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Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

Airdate: 20 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.

Even if we didn't know that Twin Peaks: The Return was nearing the end of its 18 episodes, it would still be pretty obvious that things were coming to a head. First came the very sudden ramping-up of momentum in Part 14, and Part 15 moves even faster: now we're not just getting information, we're actually seeing plot advancing in faster strides than at any point in the season to date. We're even seeing resolution happening, which I had frankly assumed wouldn't come along at all; giving us a happy summation to 25-year-old storylines feels more like the thing The Return stands in direct opposition to doing with revived television properties, and yet here it is. Unless David Lynch and Mark Frost are planning on up-ending things with some horrible, painful reveal down the road, which with this show is obviously a big possibility.

Yet the whole opening to the episode really does feel like it's mean to be taken at face value, doesn't it? Lynch, among all the directors involved in making Twin Peaks, has always been the one who seems to be genuinely affectionate towards Nadine (Wendy Robie), regarding her with respect and dignity that nobody else did. And when the first shot (after some gorgeous B-roll of the Pacific Northwest) is of her beaming, confident face, it feels sincere, with not a trace of irony or forboding undercurrents. She has arrived at a good, healthy place, and the way the camera soaks in Robie's performance tells me that she's not going to be leaving it. There's something actively joyful about her line delivery, her expressions, and the way she firmly regards Everett McGill's Ed Hurley, some of the purest joy that Twin Peaks has ever given us.

And that joy hangs on for the next scene, as Ed and Norma (Peggy Lipton) finally end up together after nearly 50 years at the fulcrum of a love triangle. It's a thoroughly corny moment, if not before the on-the-nose use of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" on the soundtrack, than certainly the music pushes it over the edge. And I think the question to be asked is, so what? Lynch is a nostalgist at heart, and having the chance to present a very happy end for three characters who've struggled all the way into their senior years without closure or peace gives him an opportunity to through around intense emotions of a very different sort than his work usually leads him towards. This is celebratory in a way Twin Peaks almost never got to be; the trees and the skies and Shelly (Mädchen Amick) all joining in a Redding-induced feeling of real peace and bliss.

Naturally enough, it kicks off an episode that will go all over the place tonally, covering just as much ground as Part 14 did, though to lesser effect. Part 14 didn't hopscotch around nearly so much, nor did it feel like it re-covered ground we already saw in the way that Part 15 does. Sure, it's exciting to finally see Phillip Jeffries in the... well, we surely can't call it "in the flesh". But I can't help but feel a touch disappointed that the sequence of Evil Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) entering the convenience store that leads to wherever the convenience store leads to isn't more shocking. Basically, it's just elements of Part 3 and Part 8 combined into one, only without the "what the shit am I watching" feeling that comes from those two episodes. And surely only in the context of the surreal epic that Twin Peaks: The Return has been thus far does seeing David Bowie transformed into a giant industrial tea kettle (one that feels more like Eraserhead than just about anything else in The Return yet) fail to trigger a "what the shit am I watching" response.

Anyway, the episode is basically a "get the pieces in place" exercise on the grandest scale possible, bringing some storylines to a pretty definite close (Nadine/Ed/Norma), bringing some others to an apparent close (Steven Burnett (Caleb Landry Jones) is almost certainly dead, right? Though this clearly matters more for what it's going to do for other characters, given how little we've gotten to know or care about him), and pushing most of the ones that it makes space for into some pregnant moment where something is surely going to happen (Dougie methodically electrocuting himself in response to hearing the name "Gordon Cole" in the film Sunset Blvd. on TV has the feeling of a "and now, Agent Dale Cooper shall return" gesture like absolutely none of the previous "Dougie perks up at a reference from his past" scenes ever have). Much of this happens in the manner of my least-favorite Twin Peaks episodes, where scenes feel like they were dumped out of a bag and plugged into the episode at random, and Part 15 compounds this by introducing fades to black - I think the first ones in The Return, or at least surely the most pervasive - to further segregate all of the moments. Though the episode is sufficiently full of "oh WOW" moments that it's substantially less annoying here than in, say, Part 4, which remains all this way later my least favorite part of The Return.

In fact, Part 15 has quite an appealing spread of moments from the bliss of the opening to the terrified confusion of the newest person we just met at the Roadhouse, Ruby (Charlyne Yi) scrambling along the floor between the legs of bargoers after a pair of brutish men peremptorily throw her out of her seat, a sequence that ends in a primal scream as raw and real as anything in The Return. And in between there's the sublime goofy comedy of the Roadhouse MC (J.R. Starr) and his theatrical gyrations celebrating ZZ Top on the radio, and the deep sadness of Catherine E. Coulson's final scene as Margaret Lanterman, and the even sadder moment when Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) squeaks in dismay "the Log Lady died?"

There's a lot of overwhelming stuff happening here, is the point, and as much as I enjoy that sense of being overwhelmed, it's all a bit loose and shaggy for my tastes, particularly on the heels of the flawlessly-shaped Part 14. I presume we needed an episode like this to get into the final run of episodes at full speed, and so much the better if the acceleration happens through sequences that are as individually enjoyable as they are here, and shot with the same nervous energy - the staging of the Steven/Gersten (Alicia Witt) scene in the woods is remarkably elliptical, giving us little to look at in addition to depriving us of narrative energy. And while I find it oddly late in the game to have introduced Freddie (Jake Wardle) and his magical punching hand, the fact that he punches so hard as to actually interrupt the show's own soundtrack is a pretty terrific gesture. Still and all, the best parts of Part 15, outside of the opening and closing scenes, are the promise of things to come later, rather than things happening in their own right, and I don't mind saying that I hope this is The Return's last table-setting episode.

Grade: A-