in scribbles that turn into visions of the Black Lodge. Instead, they’re perhaps the most sought-after artifacts in Twin Peaks lore, the missing pages from the secret diary of Laura Palmer. Holy shit! Several lines echo the words that Annie Blackburn told Laura Palmer in a dream back in Fire Walk With Me: “My name is Annie, and I’ve been with Laura and Dale. The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can’t leave. Write it in your diary.”
This made no sense to Laura at the time, since it was both from the future and about people she had never met, but Hawk deduces pretty quickly that the Dale they saw hightailing it out of town was not actually Good at all. Which means that most of the major players in both the FBI and the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department know that there’s something evil wearing Dale’s face.
Sheriff Truman gets in touch with Doc Hayward — “Do you know what Skype is, Doc?” — and dials him up for a video chat on a computer screen encased in wood. Twin Peaks in the 21st century, everyone. Truman wants to know if Doc remembers examining Dale Cooper at the Great Northern, presumably after the “accident” where Bob possessed him and smashed his head into the mirror. Heyward says he took Dale to the hospital — something no one has thought to do for Dougie Jones — and later saw Coop sneaking out of intensive care, where Audrey Horne was recovering. I’d like to believe that this doesn’t mean he sexually assaulted her, but since this is Twin Peaks, he probably did.
Elsewhere, the mystery of the headless body gets even weirder when Lieutenant Knox shows up in Buckhorn, South Dakota, where he discovers that not only does the body belong to the supposedly dead Major Briggs, but it was only in its 40s at the time of its death. So not only did Briggs somehow survive the fire, but he hadn’t aged since the original series.
Also, something finally happens in Las Vegas! Arguably a lot of things have happened this season, from the decapitation of people we don’t know to the murder and assault of women we don’t know to the hit-and-run deaths of little boys we don’t know to the lethal detonation of car bombs, also killing people we don’t know. But the random nature of the violence means that it dissipates after the visceral impact of the moment, as we drift from scene to scene like Dougie wandering through a bright, cacophonous casino.
Except that at the very end of the episode, Coop fights off a hit man! The ice-pick-wielding killer from the previous episode comes at him with a gun outside of Dougie’s office, and Coop’s instincts kick in, disarming and striking the man — as one woman will later say in a news report — “like a cobra.” The electric tree from the Red Room appears on the ground shrieking, “SQUEEZE HIS HAND OFF!” And indeed, Coop grips the man’s hand around the gun so tightly that it leaves a significant chunk of flesh behind.
It’s weirdly satisfying, not only because watching Coop sleepwalk through the last seven episodes has been like watching someone throw a ball into the air that somehow never comes down, and also because almost all of the violence on this show is predatory and disturbing. Boo-yeah action moments are incredibly rare, and finally feeling like we’ve connected with Cooper as his fist connects with a bad guy’s throat is delightful.
I’d like to say that this is the the return of Agent Cooper and the demise of the loathsome Dougie Jones, but that’s what I thought after the epic coffee scene in episode four, so I’ve been burned before. Lest we think that this action-packed sequence is a harbinger of things to come, it is followed by an unbroken two-minute shot of someone sweeping the floor at the Bang Bang Bar. Twin Peaks giveth, and Twin Peaks taketh away.