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Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

Airdate: 6 August, 2017

Author's Note: This and all subsequent reviews of Twin Peaks: The Return episodes will freely give away details from the episode at hand, and all those preceding it. The spoiler-averse should back away slowly.

As I was watching Part 13 of Twin Peaks: The Return, I was busy mentally sketching out the review I wanted to write, and y'know, it was going just fine. It struck me that there were a lot of overt continuity errors happening, not within the episode, but between the episode and others, and plus it was introducing continuity problems in places that had seemed to go by smoothly and without incident, and I thought that might be a thing to talk about. Like, is this just one of those little accidents that find their way into movies and TV all the time, or is it a sign that David Lynch and the five other credited editors on every episode are just being damned sloppy or can it be that that it is a clue?

But then the ending comes along, and with it comes eleven words that convinces em that the haters have been write all along, and Lynch really has just been trolling us this whole time: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Roadhouse is proud to welcome - James Hurley!" And James Hurley (James Marshall) has moreover come to sing for us his all-time hit, "Just You", as debuted way back when in Episode 9 of the original series, and in the 26 years and 10 months separating that episode from Part 13, the song has become one of the most divisive and contentious piece of all Twin Peaks, with some fans finding it sweetly innocent, some finding it corny as hell, but of a piece with the oddball, parodistic humor of the whole show, and some - this is the group that includes me - finding it to be just awful and tedious and thank God that it ends in the most terrifying moment in the show's entire run, or there'd be no salvaging it all.

The point being, bringing back "Just You" is possibly the most transparent "this is our fucking show, not yours, and we will do with it as we see fit" gesture that Lynch and Mark Frost could have possibly made, short of devoting an entire episode to James visiting the ghost of the dearly departed Evelyn Marsh (and we've got five installments to go, I'm not going to pretend that's not a possibility). It's way the hell more of a "fuck you" than presenting Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) as raving and bitter, like we saw in Part 12, particularly given that her appearance in Part 13 seems to in some way obviate that appearance, or at least make it substantially more confounding what the hell is going on with her (I'm no fan of speculation and fan theories - Lost burned that impulse out of me forever after - but both the "Charlie (Clark Middleton) is her psychiatrist" and the "she's still in a coma" theories seem awfully good to me with the facts as they stand). Anyway, fuck James, and fuck "Just You", and yes, I appreciate that Lynch and Frost have anticipated that exact response from me.

But how about the episode up to that point, which is, all things considered, a fairly damn solid thing? It includes what is possibly the single most "Twin Peaks in the 2010s" plot point imaginable, that Norma (Peggy Lipton) has now become a franchise. And in a show that has had its share of "do you get it, I'm actually talking about how we brought back Twin Peaks, and it's deliberately slow and thwarts the fans" dialogue, I don't think anything has been quite as on-the-nose as Walter (Grant Goodeve) suggesting that if you want to make money, you have to sacrifice quality and individuality, to which Norma gently replies that there'll be none of that in the making of her television series pies. But it's a sweet moment anyway, and I like seeing Norma do more than furrow her brow as Shelly (MΓ€dchen Amick) does something stupid to enable Becky (Amanda Seyfried).

And on the subject of Norma, cheers to the episode for setting up that little sub-theme about how Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) is sad and lonely now. First by having the false promise of the Ed/Norma dinner together, then by showing Nadine (Wendy Robie) giddily fangirling at Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) - of the many things that The Return has done that I would not have anticipated in advance, turning me into a Nadine/Jacoby shipper is fairly high on the list - and lastly with that mournful closing scene of Ed eating soup out of a paper cup, as the end credits mercilessly scroll by his face. By this point, the show's message that things usually don't turn out very nicely, so shame on the audience for feeling nostalgic has become fairly old hat, and the Audrey scene in Part 12 etched it in stone, but it's still a strong undercurrent, and it plays out here with more tenderness than it has generally done thus far.

The tenderness is one thing that stands out; another is the comedy - this may well be the most openly funny episode of The Return so far. It's certainly the first time that Evil Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has featured prominently in a comic bit; or am I alone in finding that whole arm wrestling sequence to be absolutely hilarious? It's exactly the same kind of humor that animated the original run of Twin Peaks, except that instead of mocking melodrama and film noir, it's mocking tough-guy action cinema, in staging the brawl to the death in front of a gang of screaming gang members as an arm-wrestling match, described with the tense, hard-boiled dialogue of any shootout. I could certainly have done without the show calling attention to the gag, by having Cooper ask if this was nursery school, but the absurdity here is delightful. And in good Lynchian fashion, it shades into surreal horror (MacLachlan's emotionless delivery of "Starting position is more comfortable" and all that follows is just about perfect), and thence to a quick explosion of some gore that makes up for its fakeness by its suddenness (but seriously, that's one bad looking dummy).

It's one of at least three outwardly comic moments, and my favorite, though the moment where the three Fuscos steadily ignore the frantic screaming of what sounds like a fairly horrible scene is right up there. And I hadn't even noticed till this second that it's foreshadowing their subsequent ignorance of the key clue that two men are running around with identical fingerprints (which is perhaps another meta-moment, with Lynch and Frost idly reminding us that it's important to write nothing off as junk. But of course, the Twin Peaks fandom would hardly need to be reminded of that. So perhaps it's the opposite: asking us to write off all clues as junk, and just enjoy the ride). I'm slightly less high on the silly parade through the insurance company hallways, a scene that feels for all the world like a parody of the endings of The Seventh Seal or 8Β½, though to what end, I cannot imagine. Still, the goofiness is as much a part of Twin Peaks as the droning terror, and there's been more of the latter than the former this season. So it's nice to have the balance restored a little bit. It's not the stuff of an instant-classic episode, but it has a good vibe to it all in all.

And lastly, that moment when Janey-E slowly allows herself to move from confusion to suprised pleasure to contented happiness? Naomi Watts is just the absolute best, and I feel like she's too easy to overlook. But I can't imagine this season without her.

Grade: A-