Twin Peaks: The Return: The Rewatch – Don’t Die
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
David Lynch’s plan for Twin Peaks: The Return was to treat it like an epic-length film, which may be why it’s not always easy to remember what scene is in which episode. Episode 6 introduces Diane and Ike the Spike, reintroduces Carl Rodd, sets up Richard Horne’s dilemma for the rest of the series, sees Janey-E go toe-to-toe with loan sharks and confirms Chad as the biggest dick in Twin Peaks history. I’d remembered all of this material as being spread out over about three episodes; seeing it all play out back-to-back feels like a vindication of the preceding five episodes of slow set-up.
In exploring how it’s done, I need to explain a magic trick. Lynch’s performances are so spot-on because of his unusual auditioning methods; rather than make people act out scenes he talks to people he likes and tries to find things within them that can be blended into the character. Laura Dern has a story about turning up in a cafe for her first Blue Velvet rehearsal and seeing Kyle MacLachlan drawing shapes in the foam of his coffee mug: I love this story because it implies that the long, strangely hypnotic scene of Cooper doodling on his case files might be actual documentary footage of the actor.
The character here who’s benefitted most from this process is Carl Rodd. Harry Dean Stanton’s famously Zen attitude turned what should have been a banal walk-on part in Fire Walk With Me into one of the most fascinating and haunting parts of that fascinating and haunting film. Bringing him back risked killing the mystique, but Rodd becomes even more intriguing in the context of The Return. He, even more than Cooper, is the antithesis of Mr. C. Whereas Mr. C only wants, never needs, Carl Rodd is freed from any kind of desire. In Fire Walk With Me he claimed to be happy in his trailer park because he’d been to enough places already. Now, he’s content to just look at the trees.
His afternoon is interrupted by perhaps the most traumatic single moment in the series – Richard Horne, drugged and furious, mowing down a child. Rodd sees the boy’s soul leave his body in an effect which visually echoes the jackpot sign in episodes three and four, but Horne is already on the other side. Maybe literally – Red, the dealer he talks to before the accident, performs another magic trick, this one apparently literally impossible. He also threatens Richard in a manner which can’t help but recall the deaths in New York which began the series, saying he’ll pull Richard’s head open and eat his brains.
Is Red aligned with the Woodsmen? The conclusion seems inescapable. Which suggests that the “sparkle”, the mysterious drug he’s pushing, is from the Black Lodge. This would explain why the junkie mother in Las Vegas is talking backwards (“ONE ONE NINE!”), but also generally explain why the world of The Return is so rotten. Evil seems to be everywhere, in every city. Even the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, ordinarily a bastion of decency, has to resort to employing men like Chad.
There is still hope. Lynch and Frost have hit on a fine way of exploring Robert Forster’s Frank Truman; basically contrasting him against a series of eccentric or aggressive cameos, allowing his stoic acceptance to shine through. Janey-E, too, seems to have the patience of a saint and the backbone of a concrete pillar, judging by both her tolerance of ‘Dougie’s’ uselessness and her taking the fight to his creditors. Naomi Watts really is golden in this series, correctly realising that Janey-E must be played absolutely straight for the joke to work. Watching the Jones family scenes back, though, you also notice the sadness: a woman and a child showing unwavering love for a man who doesn’t respond to them, and the pained look in Kyle MacLachlan’s eyes that tells you Cooper realises this.