The Return premiered here in Spain at around 3am Monday morning, and the prospect of staying awake until then, and then watching nearly four hours of new Twin Peaks was something I considered, but not for very long. Twin Peaks has been a part of my life since 1990, and whilst I was ecstatic at its return – a hope I’d long since given up on – I felt it deserved to be treated with respect. I needed to be awake enough to absorb it fully, to appreciate whatever new version of this world was going to be unleashed on us. I’d waited 27 years, so one day was of no real consequence.
So, after a full day of avoiding the Internet in case I accidentally eyeballed a spoiler, I settled in on Monday evening (you can’t watch Twin Peaks in the daytime, it’s wrong) with the obligatory coffee and donuts. I’d considered trying to hold off on the third and fourth Parts until the following weekend, but after watching the first two Parts there was no chance that was happening. I was fully in it and the story seemed to be just getting going. Cooper’s overly-tanned doppelgänger is rampaging around, punching people, shooting people, and squishing people’s faces. There’s a murder mystery going on in South Dakota, a glass box in New York that seems to be some kind of inter-dimensional junction for slashy monsters and lost FBI agents, various plot threads are kicking off in Twin Peaks itself, and Cooper himself has been given extremely vague instructions and then kicked into space by an angry doppeltree.
Whilst there was a lot going on, in multiple locations, I could see that these were required initial moves, setting all the parts in place to weave together a story, and as I had very little idea how it would all come together, I absolutely needed, not wanted, to find out more. So clearly there would be no sleeping, and, fuelled by more coffee and another doughnut I moved swiftly on to Part 3, to learn more about how all these threads will tie together (such naïveté).
What did I expect from Part 3? It seemed like the first two Parts had done a good job of setting the scene and introducing the main characters. Cooper had left the Red Room, albeit in a fairly violent fashion, and believing the glass box to be a way-station or junction of some sort, I thought it likely that he would end up somewhere – maybe not in Twin Peaks but in Buckhorn – and get embroiled in whatever was going on there. This seemed a likely scenario which would in time lead him back to Twin Peaks and whatever was going on there, more than likely at the same time as Mr C. and the town would witness a final confrontation between Coop and his darker side. Maybe this time he’d face it with perfect courage. Also he would need to remember all the names and numbers people kept yammering on about. He should have jotted those things down really. Perhaps his pad had run out in the 25 years he’d spent wandering between curtained rooms, full of hastily scrawled directions to avoid those strobe-lit rooms filled with weird screaming ladies.
The first two Parts had been interesting, a little quirky, but far more straightforward than I’d been expecting after Lynch’s more recent creations like Mulholland Drive, Rabbits and Inland Empire. Obviously only Lynch could produce scenes where the focus is on a giant taking about a gramophone, a talking brain tree, and a mysterious magic glass box, and still leave me wondering where the weird was. Fortunately Part 3 swiftly provided the weird.
As Cooper plummets violently through a star field we get a glimpse of some kind of smoke ball expanding and unfurling in the midst of a purple space, filled with lighter smoke. It starts slow, but becomes more energetic. It seems to be where Cooper is heading to. On initial viewing this all happened so quickly and so early in the episode that I didn’t take in many details, but on rewatching it almost seems as if something is being born or created, specifically for Cooper to enter. Is this a portal, or is a dimension being created as we watch? It has similarities to the atomic explosion in Part 8, but as if underwater. Are both acts of creation of some sort?
As Cooper lands in the mauve world, and enters the building we get a glimpse of a warmly lit room and a woman in a red dress who appears to have no eyes, who we later know as Naido. So far so weird, but as Cooper approaches her is where (if you’ll pardon my language) shit starts to get real. As soon as Cooper enters the room proper, time starts to go insane, flickering, jumping back, stuttering, speeding up and skipping. Either we can’t hear the sounds properly viewing as we are from outside this zone, or sound behaves differently inside it too, along with time.
All this happened too quickly and was too much of a surprise for me to take in many details at the time, as I just entered a kind of trance and let this strangeness unfold before me. It’s only rewatching that certain things become clearer, as I am less distracted by the jerky bizarre nature of the scene.
It seems now that Naido holds out her hands in a gesture of greeting, as if she was expecting Cooper? She holds his hands like a friend, not a stranger. We know now that Diane and Naido are one and the same. Kind of. In some way I cannot describe logically even now. Is it Diane waiting for Cooper to emerge here? Is Diane aware of this loop they find themselves in, where Cooper seems to reset every time, half-remembering but never quite escaping? Cooper looks around the room, and asks “Where is this? Where are we?”, his confusion echoing the final lines from Part 18, “What year is this?”. Likewise, as Naido touches Coopers face it too feels reminiscent of Part 18, when Diane touches Coopers face as she has sex with him. It seems merely the touch of a concerned woman on first viewing, but in hindsight, perhaps there’s more to it, Diane trying to communicate to Cooper, to trigger a memory.
Often throughout these scenes, despite the frantic banging on metal, the palpable tension and impending danger, Cooper appears untouched, as if he knows what will happen, or has a sense at least that he will come to no harm. Knowing what we know now it seems clear that he’s done this at least once before. He is unsure, but there is a sense of familiarity.
On top of the strange box in space, Naido is clearly about to make some kind of sacrifice to save Cooper from something, and he clearly understands that a sacrifice is being made and doesn’t want her to do it for him, but she insists.
I recall with amusement the memory of Major Briggs big giant head floating by as Cooper stood on top of a box in space. It hasn’t ceased to be amusing, especially as I’m none the wiser as to why it happened. He says “Blue Rose”, perhaps to elucidate rather redundantly that some weird shit is going down, then floats on by, to wherever disembodied incorporeal heads go to after delivering important, yet vague and unhelpful, messages. Maybe ice cream.
Faced with another jump into the unknown, Cooper descends into the interior of the box again, but all is quiet now. It’s the same room, but it seems better lit, and calmer, There’s a woman sat on the sofa with her back to us. It doesn’t seem to be the same woman but it’s not clear yet. The device is still there but now has the number 3 on it. This didn’t occur to me at the time, but put the numbers 3 and 15 together and you of course get 315, the number of Cooper’s room in The Great Northern. It isn’t important to the plot, but Lynch likes numbers, and we have a lot of numbers in The Return.
Back in the room with American Girl/Ronette Pulaski (whom I didn’t recognise at the time), Cooper stares with what I like to think now is a hint of strained recognition, as if he remembers something but isn’t quite sure what. She raises her watch and we see it change from 2:52 to 2:53. It was clearly meant to be important, but at the time, obviously made no sense. 2:53 is a symbol that has a lot of significance in The Return. I won’t delve too deeply down that particular rabbit hole right now, but it definitely seems to be a time of significance when it comes to travel between realities or dimensions. The Evolution of The Arm says “253, time and time again”.
There are deep rabbit holes of numerological and gnostic theory that have been postulated by others since, and that I’ve come across since first watching, having no clue what all these numbers were about. Lynch is famously interested in numerology and whilst it has been scattered quietly through his works, The Return is more blatant in stating how important the numbers are. 315 adds up to 9, which is a number associated with self-sacrifice and spiritual awakening. 253 adds up to 10, the number of completion as Cole himself says. There’s a lot more to all this, but you can google it if you’re interested. Additionally there is some interesting stuff if you look at the tree of life in Kabbalistic tradition. The third sephira, Binah, means ‘Understanding’, but another title means ‘The Mother’. There are countless interpretative roads you can go down, but as Lynch isn’t going to tell us, there is no way of knowing for sure.
Looking back at this Part in particular there seems to be many moments where Cooper is on the verge of remembering things, as if he’s been here before. He instinctively knows what he’s doing, what is happening, but doesn’t quite remember why or what it means. 2:53 is a liminal time, a time when passage between realities is possible, and maybe also a time when a choice of realities is possible. What “time and time again” means is debatable, but perhaps an overriding theme of The Return is of trying to escape from a loop, of waking up and doing things differently, of breaking out of a pattern. Literally digging yourself out of the shit. But, 2:53 seems to be the allotted time for the transfer of Mr C. back to the Black Lodge, and Cooper back to the world, but Mr C’s schemes and machinations manage to foil this. As Mr C tries to resist the siren song of his car cigarette lighter socket, Cooper is being sucked into the device’s electrical socket. There is a sense here not only of electrical energy, but of electro-magnetism as well. They are both being pulled inexorably back to their rightful places by forces hard to resist.
My thoughts at this point were that an exchange would take place between Cooper and Mr C, and while Cooper was drawn into some earthly mystery, his doppelgänger would possibly continue his campaign to escape the Black Lodge and perhaps try to gain dominance over MIKE and the other entities of the Lodgespace. Fun as that may have been, it wasn’t to be. Cue Dougie.
It was a fairly hard jolt, moving from around twenty minutes of pure Lynchian surrealism to fat old Dougie in a hotel room. We learn very quickly that his arm is numb and tingly, a surefire sign that he’s in possession of the Owl Cave Ring. At the time though, it was unclear exactly who or what Dougie was. As we learn later when Dougie is transported to the Red Room, he was manufactured for a purpose. It seems clear that Mr C was involved somehow, in an attempt to stop himself from being sent back to the Red Room when Cooper came back. Instead, poor old Dougie is sent back, and for some reason, Cooper loses his mind as he is transferred back in Dougie’s place. It all makes a rough kind of sense, and was enough at the time of first watching, but on closer inspection I have some issues, which I probably shouldn’t given that this is Lynch, and he’s not one to worry overly about logic.
Nonetheless, it bothers me that there seem to be some overriding rules to Lodgespace that are pulling Mr C. back to The Lodge. He has to return for Cooper to come out. This doesn’t seem to be a decision made by MIKE or other entities in the Lodge but an inviolate rule. For Mr C to be able to get around this by whipping up a fat tulpa to take his place seems to make a mockery of the power of the Lodge. I can only justify this to myself now by considering the glass box and the Owl Cave Ring as elements Mr C used to divert Cooper, shield himself in some way and to present Dougie as an acceptable vessel for the transference rather than himself. Even so, it took a lot of effort and holding in of garmonvomit to stop himself being sucked into the Owl Cave cigarette lighter. It’s good enough. I can go with it.
That first half an hour of Part 3 was exactly what I had been wanting from a new Twin Peaks. As we moved onto follow Dougie’s escapades with Jade, avoiding being shot by unknown assailants, calling for help and his initial bumblings in the casino, I was really just recovering from that adrenalin-fuelled rampage through Lynch’s dreamscape. The return to the town of Twin Peaks seemed particularly slow-paced after that, and as Andy, Lucy and Hawk gathered in the Sheriffs Station to find something that was missing I didn’t pay much attention at the time to the pacing. It was Andy, Lucy and Hawk! It was just great to see them. Watching it now, the delivery of lines seems deliberately slow. I couldn’t really work it out. It seemed very much like a scene that would have been in the original series, but something was different. Then it hit me. This scene would normally have had a background track of some slow, quirky Badalamenti jazz. With no music behind it, it just seems kind of odd, and out of place. I was intrigued, so I cued up some finger-snapping incidental music from the original show and replayed the scene. Sure enough, it was transformed into a totally different scene, not far off from what I remembered, although still had overtly deliberately delivered lines. I’m not sure what the thinking behind this lack of incidental music was, or the effect Lynch was going for beyond trying to make viewers of the original show somewhat confused, but it’s interesting nonetheless.
Dougies adventures in the casino were entertaining on first watch. I wasn’t sure where they were going, and it seems now that the only real purpose was so that Dougie would be introduced to the Mitchum brothers and also to have a lot of fun along the way. It’s a typically Lynchian diversion. Where many directors would go from A to B in once or two quick scenes, Lynch seems to delight in following Dougie around the casino, each “Hellloooooo” increasing the confused Dougie’s riches. The little Red Room glyphs seemed a little cheesy on first watch, and well, they are still a bit cheesy from a special effects point of view, but this is not something that bothers Lynch much either. It serves a purpose, and I think that is to show us that forces are at work, guiding Cooper as Dougie, providing him with what he needs, maybe nudging him in the direction of the people he needs to be in the right place at the right time with, unbeknownst to him. Is MIKE the protagonist here, or the Fireman, or other entities? It’s not clear, but it is clearer on rewatches that Dougie is being watched over, and guided. Maybe he was tricked by Mr C. but maybe he was allowed to be tricked as well. Long games are at play here, and Mr C. may just be a very small player.
I think the most telling difference between my first watch of The Return and later viewings is that I just wanted to get back to the town of Twin Peaks then. I wanted to re-immerse myself in the silky smooth weirdness of the inhabitants, and go home for the first time in over 25 years. Of course, that town doesn’t exist anymore, something Lynch and Frost went to great pains to show us. That’s ok, but now I’m over that desire to go home; it’s the threads outside Twin Peaks that fascinate me more. I want to know more about the glass box, I needed more in South Dakota. I probably could have done with a little less Dougie, in return for those things, but it was a fun journey nonetheless. I never expected to get more Twin Peaks, and we got a whole lot more, and a whole new world to delve into. Hopefully not for another 25 years, but we can wait. We’re patient.