[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks: The Return” (Season 3) through Episode 16, “Part 16.”]
David Lynch’s persistence is paying off.
It’s not like after hearing some fans and critics complain about lengthy, redundant scenes (like five minutes of floor sweeping) and/or characters arcs (“Dougie”), the writer and director — as well as his partner in crime, Mark Frost — could change course midway through “The Return.” But those questioning whether or not the two creators are in complete control of their story — after being given absolute artistic license to make “Twin Peaks” however they see fit — well, those doubters can rest easy.
“Part 16” illustrated Lynch’s precise vision more clearly than anything prior, and it did so with a whole lot going on. From tulpa mania to Agent Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) recovery, the penultimate week of “Twin Peaks” featured quite a bit of development that quickly pushed the story forward.
But it wasn’t just an influx in action that made the episode standout. Lynch kept things moving with deft combination of big reveals and subtle behavior, with both working together to make things fly. “Part 16” was richly rewarding because each plot point benefitted from the 15 hours of backstory, including a surprise song from Eddie Vedder that could foreshadow an actual ending in the finale.
Cooper’s Back, Baby
First things, first: Cooper is awake!
So many viewers likely echoed MIKE’s (Al Strobel) “finally” when Dale Cooper emerged from Dougie’s silent shadow. His return was treated as the exhilarating event that it was, with the “Twin Peaks” blared under Cooper’s cheer-inducing, “I am the FBI,” but it’s important to note how his awakening didn’t discount anything that came before.
What Cooper went through as Dougie still matters. That life isn’t one to be tossed aside in favor of a larger plot. As much was made clear when he knelt down with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon). Cooper gave a family that was never his the heartfelt goodbye they needed, along with an assurance that the right version of him would return and stay with them for good.
But it was evident before that, on a deeper level. For as much as it seemed like Cooper wasn’t really there while living Dougie’s life, he was completely aware of where he was and who people were when he woke up. He knew what he’d done, what had been done to him, and had a plan in mind that involved many of “Dougie’s” friends.
To have Cooper wake up and not recognize his life would have been frustrating on a number of levels, but Lynch and Frost have set him up on a very specific path, and everything he went through as Dougie is part of it. He needs the Mitchum brothers’ plane to get to Twin Peaks, and the long, winding road to that favor involves the accumulation of more knowledge that could prove useful in the future.
Diane’s Not Diane, and Gordon Cole Doesn’t Care
No scene better illustrated the intricate handling of plot progression than Diane’s confession. That Diane wasn’t even Diane didn’t matter to Gordon Cole. After a moving, personal monologue (delivered beautifully by Laura Dern), Diane’s tulpa took on a hail of gunfire and disappeared in a flash. Tammy (Chrysta Bell) was stunned, but Gordon didn’t even blink.
“Sheriff’s station?” is all he said.
That’s the only question left for an informed audience: What did Diane mean by “sheriff’s station”? Cole has served as a stand-in for the viewer all season, asking the big questions and making the blunt statements that offer guidance and clarity along the way. Here, most people watching likely suspected Diane wasn’t her real self, and they also likely knew Mr C had done something horrible to her. As important and moving as that revelation was, Dern handled it on her own, earning the spotlight for her character.
Continue reading for Eddie Vedder and indications of an actual ending.