Any attempt to recap the plot of a Twin Peaks episode will, at times, sound absolutely absurd. This is because, more than any other show, Twin Peaks is an experience, both visual and auditory. Each week, I’ll be doing my best to explain what went on during the episode, but (as is true all of David Lynch’s projects) you really have to see it to believe it. More than that, you need to embrace the fact that all those WTF moments are intentional. You’re not supposed to know exactly what is happening or be able to hop on the Internet and figure out the mystery before the show reveals it to you (or doesn’t, as the case may be). This is even truer for the new season, which is pure, unadulterated Lynch.
Old-school fans tuning in hoping for some sort of nostalgia act did not get what they expected, and I think that’s a good thing. Had the episodes returned us to the town of Twin Peaks as we knew it 25+ years ago, with everything the same (but older), it would have felt like a forced imitation. The new series feels fresh but still retains the essence of the Lynch episodes of Twin Peaks. One thing is abundantly clear from the first two hours: the Twin Peaks of 2017 is not the Twin Peaks of the early 90s. It is darker and dirtier and scarier. It doesn’t answer the audience’s lingering questions. Instead, it presents us with new mysteries. So if you’re looking for instant gratification and a season that will wrap up all your burning questions in a big red bow, look elsewhere. The new Twin Peaks is not here for fan service. It’s here to blow your mind and, let me just say, Mission Accomplished.
The Return: Part 1
We open with recycled footage: Agent Cooper is with Laura in the Waiting Room (or Red Room) of the Black Lodge, and she tells him she will see him again in 25 years. This is from the Lynch-directed original-series finale, “Beyond Life and Death,” and it gives some sense of continuity at the beginning of an episode that will be unlike anything we saw in the original series.
The new season proper begins after the new opening credits sequence, which is still set to Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic “Twin Peaks Theme.” The opening scene is in black and white. We see Good Cooper who was trapped in the Black Lodge in the original series finale, as well as The Giant (played by Carel Struyken). Struyken is mysteriously credited in the revival as “???????” implying that perhaps he is not the same entity as The Giant from the original series.
“???????” (aka The Giant) tells Good Cooper to listen to the sounds of a gramophone, which is silent except for some strange electrical static/crackling sounds. He then tells Cooper, “It is in our house now. It all cannot be said aloud now. Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.” Good Coop says he understands (but I sure as hell don’t) and then he glitches out after ??????? tells him, “You are far away.”
When we are finally reintroduced to the town of Twin Peaks, we see Dr. Jacoby, living out in the woods in a trailer. He receives a delivery of shovels. There is no explanation, and just as fast as we’ve entered Twin Peaks, we leave again.
We see a fly-over view of Manhattan, which is a shot that we’ve all seen a million times in TV and movies but which Lynch manages to make feel new and fresh and incredibly creepy. When I first learned that much of the new series would be set outside of the town of Twin Peaks it made me wonder: if it’s not set in Twin Peaks, is it really Twin Peaks? The introduction to Lynch’s version of New York City proved to me that the answer is a resounding yes. We enter a room with a large glass box, and even though we can see the city through the window, it is somehow not the New York City that we know. We may not be in Twin Peaks, but we are certainly in the Twin Peaks universe.
A young man named Sam Colby is alone in the room. He is responsible for watching the box and changing the memory cards for the cameras set up at all angles around the box. A young woman named Tracey shows up unexpectedly with coffee but she’s not allowed inside the room. It is a top-secret project and no one but Sam is allowed in there. There’s a security guard on duty and Sam and Tracey have a bit of a flirtation before he takes the coffee. Tracey is very curious about what’s going on and she sneaks a peek when Sam enters the security code on the door to the glass box room.
Back in Twin Peaks, we catch up with the Brothers Horne. Ben is at his desk, still running the Great Northern hotel, and Jerry comes in looking like some sort of hippie Santa Claus. Jerry is now in the legal weed business and specializes in edibles, which is just about the most Jerry Horne thing I can imagine. The Horne brothers seem mostly the same, except they seem to have mellowed in their old age as far as women go. They were notoriously perverted womanizers during the original series and they seem tame in comparison as they discuss Ben’s attractive female employee, Beverly Paige (Ashley Judd).
We catch up with Lucy Moran, who is now Lucy Brennan, married to Sheriff Andy. She’s still working reception at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, and she’s as confused as ever as an insurance salesman comes in looking for Sheriff Truman. She asks which Sheriff Truman, because apparently there are two. The original Sheriff Harry S. Truman was played by Michael Ontkean, who is retired and declined to participate in the revival, so this scene seems to be setting up the introduction of a new Sheriff Truman. Lucy says that one of them is sick (presumably Harry) and the other is fishing (likely the new Sheriff Truman).
We leave Twin Peaks again, this time for Buckhorn, South Dakota, where we finally see Evil Cooper out in the world. At the end of the original series, Agent Cooper’s doppelganger (the Cooper possessed by BOB) left the Lodge, trapping the Good Cooper inside. Evil Coop has been out in the world for 25 years, and when we meet him he looks nothing like the coffee-drinking, pie-loving Special Agent we know and love. He’s got greasy long hair (not unlike BOB himself) and he looks dirty and just generally like a Bad Dude that you would not want to run into in a dark alley.
Evil Cooper goes to a cabin in the woods, knocking out the guard on the way in. There’s an eclectic cast of characters in there, including a man named Otis and a woman named Buella. Evil Coop (who Otis calls “Mr. C”) asks after Ray and Darya, and Buella goes to fetch them. Ray and Darya are relatively young and attractive, especially Darya who has that Lynchian femme fatale thing going on.
Back in New York, Sam is still on duty at the glass box and Tracey comes by with coffee again. This time, the security guard is nowhere to be found. Tracey asks again if she can come inside the room and this time Sam lets her. Sam tells her that he doesn’t know anything about the project except that it is funded by an anonymous billionaire. Sam tells Tracey that he’s never seen anything in the box but that the person who had the job before him saw something once but didn’t say what it was. They sit down on the loveseat opposite the box and watch.
Their awkward flirtation very quickly turns into the two of them stripping down and banging on the couch, but they are soon interrupted when the glass box goes completely black and a shadowy figure appears. It is already terrifying enough when the thing is contained inside the box, shifting form and going in and out of focus. You can’t really tell exactly what (or who) it is but it is definitely human-shaped.
Sam and Tracey stare in horror as the monster or demon or whatever the hell it is bursts through the glass. The monster, which is moving too fast to be in focus, hovers over the couple and basically rips their faces off. It’s incredibly gruesome—a scene of pure horror that is darker and more disturbing than anything in either the original series or the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It was at this point that I realized two things: (1) this is Not Your Father’s Twin Peaks, and (2) I am totally into it.
Back in Buckhorn, South Dakota, we are introduced to a new murder victim: Ruth Davenport, the town librarian, who is discovered after her neighbor Marjorie smells something funky emanating from Ruth’s apartment. After a long sequence during which the Buckhorn detectives are trying to locate someone with the keys to Ruth’s place, we meet a sketchy maintenance guy named Hank Fillmore. Hank’s got some shady dealings going on with the building manager’s brother, Chip, and a man named Harvey, who he speaks to on the phone after the cops get the keys from Marjorie (who had them the whole time). [These details may or may not be relevant to the larger plot but I figured I’d include them here because it’s Twin Peaks and you really never know what matters and what’s added for some local flavor.]
When the detectives finally get into Ruth’s apartment, they find her dead in her bed with a bullet hole through one eye. Homicide detective Constance Talbot arrives on the scene, and after it is photographed, they lift the blanket to reveal that Ruth’s head has been severed from her body, and the naked, headless body beneath hers belongs to an as-yet-unidentified man. Back at the station, Constance runs prints found at the scene, and while she doesn’t get a hit on the John Doe, she finds that a set of prints found all around the apartment belong to the town’s school principal, William Hastings (Matthew Lillard).
The most moving scene for me as a fan of the original series was the scene when Margaret Lanterman (aka The Log Lady) calls Deputy Chief Hawk. Actress Catherine Coulson, who played the Log Lady, was very ill and died of cancer shortly after filming her scenes for the revival. In her scenes, she has barely any hair and wears a breathing tube. She clutches her log and tells Hawk, “My log has a message for you. Something is missing and you have to find it. It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper. The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This is a message from the log.” It’s heartbreaking to watch as a fan, especially the shot of Hawk saying, “Goodbye, Margaret,” and then staring off into the distance. It plays as if Hawk’s scene was filmed after Coulson’s death, and that’s actor Michael Horse saying his own personal goodbye.
Hawk gathers the old evidence boxes from the Laura Palmer case and calls Andy and Lucy in to tell them about Margaret’s message. We learn that, as far as they all know, Agent Cooper has been missing for around 25 years (although the exact date and circumstances of his disappearance are not yet known). We also learn that Andy and Lucy’s son is named Wally. In the original series, the biological father of Lucy’s child was undetermined and Wally could either be Andy’s child or that of Dick Tremayne, an employee in the men’s fashion department at Horne’s department store. Regardless, they seem like a happy family. Andy and Lucy agree to help Hawk in the morning. And, yes, there will be coffee and donuts.
The Buckhorn police go to the Hastings’ home to arrest Bill and his wife Phyllis answers the door. Bill claims it must be a mistake and tells his wife to call their lawyer, George. She seems more concerned with the fact that they have dinner guests that evening than the fact that her husband is being taken away in handcuffs. At the station, Bill Hastings plays dumb when being interrogated by Detective Dave Mackley (who is an old friend of Bill’s) but it’s painfully clear to both the viewer and to Dave that Bill is lying about pretty much everything.
Bill denies really knowing Ruth (except to say hello) and says he’s never been in her apartment. When Dave asks him to recap his activities over the past several days, Bill says that he had a Thursday night meeting and “forgets” to mention that he drove his assistant, Betty, home that evening, which is why it took him longer than usual to get from the school to his home. It’s at this point that Bill asks to see his lawyer and begs Dave to tell him what’s really going on. Dave tells him the truth: Ruth Davenport has been murdered and his prints are everywhere.
Back at the Hastings’ place, the police have a warrant to search Bill’s house and car. When they search the trunk of his Volvo, they discover something that looks a whole lot like a piece of human flesh. There’s a nice callback in this scene as one of the Buckhorn detectives holds a broken flashlight that flickers on and off as they search the trunk. It’s reminiscent of the original-series scene in the Twin Peaks morgue when Agent Cooper is examining Laura Palmer’s body for the first time.
Part 1 ends as the credits roll over ??????? (aka The Giant) in the black-and-white room with the gramophone. [Note: in the original airing on Showtime, Parts 1 and 2 were played back-to-back and there were no credits here.]
The Return: Part 2
The second hour opens on Bill Hastings freaking out in his jail cell. His wife, Phyllis, is allowed some time alone with him but it doesn’t go particularly well. Turns out, Bill has been having an affair with Ruth Davenport and Phyllis knows all about it. Phyllis has her own sidepiece—the lawyer, George—and possibly another man as well.
Bill is acting strangely, even for a dude who is totally busted for an affair and possibly a murder. He tells Phyllis that he wasn’t in Ruth’s apartment that night but that he dreamed he was there, but she doesn’t believe him. From the way Bill is acting (and the dream he says he had), it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility that Bill Hastings is a host for a BOB-like entity and killed Ruth when he was possessed (á la Leland Palmer and his victims). Either way, Phyllis seems pretty happy that Bill is going to go down for this murder. From the way she smiles at him when she leaves, she may even have something to do with it.
In one of those bizarre Lynch moments, the camera pans over to a strange black figure sitting on a cot two cells over from Bill’s. Whatever-it-is soon fades out—all except the head, which floats up and away. If I didn’t think something unnatural was going on with Bill Hastings before, I sure as hell do now.
Phyllis has a brief conversation with George on her way out of the station, telling him that Bill knows and to meet her at her place later. When she gets home, Evil Coop is there in all his long-haired glory. Phyllis clearly knows him, but not why he is there. Evil Coop has George’s gun, tells Phyllis that she did good and “followed human nature perfectly,” and then he shoots her in the head. It’s a shot to the eye, just like Ruth Davenport’s, which may be Evil Coop’s signature kill-shot. Either way, we know that Evil Coop had something to do with Ruth Davenport’s murder (and probably the John Doe as well).
There is a brief scene that takes place in a new location: Las Vegas. A businessman named Mr. Todd calls his assistant, Roger, into his office and hands him two stacks of cash for an unnamed woman. Roger then asks Mr. Todd, “Why do you let him make you do these things?” and Mr. Todd responds that he hopes Roger never gets involved with a man like that. That’s all we get of these two for now but I have a feeling we’re not done with Vegas yet. Could Evil Coop’s reach extend as far as Sin City?
Back in South Dakota, Ray, Darya, Evil Coop, and an older man named Jack sit in a booth at a diner. We learn that Ray is supposed to be getting Evil Coop some information from Bill Hastings’s secretary, Betty, but that she’ll only give it to Ray. There’s obvious tension between Ray and Evil Coop, who goes out of his way to make sure Ray knows that he’s the boss. It seems like Evil Coop smells a double-cross, and from the way Darya is looking at Ray and at Coop, it seems like she’s in on it.
Back in Twin Peaks, Hawk is walking through the woods when he gets another call from Margaret. She gives him a new message from her log: “The stars turn and the time presents itself. Watch carefully.” She asks him over for pie and coffee but he’s almost at his destination: the ring of sycamore trees at Glastonbury Grove, which serves as the entrance (or one of the entrances) to the Black Lodge. Hawk shines his flashlight at the trees and the red curtains of the Waiting Room appear to him.
Inside the Waiting Room/Red Room we see Good Cooper and the One-Armed Man. The One-Armed Man says, “Is it future, or is it past?” For those who have not seen “The Missing Pieces” (nearly two hours of cut and extended scenes from Fire Walk With Me), it’s interesting to note that this same question—“Is it future or is it past?”—was posed to Good Cooper by the Man From Another Place in the Red Room when he shows him the green ring with the Own Cave symbol on it. Lynch has said that FWWM is important to understanding the new series and it’s no coincidence that this line appears here considering it was cut from the theatrical release of the film.
The One-Armed Man disappears and Laura Palmer enters. She has aged but is wearing the same black dress she wore in Agent Cooper’s first dream of the Red Room (Season 1, Episode 3) as well as in the original series finale. Laura tells Cooper, “You can go out now.” Laura’s dialogue is somewhat the same as it was in Cooper’s dream when he asks if she’s Laura Palmer and she responds, “I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” She then admits to being Laura Palmer and when Cooper says that Laura is dead, she replies, “I am dead, yet I live.” She then reaches up and removes her face to reveal a blinding white light.
When Cooper asks Laura when he can go, she gets up, crosses the room to him, kisses him, and whispers something in his ear. The scene is an exact replica of the scene in Cooper’s season 1 dream, when Laura kissed Cooper and whispered to him that her father killed her. As Laura backs away from him, she looks up and sees something that terrifies her. She begins to scream that iconic, blood-curdling, Laura Palmer scream and she’s swept up and away, leaving Cooper alone in the room. The curtains billow up to reveal a white horse (the same one Sarah Palmer used to see when Leland drugged her) and suddenly the One-Armed Man is back, again asking, “Is it future, or is it past?”
He motions for Cooper to follow him to another room where we encounter a super creepy entity that looks like a tree with a brain. This is “the evolution of the Arm,” which only makes sense in the context of the original series finale and Fire Walk With Me. In FWWM, the Man From Another Place tells Cooper, “I am the arm and I sound like this [whooping sound].” In the finale, the Man From Another Place tells Cooper, “When you see me again, it won’t be me.” The logical conclusion (if logic can be applied to anything created by David Lynch) is that the Brain Tree is the evolution of the Man From Another Place, who himself was an evolution of the Evil Arm that the One-Armed Man cut off. Because that all makes total sense, right? Moving on.
We get a repeat of the line, “I am the arm and I sound like this [electric static noise]” from the Evolution of the Arm (which I’m just gonna abbreviate as EOTA from now on). The EOTA then asks Cooper if he remembers his doppelganger. There’s some recycled finale footage of BOB and Evil Coop chasing Good Coop through the Red Rooms, and EOTA tells Cooper, “He must come back in before you can go out.” This is a key piece of information for the new series (and the Black Lodge mythology in general) because it is proof that it is possible for Good Coop to escape the Black Lodge, but only if Evil Coop/BOB comes back inside.
Back in Buckhorn, Evil Cooper puts his Mercedes in a storage unit and picks up another car that Jack has wired for him. Before he leaves, he does this weird smushing thing to Jack’s face (and whatever it is ends up killing him).
Evil Coop meets Darya in a motel room. She hangs up the phone just as he arrives and lies to him, saying it was Jack on the phone. He knows (and likely has known for a while) that she and Ray are betraying him and he grabs a hold of her on the bed and plays a recording of the conversation that she just had with Ray on the phone. It’s Cooper with a tape recorder, but he ain’t talkin’ to Diane. On the recording, Ray says that he’s in federal prison in South Dakota for crossing state lines with guns and that he got another call from Jeffries. This is presumably Philip Jeffries (played by the late, great David Bowie), the missing FBI agent who appeared (and then disappeared) in Fire Walk With Me.
Ray tells Darya that, if Cooper isn’t gone tomorrow, she has to take him out, and she agrees to do it. Evil Coop tells Darya he’s going to kill her and then gets some information out of her. She claims not to know who hired them to kill him but tells him that they are being paid half a million dollars to do it. Evil Coop tells her that he’s going away and that he’s “supposed to get pulled back into what they call the Black Lodge” but he’s not going back there. He’s got a plan.
We learn that the information he wanted from Hastings’s secretary involves geographic coordinates. He then pulls out a playing card—an Ace of Spades with a symbol on it and tells Darya, “This is what I want.” Whatever that symbol is, it seems to frighten her, but she doesn’t have that much time to think on it because he shoots her in the head with her own gun.
Evil Coop pulls out a suitcase with a laptop and some sort of communication device (which somehow involves his super-powered tape recorder). He speaks to who he initially believes to be Philip Jeffries, who says, “I missed you in New York” and “You met with Major Garland Briggs.” Jeffries (who may or may not be the actual Jeffries) tells Coop he called to say goodbye because Coop is going back into the Black Lodge tomorrow. Jeffries hangs up and Evil Coop uses his laptop and FBI identification codes and passwords to download the security system information and schematics for the federal prison in Yankton, South Dakota (which is where Ray would be, if his story is true). He then goes next door, where Chantal Hutchens (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is waiting for him. He tells her to clean up the Darya mess and then call her husband and tell him they need to be in a certain area in a few days.
Good Cooper is in the Waiting Room with the EOTA, which says, “253. Time and time again. Bob. Bob. Bob. Go now! Go now!” but Coop can’t get out the usual way and ends up running into Leland Palmer, who tells him to find Laura. The One-Armed Man senses that something is wrong, and the EOTA says it’s “my doppelganger.” Cooper finally finds an exit and opens the curtains to reveal the real world at the exact spot on the highway where Evil Coop is driving.
Suddenly, the Venus statue morphs into the EOTA’s doppelganger which screeches and screams, “Non-exist-ent!” The floor shakes and opens up and Cooper falls through space, eventually landing on top of the glass box in New York City. The box is extended outside the building and Cooper is absorbed through the glass and floats inside through the portal window. No one is there to see him (but it is being recorded) and it cuts to Sam and Tracey in the waiting room. Coop enters the glass box at the same time as Sam is looking in the bathroom for the missing security guard. Before Sam and Tracey enter the room, Coop is sucked back out of the box and back into space. This sets up a timeline for the figure that appeared in the box earlier—whatever it is that killed Sam and Tracey was there just after Coop was in the box. Of course, time is all kinds of wonky when it comes to the Black Lodge. After all, is it future, or is it past?
Back in Twin Peaks we catch up with poor Sarah Palmer for the first time. She sits alone in the Palmer house, surrounded by full ashtrays and liquor bottles, chain smoking and watching a gruesome nature show in which a group of predator big cats devour the face of their prey. She doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the show, or maybe she’s just totally blasted on Bloody Marys and doesn’t even know where she is. Either way, the years have not been kind to Sarah Palmer.
Finally, we end up at the Roadhouse (aka The Bang-Bang Bar), which was a central location in the original series and which featured the iconic music of Julee Cruise that provided much of the soundtrack for the show. These days, there’s a new act at the Roadhouse (The Chromatics) but the style of music still has that dreamy quality that Cruise’s music always had. There’s a guy behind the bar who looks exactly like Jacques Renault (and is played by the same actor, Walter Olkewicz). Per the end credits, this new bartender’s name is Jean-Michael Renault—another one of the seemingly endless amount of Renaults that have popped up in Twin Peaks.
We see Shelly Johnson drinking with a group of her girlfriends, and we learn that she’s got a daughter named Becky (who I REALLY hope is Bobby’s daughter because then her name will be Becky Briggs). Apparently Becky has a shitty boyfriend named Steven and Shelly is concerned—and if anyone knows shitty boyfriends, it’s Shelly, so I trust her. Shelly is making eyes at some dude named Red who is sitting at the bar. I’m going to assume this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of this guy.
Enter good old James Hurley. I will admit that I was a member of the James Hurley Haters Society, but I have to admit, after all the insanity of these first two hours, it was really good to see ol’ James at the Roadhouse. James is checking out one of Shelly’s friends, Renee (Jessica Szohr), and we learn that at some point James had a motorcycle accident that made him “quiet.” There’s a little tongue-in-cheek moment where Shelly tells her friends, “James is still cool. James was always cool”—a message from Lynch and Frost to the Hurley haters, perhaps?
The episode ends as The Chromatics perform “Shadow,” a song that almost immediately went into rotation on my iPod. The end credits roll over their performance, which was a cool way to end the episode and one that I hope becomes a regular thing. Speaking of music, the first two hours of Twin Peaks did not include a lot of it, which is a huge departure from the original series, which used the music of Angelo Badalamenti and Julee Cruise to great effect. The first two hours of The Return used music sparingly, going more for sound effects (many of them electrical in nature). It was effective and set the appropriate tone, but I do hope that future episodes make more use of Badalamenti’s talents.
Parts 1 and 2 were a wild ride, start to finish, and they set the tone for an altogether different kind of Twin Peaks experience. It’s one that I’m already completely invested in and I feel #blessed to know that there are sixteen more hours of this insanity to go. I’ve long since stopped making predictions or wish-lists for the revival. Now it’s time to just kick back with some coffee every Sunday and let David Lynch do his thing.