In the minds of its viewers, “Twin Peaks,” like many TV shows, is defined by its creator and its lead. There’s a magic combination of those two names when seen together: “The Sopranos” has David Chase and James Gandolfini. “Breaking Bad” has Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston. “The Leftovers” has Damon Lindelof and Carrie Coon. OK, Ms. Coon ties with Justin Theroux, similar to how David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are co-leads (and requisite parts) in Chris Carter’s “The X-Files,” but the point remains: A creator and a lead are great signifiers for television fans, and their presence carries meaning.
[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks” Episode 4, “Part 4.”]
Turns out, it carries even more meaning when you see them together, on screen, in character, having a conversation. Thus was the case for David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan at the end of “Twin Peaks” “Part 4,” the most recent episode of the new season. In the final scene, Lynch — as FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole — sat down across from his leading man, MacLachlan — as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’s evil doppelgänger — and the two gave the most telling definition of the new “Twin Peaks” yet.
Here we are, staring at two close-knit FBI agents separated for 26 years, witnessing a reunion fans have been dreaming about — for these two men, as well as their characters — for just as long. The meta aspect alone would’ve made it a special moment, but Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost’s narrative construct illustrated a deeper meaning.
“It’s very good to see you, old friend,” Doppelgänger Cooper said.
“It’s very, very good to see you again, old friend,” Cole replied.
Taken on its own, the exchange marks a sweet initial reunion. It is good to see them again. It’s very good. But this isn’t exactly the reunion anyone wanted. Cole wanted to see his old friend again, not his doppelgänger, and even though he doesn’t know the full truth yet, he’s suspicious. Similarly, fans didn’t want to spend most of the first four hours tracking Doppelgänger Cooper instead of the real Cooper, and when we finally saw the pure of heart, coffee-loving Cooper escape the Black Lodge, he wasn’t himself. He’s… different.
And so is “Twin Peaks.” With the new episodes available for over a week now, I’m not going to bore you with a discussion about how things change over time, and how “Twin Peaks” has changed, too. There’s been enough think-pieces on that simple concept, and if you haven’t accepted it yet, you’re in for a long 18 hours. But what’s beautiful about this moment is how well Lynch integrates both groups of fans: those who are living in the past, and those who are ready for the future.
He gives us what we want on screen and off: Lynch and MacLachlan, together again, for “Twin Peaks.” But he also gives us what we need, immediately following their conversation.
After walking outside and ogling Agent Preston’s backside (Chrysta Bell), Cole has a frank, quiet conversation with Agent Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer). He knows something is amiss with Cooper, which is an incredible relief considering the characters within “Twin Peaks” can tolerate a lot of weirdness without asking questions. “Albert, I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all,” Cole says.
In what serves as a truly surprising act of generosity, the inscrutable master of cinematic surrealism took pity on his audience and admitted, “Hey, it’s OK if you don’t know what’s going on. Kyle and I don’t either — not yet, anyway.”
Continue reading for more on Episode 4, including why its clarity can’t be trusted.