Warning: This contains spoilers for the 10th, 11th and 12th episodes of Twin Peaks’ return. Rather than review the show as a conventional series, we’re following the example of the season’s premiere, diving into Twin Peaks every few episodes throughout Season 3.
“There is fear in letting go,” says Margaret Lanterman, aka. the Log Lady, before her death. The wisdom is all the sadder knowing that the actress who played her, Catherine E. Coulson, also passed away shortly after filming these scenes. But it also refers to Twin Peaks: The Return. There are just three episodes left, and those of us still watching don’t want to let go, either.
It’s hard to know at this stage how things will end. It’s likely that the characters will converge on Twin Peaks, and Dale Cooper will finally emerge from his Dougie Jones-sized cocoon to take on his evil Döppelganger. It can’t have failed to escape people’s attention that half the cast is piling up in Twin Peaks’ jail, awaiting a reckoning. But don’t take that outcome for granted. Over the past three episodes, David Lynch and Mark Frost have been gradually tying up loose ends, only to reveal further complications.
Even as we delight in Ed and Norma finally getting together, after decades of being kept apart, we have to deal with Sarah Palmer showing previously unknown signs of being a robot-faced, bigot-biting kick-ass. While Bad Coop is busy killing off extraneous characters, the missing Billy keeps getting referenced, usually by characters in the Roadhouse we’ve never met before. And, as one mystery is solved with the revelation that Diane and Janey-E are sisters (of course they are! They’re played by Lynch’s twin queens, Dern and Watts), another arrives with power-handed superhero Freddie, a potentially massive character only introduced a few episodes before the end.
Intriguingly, Freddie’s mockney monologue includes a reference to the Beatles’ song, A Day In The Life, famously written in separate sections by Lennon and McCartney. Is this how Lynch and Frost are writing this series? It would explain the perpetual cycle of closure and confusion.
Another possibility is that they are intent on showing how staid and predictable other stories are. These past episodes have delighted in parodying other genres: superheroes, action movies (the gripping detour to a criminal hide-out, where an arm-wrestle decides all), and Tarantino (via the sociopathic killers played by Hateful Eight co-stars Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh). Is it a coincidence that Norma wants the Double-R Diner to be “made with love”, not run for profit? Twin Peaks is the antithesis of franchise TV, being instead driven by dreams – sometimes with Monica Belluci serving as a spirit guide. You never know what you’re going to get from one scene to another, so it’s impossible trying to guess where things will go next.
Certainly, nobody could have predicted that Kyle McLachlan would spend the bulk of the series as Dougie Jones. Frost and Lynch continue to troll us, as the Vegas cops find the truth but laugh it off, and the Feds get the wrong Dougie. It takes Sunset Boulevard, repository of Lynchian dreams and home to a character called Gordon Cole, to unlock Dougie’s memory. Assuming that’s what happens – you never know.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the final three episodes have in store, when the experience of watching is so gripping. This is a series that recasts the late David Bowie as a steam cloud emerging from a giant kettle, and gets away with it. It’s a series that can indulge in the silliest slapstick (Dougie’s encounter with a glass door) and then freak us out with Bad Coop’s visit to the abandoned convenience store – against stiff competition, perhaps the scariest place in the Lynch-verse. It’s like we’re channel-hopping through the TV set of Frost and Lynch’s imagination: disconcerting at first but ultimately liberating. Why stick to one channel when we could have them all?
What ties the series together is the wistful melancholy of this realisation – things must move on. That’s why the experience of revisiting our favourites from the original series is so bittersweet. Ed might be free at last thanks to Nadine’s release, but many of the old cast are trapped: Audrey is seemingly locked into an endless argument with Charlie, and James is still singing the sad song he once played with Donna and Maddie. Are they afraid to let go? If nothing else, this series has taught us the serenity to accept change. Those that are brave enough to let go – like Nadine, like Dougie and like Margaret, to whom Episode 15 was dedicated – will find peace.
Twin Peaks: The Return is available on-demand through Sky Atlantic. Don’t have Sky? You can stream the whole thing legally on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, with no contract.
Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME