Red Balloons, Golden Shovels, Green Jackets: Return Rewatch Part 5

It took me until May 21st, 2018 to realize that was Mike Nelson from the original series of Twin Peaks, berating Steven for being a joke of a job candidate in Part 5 of The Return. How did I miss that? There’s so much going on in this series, upon first viewing I was having an emotional breakdown, that’s how. By this point Lynch is driving me no less than batshit and he’s doing it on purpose.

It’s why I love him so much, I expect him to challenge me. Yet I always take the bait.

Just a little anecdote — I can’t say how many of you did the same, bit I suspect it’s most of our readers: I binged Parts 1-4 on the night of the premiere, so Part 5 was my first taste of The Return after a two-week withdrawal period. After initially binging four solid hours of pure Lynchian madness, a singular hour of this monster of a series felt deeply unsatisfying. It felt wonderful, but was just nowhere near enough.

If I had one complaint about the original presentation of Twin Peaks: The Return, it’s that I believe we should have gotten nine two-hour episodes every week. That’s just me.

Part 5 is the episode where we truly begin losing it as viewers, where David Lynch and Mark Frost’s troll job with the absence of Dale Cooper really starts to take hold. We’re not yet far enough into the series where we’ve accepted…this is the show. This isn’t setup to get a more familiar plot rolling; the plot has been rolling right along for five hours now. This is pretty much how things are going to be for the entirety of the revival. It still feels like any minute Cooper is going to drink that coffee and suddenly remember who he is. Then he’ll start taking care of business. By around Part 6 and the show is officially one-third of the way through its run, it’s becoming apparent to me that Cooper isn’t coming back anytime soon, if at all.

Part 5 is so maddening upon first viewing, especially as Coffee Gopher stands in an elevator providing “Damn good Joe” to Cooper — at this point I hadn’t started calling the sedated Dale Cooper in a green jacket “Dougie,” but within an episode or two it would happen organically. Surely Cooper just hasn’t had enough coffee yet. This will jolt him awake — nothing doing.

Here’s a rundown of some of my select thoughts upon first viewing of Part 5:

  • “OK, now who the hell is this lady?”
  • “Bob lives in his face!”
  • “Why is Cooper crying? Did Sonny Jim just blink backwards? Is everything The Black Lodge?”
  • “Is that the creepy brother from Get Out? He plays good junkie. What is he doing here?”
  • “Mr Strawberry? That guy hasn’t played baseball in almost twenty years. Is Coopleganger somehow in a ‘90s timeline and an intense Yankees fan?”
  • “What the hell kinda Alex Jones shit has Dr. Jacoby fallen into.”
  • “How in the hell did we get to Argentina?”
  • “Oh, yes…of course the blinking box imploded. What else would I expect?”

This Part touched on many plot points I was deeply curious about but never really got any resolution on. One-one-nine Mom, for example. Originally I saw the red balloon behind her, then later saw a red balloon behind Janey-E and considered the possibility of Janey-E and Sonny Jim being a contrast of One-one-nine Mom and her son. Not a doppelgänger per se, as they look nothing alike, but just an inversion of sorts. It wouldn’t be entirely out of sorts with the series. And who knows, maybe they are just that. It’s difficult to tell as this subplot seems to taper off just as unceremoniously as the beeping box in Argentina. Seriously, why on Earth is Twin Peaks showing us scenes taking place in Argentina anyway? This is not the Twin Peaks any of us remember.

Watching this Part now I find myself retrospectively stricken with the realization that this time last year, I was still looking for a direct lead-in to the original series. Still waiting for this to somehow become the Twin Peaks my mother was watching in the early ‘90s. It would of course never become any such thing.

Not that it’s a bad thing; in fact truth be told, I’m personally a bigger fan of Lynch’s work as a filmmaker than I am his work with the original Twin Peaks series. However, there is a certain precedent which gave me some level of expectations for the new incarnation of Peaks. This initial frustration is my own fault. As an avid Lynch fan, I should know better than to consider direct continuity a factor in the work of he who is called The Man With the Gray Elevated Hair.

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Don’t worry guys, we’ll be back to this in no time.

Still, we’re given so many shades of the original Twin Peaks in Part 5 of The Return, so many subtle imprints being drawn just close enough to the surface to keep us engaged, but never really going anywhere. Sometimes literally. We watch as Bob becomes barely discernible beneath the surface of Mr. C’s reflection. A young man sits at a booth resembling Audrey Horne, even holding his cigarette in a similar fashion — completely intentionally, now that I reflect. At the time though, I was beginning to think maybe I was just looking for connections anywhere I could find them.

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Yes, we’ll be back to the old show in no time at all. This scene with Jim Belushi and a bunch of showgirls in Las Vegas is definitely the key to getting our beloved Cooper back to the RR for pie and coffee.

Lynch and Frost knew what they were doing; none of this was accidental. They were monkeying with us. Certain corners of the internet were cynical regarding this approach. Many people were commenting that Lynch and Frost were laughing at their fans, trying to piss us off. Taking their frustrations out on us and essentially giving us the finger. That’s not a vibe I ever got. To me, it felt much more good-natured. Something akin to my grandfather playing a joke on me as a child. Perhaps I was frustrated in the moment, but I’m laughing with him upon reflection.

You went back and made a third season of Twin Peaks and the beloved main character is essentially absent for the vast majority of the show.

OK, you got me. That’s actually pretty funny.

Rewatching this Part reminds me that while there are a lot of seemingly unresolved plot points, red herrings, and just blatant attempts to drive us nuts sprinkled throughout the series, The Return is a lot more enjoyable upon second viewing. We can stop forcing our expectations on the show and instead just watch the cleverly crafted writing and directing. We can laugh at ourselves upon realizing how good Lynch and Frost got us. We can appreciate the genius and, quite frankly, the balls it took to not only subvert expectations heavily, but to nudge the audience as they so exquisitely did.

This isn’t to suggest I didn’t enjoy the series upon first viewing. Much the contrary, I preferred it even then to the original series, but there was just an unmistakable frustration of “Where the hell is this all going?” I couldn’t shake it for the entirety of the series. Part 5 exemplifies this particular aspect of the series, probably better than any episode I can think of.

Is Cooper looking at that statue thinking of Sheriff Truman? The statue does look a bit like Truman. And look, more red balloons behind it. What does it all mean?

It means this episode is over.

But Coop will definitely be back in Part 6. You can tell he’s starting to remember.

It’s obvious.


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