The Good: Good performances, Wonderful balance of tension and humor, Great direction, Winnowing of superfluous characters and plotlines
The Bad: Unclear mechanic in Agent Cooper's/Doug Jones's memories.
The Basics: "The Return Part 16" finally returns Agent Dale Cooper to Twin Peaks, even as Cooper uses his own son as a tool to test another's trap.
In the last week, I went back and watched the prior fifteen episodes of the third (the reboot) season of Twin Peaks. The purpose, as I prepared for "The Return Part 16," was to catch connections I had missed with episodes spread out so far as well as basic things like names and (potentially) important details - like time not, apparently, moving in Audrey's subplot, the boiler at the Great Northern being the one The Fireman is listening to in another dimension, and Experiment getting thrown from near the escaping Dale Cooper into the woods near Jack Rabbit's Palace in our world many, many, episodes later. The new season of Twin Peaks is very dense and the odds are quite good that the show will ultimately hold up far better as a season than its individual episodes do. Regardless of that, I went into "The Return Part 16" with a renewed sense of preparation and eagerness.
"The Return Part 16" continues the important Twin Peaks story arcs from "The Return Part 15" (reviewed here!) and has Dale Cooper in Dougie Jones's body moving closer to consciousness, while the Bob-infested Cooper works to avoid being sucked back into the Black Lodge, apparently as part of Phillip Jeffries's machinations. The current season of Twin Peaks features a lot of elements that make sense, as well as a lot of confusing surrealism, but at the core of the season is Dale Cooper's attempt to return to our world and thwart his nemesis, Bob.
Cooper and Richard Horne drive to one of the two locations Cooper has been told about, the coordinates for one of the access points to the other planes of existence. While there, Jerry Horne, having been lost in the woods, sees them. Cooper gives Richard a device meant to register the correct place and the young man does his bidding, which leads Richard Horne to his death. While Cooper's assassins stake out Doug Jones's house, the Las Vegas F.B.I. agents stop by. Doug Jones, in the meantime, is in the hospital with Jane and Sonny Jim at his side, in a coma having electrocuted himself. The Mitchum Brothers arrive and get a key from Jane to stock the Jones house with food.
Hutch and Chantel run afoul of the man in front of whose house they have parked, leading to a gunfight in Jones's neighborhood that takes out the two assassins. Agent Cooper awakens in the hospital, coherent and having all of Doug's memories. He also is given one of the rings needed to pull Cooper back into the Black Lodge and asks a favor of the one-armed man in the Lodge. Cooper asks Bud for help and he calls upon the Mitchum brothers to get his family protected and out to Washington. Diane, having received a text from Cooper, visits Director Cole's room where she steels herself to kill Cole, Preston, and Rosenfeld. Instead, she tells the trio about Cooper's visit twenty-two years ago (three years after Agent Cooper disappeared). Diane tells the agents that Cooper grilled her about F.B.I. investigations, raped her, and took her to an old gas station (the one where Bob lived) before she confesses to sending Cooper the coordinates. When she tries to draw a gun on the agents, Preston and Rosenfeld shoot at her, but she moves with superhuman speed and disappears. Diane, the manufactured version, returns to the Black Lodge where she self-destructs in front of Phillip Gerard. Agent Cooper leaves the Jones family at the casino and tells them that Dougie will return.
The dual nature of Dale Cooper and Doug Jones is not satisfactorily explained in "The Return Part 16." Philip Gerard has a "seed" needed to make another artificial Dale Cooper (the seed is shown in "The Return Part 16" and it was the result of Dougie, having been teleported to the Black Lodge, blowing up there). But why Dale Cooper, now fully mentally restored in Doug Jones's body (the shock last episode apparently worked) has all of Dougie's memories is a bit of a mystery and is somewhat unsatisfying to watch. The fact that Agent Cooper has all of Doug's memories make it convenient and easy for him to leave the hospital and get on a plane, but it is frustrating to invest in the belief that it is fully Agent Cooper who is now back. The inclusion of Diane as a manufactured individual makes Agent Cooper's request to Phillip Gerard make sense even within "The Return Part 16" and one almost has to wonder if David Lynch had figured out by this point in filming (or even the writing process) that viewers would not remember the finer details of Dougie's destruction about a dozen episodes prior.
"The Return Part 16" adds a dark undertone to Twin Peaks. When Richard Horne is killed, Cooper says "good-bye, my son." The implication here is that when Bob, in Cooper's body, escaped the Black Lodge twenty-five years prior and visited the hospital where he was last seen in Twin Peaks, he raped Audrey Horne and impregnated her. This is a sad twist as the chemistry in the original between Dale and Audrey was the stuff of fanfick and Kyle MacLachlan did a great job playing off the much younger Sherilyn Fenn to play realistic desire and heroic restraint.
Twin Peaks is a series that has always had a pretty decent body count to it. Both prior seasons of the show had no problem killing off main characters, even if the climactic first season did not net any real casualties. The moment Diane heads toward the de facto office of the Blue Rose agents, there is the sense that "The Return Part 16" might turn into a bloodbath of characters who are beloved from the prior seasons. It is a weird thing to have a catharsis by having multiple characters shoot at another one, but the fact that all three F.B.I. agents survive Diane is actually emotionally uplifting.
Despite Richard's surprisingly horrific origins, "The Return Part 16" has a lot of humor in it. The Mitchum Brothers being in the wrong place at the right time to see the Hutch's get killed and the F.B.I. watching Jones's house is capped by Robert Knepper delivering a hilarious line. In fact, Knepper's deliveries throughout "The Return Part 16" are funny and incredibly well-executed.
The performances in "The Return Part 16" are impressive and arguably the most refreshing aspect of the episode is seeing Kyle MacLachlan return to playing Agent Dale Cooper. MacLachlan has played villainous and mind-wipe stiffed, but "The Return Part 16" is the first time in the new Twin Peaks when he has fully played Agent Cooper.
Between that and seeing Audrey outside her foyer finally, "The Return Part 16" is a truly delightful episode of Twin Peaks!
For other works with Sherilyn Fenn, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Gilmore Girls - Season Seven
Gilmore Girls - Season Six
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
[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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