Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WTF David Lynch?! "The Return Part 3"

The Good: Well acted, Most of the direction
The Bad: Mood supplants plot, No real character development, Direction includes some truly pointless scenes that go nowhere, Moments of repetition are starting to get old.
The Basics: Twin Peaks returns to often-unclear weirdness that is more evocative of mood than any sort of sensible storytelling.

As the revival of Twin Peaks progresses, the potential and potential weakness of the series has been revealed. The show opened with an episode that barely included the town of Twin Peaks and got the latest chapter off to a particularly rough start. But with the second episode, the focus was on Agent Cooper and his doppelganger, which was more than enough to get viewers to care about the show once again. At its best moments, "The Return Part 3" works to more concretely reconcile the disparate elements of the revival - the seemingly random New York City plotline and the story of characters Twin Peaks viewers actually care about. Unfortunately, the episode does not devote nearly enough time to satisfying or clear answers as it does to deepening the strange elements surrounding Dale Cooper in his various incarnations.

Following on the events of "The Return Part 2" (reviewed here!), "The Return Part 3" picks up the investigation into what happened in the mysterious experiment room in the first episode of the revival. "The Return Part 3" features the return of Miguel Ferrer's FBI Agent Albert Rosenfeld and the on-screen return of David Lynch as Deputy Director Gordon Cole. "The Return Part 3" opens nightmarish and surreal and it is worth noting for newcomers to the show that whatever device one is watching the episode on, it is not skipping. David Lynch purposely made the beginning unsettling with backwards movements, abrupt sounds, silences and over-exposed skin tones.

Opening with Agent Cooper attempting to escape the Black Lodge and ending up in a surreal room with a fireplace and a woman with no eyes, Agent Cooper finds himself confused. The woman he is with warns him to remain silent when there comes a knocking on the door. Agent Cooper becomes fascinated with an object on the wall of the new room in which he finds himself, but the woman becomes agitated when he approaches it. When the pair ascends a ladder, the woman activates a device that appears to electrocute her and send her falling off into a starfield (in which Agent Cooper sees and hears Major Briggs). When Agent Cooper returns to the room, the device on the wall has the number 3 on it (instead of 15 when he left) and there is a new woman in the room before the fireplace. As Agent Cooper explores the device on the wall, he receives a shock from it and that has an effect on Cooper in the real world. Cooper crashes his car and starts to see the entrance to the Black Lodge, but he resists being pulled back into it.

Inside the Black Lodge, some form of Cooper materializes and then appears to be destroyed in front of the One Armed Man. Agent Cooper becomes corporeal through an electric socket, where he finds himself in the company of a prostitute who knows him as Dougie. Back in Twin Peaks, Hawk, Lucy Moran and Deputy Brennan try to piece together what is missing. Lucy Moran confesses to having eaten a chocolate bunny from the evidence collected in the disappearance of Agent Cooper, but Hawk dismisses that as relevant. After Dr. Jacoby spray paints shovels in the wilderness, Jade drops Dougie off at a casino with $5 and tells him to forget her and call someone for help. Following hallucinations of the path into the Black Lodge, Dougie plays quarter-slots and wins multiple jackpots, without any understanding of what he is doing. In Philadelphia, FBI Agent Rosenfeld and Deputy Director Cole work on an investigation when they are briefed by Agent Tamara Preston on the New York City murder. While Preston is briefing them, the FBI is called with the location of Cooper and the FBI agents prepare to fly out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to be reunited with their lost agent.

Kyle MacLachlan does an excellent job of emoting during the silent opening portion of "The Return Part 3." MacLachlan wonderfully portrays confusion as Agent Cooper tries to understand the mysterious woman in the new room in which he finds himself. Performing only with facial expressions and anticipation in his body language, MacLachlan revives the character of Agent Cooper as a curious, analytical man who was once capable of using reason to solve heinous crimes.

Beyond that, MacLachlan manages to perform the newest incarnation of Cooper - Dougie, who may just be Agent Cooper reacclimating to life on Earth, without all of his memories intact - with a distinctly different physical presence from the rest of his performances in "The Return Part 3." MacLachlan's stiff-legged lurch and blank stare as Dougie is unsettling to watch (I seriously got chills on my arms!) and the deliberate way he drops quarters in machines at the casino is just weird.

"The Return Part 3" is an objectively confusing episode of Twin Peaks. Agent Cooper has spent twenty-five years trapped in the Black Lodge, while his doppelganger has been running around in the real world doing horrible things. That was well-established in the first and second episodes of the Twin Peaks revival. It even makes sense when one of Agent Cooper's nightmare visions tells him that when he arrives, he will already be there (when Agent Cooper returns to the real world, his doppelganger will be there). But while Agent Cooper is in transition back to the real world, there is what seems to be a third version of Cooper already in play. Cooper appears to be both driving and with a prostitute, Jade, in a housing development. The third Cooper does not make real sense yet and "The Return Part 3" does not make a sensible differentiation between Cooper (Bob) and Dougie (Cooper 3). The only real hint within "The Return Part 3" comes from Phillip Gerard, the One Armed Man, within the Black Lodge, when he tells some incarnation of Cooper that he has been manufactured.

David Lynch directs "The Return Part 3" and he takes his time establishing mood and the episode is an example of how David Lynch's cinematic weirdness might not translate well to television today. Take, for example, Dr. Jacoby's lone scene in the episode. Jacoby spray paints a bunch of shovels. The scene is mind-numbingly long as Lynch follows him spray painting the front of each shovel and then he begins on the back of the shovels. The thing is, in a piece that is already heavy with mood and surrealism, taking the time to show most of the painting process feels entirely unnecessary. Showing the painting begin and cutting to the last of the painting gives viewers all the information they need. The mood is not actually enhanced and no additional information is given by showing the whole process. The scene is frustratingly boring that in retrospect, I cannot recall if it is four, five or six shovels that are being painted.

"The Return Part 3" further muddies the Twin Peaks narrative by appearing to offer Agent Cooper a back door out of the Black Lodge. Given how hard the Black Lodge was to get into, it makes little sense that it would be easy to get out of all of a sudden. Furthermore, the idea that Cooper and his doppelganger had to switch spots to become imprisoned/escape the Black Lodge made sense and had been reinforced fairly early on in the revival of Twin Peaks. Changing that suddenly feels more sloppy than clever and it puts a lot of pressure on subsequent Twin Peaks episodes to make it work.

Ultimately, "The Return Part 3" is more unpleasant and generically weird than it is a revelation. The result is a Twin Peaks episode that is probably important - given that Cooper either returned to Earth or another Cooper was introduced - but is not at all enjoyable or interesting to watch.

For other works with the late, wonderful Miguel Ferrer, please check out my reviews of:
Rio 2
Iron Man 3
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

[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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