“You’re still with me. That’s good.” Sure, that was the nefarious Mr. C talking to himself–or really BOB–in the mirror of his prison cell, but I share the same sentiment. I’m glad you’re still with us, dearest Filthy Dreams readers, for Lost in the Bang Bang Bar. This week, we’re joyriding through Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5. So buckle up and brace yourselves. It’s going to be a wild ride.
“Funny how secrets travel…”muses David Bowie, calling through the void of a darkened highway, illuminated by headlights and the luminescent lines in the center of the road. Bowie’s “I’m Deranged” introduces the opening credits of David Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway, which, between body snatching, 90’s rock soundtracks and Robert Blake, is a partial love letter to American car culture.
The aesthetics of Lost Highway seem to loom large in Twin Peaks: The Return Part 5, sticking with Lynch’s apparent impulse to cannibalize and synthesize all his old works into a staggering 18-hour magnum opus. Increasingly, each episode feels like everything has come to this and from the wild jazz of Trouble to the jail time personality switching of Mr. C, Part 5 sees Lynch reminiscing about Lost Highway. Even the early scene with a random electronic lighting up in Buenos Aires has the warmly lit, mysterious wood paneled interior of the homes in Lost Highway.
The episode opens with a smooth ride down the Vegas Strip. I know, I’ve said this before, but what can match the surreal trashiness of Vegas? It’s a town made for Lynch–pure unadulterated bizarre sleaze. Of course, Hunter S. Thompson marked the death of the American dream in Vegas in the early 1970s, but for Lynch, it’s still the American dream’s gravestone, linked to his constant reinterpretation of the perversion of American idealism.
In Vegas, we see the two hitmen who were trying to go after Cooper’s Dougie talking to some nervous lady who wrings her hands and calls some secret place in Argentina. Then, suddenly, we’re in a morgue, looking at the bloated headless corpse found in an apartment building in South Dakota. Do you have whiplash yet, faithful Filthy Dreams readers? Me too.
In the morgue, the medical examiner–and part-time comic (“Here’s the headline. Actually I just gave you the headline. Yeah I’m still doing standup on the weekends.”) finds a ring in the corpse’s stomach engraved to Dougie from Janey-E (Naomi Watts). Bum bum BUUUUM! Does this mean Agent Cooper has yet another doppelgänger? What the hell is going on?
Speaking of doppelgängers, let’s check in with that charmer Mr. C ., who in prison in South Dakota, announces spookily, “And now food is coming!” Well, isn’t he perceptive! He gets up from his comfy prison bed and stares into the mirror. Flashback! Cooper…I mean, Mr. C…I mean, BOB…Who the hell knows anymore…laughs maniacally in the Black Lodge and slams his head into a mirror from the series finale of the original Twin Peaks. Mr. C gazes longingly at himself and his face nearly imperceptibly changes into BOB. At first, it was so subtle, I couldn’t tell what was happening. Was he getting lip injections like Kylie Jenner? Mr. C later freaks everyone out by somehow turning all the alarm systems on in the maximum security prison during his one phone call, leading the Warden to ask, “What did this guy just do?” Don’t ask me…
After a few more random scenes like stopping by Mike’s job and meeting Sheriff Truman’s shrew of a wife (“I’m not going another day with a leaky pipe…We’re going to get that black mold!!”), we return back to Poor Agent Cooper. Today, Dougie goes to work at an insurance office and everyone seems to act like it’s totally normal that he’s walking around like a zombie, following coffee like a dog with a treat, freaking out about where to pee and accusing Tom Sizemore of lying after he sees a sparkling green light (Tinkerbell?) over his face in a meeting. This all begs the question. How weird is Dougie typically? At one point Janey-E says to Coop, “I think you’re having one of your episodes.” Is this a regular thing?
Poor Cooper. Will he ever return? He’s so confused. He only perks up when he hears words like “agent” and “case files.” Otherwise, he’s basically a poorly created SIMS character.
Overall, though, as The Onion’s A.V. Club pointed out in their wrap-up, the main characters in Part 5 seem to be the cars. Whether Dougie’s giant station wagon, Jade with her yellow monstrosity at the car wash or Dougie’s car getting blown up with metalhead car thieves in it, cars reign supreme in this episode.
Now this is nothing new for Lynch. Cars have always played an important role in Lynch’s films. From Frank’s nitrous huffing joy rides through Blue Velvet to Wild At Heart’s escapism via a convertible to the car crash at the beginning of Mulholland Drive that sets the world off its axis, cars are seminal Lynchian symbols, right up there with trains. In an interview with The Telegraph on the new Twin Peaks, Lynch admits he never watches films, but, as he says, “all I watch is TV shows about cars.” Well, it rubbed off.
The AV Club’s Emily L. Stephens sees a connection between the embodiment of Cooper in these various doppelgängers and Lynch’s vehicular obsessions. She writes, “In the beginning and now, in the end, the story of Twin Peaks—of Laura Palmer’s murder, of Dale Cooper’s possession, of his return to this plane—is the story of the body as a vehicle…In “Episode 16,” just before Leland’s death, Bob gloats, “Leland, you’ve been a good vehicle, and I’ve enjoyed the ride.” In “The Return, Part 3,” officers arriving at the scene of Dark Coop’s car crash call for gas masks because “there’s something bad in this vehicle.” There is. There’s a dangerous crackling energy, and a lapful of garmonbozia poisoning the air. But there’s something worse in that vehicle: a dark force that’s hijacked a good man’s body and driven it hard for a quarter of a century.”
She’s right, but I also see Lynch’s obsession with cars as a metaphor for his narrative style. Lynch–at least in Part 5–zooms in and out of these various narratives, weaving through place and time. It feels very much like a joyride to nowhere–a road that extends and very rarely loops back. Where are we going? Who knows! Watching Twin Peaks is akin to zipping down a (lost) highway and catching glimpses of random flashes of images along the way.
This ride brings viewers to unexpected places like Laura Palmer’s therapist Dr. Jacoby’s new career as an Alex Jones-like radio figure, loved by pothead Jerry Horne and eye patch-sporting Nadine alike. And who wouldn’t watch this shit show? I know I would. Just his opener is enough for me: “It’s seven o’clock. Do you know where your freedom is?”
Lynch very rarely parodies something topical–at least not so blatantly, which makes Dr. Jacoby’s Dr. Amp feel like a gift. Nobody is more harebrained and inherently mock-able than Alex Jones, performance artist. Playing “Stars and Stripes Forever,” Dr. Jacoby announces, “Dr. Amp doing the vamp for liberty, climbing the ramp of justice and lighting the lamp of freedom!” He, then, turns on a tacky diorama lamp of the Statue of Liberty. America first!
Yelling about global conspiracies, warning about diseases lurking in toaster waffles and imploring, “Where are the COPS when we need them?” Dr. Jacoby has come a long way from his kumbaya Hawaii obsession. On some level, though, it feels like a natural progression. Wouldn’t the town of Twin Peaks with its isolation and almost singular whiteness be predisposed to falling for an Alex Jones wannabe? I’m surprised there aren’t Trump/Pence signs scattered around the town.
Naturally, it’s all a big con. Dr. Jacoby, I mean, Dr. Amp is really just hocking gold spray-painted shovels for $29.99. Why? To “shovel your way out of the shit,” of course! Now I know what I need–Dr. Amp’s Gold Shit Digging Shovel!
For me, though, the real highlights of the show and perhaps the most foreshadowing were the appearances of some of the Twin Peaks kids, namely Shelly’s daughter Becky and one of the Horne’s shitheads Richard. Starting with Richard, well, he’s a downright creep who singlehandedly broke the utopian haze of the Bang Bang Bar. Nothing lasts forever I guess, not even redemption. The Bar is pure seething uneasiness now.
Horne, like a douche, smokes under a “No Smoking” sign and after blowing off the owner and bribing his crony, he basically sexually assaults a young girl, who asked him for a cigarette, drawn in by his Rebel Without A Cause act. Gross. Now while this was happening, Trouble, a band featuring Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai and Lynch’s son Riley Lynch, play a rousing jazz number. The song “Snake Eyes” is second only to Angelo Badalamenti’s “Red Bats With Teeth” from Lost Highway in manic loudness and frantic frenzied tone. Like the song, the entire scene shows the violence that was until now lurking under the surface of the Bang Bang Bar, bubbling over.
But, the true star of the episode was Becky Burnett, played by wide-eyed Amanda Seyfried. Burnett is Shelly’s daughter, the same daughter who Shelly rightly articulated to her friends in Part 2, “Something’s very wrong.” And something is–his name is Steven Burnett, Becky’s sleazeball partner who looks like he was just dragged, sweaty and stinky, out of the gutter.
Becky barges into the Double R Diner to ask her mother for some cash. Getting the money, she leaves and gets into Steven’s convertible (more cars) as Shelly and her boss Norma look on. Counting the money they got, Becky and Steven play up the whole bad romance thing, park near some railroad tracks and do a big bump of coke. Girl, Laura Palmer was on drugs too–it didn’t end well for her.
After snorting her line, Becky leans back in the velvety red interior of the car. It’s a transcendent moment as The Paris Sisters’ “I Love How You Love Me” croons from the car stereo. Leave it to Lynch to score a subtly ominous scene with a sickeningly sweet classic vintage song.
The camera stands still on her illuminated faces as she smiles with her eyes rolled back in her head. Though she remains in the center of the shot, Becky exists in a sea of red–the same red as the Black Lodge. Even the stripes on the headrest look similar to the ripples in the red curtains. Is Becky the new Laura Palmer? She even bears more than a passing resemblance to the former doomed homecoming queen. And the scene is even shot similarly to Laura’s horrifying death in Fire Walk With Me, except with a heavenly glow rather than a sickly lightning bolt of illumination.
“If you don’t help her now, it’s going to get a lot harder to help her later,” Norma says. And it’s true–girl, don’t take that Owl Cave ring!