Sunday, July 23, 2017

Twin Peaks Evolves From Weird To Concrete In "The Return Part 11"

The Good: Good performances, Decent plot development, Special effects
The Bad: Light on character development
The Basics: "The Return Part 11" satisfyingly progresses the growing mystery in the new season of Twin Peaks.

For a show that utilizes surrealism and very oddly connected elements, Twin Peaks, at least its new season, has been developing in a remarkably traditional overall arc. In the classic dramatic/heroic arc, the hero is established, gets surrounded by adversaries, then has to rise to the occasion to overcome those obstacles and/or sacrifice themselves for the common good. As "The Return Part 11" begins, Agent Dale Cooper - in Doug Jones's body - is beset on all sides by enemies and faces threats from many real people (including people working for his Bob-possessed doppelganger, Cooper), as well as the potential supernatural threats from the Black Lodge.

"The Return Part 11" continues the story where "The Return Part 10" (reviewed here!) and it plays up the supernatural threats as Gordon experiences some of the otherworldly elements that Agent Cooper was lost to twenty-five years prior. Perhaps the most instantly compelling aspect of "The Return Part 11" is the implicit concept that there is more than one Black Lodge or there are widely disparate entrances/exits to the one.

Opening on the outskirts of the trailer park, Miriam crawls, barely alive to some nearby children playing catch. Becky is called by Stephen and she calls Shelly to, essentially, steal her car. Back in Buckhorn, South Dakota, Hastings is brought to the place where he claims he saw Major Briggs. Agent Preston is interrogating Hastings when Albert and Gordon see a shadow person appear and vanish. After Albert rescues Gordon from a cosmic opening into a horror dimension, Hastings is murdered by one of the shadow people.

Back at the Double R Diner, Bobby and Shelly come to Becky's aid. While they are there, a shot comes through the Double R's window. While he is investigating it, Bobby encounters a woman who appears to have a zombie in her car. At the Twin Peaks Sheriff's department, Deputy Hawk interprets a map for Truman. In Buck Horn, the FBI team tries to figure out what happened to Ruth Davenport's headless body and they corroborate their visions of the mysterious bearded figures at the place Hastings was murdered. At Lucky 7 Insurance, Doug's boss reasons that someone other than the Mitchum brothers is calling the shots in the conspiracy that Doug apparently exposed. Bud sends Dougie to meet with the brothers, with a $30 million check.

"The Return Part 11" finally clarifies the relationship of Becky to the narrative. Becky is Shelly and Bobby's daughter and the idea that Bobby and Shelly's relationship continued after the original Twin Peaks, but then ran its course is fairly well-presented in the new episode. Dana Ashbrook does an excellent job of emoting Bobby's sense of loss in his brief scene where Bobby watches Shelly run off with another man. Ashbrook acts the hell out of the moment with just his facial expressions and eye movements.

Twin Peaks is well-known for its surreal moments, but "The Return Part 11" is one of the most effective episodes of the new season to actually utilize surrealism without getting overwhelmed by them. For sure, there are some truly incoherent moments - the zombie boy rising up in the passenger seat is just terrifying and not yet connected to anything else - but after Gordon's encounter with the conduit to (potentially) the Black Lodge - the episode takes a turn for the starkly realistic. Becky is in a real-world bad situation and Dougie is moved toward a very palpable dangerous situation. Despite one of the Mitchum brothers being motivated by his own dreams, the rising tension in "The Return Part 11" is based on more practical threats than those represented by the forces of the Black Lodge.

Kyle MacLachlan continues to perform incredibly as Dougie Jones. Dougie is basically a vegetable and MacLachlan plays him with slow repeated lines and wide-eyed stares and he is magnetic to watch. Robert Knepper once again plays an incredibly good villain as Rob Mitchum, but for a change, Jim Belushi rises to match his gravitas as Bradley Mitchum. Belushi has to play a character who is remembering a nearly-forgotten dream and he pulls it off such that it seems like a legitimate process of remembering, as opposed to a matter of plot convenience.

Ultimately, "The Return Part 11" is weird, but it is the good weird that made Twin Peaks wonderful and makes fans believe that David Lynch could still make something good with all the elements he has in play in the new season.

For other works with Harry Dean Stanton, please visit my reviews of:
"The Return Part 6" - Twin Peaks
The Avengers
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
The Last Temptation Of Christ
The Godfather, Part II

[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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