In the week following each “part”, the r/twinpeaks sub-Reddit conducts a survey rating the current episode on a scale of 1 to 10. Part 12 received the lowest rating of any part yet with a 5.8 . This beat out the second most disliked episode, Part 10 with a score of 7.2, by a pretty wide margin. These are the hardcore Twin Peaks fans we’re talking about here, so this score is expressing some fairly extreme disappointment in this episode. That survey also tracks and ranks one-word summaries of each part, and among the top ten for Part 12 were “boring” (#2), “disappointing” (#5), “frustrating” (#7) and “shit” (#10). Reddit can be a little rough. So what is it about this episode that has fans so bored, disappointed and frustrated?
You don’t have to read very far through comments on any social media platform (Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) before you run into someone saying “Lynch is trolling us.” In fact, this comment has been prevalent since the premier, when many fans’ expectations of a self-indulgent nostalgia fest were shattered like the jaw of Buella’s guard in that first dark scene with Bad Cooper. But let’s take a step back first and define “trolling”.
The Urban Dictionary provides many definitions , but a few of the more applicable ones include:
- The art of deliberately, cleverly, and secretly pissing people off
- Trying to get a rise out of someone
- The act of purposefully antagonizing other people
So right from the start, fans have felt that Lynch was purposely trying to antagonize them by not giving them the Twin Peaks they wanted. Showtime is partially to blame for some of these expectations, although indirectly, it leads back to Lynch again. To maintain his black ops level of secrecy, most of the pre-season promotional material was centered on the old cast members. Interviews, promo shots, and preview clips – all centered around the old characters. Even though a cast list of 217 was announced , many fans focused on “the return” to the Twin Peaks they knew and loved.
Some saw the writing on the wall, predicting that this season would separate the Twin Peaks fans from the David Lynch fans. Perhaps no moment highlighted the difference between those two groups more than the now infamous sweeping scene of Part 7. For two-and-a-half minutes, we watch some random guy sweep the floor of the Roadhouse while the latest Renault incarnation cleans glasses behind the bar. Twin Peaks: The Gifted And The Damned podcast  coined a term early on for these moments that they called double-L: “Languid Lynch”. Here was “Languid Lynch” in his full glory.
The Lynch directed episodes of the original series featured these same type of moments though. Señor Droolcup delivering milk to a gunshot Agent Cooper. Dell Mibbler getting Audrey a glass of water. Fans decried Lynch’s lack of involvement with season 2 and lauded the fact that every episode of season 3 would be directed by him and him alone. However, you don’t get Lynch without “Languid Lynch”. This isn’t Lynch trolling us, this is just Lynch being Lynch. This has always been part of the show.
Another source of accusations of trolling come from the the character of Dougie Jones. Or rather, Agent Cooper living out the life of Dougie Jones in a catatonic stupor. Here again, fan expectations have been played upon, and we did not get the Agent Cooper we wanted. Week after frustrating week, Cooper is exposed to elements of his past life, coffee and pie, phrases like “agent” and “case files”, and his own mutterings like “damn fine”. And week after week he continues to not “wake up”.
In fact, this brings up another bit of fun Lynch and Frost (yes, it would be a mistake to not credit him for all of this as well) have been having with us. Characters on the show have been acting as our surrogates, in a self-referential meta expression of the viewers’ frustration. In Part 6, Philip Gerard urged Good Cooper to “wake up”, which is exactly what many of us had been screaming at our TV for weeks. The Mitchum brothers are pulling their hair out at Candie taking “four fucking hours” to bring up the insurance guy. Frank Truman stares down Wally Brando with an “alrighty then” look on his face that is priceless. These moments are there to let us know that they understand exactly what they are doing to us.
The flip side of those meta moments lies in the easy acceptance of these slow moments by characters in the show. The unperturbable Frank Truman takes in not only Wally’s soliloquy, but also the rantings of his distraught wife, with the patience of a saint. The normally very perturbable Albert waits patiently while Gordon’s lady friend takes several minutes to make her exit. Everyone in Dougie’s life, friends, family and coworkers alike, takes Good Cooper’s catatonic behavior in stride. We are teased several times with people wanting to take him to a doctor, and time after time they just drop it or something else comes up. When Janey-E finally does take him to a doctor, he only gets a physical and once again the doctor fails to notice Dougie’s predilection for shiny objects.
These moments, acknowledged and unacknowledged, are deliberate, clever and purposeful. There can be no denying that. But are they there to antagonize us? Well, yes and no. Let’s explore one more example before I explain.
Audrey may well be the most beloved character from the origin series. Actress Sherilyn Fenn had a small army at her command it seemed during the period of Lynch dropping out of negotiations with Showtime. The response that she and her fellow actors brought to bear with their “No Lynch, No Peaks” campaign is, no doubt, directly responsible for the show getting back on track and being made . So fans reasonably expected David to reward the actors and their fans when the show came to being, especially Audrey.
And then they were made to wait. And wait. And wait. One by one, every other member of the Horne family was paraded out on screen: Ben, Jerry, Sylvia, Johnny. Even a *new* member of the Horne clan, Richard Horne, was made a prominent character on the show. And yet, no Audrey. She wasn’t even mentioned until Part 7, with Frank’s call to Dr. Hayward, and that came with a reminder that last we heard of Audrey, she was left in a coma from that awfulness at the bank.
The wait until Part 12 for her reintroduction seemed, and undoubtedly was, purposeful. She had to have an important role, maybe the anonymous billionaire? Maybe the key to Good Cooper’s recovery? But the big reveal was nothing of the sort. The camera initially panned past her without even a hiccup, giving many a startling “was that just Audrey?!” double take. Her situation was less than glamorous, married to an odious man, a contract marriage at that, having an affair with another man who disappeared, surrounded by people she didn’t like and couldn’t trust.
For the fans who were not all that hung up on Audrey’s absence thus far, this really did seem like an amusing bit of trolling. There were even comments that the character was being punished because Fenn had been difficult to work with, causing delays and a recasting just to meet her availability. At least she didn’t get turned into a brain tree, we joked. Her fans, on the other hand, scrambled to make sense of her situation. Maybe they were just acting in a play. Maybe they were role playing as part of a therapy session. Maybe she was still in a coma, or dead even. All the while, the rest of us scoffed and said no, that was reality, just deal with it.
Then Part 13 came along and gave us a continuation of that scene. The scoffing stopped. Now it really looks like she might be living some sort of a dream or, rather, a nightmare. All the time we spent with “Dougie” had disavowed us of the idea that anything we were being shown was a dream. We foolishly thought we knew what was going on. It wasn’t the Audrey fans who were trolled, it was us. In fact, I’ve even gone so far as to say this is the purpose behind placing Audrey so late in the show.
Because that’s how it works on this masterfully crafted show. One episode sets up an expectation, and the next one comes along and demolishes it. I wrote about this in the article We Are All Chad. Frost and Lynch can say it’s an 18 hour movie all they want, but it’s clear the episodic format is being used to generate this effect. Every mystery on the show is rolled out in layers like the peeling of an onion, except that so many of these next layers take a 90 degree turn from the direction we thought we were going.
To play on the cliche line of Bad Cooper, Lynch and Frost are giving us the Twin Peaks we need, not the Twin Peaks we want. We’re not supposed to “want”. That’s the lesson.
Another regular feature on Reddit and Facebook alike has been the pre-show prediction thread. More and more, these threads have been filled, not with predictions, but with people saying they’ve given up trying to predict where things are going and are just trying to enjoy the show. I would say though that it’s not that you can’t make any predictions. Frost and Lynch know that’s part of the fun of watching the show in its real time, serialized format. We are supposed to think over what we’ve been shown and theorize about what it could all mean. But when the week is over and the new episode airs, you have to let your expectations go and be amazed at what they did instead. And if you got one right, then good on you.
So are we being trolled? I say absolutely, we are. It’s all part of the fun, part of the experience. Every one of these “trolling” moments is like an inside joke that we’re being let in on. And when you hear that the Roadhouse is proud to present… James Hurley, just smile to yourself and give a little nod to the masters. Trolled again. I love it.
Footnotes and References:
1. [S3E12] Results of the post-episode survey (Overall score: 5.8), https://www.reddit.com/r/twinpeaks/comments/6r05oy/s3e12_results_of_the_postepisode_survey_overall/
2. “No Lynch, No Peaks!”: Auteurism, fan/actor campaigns and the challenges of Twin Peaks’ return(s) | Williams | Series – International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, https://series.unibo.it/article/view/6591
3. Urban Dictionary: Trolling, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=trolling
4. Twin Peaks: The Gifted And The Damned podcast, http://twinpeaksthegiftedandthedamned.libsyn.com/
5. ‘Twin Peaks’ Cast List Revealed, http://variety.com/2016/tv/news/twin-peaks-cast-list-revealed-1201759934/