Recently, Seth Meyers imagined what his NBC talk show might look like if it was set in The Red Room. Despite the opportunity for easy potshots at the preposterousness of “Twin Peaks,” the two-minute segment played it pretty straight.
The original opening titles were reincorporated along with the 4:3 framing of the original seasons. There were stand-ins for Laura Palmer and The Man From Another Place, while Meyers took over the role of Agent Dale Cooper. For anyone familiar with the series, the video homage was quite fun. For anyone else, it would’ve been quite weird.
But one thing stood out above the rest: Seth Meyers was moving too much.
Now, that’s not a slight against Meyers. His take on Agent Cooper was about as physically restrained as possible, barring any lessons from the robotic on-and-off acting of the “Westworld” cast. But there was still too much movement.
That’s how extraordinary Kyle MacLachlan has been in “Twin Peaks: The Return.”
Despite the timing of the sketch, Meyers was drawing from the scene in Season 1, Episode 3, “Zen, or The Skill to Catch a Killer,” not Agent Cooper from “The Return.” The performances are different. In Season 1, he was a first-time, part-time visitor to The Red Room. In “The Return,” he’s been trapped there for 25 years. The former is a little more expressive; a little more fluid. The latter is stoic and stunted; trapped in a cage barely restraining his true spirit.
As fans have come to accept in Season 3, Dale Cooper is different. He’s a man of many names; almost as many as the characters MacLachlan plays. He’s Dougie Jones to everyone in Las Vegas, but he’s still Dale Cooper to those in the know (viewers, mainly). For a brief time, MacLachlan played the real Dougie Jones, too, and he’s still playing the mysterious Mr. C — Agent Cooper’s doppelgänger and Dougie’s creator — in addition to Dale Cooper.
But above all else, he’s still. MacLachlan has achieved so much by barely moving. Let’s celebrate that, shall we?
1. Dougie is Scared (“Part 3”)
We don’t know much about Dougie, and most of what we do know is bad. Dougie cheats on his wife with a prostitute. Dougie racks up huge gambling debts instead of spending time with his son. Dougie is friends with the insurance dirtbag Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore), but not that good of friends since Tony turned on Dougie at the drop of a hat.
Dougie doesn’t last long, but the empathy viewers have for him in the moment above has quadrupled since it first aired. Dougie is just having an ordinary Tuesday with Jade, banging in an open house near his actual home, when he keels over and disappears. Confused and in pain, Dougie is transported to The Red Room so Mr. C can roam freely. He only sits with MIKE (Phillip Gerard) for a second, but in that brief amount of time, MacLachlan gives Dougie his humanity.
He struggles to turn his head, but it’s unclear whether he’s held captive in his chair or too scared to move. What matters is the fear in his eyes: MacLachlan takes Dougie from wide-eyed confusion to beleaguered anxiety in just a few lines. He never understands why he’s there or what’s happening to him. He’s just a construct, and even when MIKE tells him so, he doesn’t understand. He never realizes he’s not a real person. MacLachlan informs all of that, and gives Dougie his dignity right before he disappears.
2. Cooper Sees Himself (“Part 4”)
There’s a lot to admire about Cooper’s first morning as Dougie Jones, but MacLachlan’s deft blending of absurd comedy and true poignancy is outstanding. After being ushered into the bathroom clutching his crotch, the audience is prepped for an outlandish first foray with the family. Janey-E is impatient. Sonny Jim is amused. Cooper, well, we don’t know what Cooper is feeling.
But he’s feeling something, and that’s what matters. Evoked in a brief, basic motion, the shot above is simple and speaks to the series’ ongoing fascination with duality. MacLachlan moves less than the camera does, staring intently at his own image and then the lack of connection between his hand and its mirror image. Cooper is still searching. He’s still a seeker. He’s still himself, but “Twin Peaks” has changed, and MacLachlan is adapting with it, ever so patiently.
The brief scene shreds the idea that Cooper is now just someone to laugh at; that we’re just waiting for him to “snap out of it” and go back to his old self while he can barely control his bladder and wears a tie over his head. MacLachlan makes the above moment stick by giving Cooper as much pathos as piss jokes.
3. Mr. C Sees Diane (“Part 7”)
Please don’t make me watch this scene again. MacLachlan is so unnerving in his unblinking intensity — and Laura Dern, as Diane, so angry, hurt, and unsettled — that it’s a difficult moment to revisit. Much of Mr. C’s intimidating presence stems from this moment. We know what he’s capable of because of the authority he conveys even when handcuffed behind bars (well, bulletproof glass).
His brown jumpsuit, restricted positioning, and the generous space between Mr. C and his interrogators should all dwarf his imposing presence. MacLachlan arches his back, stares straight ahead, and — of course — doesn’t move an inch, and all of these choices make Mr. C as threatening as ever. He’s one scary dude, and — thankfully — makes this scene memorable enough that we don’t have to go back and re-watch.
Continue reading for the most revealing recent moments from Kyle MacLachlan in “Twin Peaks.”