TV Review: Twin Peaks – The Return Episode 9, This Is the Chair

John Preston

*contains spoilers*

There had to come a point where Twin Peaks got predictable. Nine hours is a long, impressive way into any TV season before this kind of criticism can be applied certainly, but this is the episode that plays it safer than any other that’s preceded it. After part 8’s startling but surprisingly revealing hour two weeks ago, this could be a confused gripe. I mean, How could that level of hardcore surrealism be sustained? will be the obvious argument. But this week’s show spends a lot of time reiterating things we already know, and wouldn’t it have been incredible to get more weird stuff following the bomb, the bug and the birth of Bob? But it was a dead cert that Lynch and Frost would pull a curtain over this area of Twin Peaks (red I’m imagining) with a focus instead on the world we all inhabit – up to a point, of course. So this indeed is where we find ourselves.

Episode 9, which has the title ‘This is the Chair’ applied to it, has an abundance of the show’s trademark humour – scenes going on way longer than they should, adults behaving like young, uninhibited children – and also that kind of acting which is either bad on purpose, or just plain bad. Both of these styles will be always be an acquired taste and even to the most devoted Lynch fan, split opinions. Of course, there are still a few surprises and some lovely scenes, many containing Laura Dern as Diane again (she presents the episode with one of its biggest shocks). And now we’re at the show’s halfway point proper, Lynch is returning to – and giving away large chunks of – the show’s original, comforting premise. It’s still good, but when the quality so far has been so high, any subsequent drop, however minor, will blare like a siren.

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So Mr C is alive and bloodied and has made his way to The Farm (a previously unknown location referred to by Ray the night he shot bad Coop) as he seeks medical attention and firearms from Tim Roth as Hutch and a returning Jennifer Jason Leigh. He still appears to be evil as he phones Duncan Todd in Vegas to make sure ‘the job’ is done by the next time he calls. Does this mean that Bob is still residing in Dale Cooper’s doppelgänger? Mr C also sends a text that’s received by Diane: ‘Around the dinner table the conversation is lively.’ She is agitated and checking her phone constantly, but this is a development that intentionally pulls the rug from the under the feet of a new character whose loyalties we thought were understood. Diane is still with her FBI posse who, instead of returning home, have been redirected to Buckhorn to view the body of Major Briggs and interview the suspect: Mathew Lilliard as William Hastings.

Lilliard’s performance, and it is most certainly that, is a soapy and ridiculous delight. Interviewed by Agent Tammy Preston, he sobs uncontrollably throughout his account of the night him and the other person he’s accused of murdering, Ruth Davenport, met the Major. He says that the Major was ‘hibernating’ in a zone that he can only escape when using certain coordinates which Ruth and Hastings have obtained. At this point Briggs’ body starts to float up and his head comes off, similar to the charred figure sitting in the cell next to Hastings in episode 1. Briggs says, ‘Cooper, Cooper!’ as he starts to levitate, Hastings confirms. So Briggs has lost his head and Ruth is then murdered, losing hers too as some kind of punishment by one of the many, many people were there, he tells Tammy. This is a Blue Rose case and according to Gordon Cole, Diane knows all about these.

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We’re not through with Major Briggs yet, however. His son Bobby, Sheriff Truman and Deputy Hawke visit Betty to find out what was discussed on the day before Briggs died in a fire. He’d previously had a conversation with Special Agent Dale Cooper, also the last time that Cooper had been seen. Betty informed the trio that the Major had told her that this visit by these 3 men would occur and when it did, that she was to go a chair in their home which had a metal tube concealed within it and give it to them. Only Bobby can break open the capsule as his Dad had showed him how when he was younger, and he takes great delight in doing so. Inside are coordinates, times (‘2:53, time and time again’), dates and a place. ‘This is the Chair’ is concerned mainly with a quickening narrative that clearly now confirms a visit by some of the residents of Twin Peaks to the Black Lodge is definitely in the show’s future.

There are initially sweet but quickly tiring appearances by Andy and Lucy, and also the Fusco brothers who are investigating the attack on Dougie Jones Cooper but whose stand-up routine has become a chore. Aside from the brilliance of Mathew Lilliard’s long, camp and wild interview scene, the episode’s best two moments are low key certainly but indicative of the show’s charm and also it’s hypnotic but jarring mystery. The first is Gordon Cole and Tammy Preston joining Diane for a cigarette break. There is hardly any dialogue but a lot of long, loving stares between Diane and Cole – or is that Dern and Lynch? Agent Preston twitches and shifts self-consciously in the background as well she might in such esteemed company, on and off screen. Chrysta Belle has yet to convince in this role and her casting in the show continues to perplex.

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Dougie Cooper meanwhile is sitting in silence in the Las Vegas police office, whilst the Fusco brothers confirm to Jones’ insurance company boss that Jones doesn’t appear to exist before 1997. Cooper is looking, longingly, at an American flag when a shot of an employee walking past in red shoes transfixes him, a direct reference to Audrey Horne in the show’s original pilot. His eye is then worryingly drawn back to a suddenly menacing electric socket on the wall. Special Agent Dale Cooper is very near now, I suspect – will it be the sight of Audrey Horne that will bring him to the surface? Her brother Johnny has just killed himself so an appearance from the show’s second favourite character is surely imminent now. Even for an episode that relies a little too much on back story and occasional filler pieces, Twin Peaks still leaves its audience drooling for its next slice of pie.

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.