Plot Resolutions, Tulpas, and Peanuts: Return Rewatch Part 7

I can’t be the only one who secretly hoped Diane was just the name Cooper gave to his tape recorder, can I? Perhaps it’s a silly thing to hope for, but I liked the quirkiness of the idea. This isn’t to say I was at all displeased with Laura Dern’s performance as Diane, or with the presence of Diane in general in Twin Peaks: The Return. Much the contrary, I fully dug the character.

Well, I enjoyed what I saw of her anyway. Technically we’re going to find out later that this is a “tulpa” and that who we’re seeing for numerous episodes isn’t really Diane. It has that Mad-Eye Moody quality from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire, doesn’t it? Fans often associate Moody with being how he’s portrayed in The Goblet of Fire, as that’s where we first meet him, but we often fail to remember… it’s not really him, it’s someone posing as him. In retrospect, it gives the character something of an enigmatic quality. The same thing can be said for Diane. We’re seeing Diane’s emotional breakdowns and feisty “fuck you Tammy” attitude, and I suppose that’s close enough to her real personality to allow Gordon Cole and Albert to play along, but I’m left with the question of how similar, or dissimilar Diane’s real personality would have been, if we’d actually observed the real Diane for as long as we observed her tulpa. If you want to push it a step further, we technically see Diane much more briefly than I initially realized. First she’s Naido, or so it seems. Then she’s Diane, for a little while, but somewhere post-creepy-as-all-hell-coitus, Diane then becomes Linda and dips out on Coooper, leaving only a note — bad form, Linda/Diane.

This is actually a break-up letter from Sex and the City, but it’s similar.

If you’re confused by that last paragraph, it’s OK, so am I.

But as I rewatch Part 7 I’m stricken with the understanding that Diane is insinuating Evil Cooper has raped her and I’m unsure if he’s raped the real Diane, her Tulpa, or both. Then her ominous exchange with Gordon Cole is thereby rendered even more ambiguous than it initially was. Is she talking about herself? Is she talking about Coop? Is she talking about both? Is Gordon onto her? Do tulpas have all the same memories as their original? It didn’t seem like tulpa Dougie did.

If I were going to point to a glaring flaw within Twin Peaks: The Return, this would probably be my goto and I think I have a reasonable explanation as to why. Lynch has a way with making people feel exactly what he wants them to feel, even if they don’t understand what is exactly going on in the film. It’s a signature quality. In this case, I don’t feel much of anything other than confusion. This would be fine, I think, if I’d felt some initial confusion, rewatched it, and then gained some perspective, however slight, but the opposite happened. When I first watched Part 7, this scene hit me pretty hard, and I felt like I had a general understanding of the implications. But upon rewatch, it’s more confusing than before and less emotional. Now it feels like kind of a mess. It doesn’t ruin the show for me or anything of the sort. It’s just a moment I can point to where I felt…maybe this was a misstep. Whatever Lynch was going for here, I’m not sure it worked. It’s only worth mentioning because I so rarely feel any need to be critical of Lynch’s work.

Ironically*, one of the only weak points I found within the season comes in the midst of one of the most eventful and solid episodes of the entire series. In 2017 this was the episode where I was finally starting to feel like everything was coming together. We got Hawk discovering the pages in the bathroom stall, Diane is making contact with Evil Cooper, we’re figuring out the body belongs to Major Briggs, that gray lunatic is back and seems unfriendly as ever, we get confirmation Audrey has been in a coma and that Evil Cooper probably did something awful to her, Cooper Karate Chops a small feller by the name of Ike the Spike — which doesn’t really provide any resolution per se, but I’m sure as hell not arguing with it — and we still have time to watch a random guy sweep peanuts off the Roadhouse floor for what seems like far too long.

This is a classic episode, sincerely.

Not that I want to keep talking about other episodes in my review for Part 7, but in retrospect, Part 7 is such a perfect lead-in to the infamous Part 8. So much action, plot development, and implications packed into a single hour or so of television, leading into a kind of beautiful intermission. Such well-paced work really ought to win an award of some kind…maybe a lot of awards.

Emmys aside, for a show often accused by detractors as being intentionally vague and anti-climactic, lacking in resolution, Part 7 of The Return stands defiant of such claims. By this point in the series we’ve had a ton of questions from the first two seasons answered. We know Diane is a real person, we know where some of the missing pages from Laura’s book went, we even know for certain that Audrey…sort of survived the explosion. Most of the questions I had from the first two seasons are at least somewhat answered throughout The Return, many of them right here in Part 7.

The problem people seem to be having is that Twin Peaks: The Return doesn’t exist merely to answer the questions of the original series. We’re getting a whole new set of questions now. If Mark Frost and David Lynch had set out solely to tie up all the loose ends of the original Twin Peaks, that could have been done with a movie. At any time, I’d bet Lynch could have gotten funding to direct such a film. It wouldn’t have cost that much to make and almost certainly would have made its budget back, and then some, at the box office and/or streaming. Netflix would have almost certainly gone for it.

But neither Frost nor Lynch wanted to necessarily tie up loose ends, that would be easy and probably pointless. Part 7 of the return really exemplifies just how quick and easy it could be. Twin Peaks didn’t return to television as an epilogue, Lynch and Frost wanted to make something that stood on its own as a fully realized work of art. They answered some questions and then raised new ones. They did it because The Return wasn’t intended to be fan service, it was meant to be a new and challenging television series, every bit as unconventional and challenging as its first iteration, but for audiences as desensitized as they are today.

Whether it’s formally recognized at an awards ceremony or not, I think most of us can agree they succeeded.

*I use the term ‘ironic’ with the understanding that some pedantic jackass will inevitably try to correct my usage of it. They read a popular, decade-old Oatmeal comic and now they fancy themselves literary scholars. And that’s OK, because the fact that they’re looking at my potential misuse of ‘ironically’ and overlooking my unforgivable excessive usage of adverbs tells me amateur hour is upon us.

Written by Josh Lami

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