In “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” William Blake wrote: “Without Contraries is no progression…Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence.” Last night’s installment of Twin Peaks: The Return illuminated the precarious balance between these two opposing forces, previously represented as overarching cosmic principles in “Part 8” but here embodied at the level of all-too-human experience in ways both touching and terrifying.
The most obvious examples of hate at work in the show’s world concern Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), likely the illegitimate offspring of the as-yet-unseen Audrey Horne and the Bad Dale doppelganger (Kyle MacLachlan), as tantalizingly suggested by Doc Hayward in “Part 7.” Horne’s assault on Miriam (Sarah Jean Long), an eyewitness to his hit-and-run murder of the young boy in “Part 6,” is discreetly kept at bay in this episode: The camera lingers outside her trailer as we hear the sounds of the vicious attack before we’re allowed to eventually witness the bloody aftermath of the crime.
Such a distancing technique is then coyly withheld for Horne’s subsequent violent invasion of the home his grandmother, Sylvia (Jan D’Arcy), shares with the disabled Johnny (Erik Rondell). Akin to the Kubrick nod in “Part 8,” the scene works in a reference to A Clockwork Orange, with the restrained Johnny forced helplessly to endure Richard’s verbal and physical assault on a loved one, accompanied in duly ironic fashion by sickly sweet popular music. (In this case, the Mantovani Orchestra’s instrumental arrangement of “Charmaine” stands in for “Singin’ in the Rain.”) But Lynch goes Kubrick one better, having Johnny’s robot bear deliver its idiotically jovial faux-Cockney refrain “Hello, Johnny. How are you today?” over and over again.
Mirroring these acts of violence is the brief but harrowing exchange between Steven Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones) and his wife, Becky (Amanda Seyfried). The balance between love and hate in their relationship has clearly shifted precipitously since that magic moment in “Part 5” where the camera lingered on Seyfried’s rapturous expression. If anything, Steven’s threats seem to suggest that the cycle of abuse between Becky’s mother, Shelly, and Leo Johnson in the original series is only repeating itself. Then again, one of the most prominent subtexts weaving throughout Twin Peaks: The Return has to do with the always tenuous possibility of redemption, represented most prominently in the ongoing rehabilitation of one-time bad boy Bobby Briggs.
As of the latest episode of Twin Peaks: The Return suggests, the darkness seems to be winning.
In keeping with the principle of contrariety, Lynch prefaces this scene with a poignant musical number: Sitting outside his office at the Fat Trout Trailer Park, Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) strums his guitar and sings “Red River Valley.” Like “Charmaine,” it’s a plaintive tune about a lover longing anxiously for the return of his beloved. The theme of separation and return is at the heart of this series, embedded in its very title. The new Twin Peaks is nothing less than the Odyssey of Agent Cooper (MacLachlan). But who will be Cooper’s true Penelope? Is it Janey-E (Naomi Watts), with whom he shares the episode’s emotional epicenter? Their act of lovemaking, played at first for laughs, morphs through Lynch’s typically strange magic into an instance of true tenderness in the midst of much brutality. To underline the moment, Angelo Badalamenti’s love theme plays over a protracted fade to black.
And therein lies the rub. Because, despite—or perhaps because of—this singular moment of warmth and human contact, an already violent episode manages to descend even further into stygian darkness. Not only does “Part 10” confirm the sinister connection between Diane and the doppelganger, but it also places him at the scene of the gruesome “penthouse murders” in “Part 1.” What’s more, Bad Dale’s network of collaborators and underlings now includes Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), enlisted by Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) to either set Cooper/Dougie Jones up to be whacked by Bradley (Jim Belushi) and Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), or else kill him himself.
Speaking of the Mitchum boys, it’s hard to watch them mull over the decision to kill Dougie Jones without getting a whiff of Mr. Eddie from Lost Highway, doubled down and played for half-mocking menace this time. Elsewhere, Gordon Cole’s (Lynch) bizarre vision of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in distress sets up the episode’s tenebrous finale.
Figurative darkness proves quite literal in the matched pair of scenes that round out the episode. On the phone again with Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse), the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) delivers a haunting paean to electricity as an animating principle infusing the natural world. But, she cautions, “The glow is dying…What will be in the darkness that remains?” This is the show’s most explicit—some might say on-the-nose—statement of themes that have preoccupied Lynch since the 1970s, as evidenced by Eraserhead and the aborted Ronnie Rocket project.
The Log Lady ends on an affirmation: “Laura is the one.” This recalls the moment in “Part 1” where Laura in the Red Room removes her face (her mask of humanity) to reveal a being of pure light. These juxtapositions suggest the almost Manichean duality at work in the cosmos, and how much (or if at all) these warring principles can or will be reconciled remains to be seen. At the very least, as of “Part 10,” the darkness seems to be winning.
The episode’s musical coda certainly does little to dispel the notion: Rebekah Del Rio—last seen in the Lynchverse in Mulholland Drive singing along to a Spanish-language rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” at the Club Silencio—here performs “No Stars,” a dual-language lament for the evaporation of a dream that was co-written with Lynch. The song starts out hopeful: “My dream is to go to that place where it all began.” But origins are awfully hard to pin down, and this one proves to be nothing more than a dream, in the negative, illusory sense of word. The stars that were once glimpsed in the eyes of her lover, a poetic image that evocatively melds inner and outer, are no longer there. In fact, there are no stars. Just as the song can estrange listeners by suddenly shifting from English to Spanish, we’re left at the end of “Part 10” feeling disconnected and adrift in the cosmos.
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