Monday, May 22, 2017

A Tale Of Two Coopers: "The Return Part 2" Answers Big Twin Peaks Questions!


The Good: Actual answers within David Lynch and Mark Frost's world, Good performances, Effective use of tone, Awesome special effects
The Bad: Still more incongruent scenes, Still not a lot in Twin Peaks
The Basics: Twin Peaks focuses on Agent Cooper and the Cooper doppelganger in "The Return Part 2," an episode that starts to move viewers toward some answers and more focused weirdness.


Mysteries are a tough genre to review episode by episode on television. Indeed, with the original Twin Peaks (reviewed here!), the sum is far greater than its parts. With the reboot of Twin Peaks, there was an added burden on its return because there were so many characters to catch up with and reunite, while still setting the foundation for the new season's plot. With "The Return Part 2," the story of Twin Peaks for the return is burdened by having to try to tie together some of the random, disparate scenes from the first part. But, in keeping with the tone and lack of plot of the first part, "The Return Part 2" includes new characters and more locations that seemingly have no immediate connection to Twin Peaks or familiar characters from there.

"The Return Part 2" picks up right after "The Return Part 1" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to where the prior episode went and left off. After all, one of the intriguing aspects of the revival of Twin Peaks was that David Lynch and Mark Frost stated - very early on - that they were writing one very long script and breaking up the "movie" into episodes in post-production. "The Return Part 2" picks up after body of Ruth Davenport, found murdered in Buckhorn, South Dakota, was identified as Ruth's head, someone else's body, and Principal Bill Hasting's finger prints were found all over her apartment. "The Return Part 1" spent a lot of time outside of Twin Peaks in New York City and Buckhorn, South Dakota, with entirely new and unfamiliar (and many unnamed) characters.

Following Dale Cooper's murder of Bill Hastings' wife, a man in Las Vegas pays off a dangerous individual. At a diner, Dale Cooper informs one of his lackeys that he wants (not needs) information from Bill Hastings's secretary. Margaret (the Log Lady) calls Hawk again to warn him to be attentive, right before he reaches the entrance to the Black Lodge. Inside the Black Lodge, Agent Cooper has a conversation with the still-dead Laura Palmer. Agent Cooper is prevented from leaving the Black Lodge because his Doppelganger has to return before he may leave. On the road, Cooper returns to his hotel where Darya is waiting and he has evidence the Darya is about to kill him. Cooper interrogates Darya and kills her before she can do him in.

After killing Darya, Cooper makes contact with (who he thinks is) Philip Jefferies, who is looking forward to being reunited with Bob. Inside the Black Lodge, despite what the future arm tells him, Agent Cooper finds himself trapped. When he looks outside the Black Lodge and sees his doppelganger, he is able to manifest briefly within the glass box in New York City. At the Bang Bang Bar, James arrives and watches Shelly and her friends without approaching them.

Arguably the most refreshing aspect of "The Return Part 2" is that viewers gets some concrete answers early on about Agent Cooper and Dale Cooper (who has been Bob in Cooper's body for the past twenty-five years or a flat-out doppelganger who existed before only in the Black Lodge or somewhere else not of our world). "The Return Part 2" is almost entirely preoccupied with Agent Cooper and his doppelganger. Agent Cooper has been, as predicted, lost, trapped within the Black Lodge. Cooper, on the other hand, has a network of criminals he works with, who have a hit out on him. Cooper wants to avoid getting forced back into the Black Lodge and he is working to solve the mystery of who wants him dead.

It is interesting to see Cooper in "The Return Part 2" is not a pure Id, which seemed like a reasonable theory given how methodical and self-disciplined Agent Cooper was. But in "The Return Part 2," Dale Cooper uses his hacked FBI laptop to follow leads and he is able to delay his gratification in killing in order to get the information he wants. That said, Cooper is unsettling to watch and provides Kyle MacLachlan a disturbing twist on the character to play. MacLachlan manages to play Bob Cooper as murderous and constantly dangerous without ever once appearing like he is slipping into his Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. adversary.

"The Return Part 2" also starts to make more explicit connections between familiar characters and the characters introduced in "The Return Part 1." Cooper needs information from Bill Hastings' s secretary; coordinates for something he is looking for. That fact, at least, makes the murder that Bill Hastings is accused of vital to a character fans already care about.

"The Return Part 2" is an excellent example of an episode that utilizes special effects well. Agent Cooper spends time talking with the Future Arm, a CG effect that exists in the Black Lodge and provides Cooper with key information. The virtual character is trippy and paired with special effects involving the transformative nature of the Black Lodge. The effects work to characterize the setting and keep Agent Cooper trapped; the effect is appropriately nightmarish, as fans might expect.

More than "The Return Part 1," "The Return Part 2" tells an accessible, intriguing story that newcomers to Twin Peaks are likely to be drawn in by, even as it rewards fans with explanations for exactly what has been going on with the main character from the original series for the last twenty-five years.

That said, Sarah Palmer's appearance seems entirely gratuitous and - despite my being very excited to see Madchen Amick as Shelly again - the final scene serves no purpose within the episode, save to inform viewers that James and Shelly are still alive and in Twin Peaks. But, like the season premiere, given that none of the main story scenes actually occur within Twin Peaks, even "The Return Part 2" feels like it is using the "Twin Peaks" name more than telling an integral story about the place and people there.

Despite that issue, the story of the dual Coopers is enough to make the episode well worth watching, especially for those who love the original Twin Peaks.

For other works with Kyle MacLachlan, please visit my reviews of:
Inside Out
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 2
How I Met Your Mother - Season 6
Sex And The City - Season 3
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks
Dune

7/10

For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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