“You have to wake up!” Wha wha…what? OH hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers and fellow Twin Peaks fanatics! Are you feeling like some hair of the dog and torch songs in the Bang Bang Bar? Me too. Well, let’s check in with The Return Part 6. What the hell is going on? I’m not sure, but let’s try to make heads or tails of it together:
“I hear you been out there looking for something to love
The dark force that shifts at the edge of the tree
It’s alright, it’s alright
When you turn so long and lovely, it’s hard to believe
That we’re falling now in the name of the Anthrocene
There are powers at play more forceful than we”
–Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds “Anthrocene”
Watching Twin Peaks: The Return, I began thinking about Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ invocation of the evolutionary “dark force that shifts at the edge of the tree” in an attempt to try to, as Dougie Jones’ boss would say, “make sense” of Part 6. Sycamore tree references aside, Part 6, like Part 5 before it, feels like a wild, chaotic spin around this, at once, expansive and insular world Lynch and Mark Frost have constructed. We travel from Cooper/Dougie’s suburban purgatory in Vegas to our first long look at Diane (Laura Dern) in Max Von’s Bar to Richard Horne mowing down some kid who is only credited as Hit-And-Run Boy in Twin Peaks. Despite its seeming randomness, connected, largely, by murder and melodrama, I’m beginning to feel like there is at least some reason behind it–a philosophical nod to “powers at play more forceful than we.”
The episode opens where the last one ended with soft jazz, which I could hear blasting from my neighbor’s apartment yesterday morning. Maybe HE knows what’s going on. Anyway, Dougie/Cooper is loitering fixated on a sculpture until he’s escorted home by police.
He’s greeted by his not-so-loving wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts) who throughout the entire episode is doing her best impression of Mink Stole as Peggy Gravel from John Waters’ Desperate Living. Don’t believe me? Between the screaming “Dougie! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW!”, her seething phone call with mob thugs (“NO NO NO! Don’t you DARE go to his office”) and her hilarious, if threatening, run in with the same guys (“What kind of WORLD are we living in where people can behave like this? We are living in a dark, dark age and YOU are part of the problem!”), I was ready for Janey-E to start yelling “BRATS! BRATS! BRATS!” out the window and rambling about the Supreme Court. Why I even thought she was going to say, “You’ve dialed the wrong number! SORRY? What good is that? How can you ever repay the 30 seconds you have STOLEN FROM MY LIFE!” after picking up the phone.
I mean, I do get it–she’s stuck with zombie Cooper–who wouldn’t be a little miffed? Sure, some of you Twin Peaks lovers are a little sick of Dougie’s antics, but what is better TV than an extended slapstick scene featuring the Clapper? That’s just a trashy good time.
Anyway, Cooper/Dougie tries to get down to business with the case files he’s given from his insurance office. As he sits down to work, One-Armed Mike appears in the Black Lodge, freaking out and repeating “Don’t die! Don’t die!”. What a worrywart! Calm down, baby.
Afterward, Cooper opens up his file and begins to “work.” Ok, he really just scribbles some deranged drawings of chutes and ladders, as well as tall trees on the official documents, driven by little glowing atoms or fairy dust or whatever. What are you trying to tell us, Dougie? What is it boy!
Actually, if anyone is paying attention, Dougie Jones could be the new outsider artist sensation. Someone call some gallerists! I got a new lead. All jokes aside, Cooper’s work does, in fact, bear a striking resemblance to some of the symbols used in Lynch’s own paintings, drawings and prints like So This Is Love and Two Figures Dance By A Tree With Ladder. Actually, Cooper’s art is a bit more accessible.
Lynch’s continual obsessions also return big time with the ongoing theme of heads that runs through the sixth episode. For example, we meet that sleazebag Richard Horne again as he talks to a Frank Booth-like coke dealer named Red, played by Balthazar Getty who some Lynch fans might recognize as Pete Dayton from Lost Highway (Anyone else fantasize this is the same universe and Red is where Pete ended up? No? OK.). Red is, well, deranged. He does some bizarre and strangely threatening karate moves, which is oddly reminiscent of Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He also bullies Richard, who definitely deserves it, calling him “small time” and, to Richard’s dismay, “kid.”
Things start to get strange(r) when Red picks up a coin, flipping it in the air. The coin hovers for an uneasy amount of time and when it finally lands, Richard, shocked, pulls it out of his mouth. Then, it’s back in Red’s palm, as he sneers, “This is you…this is me…Heads I win, tails you lose.” Ok then!
Heads come back to haunt Part 6 or really answer some questions toward the end of the episode when Deputy Chief Hawk finally figures out what the hell the Log Lady was jabbering on about when she said, “Something’s missing…it has to do with your heritage.” In the bathroom of the police station, Hawk drops a nickel, which, consequently, is an Indian head nickel. Eh! Eh! Get it? Figuring out the heads clue, he looks at the bathroom door, which has the logo for Nez Perce Manufacturing with the head of a Native American. The door also has a screw missing. Putting it all together, Hawk wrenches open the door, finding random pages of what I assume (hope) will be Laura Palmer’s diary. She is dead, yet she lives.
Now, it should be addressed that Lynch has a thing for heads in his work. And it’s not just Eraserhead. Many of his paintings and drawings fixate on distorted Francis Bacon-like heads in works like I Fix My Head and My Head is Disconnected. While these are certainly different than the head-related plot points in Part 6, it feels important to recognize that even this is essentially Lynch mining his own canon.
However, the heads/tails coin toss with Red and Richard also seems to indicate yet another of Lynch’s favorite themes: chance. After zooming away from Red, Richard Horne yells in his car, exemplifying that humiliating moment in which you think of something good to say after the fact. “Stupid magic motherfucker!” he screams. All coked-up, he flies down the wrong side of the road rather than come to a halt at a stop sign and in the process, plows into some kid playing with his mom who got waved on by the driver stopped at the sign.
On one hand, you could say it’s blind chance that the kid would run out at that exact moment only to be bludgeoned by the front of Richard Horne’s truck. In an interview with AnOther Magazine, Lynch is asked about the role of chance in his work with the interviewer quoting Lynch as saying, “chance is a great gift.” Lynch responds, “A great gift; a happy accident: they’re blessings, in a way. Every idea that you fall in love with is a gift. How the ideas come is the trick. You can’t make them come, but something will trigger a thing, and then there it is. It’s amazing.”
Of course, Nietzsche too has a thing for chance, especially in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. “Meanwhile do I sail along on uncertain seas: chance flatters me, smooth-tongued chance; forward and backward do I gaze–, still see I no end,” he writes. Much like Nee-chee’s notion of chance, Lynch’s apparently chance encounters seemingly have no end.
And yet, is this just blind chance? The intersection where Hit-And-Run Boy is killed is, in fact, the same intersection where One-Armed Mike runs a stop sign to, in so many words, warn Laura Palmer that her dad is actually BOB (“YOU STOLE THE CORN!!” “THE THREAD WILL BE TORN!” “IT’S HIM IT’S HIM”) in Fire Walk With Me. Spooky. Well, what are the…ahem…chances of that?
Even though Twin Peaks: The Return feels like, as Vox describes, “endlessly changing the channels on your TV,” there seems to be some sort of organizing principle–a dark force at the edge of the trees, if you will, that crackles like electricity through all the episodes. What is that organizing structure in this apparent chaos? Who the hell knows!
“That you are to me a dancing-floor for divine chances,” describes Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. That dancing floor might as well be the one in the Bang Bang Bar where we find ourselves again at the end of the episode with Sharon Van Etten. As Nick Cave sings at the end of “Anthrocene,” “…brace yourself.”