Showtime gave viewers of Twin Peaks: The Return two weeks to process the epically unsettling excursion into cosmic tone poetry and splattery monochrome horror that constituted much of “Part 8.” It seems likely that, given the show’s fondness for delaying the connection of its many plot points, those events will only bear their strange fruit a few episodes further down the line. And so last night’s installment resolutely picked up where the previous episode’s present-day first act left off, with the miraculously resurrected but still blood-soaked Bad Dale (Kyle MacLachlan) hoofing it along a dusty country road, until a blood-red bandana shows him where to turn off.
“Part 9” stands as a Janus-headed pivot point for the series, a signpost exactly halfway to the end of the season. Looking simultaneously toward past and future, the episode’s frequent matched pairs and expository repetitions (call them callbacks, if you prefer) seem to draw attention to themselves. There are, for example, two musical acts to round out the episode: one new (Hudson Mohawke), one the reprise of a previously seen performer (Au Revoir Simone). Much of the dialogue routinely recapitulates facts we already know, while still managing to leaven them with choice new tidbits. Then again, given the sheer density of incident throughout the series, a little repetition to serve as an aide memoire probably isn’t a bad thing.
David Lynch reaches back a few episodes to retrieve an editorial technique out of his back of tricks that hasn’t been used too extensively thus far, crosscutting between Cooper’s doppelganger at “the Farm” giving deadly instructions to Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her husband, Hutch (Tim Roth), and several short scenes that show Gordon Cole (Lynch), Diane (Laura Dern), Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell), and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) rerouting their plane to Buckhorn, South Dakota. Here the montage does more than lend a new rhythm to the proceedings; it foreshadows the complex interrelations between the characters that are about to emerge into the foreground.
Once in Buckhorn, Cole and his cohorts rendezvous with Lt. Knox (Adele René) and Detective Macklay (Brent Briscoe), marking this as the first significant crossover of characters and storylines that up until now have been held rigorously apart. What’s more, a number of group shots with the characters posed in tableau play like a Lynchian piss-take on your average Avengers clusterfuck. Another, more disconcerting crossover occurs when we learn that the recipient of the doppelganger’s cryptic text message is none other than Diane, implying that her involvement with Bad Dale was neither as traumatic nor as fleeting as she’s led the others to believe.
Cooper, still trapped in the Dougie Jones persona like an insect in amber, doesn’t have a lot to do in this episode apart from one suggestive sequence at the Vegas police department. The successive sight of an American flag (“America the Beautiful” plays momentarily), a woman in red high-heeled shoes, and an electrical outlet seems to trigger something deep inside Cooper. With the episode being broadcast so close to the July 4th holiday, one wonders if this conspicuous display of patriotism is mere coincidence. Not to mention: Should it be taken as straight-faced or tinged with sly irony? Whatever the motivation, the stars and stripes also serves as a callback to the flag pins seen on the lapels of the show’s various FBI agents.
Matched pairs are rife throughout the scenes that follow a visit to Betty Briggs (Charlotte Stewart), the Major’s widow, made by the trio of Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse), and Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster). For one thing, the dialogue keeps calling our attention to the complex interplay between past, present, and future in the Major’s eerily accurate prognostications, a sentiment that’s put rather nicely by Truman when he says, “He saw all this. Whatever this is.”
The metal tube concealed in the Major’s favorite chair has to be thrown on the ground twice in order to be opened. And it contains two sheets of paper: One of them has two dates on it, and the other—filled with the same random “space garbage” that Briggs showed Cooper in the season-two episode “Coma”—has Cooper’s name printed on it twice. You could say this sequence doubles down on doubling. Bobby’s role in all this was also something Major Briggs foresaw, in another callback to the original series, this time to the season-two opener “May the Giant Be with You.”
The climax of the episode back in Buckhorn is interesting for two reasons, beginning with a short scene that has Gordon quite literally caught between Diane and Tammy. The bond between Cole and Diane obviously goes beyond sharing a smoke, and Tammy’s preening disapproval is equally obvious. Lynch’s static-shot composition is perfectly balanced, and all the subtext emerges through subtle shifts in body language and verbal intonation, even though little of import is actually being said.
The other reason is William Hastings (Matthew Lillard), whom we haven’t seen since his arrest for the murder of Ruth Davenport back in “Part 2.” Now it develops that the two of them, besides being lovers, also collaborated on a blog called The Search for the Zone. Hastings claims to have met Major Briggs in “the Zone” (shades of Stalker), and can correctly identify his photo. Lillard delivers another bravura monologue, an uneasy mix of tragedy and comedy (“We were gonna go to the Bahamas!”) that the actor nails admirably. But, as always, Ferrer gets the best line. Albert caustically deflates Hastings’s sniveling soliloquy, asking the assembled onlookers, “Fruitcake, anyone?”
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