The Good: Kyle MacLachlan's brief performance
The Bad: Virtually plotless, Terrible direction, Utter waste of time, No character development, No real performance moments of note.
The Basics: "The Return Part 8" is one of the worst episodes of Twin Peaks as it quickly turns into an utter waste of time.
With the new Twin Peaks episode "The Return Part 7" (reviewed here!) finally presenting characters who have caught up to the viewers there is a burden going into "The Return Part 8." With Albert, Gordon and (in Twin Peaks) Deputy Sheriff Hawk each coming to the realization that Agent Dale Cooper was not the person who came out of the Black Lodge twenty-five years prior and someone else has been walking around in his body for the past quarter-decade, Twin Peaks now has a burden of actually advancing the story. "The Return Part 8" has to start moving the story of Agent Cooper's journey back toward Twin Peaks in a way that starts to surprise viewers. Outside the surrealism of the Twin Peaks revival, the story has been fairly straightforward and outside Agent Cooper's unorthodox escape from the Black Lodge where he has possessed Dougie Jones's body and so much of the action actually happening away from the town of Twin Peaks, the story has been a long trip to get characters in the Twin Peaks world where viewers have been for the past twenty-five years since the season two finale (reviewed here!).
"The Return Part 8" utterly fails on that front.
Cooper, having just been let out of prison by extorting the Warden, discovers there are three tracking devices in the car. His co-conspirator, Ray, drives the pair away from prison toward The Farm. When the pair pulls off the road, Ray manages to get the drop on Cooper and he is shocked when shadowy forms appear to swarm Cooper after he is shot. The "ghosts" appear to rescue Cooper, though Ray drives off and calls Philip before the body disappears.
In Twin Peaks, Nine Inch Nails performs at the Road House. After, the episode leaps back to July 16, 1945 White Sands, New Mexico for the detonation of the nuclear bomb. The episode transitions into scratchy surreal footage which includes a gas station with a leak, explosions and what appears to be the Black Lodge's resident Arm vomiting forth eggs and a screaming person (who appears to be Bob). The Giant appears in the sequence again, opposite a woman who is sitting in an ornate room (it's black and white, so it is unclear if this is the Black Lodge in the past or something else entirely), before he ascends the stairs to dream forth many things, including Laura Palmer, who the woman casts down to Earth. Then in the 1950s in New Mexico, a man takes over a radio station and uses his voice to influence people listening to the radio.
"The Return Part 8" continues to raise the menace of Cooper as he threatens Ray and manages not to tell Ray that he has already killed the woman Ray loves. Kyle MacLachlan does an exceptional job at playing every scene Cooper is in with an undertone of violence. Cooper is the Bob-infested embodiment of evil from the Black Lodge and when Cooper orders Ray to pull off the highway, MacLachlan manages to infuse the banal lines with the implication of murder. Indeed, viewers who jump into "The Return Part 8" without knowing that Cooper has arranged to have a gun in the glove compartment, will be well-prepared by the murderous tone that MacLachlan uses that the possibility exists before the gun is shown.
The musical interlude by Nine Inch Nails is weird and somewhat off-putting. Viewers who might want concrete answers about just who came to rescue Bob from Cooper's body - and, in fact, what happened to his body - are likely to be disappointed that the episode leaps to a mid-episode musical number (so far in the revival episodes, musical numbers have closed out the episodes). Nine Inch Nails has had a long-running collaboration with director David Lynch, so it is no surprised that he would allow Trent Reznor's band to appear to promote last year's NIN album with them performing "She's Gone Away."
The thing is, "The Return Part 8" asks viewers for a petty huge leap in the suspension of disbelief category. Fortunately, the episode does not keep viewers waiting beyond the episode. The idea that Cooper has survived for twenty-five years and is going to be shot (and killed) by Ray (who is a virtually unknown new character) in the season's eighth episode seems more ridiculous than plausible. So, having the Nine Inch Nails performance followed immediately by Cooper sitting up at least allows viewers to believe they are not being asked to endure something more unbelievable than ghosts helping to keep Cooper alive.
"The Return Part 8" does not recover from its painfully simplistic plot point, though, and it is almost like director David Lynch had to fill the rest of the episode, so he just threw together a boatload of surreal images and explosions like a student filmmaker trying to develop something visually experimental. The problem is that by "The Return Part 8," the patience of the viewer is pretty well spent. The first episode of the new season of Twin Peaks was virtually unrecognizable and had almost no characters viewers care about, the third episode had an extended dreamlike sequence that allowed Agent Coper to escape the Black Lodge . . . the random surrealism has become blase and bland; we need to have some reason to believe that the random shit David Lynch is throwing up on screen is related to Agent Cooper's journey back to Twin Peaks or with the downfall of Cooper.
Does "The Return Part 8" show the origin of Bob in our world? Who the fuck knows; the episode is nowhere near coherent or clear. Usually, David Lynch's surreal divergences get some credit for being beautifully-directed, but "The Return Part 8" does not even get that. Much of the episode is dark and noisy and the viewer has to strain to see things that are cast completely in shadow and cannot be seen. The special effects are not special as they are not rendered in such a way that the viewer can actually comprehend them.
In a similar fashion, the "surrealism for the sake of surrealism" thing is very much over for Twin Peaks by this point. Viewers need answers and statements; "The Return Part 8" is a meandering collection of visual garbage that does not concretely tie into any aspect of Twin Peaks with any level of clarity. And I get it; crazed old man hypnotizes a bunch of people with his voice, kills a couple people and ends up at some point becoming disembodied in a way that he is part of the spectral team who resurrects Cooper. It's not that I don't "get" the elements that can be tied to the episode's concrete beginning; it's just a shitton of work to tie it all together and it is not compellingly tied to the rest of the season or Twin Peaks. Leaping back to historical events in New Mexico with disconnected characters and people previously only seen in Agent Cooper's visions without progressing the primary narrative is just the cinematic equivalent of bait and switch.
Ultimately, "The Return Part 8" is one of the worst episodes of Twin Peaks ever produced as it does not advance the story, develop the characters, allow the performers to show off any real talents or even tell a coherent story using the medium with any finesse. It is masturbatory visual garbage that could be any random film school project without having any relevance or tie to Twin Peaks.
For other works with Carel Struyken, be sure to visit my reviews of:
"The Return Part 1" - Twin Peaks
Men In Black
"The Thaw" - Star Trek: Voyager
Addams Family Values
"Cost Of Living" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Half A Life" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Addams Family
"Menage A Troi" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
Twin Peaks - Season 2
"Manhunt" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
"Haven" - Star Trek: The Next Generation
Ewoks: The Battle For Endor
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Twin Peaks - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the temporally displaced season of the surreal show here!
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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