(Author’s note: I have the unfortunate job of replacing the irreplaceable Laura Hudson for the next few weeks. But if you fear the changing of horses midstream, here’s how I feel about Twin Peaks: The Return so far: It’s a gift. Many have remarked about the show’s stylistic and tonal changes to the series, but I see it as the cumulative Lynch experience. It’s a show by the man who made Fire Walk With Me, but also Eraserhead and Inland Empire. Twenty-seven years ago, he changed what TV could look like. Why come back just to retread, when you can change it all again?)
Abuse has always been the central theme of Twin Peaks, from Laura Palmer to the host of other women who have suffered at the hands of men. This week’s episode is no different, with countless scenes that show the sordid depths that men will reach to control the women in their lives. But we also get peeks into the brighter world that Lynch believes in. We see love in its brightest form; we glimpse a world that glows. But as a familiar, haunted voice will tell us soon, “The glow is dying.”
Enter Richard Horne. If you didn’t already think that he was the worst, this episode confirms it. As he stands outside a trailer home, he calls out for Miriam, the bubbly lady from the diner who saw him accidentally run down a child in episode six. We see Richard’s devilish reflection in Miriam’s trailer (a clear Bob homage) as she defiantly tells him she already told the police. She even sent them a letter on top of it, not realizing this admission will seal her fate. After Richard ditches Miriam’s body (and leaves the trailer to a likely gas explosion), he calls Chad, our resident asshole cop, and tells him to intercept the letter.
We then cut to Harry Dean Stanton’s Carl Rodd strumming a guitar and singing, “Come and sit by my side, little darling / Do not hasten bid me adieu.” (I made an audible “awwww.”) But the song is immediately interrupted by the crash of a window and, yes, more abuse. We go inside the trailer to find a terrified Becky being screamed at by her husband, Steven, giving shades of Leo Johnson and Becky’s mom, Shelly. It’s all about her shortcomings: her minimum wage, her not asking for a raise, her not cleaning the trailer. Steven looks at Becky and she’s terrified out of her mind, so he yells even louder: “Don’t you give me that innocent look!” He is convinced that she deserves this rage, this menace, this fearing for her life. It’s as clear a picture of abusive psychology as you can get, from the lack of responsibility to the utter belief that you’re making me do this.
Meanwhile in Las Vegas, Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper) sits quietly doing work. Here we get our most classic Peaks comedy scene yet, in which a cocktail-dress showgirl named Candie (Amy Shiels) stumbles about trying to kill a fly. There’s the long, pitch-perfect setup before — WHAM — she smacks him across the face when the fly lands on his head. Comically exaggerated screaming and crying ensue, even as Bradley Mitchum (Jim Belushi) rushes to help. A scene later, we find all three bored showgirls making drinks as Candie still shakes in the corner. Rodney says, “I’m fine!” but all she can ask is “Can you ever love me after what I did?” The gag may have been hilarious, but this is as stark a sign of past abuse as you can get.
The Mitchum Brothers watch the evening news and see that Ike the Spike was arrested and laugh, remarking, “Ike finally stepped on his dick.” (It’s a joke made even funnier by the air fist bump.) But they aren’t laughing when they see who stopped Ike: none other than “Mr. Jackpots.” This revelation coincidentally plays into a larger chain of events, in which Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) employs Tony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) to tell the Mitchum Brothers that Dougie Jones is also behind the recent insurance fraud that cost them $30 million, all in effort to make Dougie their new target. Tony arrives at their casino and after some more comic delays with the bored showgirls (who are quickly becoming my favorite characters), he convinces the Mitchums that they have “an enemy in Douglas Jones.” At this point, I’ll admit I’m shocked at how well the plot threads are coming together.
Meanwhile, Janey-E Jones takes Dougie to a doctor on a account of him “acting peculiar.” As Dougie keeps clumsily reaching for the stethoscope, the doctor remarks on Dougie’s noticeable weight loss. Suddenly, Janey-E takes notice, too. Later that night, she flirts and fidgets in bright-red shoes, as a completely disinterested Dougie slowly eats a mound of chocolate cake. Hard cut to Dougie’s flapping arms as Janey rides him and screams his name (prompting a friend of mine to remark, “Dougie fucks.”) The two lie in their unexpected moment of marital bliss and say, “I love you” / “Love you.” I can’t help but admire the way Naomi Watts plays these scenes both completely straight and yet with total emotional abandon. It’s all a part of how Lynch is turning the Dougie Jones saga into his own version of Hal Ashby’s classic Being There.
Really, it’s part of the crucial comedic and sincere range to the kinds of love in this show. My favorite moment in the episode is a quiet one, where our crooked cop Chad interrupts Lucy as he’s trying to intercept the mail. He thinks he’s making fun of Lucy, imagining that she and Andy wake up every morning and say, “Beautiful morning!” to each other, but underneath is the most stark human jealousy one can imagine. Compare that to Gordon Cole’s reaction when he sees Albert on a date with Constance the coroner (Jane Adams). As they laugh together, Cole looks on with truly sincere joy. There’s something about this coming from Lynch himself: He’s the soul of the show, and Cole sees in that moment all he ever wants for the world. And he’ll fight for it against the darkness.
Later, we see Cole sketching an odd doodle of a hand reaching for some kind of lizard elk (I have no idea either), before he opens the hotel door and sees a vision of Laura Palmer screaming. Bad things happen when people open hotel doors in Twin Peaks. Clearly, danger looms. Soon after, Cole, Albert, and Tammy connect Bad Cooper to the penthouse murders — helping fill in the mythology of how Bob presumably set up the glass box to prevent Good Coop from reentering this plane of existence — along with the revelation that Diane may be communicating with some bad guys.
Then the menace comes full-circle as Richard shows up to rob his Grandma Sylvia, choking her and throwing her to the ground, all while a tied-up Johnny Horne watches. The scene is incredibly difficult to watch, especially as Johnny’s broken teddy bear asks “How are you today?” ad nauseam. We see the same psychology of abuse and lack of responsibility here, as Richard asks his grandmother, “Why you have to make something so simple so difficult?” (Mythology-wise, the whole scene adds weight to the theory that Richard is the product of Bad Coop raping a comatose Audrey.) Ben Horne then gets a phone call from Sylvia and we get a sense of their strained marriage. He’s still wearing his wedding ring, but he refuses to send Sylvia more money. Shaken by the call, Ben asks Beverly out to dinner, after just rebuffing her in last week’s episode.
We then come back to the Log Lady, who leaves Hawk another cryptic message, but this one a simple metaphor. She talks of fading rivers, electricity, and life, remarking, “The glow is dying.” But she also tells him that the “good ones who have been with you” will help bring the circle back together. And to that, “Laura is the one.” With this powerful message, the Log Lady paints a portrait of a strained world, lost and helpless, like Jerry Horne screaming in the woods, or Nadine quietly watching from her store (Run Silent, Run Drapes!) as Doc Jacoby rants about an opportunistic, capitalist world that owns your life all the way to the graveyard. But in the end, even Jacoby is just trying to sell an overpriced shovel.
How can we live in a world without the glow? The sentiment echoes as we finally go to the Bang Bang Bar and Rebekah Del Rio sings a song called “No Stars,” co-written with Lynch himself. She sings of a wonderful, romantic night under the stars and calls out, “My dream is to go / To the place / Where it all began,” because now we live in a world of “No Stars.” It’s haunting, and it reminds us why moments like Albert’s date matter more than ever. Those moments lie at the center of Cole’s wants, the Log Lady’s message, and our own desire for Cooper to rejoin the family he’s been apart from for so long. We want to get back to where it all began.