The Good: The acting is okay, Early on the plot works
The Bad: Conclusion is terrible, Light on character development, Boring, Boring direction (usual David Lynch night driving shots).
The Basics: "The Return Part 18" mortgages the proper end of Twin Peaks for a boring, obscure, terrible conclusion.
The end of Twin Peaks arrives with "The Return Part 18" and the final episode has a lot to wrap up. Perhaps the most daunting aspect of "The Return Part 18" entering the finale is that the show has a burden of wrapping the storyline up with a sense of permanence that the original Twin Peaks was never bound by. By the time "The Return Part 18" aired, a significant number of actors who were integral to the original Twin Peaks - and the revival - were now dead, making a fourth season somewhat conceptually difficult to execute (even harder than a reboot twenty-five years after the original series). So, to make a truly satisfying end to the third season of Twin Peaks, writer and director David Lynch could not make another great cliffhanger (whether he knew that when he wrote the episode or not, well before it aired at least one critical actor still in play had died, which would have required a rewrite/reshoot before the finale ended if the series was going to continue). "The Return Part 18" opens with a particular burden as the prior episode ended at a point that seemed to entirely re-imagine the set-up to Twin Peaks!
And it fails.
Flat out, "The Return Part 18" is a conceptual failure that neglects the bulk of Twin Peaks to put Agent Dale Cooper on the most unsatisfying journey possible that is likely to frustrate, more than thrill, fans of the show.
Following the events of "The Return Part 17" (reviewed here!), "The Return Part 18" has Agent Dale Cooper having returned to Twin Peaks, defeated Bob in the mortal world with Freddy's help, and then disappearing into a nether realm. In the other place, Dale Cooper was able to see some of Laura Palmer's final moments and then - apparently - participate in them. "The Return Part 18" opens after the prior episode worked to tie together past elements and had Agent Dale Cooper, apparently time traveling, attempting to remove Laura Palmer from the timeline before she could be murdered!
Cooper, in the Black Lodge, is in flames, while Philip Gerard makes a new Dougie and returns him to Las Vegas for Janey and Sonny Jim. Agent Dale Cooper attempts to save Laura Palmer, but she disappears before he can get her to safety. He returns to the Black Lodge where he encounters The Arm, Laura Palmer and Leland Palmer. Agent Cooper is finally able to leave the Black Lodge properly, where he is reunited with Diane and together they drive off. When the tripometer on their car hits 430 miles, Dale pulls the car over and Diane implores him to consider his actions. After a kiss, Dale and Diane drive across a threshold, time traveling, finding themselves on the road at night. They stop at a motel, where Agent Cooper goes to get a room and Diane appears to see her own doppelganger.
Dale Cooper awakens the next morning in the motel room, alone. Dale finds a note to Richard from Linda and leaves the motel (in Odessa) and drives to Judy's, a diner. After rescuing the waitress at the diner from three thugs, Dale gets the address for the diner's other waitress. Dale Cooper arrives at the other waitress's home, where he finds Laura Palmer, though she claims not to be. Despite that, Laura leaves Odessa with Dale and they drive back to Twin Peaks for a terrible conclusion.
"The Return Part 18" is deliberately dense. The episode features time travel without a big flash or obvious portal and more doppelgangers and surreal aspects. The story's first half remains remarkably focused on Dale Cooper and Diane. The purpose of their time travel is not immediately evident and that is likely to be frustrating to some viewers, especially after how literal and concrete (if weird) much of the prior episode was. Dale and Diane seem to have an idea of what they are doing in the early parts of the episode, though their plan is not made immediately clear to the audience, up through and including, their prolonged sex scene.
Dale Cooper's journey in "The Return Part 18" is initially tough to grasp. There are anachronisms - like the old telephone in the motel and the signage in the diner - that seem to support the idea that Dale Cooper is now in the past. But, he continues to drive a modern car and the Valero is clearly one from the 2010s, so there is a whole "what the hell is going on" feeling through the bulk of the episode. Once Laura Palmer comes into "The Return Part 18," the episode is so mired in surrealism and intentional obfuscation that even fans of Twin Peaks will be wondering how this can possibly be the end of Twin Peaks.
Director David Lynch's obsession with night driving shots continues through the bulk of "The Return Part 18" and in this episode they quickly become tedious. By the time Dale and Laura arrive back in Twin Peaks at night, it is hard not to be so confused and bored that one actually wants Twin Peaks to just be done.
The final line of the episode and possibly the series seems entirely stupid given where the episode began (Dale Cooper seemed to know he was time traveling when he was with Diane). Given how vast the cast of Twin Peaks is, the tight focus on Dale Cooper seems like it would be incredible, but in the reworked world of Twin Peaks, Cooper is aimless and unsatisfyingly journeying to an unclear conclusion.
Is the world safe from Bob? Is Audrey Horne's horrific coma undone by completely rewriting history? What the fuck was the point of Twin Peaks?!
The tragedy of "The Return Part 18" is that there is no satisfying way to return to Twin Peaks from this point. For a man obsessed with bringing his beloved series back to television, David Lynch created a tremendous "Fuck you!" to the fans with his final episode of the revival of Twin Peaks.
For other major finales, please visit my reviews of:
"The Doctor Falls" - Doctor Who
"Come To Jesus" - American Gods
"World's End" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
[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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