Never has an episode of Twin Peaks dazzled quite so sharply. Extreme brightness and pitch black hell settled down next to one another and in its fourth final hour nothing was resolved but everything just began more intense.
Nadine has shovelled her way out of the shit – with an actual shovel – and has subsequently told her husband of decades, Big Ed, that he is a free man and her happiness depends on him being happy with his original sweetheart, Norma Jennings. This is Lynch showing us what enlightened looks like, tapping into his core personal beliefs, and this is something that Twin Peaks is really interested in this season – the consequences of actions, good and bad.
Norma initially brushes a Ed aside, her business manger and possible guy-crush has just walked in. But following her demand that he buy her out of the Norma’s Double R Diner franchises and his disappointment in her lack of entrepreneurial spirit, things start to look brighter as he walks out.
They embrace and Ed asks her to marry him. Norma accepts and Shelley looks on misty eyed with a jug of coffee – we are Shelley. Followed by several shots of scrolling blue sky and candy-floss clouds, all seems worryingly well with the world, and the older generation at least of Twin Peaks folk.
Or maybe not. It’s night, crackling electricity between telephone poles appears to be leading Evil Coop to the original convenience store, first seen in the aftermath of the atomic bomb detonation of 1945. Climbing the stairs to the side of the store, Coop also crackles and disappears into thin air and arrives on the landing of the same room that Laura Palmer entered during her dream in Fire Walk with Me. Fans of the show will, with nerdish glee, recognise that distinctive wallpaper (it’s even on the ceiling) anywhere.
A woodsman escorts him to another staircase that eventually leads to an outdoors motel which, geography wise, appears to be on the roof of the convenience store, except it’s not as we’ve seen the roof. Time and place – this is a whole other universe and dimension.
Apartment 8 houses Philip Jeffries who Coop is here to see. The door is locked and a woman (is it a woman?) in a depressing night gown approaches him, and in the backwards speak of the Black Lodge (is there where we are now?!), tells him she has the key and opens the door.
We’re in a familiar Lynch environment: the fluorescent light’s on the blink, there’s a homemade red lamp on the floor and there’s a rusting radiator that’s seen better days. The panelled wall peels back and behind it is a smoke-billowing industrial kettle. It’s a reincarnated Phillip Jeffries, a shock for us maybe, but it doesn’t unnerve Evil Coop for a second.
A flashback to Bowie from the film and Coop brings the subject back to Judy – who is she and what does she want? Teapot Jeffries tells him he’s already met Judy, spouts some coordinates and Cooper, after picking a ringing phone, is sent back through time and space to the front of the convenience store.
Dougie Coop is also guided by electricity, but with potentially life-changing consequences. Whilst eating a yummy looking slice of chocolate cake given to him by his now-ecstatic wife, Cooper accidentally turns the TV on and the classic morality tale of a rotten Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, bursts into life on the screen.
There are meta moments galore here, as Lynch is on record as claiming this is one of his favourite films of all time and the subsequent influence it’s had on his own work has been substantial to say the least. Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond talks about how great it’ll be to get the old team back together before someone asks to ‘get Gordon Cole’. Cooper is traumatised but instantly aware that this name is significant – the name of his boss and also the name of the character in a film – but how will he find him when he still is not fully conscious?
By literally sticking his fork into a buzzing socket, he short circuits the house and maybe himself – oh, but please let this have jump-started Special Agent Dale Cooper back into mind and body!
The Log Lady dies in episode 15 and never has such a heartbreaking tribute been put to film. During production of the show, Catherine Coulson who plays the Log Lady was herself dying of cancer – the frail image of the character on the screen would have mirrored that of the actress herself.
‘There’s some fear in letting go,’ she tells her constant confidante and friend Deputy Hawke.
She shares his view that death is not an ending but a change and for him to look out for ‘that one’ as she is dying and her time has run out.
‘Goodbye Margaret,’ he says once he’s put the phone down and the lights go out in her home deep in the woods which have robbed her of her husband but have kept her company for decades.
Soon after this scene was filmed Catherine died, and when Hawke calls together Lucy, Frank and Andy to tell him that the Log Lady has passed, the tears shed are very real. David Lynch created something beautiful for his friend and the memory of her is captured here, forever.
There are are certain characters that Lynch and Frost will stick with through to the show’s end over the next three hours. These will almost certainly include at least two Coopers, Gordon Cole and the Blue Rose squad (with an emphasis on Diane, please), Hawke and his comrades, Sarah Palmer and, ultimately, Laura Palmer. I also anticipate and hope for a resolution of Audrey Horne’s predicament; it’s been confirmed by Richard Horne that she is indeed his mother, but why can’t she leave the house to find Billy?
But there is so much more that has been offered up over the last three months and remains unexplained. Who is the 119 women and the young child, who is Señorita Dido and is the Fireman different from The Giant? These are immediately intriguing characters that beg to be given more time and attention. And how does the glass cube in New York work? It was a fascinating, terrifying presence in the first episode and has never been returned to. What about Buenos Aires and that phone that Evil Coop called and which subsequently morphed into a paper clip?
Unlike the original series, and especially in its faultless first season, there has not been a sole narrative that has driven The Return, certainly nothing to match the intensity and cultural explosion of who killed Laura Palmer – and that’s why the show feels infinite. What exactly is being resolved or clarified? At the moment we genuinely don’t know, after 15 episodes! But to pretend that this isn’t a key part of its tremendous appeal would be to rob Twin Peaks of its ultimate power. The next three hours are going to be insane.