Let it never be said that David Lynch doesn’t know what people want with Twin Peaks. Granted, he may take his sweet time getting to the things fans are clamouring for, and their ultimate entrance may be somewhat anticlimactic, but he still knows why you’re here. While some grow impatient with the Dale/Dougie show and intertwining segments of plot from Vegas to South Dakota and back to that familiar Washington town, this season has delighted in taking its time and spending much of it with unexpected friends. Agents Gordon and Albert, accompanied by fresh face Tammy, have become a comforting presence as they investigate murder, parallel dimensions and Agent Cooper’s fate (moments made all the more poignant by Miguel Ferrer’s passing). The Sheriffs’ department at Twin Peaks have provided a safe port in the storm that is Washington state’s most unsettling town. Even the mundane suburbia of the Joneses, as frequently punctured as it is by assassination attempts and gangster interactions, offers a sweet contrast to the foreboding darkness, although this week our only glimpse of Dale/Dougie came in a one-sided game of catch with Sonny-Jim (I can’t wait to see what episode Kyle MacLachlan submits for Emmy consideration).
All of this, the lull that it puts viewers into, makes the appearances of old favourites equally surprising and deliberately a bit of a let-down. After much querying, the prodigal Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) finally made an appearance, but the moment felt distinctly anti-Audrey. The mischievous but ultimately warm hearted young woman from the original series is older, more bitter and equipped with a Showtime friendly potty mouth.
It’s not hard to imagine the tough life she’s led since the bank explosion, given what we’ve seen of her probable son Richard’s behaviour towards everyone else in the family (although she never mentions her son during this scene). Her marriage to the newly introduced Charlie (Clark Middleton) is miserable, and she chastises and emasculates him when he refuses to assist her in looking for her missing lover. Eventually, he makes a call to Tina - another person we don’t know - and their one-sided conversation is left as such since he won’t tell Audrey what happened. It’s a frustrating scene, even by Twin Peaks standards, but like the rest of the season, the truth is in the details.
Audrey, a woman who knows a thing or two about missing people, is frustrated by her husband’s excuses and trusts her instinct to guide her, which in this case is her dream of seeing Billy ‘bleeding from the nose and mouth’. If there’s one thing this show believes in with all its heart, it’s that ‘dreams sometimes harken a truth’. This moment, long and often quiet, feels obtuse in the same way the show delights in being so this season: It’s forcing you to invest in people you don’t know anything about, often more so than those you do. The only mention of Billy we’ve had so far this season has been in an earlier episode where a man ran into the diner asking if anyone had seen him. We don’t know a single thing about this ensemble Audrey is so invested in beyond knowing that she cares a lot, reminding us of how life has moved on in the town fans have enshrined in quirky memory. David Lynch wants you to enjoy the show at his pace; Audrey Horne is too keyed up for that.
Elsewhere, the show welcomed back, tentatively, Mrs Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie). Laura’s mother has never had an easy time on the show, between her daughter’s murder and visions of BOB. We briefly saw her in the premiere of this season, drinking and smoking alone in that familiar house, but here we bear witness to her troubled attempts at normalcy in Twin Peaks. Rolling up to the supermarket till with three bottles of vodka, some tomato juice and a carton of cigarettes, she finds herself distracted by, of all things, turkey jerky, and that sets off an unsettling panic that sends her fleeing the store. The bemused teens at the counter can only watch as she warns them, ‘Things can happen. Something happened to me.’
David Lynch was never that interested in revealing who killed Laura Palmer in the original series. For him, her death was the red herring needed to get ABC to commission a show about a town full of oddities and the bleakness beneath the kitschy surface. Obviously, that wasn’t what the network wanted and so the killer was revealed, but that basic DNA of his plan permeates this season. For every viewer agonising over a return to the Dale Cooper of old and those familiar interactions, Lynch offers a scattershot sketch of a living, breathing town populated by citizens who must live with strangeness every day of their lives as if it’s no big deal.
Something terrible is happening, and it’s going to happen regardless of how slowly everyone moves, so Lynch is happy to bring proceedings down to a glamorous halt with his beautiful French date and a bad turnip pun. He wants you to enjoy a glass of wine and take in everything around you. After 12 episodes and the knowledge that this all ends in six weeks, impatience can be hard to put aside, no matter how fascinating the journey is. Still, Twin Peaks is forever aware of the wait, but for now, it’s priority is in those small moments of brightness amidst the ever present dark. As Sarah said to Hawk, ‘Certainly a goddamned bad story, isn’t it?’