Twin Peaks’ “The Return, Part 10” is a story about telling a story: what to include, what to leave out, and what gets covered over and over, by intent or accident. It’s also about how easy it is to get sidetracked by an attractive distraction.
Finally getting the man she thinks is her husband to the doctor’s office, Janey-E Jones begins to tell Dr. Ben (John Billingsley) about Dougie’s peculiar behavior over the past week. But as the patient disrobes, she’s so beguiled by his surprisingly muscular form that even Janey’s seemingly endless patter of complaints peters out.
Janey’s not alone. Dr. Ben should notice that his patient barely speaks, seems befuddled by the most familiar medical instruments, and cannot follow simple commands, but he, too, is distracted by what he believes to be a remarkable improvement in Dougie’s health, complete with “perfect” blood pressure and improved heart and lung function. Neither Janey nor the doctor can see past what they think are positive changes in Dougie to note his obvious and troubling deficiencies.
It’s easy to get distracted by details and forget the big picture, like Candie (Amy Shiels), who’s so focused on swatting a fly wherever it lands that she forgets it’s perched on Rodney Mitchum’s (Robert Knepper’s) cheekbone. But it’s also easy for a storyteller—a character, a writer, a director—to elide story, tempting the audience to fill in the blanks. When the Mitchum brothers shout Candie out of her reverie to fetch Dougie’s colleague Anthony Sinclair, they watch for a long minute on the monitors as she tells him a story, full of animated gestures around the casino floor. Doesn’t it look like she’s telling Sinclair about the strange man wandering around hitting jackpots? (Candie claims she was talking about the weather, but it sounds like she’s repeating the words of a forecast—maybe the forecast immediately preceding the report where the casino bosses learned Mr. Jackpots really is named Douglas Jones.)
The story of Twin Peaks has always been in part about how stories are told, and especially about the impossibility of reducing any story to one objective reality. That’s what made it such a phenomenon. At the end of “Episode 2” (the original series’ third episode, also called “Zen, Or The Skill To Catch A Killer”), Dale Cooper wakes from a sound sleep and calls Sheriff Harry Truman to say, “I know who killed Laura Palmer… No, it can wait ’til morning.” What follows the next morning (and the next episode) isn’t a revelation of Laura’s killer’s name, but a description of Cooper’s elaborate dream, which he insists is the code to solving the murder.
Part of Twin Peaks’ mystique comes from letting some pieces of its story go untold, unseen. We see poor Miriam (Sarah Jean Long), who loves teaching children and enjoying a good piece of pie and leaving a generous tip, lying in a pool of blood as the gas ticks out of her open oven. We don’t need to see the fire to know it will happen. More ominous than any explosion is the simple image of Miriam behind her trailer’s flimsy glass door, the reflection of Richard’s sneering face brighter and clearer than her own.
Lucy Brennan has been mostly comic relief this season, but when crooked Deputy Chad behaves just barely fishy, she snaps to attention. This isn’t the ditz who eats evidence and falls off her own chair; this is the same Lucy who, a quarter of a century ago, pretended to go about her business as she typed out every word two suspects were saying in the hallway. Does Lucy actually see Chad slip the envelope into his uniform shirt? The angle of her view suggests that she might, but the scene cuts away from her viewpoint in that split second.
Lucy’s window to the outside mirrors the television’s frame. The view is obscured for the audience as it is for Lucy because “The Return, Part 10” is as much about the narrative necessity of withholding information as it is about doling it out—to characters or to the viewers.
While some plot points are withheld, others are delivered over and over. Duncan Todd tells Anthony Sinclair in detail how and why they’ll set up the Mitchum brothers to dispose of Dougie Jones for them, not knowing that the casino owners have already learned Dougie’s name and set their sights on him. “Mr. Mitchum, Mr. Mitchum,” Sinclair says, repeating their shared name in his eagerness to show deference. “I am here to tell you something that you will want to know about.” But they already know enough to make them want Dougie Jones gone before Sinclair ever shows up.
In the world of Twin Peaks, there will always be repetitions, omission, and deviations. There will always be entertaining byways to explore and details that go unresolved. And no matter what part of a story it tells, someone will always wish it had focused on another. Is it satisfying to see Nadine (Wendy Robie), who long dreamed of her silent draperies business taking off, presiding over a well-appointed storefront named Run Silent, Run Drapes? It is! Is it important to the larger events unfolding in Twin Peaks, in Las Vegas, in the many worlds David Lynch and Mark Frost are depicting in this narrative? Who knows?
Casino gangsters and insurance fraud in Las Vegas, horrific deaths in South Dakota and New York, a thriving drug trade in Twin Peaks: It’s a lot of action, enough to distract viewers from the core of the story. The nostalgia is distracting, too: Lucy’s rambling explanations of nothing, Jerry Horne’s sojourns in the woods, Lawrence Jacoby’s rants. But at the heart of all this plot and all this affectionate remembrance is something bigger, better, brighter, something that can’t be obscured by omitted events or distracting segues.
The last line spoken in “The Return, Part 10” brings it, and us, right back to what’s important. In another heartbreaking appearance filmed before Catherine E. Coulson’s 2015 death, Margaret speaks to Hawk in the poetic, spiritual language they’ve shared since the first season:
Hawk, electricity is humming. You hear it in the mountains and rivers. You see it dance among the seas and stars and glowing around the moon. But in these days, the glow is dying. What will be in the darkness that remains? The Truman brothers are both true men. They are your brothers. And the others, the good ones who have been with you. Now the circle is almost complete. Watch and listen to the dream of time and space. It all comes out now, flowing like a river, that which is and is not. Hawk, Laura is the one.
Gordon Cole’s vision of Laura at his hotel room door reinforces Margaret’s closing words, communicating in harrowing imagery and sound the centrality of Laura Palmer to the mysteries of Twin Peaks, then and now.
“Laura is the one,” and the story of Twin Peaks is heading toward her as surely as Rebekah Del Rio’s dress, zigzags of black and white spangles shimmering in front of the roadhouse’s red velvet curtain, is a reference to the Red Room where Laura and Dale Cooper met. The journey will be full of distractions and diversions, but as Jerry Horne screams into the woods, “You can’t fool me. I’ve been here before.”
- I was sure we’d get a glimpse of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) in this episode. We’re just over halfway through. Lynch and Frost have let us fill in the pieces about Richard Horne’s parentage. In this episode, Richard calls Sylvia (Jan D’Arcy), Ben’s apparent ex-wife, “grandma,” confirming his generational place in the Horne family, which almost certainly means he was fathered when Dark Coop paid a covert visit to a comatose Audrey after the bank explosion. And Dale Cooper is coming back, bit by bit, including a weird reawakening to the possibilities of love and passion. I thoroughly expected to see Audrey Horne walking silently into the roadhouse as the music swelled. But I was wrong, and we’re still waiting.
- I don’t know what to make of Candie’s seeming inability to realize when the Mitchum brothers are speaking to her—or maybe it’s an inability to distinguish herself from Sandie (Giselle Damier) and Mandie (Andrea Leal). But the similarity between these three women and Naomi Watts is striking, right down to the pink they’re all wearing in this episode (which is also the color Naomi Watts’ Mulholland Drive character is introduced wearing).
- As Lucy sits at her reception desk chattering about losing track of time, she’s wearing a wristwatch and at least one timepiece pendant.
- Diane’s sinister look as she reads Dark Coop’s text in “The Return, Part 9” pays off in “Part 10” with the confirmation that she is secretly communicating with him.
- Duncan Todd commands Anthony Sinclair as if he were a dog: “Come here, Anthony.” “Don’t sit.” “Don’t speak.”