[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks: The Return” (Season 3), Episode 9, “Part 9.”]
After a week away from Twin Peaks, the present day, and the time-space continuum as we know it, “Twin Peaks” got back to normal in Part 9 — well, normal for “Twin Peaks.” There was talk of traveling to other dimensions, inexplicable tones (one of which sounds like “a monastery bell”), a man terrified of his own foot, and one nasty armpit rash, but there weren’t any flashbacks to nuclear tests in New Mexico or freshly hatched giant bugs crawling inside a young lady’s mouth.
And that’s kind of a bummer.
Literally, the episode — though filled with information and superficially funny scenes — was as sneakily ominous as it was a bit basic (again, by “Twin Peaks” standards). As fun as it is to watch the complex central mystery unfold, there’s nothing quite like seeing David Lynch unleashed. We want the Lynchian extremes, be it dark, existential philosophizing or absurd, inexplicable comedy. There have been two batshit crazy episodes of “Twin Peaks” in 2017 — Part 3 and Part 8 — and they’re the best two of the new season. Tonight’s follow-up to last week’s masterpiece didn’t have a moment as entertaining as “Hell-ooo-ooo-ooo” to balance out the intense dread cooked up in the previous hour.
But Lynch seems to be very aware of his structure. To call it an hourly format wouldn’t be exactly right, as the natural storytelling breaks don’t often occur as neatly as they did between Parts 7 and 9. Part 8 stands by itself, whereas Part 3 starts with Cooper landing in a giant metal building in space and ends with him starting his megajackpots streak at the casino. There’s a big section of Lynchian surrealism and a broadly appealing comedic bit, all in the same episode.
Part 9 functions similarly to Part 8 as the end of Part 3 and all of Part 4 did for the trippy start of Part 3: It gets back to the plot. Lynch quickly follows up a mind-boggling episode with one tightly structured in its linear, ongoing narrative. Whether that’s to give our overtaxed minds a reprieve or to stretch their powers of perception is anyone’s guess, but it’s working — it’s just working differently.
It’s easy to contend the shift from last week’s flashback episode to the present day in Part 9 has great purpose; that Part 8 was a precursor of what’s to come; a necessary prequel so we would better note the horrors seeping into today’s events. The further we get into “Twin Peaks,” the darker it becomes. Moments like Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) picking out chairs online and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) learning of his father’s love from beyond the grave stand out in sharp contrast to a nuclear explosion birthing pure evil, ghostly hobos crushing people’s skulls, and Bad Cooper ordering the assassination of three people. We’re waiting for our hero to save us, and he’s still trapped in Dougie-land.
Even the comical moments this week foreshadowed bad things to come: Gordon (David Lynch) shouting, “Cooper flew the coop!” is funny because we already knew he’d escaped, but it doesn’t bode well that Evil Cooper is out roaming the countryside (as Albert concluded near episode’s end). Sticking with the FBI for a second, Diane’s sprawling, “I don’t give a fuck” posture while smoking in a morgue — which was simply glorious, by the way — was quickly contrasted by an ominous text message. And Albert can call Hastings (Matthew Lilliard) a fruitcake all he wants: What the imprisoned principal says rings true to what we’ve seen, and it spells trouble for Hawk (Michael Horse), Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster), and Bobby when they go looking for Jack Rabbit’s Palace in two days.
Perhaps most disconcerting was the week’s comedic approach to death. The two farmers killed by Hutch (Tim Roth) and Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) just laid there, slumped over next to their home, barely warranting a glance from Evil Cooper. Johnny Horne (Eric Rondell) sprinted through his house until he ran face first into a wall. The scene, which came out of nowhere, evoked a burst of laughter followed by troubling guilt after seeing he was dead. All of these humorous asides burnt black like the tip of an iron hint at a world much crueler than the one that let Good Cooper win 28 jackpots in a row.
Lynch has pushed us to the brink of good and evil coming to power, and it’s a race to see who gets there first. On the one hand, we’ve got Evil Cooper all patched up, weaponized, and on the prowl. Odds are high he’s put a hit out on Good Cooper, Hutch’s next assignment after he disposes of the casino manager, Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler). But can Good Cooper be found and saved by Gordon and Co., now that the cops have Good Cooper’s DNA from the evidence-bagged coffee mug? And how will the timing of both play into what happens when the good men of Twin Peaks head into the “zone,” as Hastings called it?
We wouldn’t dare speculate, but it looks like evil has a head start.
“Twin Peaks” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.