[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks: The Return” Episode 16, “Part 16.”]
As David Lynch and Mark Frost round the curve toward the home stretch, all of the dedication and hours that viewers have put in begin to snowball into payoff after payoff in the penultimate installment for the show. But just as Eddie Vedder — sneakily introduced by his birth name Edward Louis Severs III — sings at the Roadhouse, this life and this series are “running out of sand.” The passage of time is one that we’ve been made acutely aware of in “The Return,” with reminders from characters who now have wrinkles or adult offspring and the fact that many of the actors have already passed.
The biggest payoff of course is that “Dougie” (Kyle MacLachlan) wakes from getting electrocuted and is 100 percent Cooper now, with the clear diction, upstanding nature, and take-charge attitude that’s made him so appealing from the beginning. And although he sips approvingly of a dark, most likely caffeinated beverage in the limo on the way to the airplane, his raptures over pastries and coffee will have to wait for the double-episode finale next week. Cooper’s recovery is one that seemed doubtful as the series went along, but a more rapid narrative pace in the past few episodes have taken care of many concerns. Give fans what they want, all in due time.
That said, it’s bittersweet to say goodbye to Dougie and all of his trappings. Janey-E (Naomi Watts) can also sense this is an ending with the man she thought was her husband. But it appears that Lynch and Frost want to tie up all the loose ends to follow the adage of “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” It wasn’t just the Joneses we had to bid farewell to but also the Hutchens, who died in a rage- and Cheetos-fueled blaze of glory at the hands of an irate Polish accountant. It’s a satisfying and rather comical end to a couple that had provided so much menace earlier on in the season. This has been a trend over the past few episodes: The bad guys are losing, and the good guys are not just winning, but falling in love. With Cooper’s returned, it seems that the tide and electricity have turned.
The episode continues to deliver the goods by finally revealing that Diane (Laura Dern) was in fact sexually assaulted by Mr. C about 20 years ago, which sadly comes as no surprise. In a series full of visuals, though, the story unfolds using only words and Dern’s unnerving performance. On a show in which violence against women is so often played out in the most graphic of ways, it’s no less powerful to hear it as a first-person narrative. She is utterly heartbreaking and convincing, and even when it’s revealed that this Diane is a tulpa, that doesn’t diminish the scene’s power. Nor does it explain what happened to the real Diane.
Furthermore, Lynch and Frost finally put viewers out of their misery by letting Audrey (Sherilynn Fenn) and her husband Charlie (Clark Middleton) escape from his office to the Roadhouse. But just as everything starts to feel as normal as things get on “Twin Peaks,” the hypnotic, nostalgia-filled Audrey Dance happens, tipping the show’s hand. Audrey is still indeed trapped somewhere — either in her mind, in a coma or in some other realm of reality — and although the close-up shot of her looking in a mirror with a stark white background doesn’t give many clues, it’s enough to know that Audrey is not free. Her role in the series has been a disappointment so far, but at least there’s some progress in her mystery.
The episode also confirmed that Evil Cooper is indeed Richard Horne’s (Eamon Farren) dad, who won’t be winning any Father of the Year prizes, and confirmed that doubles are easily made, judging from Cooper’s request to make a replacement Dougie from the golden “seed” and hair from his own head.
Both of these instances bring home the contrasts in fatherhood though, with a little bit of the nature vs. nurture debate thrown in. Just because Richard is Evil Cooper’s son, and original recipe Dougie was his tulpa, that automatically made them rotten, womanizing scum. Cooper, however, is a pretty sweet dad with all the limited experience he’s had with Sonny Jim, and it’s to be hoped that the new Dougie made from his locks will be an improvement on the first. Sonny Jim, however, is presumably OG Dougie’s son, unless he was adopted, but all signs point to him turning out all right. The gym set probably helps.
“Part 16” continued the recent trend of episodic events, with very little of the surreal to truly interrupt the progress of the story. It’s gratifying, it’s satisfying, but each rewarding and straightforward event means fewer fun departures from reality. Also, nothing came as much of a surprise at all. “Twin Peaks” is either starting to make more sense, or we’re starting to understand David Lynch better. Two back-to-back episodes remain for Lynch to truly unleash himself on the screen.