We’re shoveling ourselves out of the shit now, folks. On the home stretch of Twin Peaks: The Return, we’re finally using our golden shovels to dig ourselves out of six feet of mire. We’re clawing our way out of our complacent grave of a Las Vegas insurance cubicle, hammering up the “For Sale” sign outside the red door of our sleepy suburban home, and heading for the strangest, most beautiful patch of woods in the Northwest. The shot to our hearts to wake us up? A jolt of pure electricity, conveyed through a well-tuned fork, no less.
How fitting that “Dougie” has finally hooked into the massive electrical grid of Lite-Brite City. Inspired by a Sunset Boulevard zinger beamed in on the tube (“Get Gordon Cole!”), Dougie’s lackadaisical eyes finally spark with electricity after he jabs his cake fork into an electrical outlet, essentially performing self-defibrillation. As we peered into his eyes, we could joyously tell that one Doug fir-loving, cremated-bacon-eating Agent Dale Cooper is back with us. Hallelujah! It’s about damn fine time.
Electricity is Lynch’s medium, sizzling through the power lines and beaming woodsmen around a haunting service station, but they’re nothing new in the Lynchian universe. You may be wondering whether these murderous, besmirched woodsmen are the result of The Manhattan Project—and indeed, our friends in science have shown that nuclear explosions trigger electromagnetic pulses that fry electronics. In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces, the woodsmen appear in a scene with no dialogue set above a convenience store. One of the woodsmen is seated next to electric machinery, and there is also a character called The Electrician present. Lynch reiterates throughout his works that electricity is both a real and mystical force that connects all of our realms and all of us, including, unfortunately, some very frightening head-crushers. In this The Return, not only do hearts beat electrical, but very spirits seem to crackle electrically, blipping in and out of various dimensions across our screens.
The most electric spirit to exit our stage this chapter is a golden-logged lady named Margaret Lanterman. Radiant and fragile in her last hours, her bald pate gleaming like a newborn baby, she’s as mystical as ever in her last telephone transmission with Hawk. “You know about death. That it’s just a change, not an end. Hawk, it’s time. There’s some fear. Some fear in letting go. Remember what I told you. I can’t say more over the phone. But you know what I mean, from our talks, when we were able to speak face to face. Watch for that one, the one I told you about, the one under the moon on Blue Pine Mountain. Hawk. My log is turning gold. The wind is moaning. I’m dying. Good night, Hawk.” Good night, Catherine. Our world, and the world of Twin Peaks, is still crackling over the phone lines with your electrical energy.
Of our negatively-charged characters, Bad Coop’s still trying to sort out Agent Phillip Jeffries’ 20. The attendant woodsman rewinds time for Bad Coop so he can go back to the motel where he thinks Jeffries is, but when he enters the room, he’s in a dark, otherworldly room with a large clanking device that spouts smoke and Jeffries’ voice. In Fire Walk With Me, Jeffries didn’t want to talk about Judy, but now Jeffries tells Bad Coop he’s already met Judy, and spouts smoke numbers for Bad Coop to contact her. (Spoiler alert: Since Judy is supposedly Josie’s twin sister, and Joan Chen is not signed on to be in The Return, perhaps we’ll only encounter Judy metaphysically.)
Lynch and Frost are as darkly funny as ever in this chapter (That Roadhouse green-glove punch-out? Priceless.) But there are potent doses of politics here, too. Chantal and Hutch, our very own Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, having offed Duncan, declare that the government is as murderous as they are, hiring mercenaries like them to do their dirty work. “So-called Christian nation,” Hutch spits. “Might as well be ‘Thou shalt kill, show no mercy, forgive no one.’ It’s a nation of killers. Killed damn near all the Indians, didn’t they?” And then it’s on to discussions of Chantal’s love for torture, hatred of ketchup packets, affection for dessert, plus their mutual love for one another and what a beautiful night it is. You know, just the average mercenaries-in-a-van, murderous post-coital chitchat.
In other matters on the dark side of the moon, another formerly bright young thing, Gersten Hayward (Alicia Witt, reprising her role from the original series) has found herself in thrall to coke-snotted Steven, who’s at the end of his very frayed rope, loading a revolver in the woods to off himself in his mistress’ arms. It’s unclear from the dialogue what he’s done to Becky, and whether she’s given him strange drugs, but something terrible seems to have led to his moment of crisis, and he’s higher than the trees. “Will I be with the rhinoceros? The lightning in the bottle?” Steven asks. We don’t know, Steven, but your terrifyingly spot-on portrayal of an abusive, shattered addict has us thinking you might just be at the beginning of a long, strange trip into the Inferno.
One last soap opera point: Nadine has unselfishly, finally woken up to the pain she’s caused Big Ed and Norma by tearing their true love asunder all those years, and Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” passionately scores the happy couple’s long-awaited RR reunion (hasn’t this just been a glorious music season?). Is Naido next to wake up? Or perhaps she’s already awake, but we just can’t understand her chattering bleeps. At least she’s got one call-and-response audience member in Billy. (I now take a shot every time Chad says “Shut up!”)
Speaking of noise, the Veils’ closing number, “Axolotl,” is one you should pay attention to—if not for its El-P beats or very Twin Peaks-esque video, then for the uncanny resemblance of an actual axolotl, a small undeveloped amphibian, to the egg-hatcher of “Chapter VIII”:
An accidental amphibian, I’m glowing bright obsidian
An elemental chemical
Got me growing six black tentacles
A little nightmarish, a little maudlin
Good god and go get that kid some laudanum
Salvation’s more than I can afford
Who needs the devil when you’ve got the lord.
Let’s hope that whatever that amphibian was, Good Coop’s awakening will mean he’s able to combat its winged, digestive-tract-dwelling terror. But first, let’s get this man some proper breakfast at the Great Northern—he’s woken up from a bad dream where he just wasn’t himself.