TV review: Twin Peaks – The Return Episode 6, Don’t Die

John Preston

Contains spoilers

The violence in Twin Peaks has always been very real. Unlike its love for awkward, questionable humour and disconcertingly stylised performances in a natural setting, both of which are a constant in this season, the show’s brutality is unflinching and authentically depressing. Becoming of the show’s surreal and occasionally kitsch references – cherry pie, Douglas fir trees and coffee, Audrey Horne’s sweater collection and dancing dwarfs – it’s become commonplace to overlook the show’s central premise that its protagonist, Laura Palmer, was a schoolgirl that was raped repeatedly by her father who then murdered her. In the original two seasons there was always considerable context provided for these terrible acts, and those against Maddy Palmer also, but in this new season women are not doing well at staying alive and often we have no idea why they are dying.

The fact that episode six is called ‘Don’t Die’ doesn’t make this any less of a concern. The warning is meant specifically for Dougie Coop, beamed into his new home shared with the exhausting and exhausted Janey-E directly from the Black Lodge and by the one armed man. There will be many that now find this version of Dale Cooper irritating enough to give up – six hours in and the Special Agent has still made no significant progress in returning to the TV character that so many are desperate to see again. I would disagree and find myself now connecting with this new character (essentially that’s what he is), in a way that I hadn’t yet. It takes time and Lynch is forcing us to accept that, or not. There are long scenes with long silences where Dougie Coop works on his insurance firm’s case files and doodles and scribbles his way to identifying some potential fraud and securing his position in his fake-job.

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Apart from this brief appearance from Mike and the red curtains and his insistence that Coop ‘wake up, wake up!’, the remainder of this episode is either set in Vegas or Twin Peaks and doesn’t directly feed into the other worlds that have been created in the minds of Lynch and Frost. Richard Horne, briefly introduced last week and with no further confirmation as to where he fits on the Horne family tree, is responsible for a dreadful hit-and-run following a humiliating meeting with Red (Balthazar Getty), a big drug boss from Canada who may or may not posses magic powers. Harry Dean Stanton as trailer park owner Carl Rodd sits quietly on a park bench watching a mother and son play tag together immediately before the child is killed outright by Horne’s truck. It’s a scene which is moving certainly but also played in a way which is oddly insincere, given the spectators’ soapish reactions – there is bad acting here but not from Harry Dean Stanton.

In Vegas, Duncan Todd freezes when a red rectangle appears on his computer screen, prompting him to remove an envelope from a safe with a small black dot on it. This envelope is pushed under the door of a hitman and contains the photos of a woman we barely know and the original Dougie Cooper. He savages the photos of his hits with an ice pick and then, in a scene that is audacious, shocking and spectacularly violent, carries out his duties. We are not sure why this woman died and why she needed to be killed in such a questionably gleeful and extreme manner – it’s almost certainly connected to that call she made to Argentina last week, though.

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Naomi Watts as Janey-E made sense to me also in this episode, standing up to two loan sharks. ‘We’re living in dark, dark times – and you’re part of the problem!’ she storms. This is a person who is just trying to get through what increasingly appears to be her shit-storm of a life and Watts’ performance here reconnected her to her leading actor credentials.

Excitement and light relief came from the appearance of a wildly anticipated new character and a couple of established ones. Shelley and returning pig-tailed (still) waitress Heidi enjoy the custom of a super pie-fan, a high school teacher who subsequently saw the face of Richard Horne after he tore away from the death of the young boy moments earlier. Again, employing the tactic of filming a pivotal, anticipated character from the back first, Lynch’s camera follows inspector Agent Albert Rosenfield from a cab into a bar where he addresses an unknown woman by her name. ‘Diane?’ is answered by a platinum blond, wig-wearing Laura Dern, the unseen assistant to Special Agent Diane Cooper finally revealed to intense, and correct, speculation that this role would be played by his longest – standing female muse. ‘Hello Albert’ is her response and only words spoken until, let’s hope, next week.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.