Twin Peeks: A Return Recap, Part 13
What story is that, Charlie?
August 11, 2017 at 11:52 am
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.
Arm wrestling, cherry pie, a conga line — all three make an appearance in the thirteenth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return and honestly, I’m still parsing through what it all means. Mainly, I believe last week’s episode firmly cements how much David Lynch and Mark Frost have been turning away from the nostalgia of the original series in favor of the dark, unexpected, and absurd.
For starters, episode thirteen features another good chunk of familiar faces, albeit in situations that completely subvert our expectations from the original series. The majority of the people we see over the course of this episode (save for Big Ed) have already appeared in The Return, and in ways that feel painfully different from where they were 25 years ago. Specifically, I want to focus on Ed, Audrey, and James.
Ed and Norma are shown together at first, teasing the audience into believing they’d finally gotten together after all, but the rug is pulled from underneath us when we see Walter — a businessman who appears to be helping Norma with her RR franchise, though it’s clear their relationship isn’t just business. (Between Norma’s franchise and Nadine’s drape runner shop, thriving business women in Twin Peaks is a favorite theme of mine this season.)
It’s reminiscent of the scene in episode eleven where we realize, after seeing Bobby and Shelly together, their relationship isn’t what it used to be. It’s clear that Lynch and Frost have no interest in how much the memory and nostalgia surrounding Twin Peaks has influenced the fans’ expectations; so much so that they’re actively shattering them. To hammer home the point, during a particularly sobering credit sequence, we sit with Ed as he eats soup from the Double R in his gas station, completely alone. The silence of the night fills the soundtrack as he idly burns a piece of paper while the credits roll. Loneliness has always been present in Twin Peaks, but it’s never hurt quite this much.
Audrey Horne is another familiar face whose return was fraught with expectations — expectations which were all taken away with a single jarring scene. This week, Audrey is back, but something’s clearly wrong. When she was talking to her husband Charlie the last time we saw her, there was rage and exasperation on her face. Now, Audrey’s eyes well up with tears when her husband asks about going to the Roadhouse. “I thought you wanted to go,” Charlie says. “I want to go and I want to stay,” Audrey replies.
She’s clearly distressed, frustrated, and unsure. It’s a heartbreaking departure from what we’d think the old Audrey would do, and again, that seems to be the point. It’s been decades after all, and who knows what Audrey’s been through? As usual, I can’t say where Lynch and Frost are leading us when it comes to her story, but it’s been difficult to watch.
I want to touch on the reappearance of another character — another Hurley to be specific. When we last saw James Hurley wayyyy back in episode two, we didn’t spend that much time with him. All we learned about what’s been going on with James in the past 25 years was that he’d been in a motorcycle accident. As hated/picked on as James is in the fandom, it was a dismal reintroduction.
When we saw James again in last week’s episode, he was given literal center stage as the musical guest and performs “Just You” — a song you might remember from the original series. It’s a sweet, nostalgic ode to young love; but in the context of the new series, with an older James and no Maddy or Donna in sight, it’s devastating. In this case, Lynch and Frost have managed to upend our expectations by placing something from the past in a new light. Changing the context of a scene, it turns out, can be just as shattering as completely changing a character.
All of this made episode thirteen a particularly sobering watch. It’s difficult to set aside the nostalgia for these characters — the saddle shoes, the motorcycle, the gas farm — and come to terms with their new realities. Audrey may or may not be in a coma, Ed and Norma are still apart, and an aging James is clinging on to “coolness.” While it may be tough to sit with, it’s what we have right now. We only have five episodes left (yikes!!), which means there’s certainly room for redemption and closure for these characters; but at the same time, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Lynch and Frost have made it clear that no character is safe from change, but then again who is?