This week’s episode of Twin Peaks: The Return uses Mark Frost and David Lynch’s abiding preoccupation with doppelgangers and mirror imagery as an often subtle structural device. Take Hawk’s (Michael Horse) fleeting mention of Jacques Renault (played in the original series by Walter Olkewicz) during his conversation with Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) about the handwritten pages he found in the bathroom stall door. This brief reference is later echoed by our introduction to Jean Michel Renault (also Olkewicz), the French-Canadian clan’s next generation of sleazy bartender-cum-pimp. Lynch uses a couple of classic rock instrumentals to link scenes set in the wee hours of the night: Booker T. & the M.G.’s “Green Onions” incongruously accompanies the image of a man (reduced almost to a silhouette) sweeping the floor of the Bang Bang Bar, a shot Lynch holds until it becomes strangely hilarious. Set to Santo & Johnny’s aptly titled “Sleep Walk,” the end credits scroll over the late-night patrons of the Double R Diner, only the second time the new series hasn’t concluded with an on-stage performance.
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John P. Johnson
The Pied Piper team’s slow-boiling crisis of faith in Richard’s (Thomas Middleditch) leadership, which has been coming to a head throughout Silicon Valley’s fourth season, heats up several degrees in tonight’s episode, “Hooli-Con.” The push-pull between their respect for his brilliance as a coder and their doubts about his talent as a CEO puts the rest of the team in an awkward, can’t-live-with-him, can’t-live-without-him position.
After leaving Richard in the season premiere, “Success Failure,” his team members returned as soon as he came up with another potentially brilliant idea—well, all but Bachman (T.J. Miller), who was finally forced to come to terms with the fact that he has no role to play except as host, though he would never admit it. Even after their reunion, the others’ skepticism about their fearful leader has never been far from the surface. In various episodes this season they’ve called him crazy, said he was cursed, and griped, openly and often, about his uncanny knack for letting success slip through his fingers every time it’s within his reach. But not until “Hooli-Con” does even Jared (Zach Woods) start to doubt Richard’s ability to lead a successful launch.
“Come to Jesus” ends the first season of American Gods on an awkward and anticlimactic note. Creators and co-screenwriters Bryan Fuller and Michael Green seem to be aware of their own perversity, cracking a joke about it early in the episode. Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) are at the office of Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), the present incarnation of the god Anansi, who’s tailoring suits for the next leg of their journey. For a moment, it seems that we’ve dodged the obligation of sitting through a deity origin tale that typically opens each episode, until Mr. Nancy announces that he has a story, which Wednesday greets with comic frustration while nursing a tall whiskey. Wednesday is clearly speaking for the audience here, who may be understandably weary of yet another damn flashback.
Well, on the plus side, anyone who still misses the old Untucked format has now had their edges officially snatched, and has also finally landed on their favorite episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine. In a twist from virtually any prior seasons, the season’s queens are all invited back prior to the show finale for a reunion special the likes of which the show hasn’t really done since season three, when the Heathers and the Boogers sort of called a truce. Of course, when Ru used to close out with audience-free reunion episodes, it happened after the winner had already been crowned. This time around, all of the season’s contestants are dragged into a holding place before one of four queens find out next week which one of them gets named, for the 11th time, America’s next drag superstar. Does that stop them from reading the house down? You’d think so, but that’s not the way this counter-intuitively scheduled cookie crumbles. As it quickly becomes evident that Ru intends to flit from controversy to controversy without any real structure, here’s a match-by-match rundown of all the beef.
In 1989, near the start of what has since become a long and successful career of writing for stage, film, and television, Rona Munro penned what turned out to be the very last episodes of Doctor Who’s original 26-year run. With this week’s episode, “The Eaters of Light,” she becomes the first classic series writer to contribute to the show’s 21st-century incarnation. The episode establishes an ominous atmosphere right from the start of the present-day framing sequence, with a couple of children playing among ancient standing stones on a windswept Scottish hillside, from which “ghosts” can be heard playing strange music. After the opening titles, we see the same hillside, with the markings on the stones now fresh and new as the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie), and Nardole (Matt Lucas) arrive in 120 A.D.
Many of the events in the latest episode of Twin Peaks: The Return seem to depend on the toss of a coin, inviting speculation about the balance between chance and necessity in the lives of the characters. When Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) buys a load of a drug called “sparkle” from Red (Balthazar Getty), the latter bewilders Richard with a surreal coin trick. The coin impossibly hangs in the air for some time, before then manifesting in Richard’s mouth. Except it hasn’t, because it’s back in Red’s palm. Red tells Richard: “Heads I win. Tails you lose.” Chance obviously isn’t a factor in their deal. The game is rigged, as the house always wins—and it’s an encounter that sets in motion a series of events that reverberates throughout the episode.
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Eager to pass on his hard-won wisdom, whether anyone wants it or not, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) tells Keenan Feldspar (Haley Joel Osment) on tonight’s episode of Silicon Valley to enjoy his success while it lasts because “this can be a tough business.” Keenan, who’s such a good bullshit artist that he wins Richard over by admitting that, yes, he really is a bullshit artist, swats away Richard’s warning, and no wonder: The wheels of Silicon Valley are greased for operators like him. But in the trip-wired world of smart nerds like Richard and the rest of the Pied Piper crew, there’s rarely time to savor a victory before it blows up and knocks them back on their asses.
Tonight’s episode of American Gods, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney,” pivots on another extended flashback, illustrating once again that the series is concerned less with tending to a singular narrative than with offering riffs on a theme. The show’s first season is nearly over, and we’re nowhere near the end of the story told by Neil Gaiman’s source novel, which also allowed for thematically intertwined tangents. The loose structure works better in the series than the book though, as the former has a decadent and melodramatic style that renders the plot nearly beside the point.
Mark Gatiss can usually be counted on to write Doctor Who episodes that are reliably suspenseful but don’t often stretch the show’s boundaries. He does it again with this week’s “Empress of Mars,” a successful standalone adventure which combines elements from two of his better past efforts, both from 2013. From “Cold War” comes the Ice Warriors, a race of reptilian Martians, who first appeared in Doctor Who 40 years ago, with their honor-bound militaristic outlook. They’re cleverly juxtaposed with the Victorian milieu of “The Crimson Horror”—though this isn’t apparent at first from the light-hearted teaser, which has the Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Bill (Pearl Mackie), and Nardole (Matt Lucas) turning up in the control room of a present-day NASA Mars mission whose robot probe has just landed on the red planet. To everyone’s consternation, the pictures show that, under the Martian polar ice cap, rocks have been arranged to spell out GOD SAVE THE QUEEN.
“I’m so relieved that Roxxxy Andrews and Phi Phi O’Hara advanced to the finals over Detox and Latrice Royale,” said no one ever. For as much heat as some of the peak seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race got for favoring rough-edged, shit-stirring queens at the expense of sweet or well-rounded ones, don’t you kind of miss the drama now? True, the show arguably hasn’t really had a bona fide villain since Darienne Lake—if you don’t count the return of Phi Phi in last year’s All-Stars. And it was sort of refreshing in season eight to see the open-hearted Chi Chi DeVayne and Kim Chi reach the quartet of final-challenge queens over the likes of Acid Betty and Derrick Barry. But with the dismissal of this season’s halfway-villains Alexis Michelle (who killed ’em with “honesty”) and Nina Bo’Nina When the Pawn… Brown (whose paranoia killed herself softly), and in the absence of a from-episode-one frontrunner like Bob the Drag Queen, what’s there to fuel this race through its final lap?