Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dense, "The Return Part 15" Takes Twin Peaks From Delight To Misery

The Good: Performances are fine, Direction, Moments of character
The Bad: Plot meanders entirely, Nothing remotely close to a coherent story
The Basics: "The Return Part 15" starts out as a weird, but coherent Twin Peaks episode and degenerates into visual and storytelling nonsense.

After a week with virtually no Cooper or Dougie, the instant pressure on "The Return Part 15" is to remind the viewer of where the primary protagonist and antagonists are in Twin Peaks. While "The Return Part 15" does not begin with either of Kyle MacLachlan's characters, it does not take long to return to them . . . after taking care of some entirely tangential Twin Peaks business first.

"The Return Part 15" continues on the momentum of "The Return Part 14" (reviewed here!), which put a number of supernatural elements in play - around supporting characters in Twin Peaks who had not previously experienced exceptional and unreal elements. The supernatural elements of the third season of Twin Peaks are confronted with more of a straightforward quality than ever before as Cooper finds himself at the convenience store/gas station seen in the flashbacks and in the alternate dimensions.

Nadine walks all the way out to Big Ed's gas station, with her golden shovel. Once there, Nadine tells Ed that he should go be with Norma, knowing that Ed truly loves her. Ed rushes over to the Double R where Norma is involved with her new business manager. Norma tells her business manager to buy her out of the franchises and she turns back to Ed to begin a relationship with him in earnest. Cooper arrives at a convenience store where he and his ethereal guides enter another place (like the Black Lodge) and he asks for Philip Jeffries. Jeffries, in the form of a boiler, tells Cooper about Judy, whom Cooper does not believe he knows, but Jeffries says he has met.

Richard Horne pulls a gun on Cooper when Cooper leaves the surreal place, but Cooper easily incapacitates him. As soon as Cooper and Horne leave, the gas station disappears from our plane of existence. Out in the woods near the trailer park, a young man kills himself and that night, James goes to the bar where he sees Rene. His coworker ends the ensuing fight with his magic, gloved, hand. In Las Vegas, Doug and Jane Jones arrive at the F.B.I. for interrogation, but they are the wrong Jones's. James and Freddie are locked up at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, amid the growing menagerie of weirdos there. Dougie, meanwhile, stops eating cake to turn on the television and when he becomes upset by what he sees, he puts a fork in an electric socket. Hawk receives a final call from the Log Lady.

"The Return Part 15" is a treat to fans of the original Twin Peaks in addition to a necessary component of the third season. Norma and Big Ed and Nadine have had virtually no presence in the main storyline of the third season of Twin Peaks, but Norma and Ed's relationship was one of the last big "fuck you's!" of the second season of Twin Peaks. Just as they were about to find happiness, Nadine got her memory back and the relationship was crushed. "The Return Part 15" allows that whole relationship to get a happy ending and it allows that door to be closed if Lynch decides not to include them in further episodes.

The "appearance" of Philip Jeffries in "The Return Part 15" is a bit of a letdown compared to the appearance of David Bowie as Jeffries in the prior episode. Having to use a surreal image in the place of David Bowie reprising his role acts as a cautionary tale for those who want to revisit their universes. Bowie is one of four major performers who died before or early in the filming of the third season of Twin Peaks and it is a shame that his only participation could be through archival footage (his voice was not used for the portrayal of the symbol of Jeffries in "The Return Part 15").

"The Return Part 15" is another episode of Twin Peaks that feels like exactly what it is - a small component of a much larger story. The episode does not stand particularly well on its own, but it resonates in big ways for fans of Twin Peaks (especially the past version of it). Actress Catherine E. Coulson died almost two years ago, but David Lynch managed to film all of her parts before the rest of the season shot. So, including the death of the Log Lady in "The Return Part 15" manages to be both sad within the story and to those who know the reality of the filming of the third season of Twin Peaks.

The weakness of breaking up the long story into individual episodes is revealed well in "The Return Part 15" is that some hours are going to pack in a lot of little things without any truly big and well-developed moments. So, while Cooper and Horne are now together and Dougie electrocuted himself, not much else happens that is instantly recognizable as important in the larger arcs in "The Return Part 15."

For other works with Wendy Robie, please visit my reviews of:
"Destiny" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks

[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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  1. I enjoy reading your reviews. What's your take on the Audrey situation? She seems in some sort of incoherent limbo of a storyline, do you have a personal interpretation of that? Thanks

  2. Hi!

    Thanks for reading and thanks for the comment.

    I went back (since you asked) and rewatched all of the aired episodes of "Twin Peaks" (past and current) and the film. The best answer I have to Audrey (right now, based on the available information) is that she is still in a coma (I know, she has a kid, but . . .)

    Between episodes 12 and 13, despite the passage of time in the rest of the narrative, she and Charlie did not move at all. She had just picked up her coat to go to the Road House and despite the fact that - based on other elements of the narrative moving forward a day - other parts of the story moved forward, she and Charlie had not, suggesting that she is in a timeless limbo. She is having identity issues.

    Audrey wants to go out looking for "Billy." There are no characters named William or Billy in the original "Twin Peaks" save Dr. Heywood. In the new "Twin Peaks," the only Williams or Bills or Billys so far are:
    Dr. Heywood,
    Bill at the Casino (Ethan Suplee's character, seen with a woman),
    and some William from Episode 4.

    To me, that suggests that "Billy" is a figment of her imagination.

    And Richard Horne is about the right age to be the child of Audrey and Billy Zane's character from the second season of "Twin Peaks." While Benjamin mentioned that Richard had "never had a father," he does not comment on a mother and in his rampage for cash, Richard does not go to Audrey (and she expresses no concern that her son had killed someone and beaten the life out of another) and Charlie. So, if I had to guess right now, I'd guess that Audrey got pregnant her first time out, got blown up in the bank explosion and put in a coma. While in the coma, doctors extracted the baby (Richard) and he was put in the care of Benjamin and his wife. Their relationship soon fell apart and Audrey's mother raised Richard, while Benjamin kept Audrey on life support in a coma for the past twenty-five years.

    If this bore out as true, my bet would be that in the final episode of the season, when Agent Cooper returns to Twin Peaks fully, he visits the hospital, kisses Audrey and that wakes her out of her coma.


    -W.L. Swarts

    1. Crap.

      The theory falls apart completely when, at the end of Episode 14, we see Tina's daughter (the woman Charlie called) and she and her friend talk about Billy.

      Crap. If was a fun theory while it lasted.