Twin Peaks: The Return: The Rewatch – Call for Help
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
The FBI are back! What are they investigating, according to Miguel Ferrer’s still-peerlessly grouchy Albert Rosenfeld? “The absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence.” Oh. I see. Sounds more like an NSA job to me, but if you’re sure it’s in your jurisdiction…
Long-term Lynch watchers will recognise that as the tagline to Ronnie Rocket, his great unproduced science fiction film which, at one point, was going to be his follow-up to Eraserhead. Lynch will be 72 this January. Twin Peaks: The Return comes ten years after his last long-form work, a collection of offcuts from INLAND EMPIRE titled More Things That Happened. It’s no surprise that he’s using The Return in part as a clearing-house for ideas and themes he hasn’t been able to express yet, just in case he doesn’t get another chance.
The titular Ronnie Rocket was going to be played by Michael J Anderson, the Man From Another Place actor who, as we saw last week, is now an electric tree. Ronnie was a target and a hero because of his natural ability to generate electricity, threatening the electrical monopoly of the film’s villain Hank Bartel. Clues to the film’s mystery were doled out in puzzling symbols and apparently random numbers, and there was a disfigured supporting character who could only talk in strange noises, rather like Naido does here.
Does any of this help us understand Twin Peaks: The Return, other than confirming that Lynch has been mining old scripts? Well, it confirms that Lynch’s universes are very ordered, and electricity is a vital part of that ordering. It doesn’t matter whether the time 2:53 has any mystical or numerological significance, although some fans have noted that the purple sea the factory is floating in might be connected to the “mauve zone” of Kenneth Grant, a mystic whose writings do seem to have a lot of parallels with The Return’s mythology. What matters is that Cooper must go through the third exit at this precise time. Otherwise, who knows what might go wrong?
A bit of cross-cutting implies – perhaps accidentally – that had Cooper not ended up in a hotel room in Vegas, he might have fallen out of Mr. C’s in-car charging socket. That would have been something, although given the catatonic state he ends up in, I wouldn’t fancy his chances of leaving the car alive. Instead, he replaces Dougie Jones, another duplicate of Cooper seemingly created so Mr. C can pull a switcheroo. If Dougie is wearing the Owl Creek ring when it’s time for Mr. C to return to the Black Lodge, the hapless replica will be taken in his place and Mr. C can continue his reign of terror.
We know this because of a line of dialogue from MIKE twenty-two minutes in. That line is arguably the first piece of dialogue in the episode that is necessary to understand the plot. In place of exposition, Lynch’s directing is at its most visual. The factory scene that begins the episode is as visually experimental as anything in episode eight, with its montage and shot construction fragmenting, reversing, glitching and repeating seemingly at random. Even when we’re back into reality, the episode still looks stunning. The noirish shot of Agent Cooper emerging back into our universe has achieved a certain memetic immortality:
That scene also introduces Nafessa Williams as Jade, one of the enjoyable new characters who make this stretch of the show so rewarding. For all she never enters the town of Twin Peaks Jade has something of the show’s spirit in microcosm. She’s a bottom-of-the-ladder, put-upon sex worker who just happens to find something – a key – that unlocks a cosmic mystery. She’s also kind, notably becoming the only character in the whole show who suggests the comatose Cooper might need medical attention. Then there’s Hailey Gates as a character I always refer to by the uncatchy name “That Woman Who Keeps Shouting ONE ONE NINE”. What happened to her? How is she? Is she still alive? If not, I hope she died doing what she loved; yelling “ONE ONE NINE” at the top of her voice.