Sunday, August 13, 2017

Minimal MacLachlan, But Bowie Returns! Twin Peaks "The Return Part 14"

The Good: Good performances, Wonderful special effects, Awesome blending of reality and surrealism
The Bad: Virtually plotless, Some of the character leaps require real suspension of disbelief
The Basics: "The Return Part 14" meanders, but it does it so well most viewers will just recall how they fell in love with Twin Peaks instead of being bothered by the ambling!

As Twin Peaks rushes towards its conclusion for the new season, the show has exhausted the pleasant shock factor of revealing the return of characters from the original Twin Peaks (reviewed here!) and now it is in something of a "put up or shut up" place. The new season has to deliver on the promise of the disconnected threads seeded throughout the earlier episodes and move toward some sense of closure in the storylines of Dale Cooper and Cooper (Bob). As "The Return Part 14" begins, that burden seems like it is being lifted as the episode starts making concrete connections between the two main investigative bodies of the show - the F.B.I. and the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Between that and the vintage footage in the episode, "The Return Part 14" puts more characters in touch with the fantastic elements of Twin Peaks than ever before.

"The Return Part 14" follows on "The Return Part 13" (reviewed here!), which managed to focus most of the plot's events on Twin Peaks and elevate the menace of the Bob-infested Cooper. "The Return Part 14" is cool in that is starts to link Doug Jones and Agent Cooper in new and interesting ways . . . through Diane. The sense that the episode is getting more concrete takes a weird turn when Director Cole discusses his Monica Bellucci-related dream.

FBI Director Cole calls Lucy Moran at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Truman informs Cole that they have found diary pages that might indicate there are two Coopers. Agent Rosenfield fills Agent Preston in on the Blue Rose investigations starting with the first case that Cole investigated with Philip Jeffries and involved a doppelganger. Diane arrives and claims that Cooper mentioned Briggs to her the last time they met. Diane reveals that her half-sister is Jane, married to Doug, living in Las Vegas. While describing his current dream, Cole and Rosenfeld recall a time Agent Cooper told them about one of his dreams. In Twin Peaks, Chad (the corrupt cop) is arrested and the Sheriffs make a trip out to Major Briggs' listening station, but they find the Jack Rabbit's Palace to be nothing more than a stump now.

Making the trek according to Garland's directions, the four encounter a woman from the surreal dimension and when a vortex opens above them, Andy is taken. There, he encounters The Giant and comes to understand that the woman on the ground is important. Andy comes out of the experience much stronger and articulate. Returning to the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, the mysterious woman is put in protective custody and she is mocked by the other two residents of the jail. Working security at the Great Northern, James learns from his co-worker, Freddy, that the younger man's hand is now gloved because The Fireman (The Giant) told him to after an experience with a vortex of his own. And at a bar, Sarah Palmer's dark side comes out when she is accosted by a drunken asshole.

It's hard not to get excited for anything these days that includes a surprise cameo by David Bowie and "The Return Part 14" is no exception. The archive footage that Lynch used to return younger versions of himself, Kyle MacLachlan and David Bowie to the screen makes for a delightful interlude in the middle of a weird dream sequence analysis.

"The Return Part 14" once again raises the level of surrealism in Twin Peaks as more people in the town encounter the extraordinary. The woman from the other place speaks in static and has no eyes, which is freaky. Andy disappearing when the vortex opens and seeing generally random images that he does not understand is deliberately unsettling. Andy makes for an interesting character to be teleported into the other dimension because he is a character who has, historically, had difficulty articulating thoughts and being taken seriously.

On the literal front, "The Return Part 14" suffers some because it pushes the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. Viewers are expected to believe that the two young ruffians from the original Twin Peaks both grew up to be in law enforcement?! Seriously?! Both Bobby and James became law abiding citizens - Briggs as a deputy sheriff and James working in private security. While James has only been seen in the new season of Twin Peaks before as a lurker and a singer, his sudden appearance in private security seems strange. Similarly, Bobby Briggs was a pretty literal, pragmatic, kid - how he came to accept the surrealism of his father's work makes much less sense than James completely buying Freddy's story. James was always characterized in the original as a dreamer, so his character arc for the twenty-five year leap makes less sense for his occupation, more sense for his acceptance of the fantastic.

Part of the magic of "The Return Part 14" is that the episode is almost over before it occurs to the viewer that Kyle MacLachlan has only appeared momentarily as part of Andy's out-of-world experience (as a visual implication of the two Coopers) and very briefly in the vintage footage that Bowie completely upstaged him in. It is fairly impressive that the show manages to go that long and be that engaging without its protagonist or antagonist.

On the acting front, Harry Goaz and Grace Zabriskie steal the show. "The Return Part 14" actually allows Goaz to play Andy as something more than a fool and that is refreshing to see. Zabriski manages to expertly transition with the most subtle of face movements. Zabriski plays Sarah Palmer and the moment Palmer is approached in a bar, all the viewer can think is "this is the woman who lived in the presence of the ultimate evil longer than anyone else" and Zabriski makes that idea pay off. The scene she is in includes a pretty wild special effects sequence, but it is the acting whereby Zabriski turns on a dime from horrifying to horrified to threatening with a change of her expression, mobility and voice is the true special effect of the episode.

"The Return Part 14" is an episode that feels smartly dense, but it starts to open cracks in the Twin Peaks universe. The Black Lodge was a mysterious alternate dimension with near-impossible entrance and exit points before. Cooper's escape from the Black Lodge earlier in the season is minimized some by Andy's easy transition to and from an alternate dimension and Freddy's story that indicates the same. The burden as "The Return Part 14" concludes is on David Lynch to explain why the Black Lodge was so difficult to escape from when the vortexes appear to be much more common than anyone knew before.

"The Return Part 14" gives viewers hope that Lynch might be able to pull it off.

For other works with Monica Belucci, please visit my reviews of:
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Brothers Grimm
The Passion Of The Christ
The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix Reloaded

[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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