Disclaimer: Twin Peeks is a recap/review series about the new season of Twin Peaks — which means there are gonna be spoilers here for everything old and new. If you’re not caught up yet, please do yourself a favor and at least consider it before reading this. If not, you’ll be pretty lost, and you need to get your bearings before diving in. Trust me on this one.
Suspense is one way to describe what David Lynch and Mark Frost have been imbuing The Return with so far. Fans have been sitting with decades-long questions since season three began. We’ve definitely gotten some answers, and even a deep dive into the Twin Peaks mythos; but there’s been one question I thought we’d probably never get an answer to — Where’s Audrey? That question was finally answered last Sunday when Sherilyn Fenn graced our screens once again. However, it’s how Audrey returned that’s since become a fascinating and polarizing moment in the show’s history.
This season, it’s no secret that Lynch and Frost haven’t been catering to viewers’ long-held expectations. From our first encounter with Dougie Jones, to our discovery of the real purpose of Dr. Jacoby — er, Dr. Amp’s golden shovels, there’s been one clear rule: your expectations mean nothing. Those may be tough words to swallow for the most diehard of Peaks fans, but it’s been true since Fire Walk With Me.
Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have expectations for Audrey’s return, even this deep into the season. The last thing I expected was an unceremonious cut from Russ Tamblyn’s foaming mouth, post-Dr. Amp tirade to Audrey standing by a fireplace. She hasn’t changed much at all. We’re catching her at a bad time. Her exasperated expression soon gives way to outrage, annoyance, and disbelief. She’s arguing with her husband (!!!) Charlie about what they’re going to do to find Billy, who is apparently her lover. There’s talk of unreliable info from a “certifiable” Chuck, Tina (whom Audrey can’t stand), and the Roadhouse. Ultimately, even after Charlie makes a phone call to Tina, we learn nothing about the situation.
Meeting up with her after so long in such a personal, alien situation felt uncomfortable. While the original Audrey used more manipulative, cunning means to get what she wanted, this Audrey has no qualms about cutting the bullshit and getting to the point. At first, I found it a bit abrasive, and it didn’t sit well with me. After reflecting on it for a few days and thinking about why I felt that way, I realized the scene itself was abrasive.
It’s strange but not surprising to have Lynch bring back a fan favorite in media res, with little to no context for what they’re going through or talking about. The lack of familiarity with the situation grates against nostalgia about Audrey and what we expected her to do in season three. There is also an undercurrent of sexism and ageism to finding her abrasive that I hadn’t acknowledged until recently. Would we be feeling the same way if this outburst had come from high school Audrey? Or would more people laud it as another iconic, headstrong moment? However, it’s fair to acknowledge that the depiction of women in Twin Peaks has been a mixed bag — and unfortunately, Audrey’s return doesn’t do much to help that.
While there’s still a lot to be seen regarding Audrey and where her place in this season really is (maybe this scene was just a dream from her hospital bed), there was another key player who made a harrowing appearance. We saw Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) earlier this season, albeit briefly. This week, however, we got a closer look into how she’s been dealing with the tragedy at the center of Twin Peaks — and it’s far from good.
We catch up with Mrs. Palmer on a trip to the grocery store, where she picks up various items (including three bottles of vodka). While she’s checking out, however, it’s clear something is wrong. What starts with questions about the beef jerky behind the counter ends with Mrs. Palmer in hysterics, confusing the blonde cashier for Laura (“Your room looks different, and men are coming,”) and still expressing her raw, decades-long grief. “Something happened to me….I don’t feel good!” she exclaims, and then quietly guides herself out of the store. Later on, Hawk goes to check on Mrs. Palmer at her house and we’re given a glimpse of the most infamous ceiling fan in television and film history. She insists that she’s fine, but snarls towards the end, “It’s a goddamn bad story, isn’t it Hawk?” Something’s gone wrong in the Palmer house yet again, but we’ll have to wait for the next couple of episodes to see what’s happening after all these years.
Meanwhile, in South Dakota, Gordon, Albert, and Tammy get some down time at their hotel. In a room that heavily resembles the Red Room, Albert gives some long-awaited exposition on the Blue Rose initiative, which he ultimately asks Tammy to join. She agrees, and not long after the gang is joined by Diane. Albert and Gordon ask Diane to join them as a temporarily deputized member of the FBI, although given her apparent connections to Mr. C this is meant to keep an eye on her more than anything. In true Red Room fashion, Diane pauses, the music on the soundtrack whizzes with static and white noise as she salutes and says, “Let’s rock.”
It’ll be interesting to see where this parallel with the Black Lodge comes in (if it does at all). Will Diane perhaps be a Lodge spirit sent to aid Mr. C? It seems like they’ve been keeping in contact, but it still feels like that answer would be too simple. Again, Lynch is keeping us in suspense here until next week.
Episode twelve’s other notable moments include: a five-second cameo from Dougie Jones (Old Cooper isn’t coming back just yet), a conversation at the Roadhouse that may allude to Mr. C making it into town, and Harry Dean Stanton is wonderful as ever in the role of Carl. Throughout it all though, it’s clear Lynch and Frost know how to use our impatience to keep the suspense of the series intact. Whether it’s Charlie taking forever to talk to Tina, or the French woman who’s been keeping Gordon Cole company taking eons to leave the hotel room, they know we’ve been waiting. We’re hanging on every word, and whether it comes easily or not and I’m in too deep to leave now.