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Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

Airdate: 13 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.

David Lynch's filmography, for all that it's easy to dwell on the horror, the surrealism, the dreamy slowness, and the human savagery, has never been reluctant to embrace humor. But I cannot say that I've ever outright guffawed at anything in Lynch quite like I did when, in Part 14 of Twin Peaks: The Return, Lynch's own character of FBI Chief Gordon Cole casually, almost absently mentions "AND LAST NIGHT, I HAD ANOTHER MONICA BELLUCCI DREAM", followed by an extraordinary pause where I found it impossible to wonder - what kind of a Monica Bellucci dream? We know that Gordon, like Lynch is not above keeping the company of gorgeous women for the sake of their being gorgeous, and Bellucci is one of the most gorgeous women now living. But it's not that kind of dream at all, which we find out in short order, when the action cuts to extraordinarily beautiful black-and-white (not so severely high-contrast as in Part 8, this time around cinematography Peter Deming has introduced some softer greys that suggest a European art movie from the 1960s), and damned if Bellucci herself doesn't show right up to sit at a table across from Lynch, and whisper complicated aphorisms about dreams and realities, which Lynch, as Gordon relating the dream to Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy (Chrysta Bell) bellows in his nasal shout.

It is, to me, utterly hilarious, or at least utterly startling and unpredictable, and unpredictability is at the heart of much comedy. So is incongruity, and that's at play here, as well, because for all the ridiculousness of seeing Bellucci cameo as herself in a horny old man's dream of foggy symbolism, the scene is also rich with echoing meaning that plays up everything that the show has been doing in this Return. It's dreamy, slightly menacing, totally otherworldly. But funny. But eerie.

And that, right there, is what Twin Peaks and David Lynch are all about, and Part 14 is an extraordinary exemplar of what those things can achieve. It is, if nothing else, by far the busiest episode of The Return so far, and if I though that Lynch and Mark Frost gave a damn about what the audience thought (beyond using our expectations against us), I'd have to wonder if this is the point where all of the non-stop stasis of the last 13 episodes is suddenly made to pay off all the impatience that has demonstrably been building for many people up to this point. After all, when we've been lulled into a rhythm of two-minute scenes of people sweeping and circular conversations that demonstrate nothing, an abrupt shift to lots of clarifying exposition and consequential action is the unexpected, and I suspect that more than anything else, what Lynch and Frost especially want to do is to prevent us from ever, ever growing comfortable with the show.

At any rate, the 56 minutes of Part 14 are easily the most jam-packed we've gotten thus far; some mysteries are solved (so that's where "Blue Rose" comes from, not that it matters really) and others are raised (who are those women in the Roadhouse at the end, and are their Billy and Tina the same as Audrey's Billy and Tina?), and some mysteries are raised in a way that at least suggests what the general shape of their solution is likely to be. Especially that... situation, let's say, with Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie, who is fucking amazing in this episode), and whatever it is that has taken up residence inside her body.

But it's not just that we're suddenly starting to get additions to Twin Peaks mythology by the ladleful; what makes Part 14 stand out to me even more is the fearlessness with which it jumps from instant to instant, changing plots, tones, whole entire genres in the blink of an eye. The Sarah scene at the end is the most obvious example, certainly: a low boiling moment of unpleasant tension, as a foul-mouthed trucker (John Paulsen) starts puking out the vilest insults of sexualised violence, epitomising Twin Peaks's longstanding theme of the brutalisation of women by men (and I sort of wonder if this scene mightn't have been better overall if the trucker wasn't such repugnant scum, but no matter), and it is tense and worrying; then Zabriskie drops into that mildly amused, mostly annoyed register to ask the trucker to kindly fuck off - and I think it needs emphasising that Zabriskie's go-for-broke performance is certainly the engine driving this scene - and it goes from one kind of menace to a very different kind of menace. And then she pulls her goddamn face off, and we see a nightmarish experimental film playing there, and somehow the cheapness of the effects work makes the whole thing just that much more mind-shattering in the unearthly that-can't-happen vibe. It's a steady pile-up of tension, more tension, and then when the tension is about to snap, it turns into visceral terror, like some kind of body horror that broke so far away from the human that it turns into Lovecraftian "terrifying because it can barely be named or described" horror. And within seconds, Lynch reverses the tone back to goofball comedy, with the bartender's (Eric Ray Anderson) baffled, accusatory delivery of "With half his neck missing?", and his subsequent, peevish call of "Honey, call 911! We've got a dead one at the bar". And Zabriskie buttons it with a dry "Yeah, sure is a mystery, huh?" in a perfect classical deadpan.

The completely brazen mix of irreconcilable tones in that penultimate scene is when I gave up pretending that I was going to be able to find any fault at all with Part 14, but in truth, it's not much more than the natural extension of what the whole episode has been doing. Comedy, horror, mysticism; the three pillars of Twin Peaks are at constant play throughout, mixed in with some juiced-up melodrama (I'm not really watching The Return for its plot revelations, but even so, the discovery that Janey-E is Diane's (Laura Dern) estranged half-sister pulled a loud "holy shit!" from me), and even some beatific moments as Frank (Robert Forster), Hawk (Michael Horse), Andy (Harry Goaz), and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) take that stroll out to find Jackrabbit's Palace, a trip that has been set for "two days from now" for, like, a week. From the very start, Twin Peaks has been invested in the idea of the deep woods as a repository for dark secrets and dangerous energies; offhand, I don't know if I can name one single moment in the 42 episodes and one feature film preceding this point where the woods are presented as any kind of peaceful, lovely place (possibly the last scene of Episode 16, but that's been such an exhausting experience getting to that scene, there's not much peace there). But here, finally, we get that sense of the woods: they are, yes, "inhuman", but in the good sense, of a place untouched by noise, chaos, thoughts. It's some of the loveliest cinematography the show has ever had, particularly once Bobby finds Jackrabbit's Palace and approaches it, backlit like he's entering heaven. And then, of course, the camera pushes in and tilts up to look at the dead tree from an ominous angle, as Angelo Badalamenti's score drones sorrowfully in the background, because nothing in Part 14 is interested in letting us have a settled, single emotional response.

Same with the subsequent vision sequence, one of the most unexpected in the show's history. Mostly, I think, that's because it happens to Andy, and that's certainly where it gets its great power:  this gentle idiot of a character, who we'll later see reverting to his normal state, suddenly becomes strong, wise, and firmly in charge; the black-and-white footage of the other place where the Giant/Fireman/?????? (Carel Struycken) meets with him accentuates the deep wrinkles in Goaz's face in a way that makes him look substantially more interesting, but also more beaten and carved by time than I'd really noticed before. For Andy to go from a comic relief figure to something like a holy fool, pure of heart and thus stronger than anyone else, is heartbreakingly good stuff, possibly the sweetest gesture Twin Peaks has ever made towards any of its characters. And it might be the strongest I responded to anything in this extraordinarily great episode, made up of virtually nothing but emotional sucker-punches. It's one of the most exhausting episodes of Twin Peaks ever, in the best possible way.

Grade: A+