[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Twin Peaks: The Return,” Season 3, “Part 13” (Episode 13).]
No part of “Twin Peaks” is predictable, but the predominant theme of “Part 13” unveiled itself in a hurry: pie.
The delicious diner desert and its perfect beverage partner have been staples of David Lynch’s series since its inception, but rarely in “The Return” have we seen such intense focus on the healing power of a good slice and a few sips.
Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) fixation on cherry pie, which already saved his life once, did so again (and from the same shop). A distraught Becky (Amanda Seyfried) calls her mother, Shelly (Madchen Amick), and the mere promise of pie turns her frown upside down. Later, Norma (Peggy Lipton) meets with Walter (Grant Goodeve) about her diner franchise’s performance, and she’s told the other pies aren’t as good as her own. Norma explains why — hers are made from all-natural ingredients — to which Walter responds, “Love doesn’t always turn a profit.”
“Part 13” proves otherwise. The kind gesture of a slice of pie and a piping hot cup of coffee fix everything, time and time again. It saved Cooper’s life. It made Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) confess. It cheered Becky up, and it showed why some traditions are worth preserving. Those other double-R diners might be making more money, but Nancy’s pies are saving souls.
So what about the souls beyond saving?
The most ambitious and revealing section of “Part 13” had nothing to do with Cooper and everything to do with Mr. C (MacLachlan). Cooper’s evil doppelgänger finally tracks down Ray (George Griffith), his partner who betrayed him back in “Part 8” but didn’t quite finish the job. Now we know why it didn’t take: Ray didn’t follow orders, and now Ray’s dead.
From the second Mr. C enters the warehouse, it’s clear what will happen. The all-powerful, unstoppable force of evil will get what he needs from Ray and kill him. He does just that — learning the coordinates provided by Hastings (Matthew Lillard) and snagging additional intel on Philip Jeffries (David Bowie), who hired Ray to kill Mr. C — but what wasn’t clear was how we’d get there. And that’s the point, isn’t it? For all the fun in guessing, “What’s next?” on “Twin Peaks,” Lynch remains a master at evoking enjoyment from the now. And of all things Lynch could’ve cooked up, an arm-wrestling death match turned out to be extremely enjoyable.
Mr. C delights in mocking his competitor, Renzo (Derek Meers). “What is this, kindergarten?” he says when first told of the terms, but his most devious side emerges mid-wrestle. Allowing his arm to bend but not touch the table is a quintessential power move, and one we’ve seen countless times over. (One wonders if David Lynch has ever seen Sylvester Stallone’s arm-wrestling classic “Over the Top,” and, if so, if this is his third consecutive episode that acts as a response to iconic ’90s entertainment.)
Yet how Mr. C repeatedly returns to “starting positions,” as he likes to call it, is what makes the scene gleefully delicious. “It hurt my arm when you moved it down here,” Mr. C says, allowing his arm to lower. “But it really hurt when you had it down here.” He then reverses the wrestlers’ positions to prove it, and here’s where the smile would creep across his face, if Mr. C was capable of such emotions.
But certainly it spread across yours. Combining the absurdity of arm-wrestling with the brutality of Mr. C’s mission is vintage “Peaks”: mixing genres and upending expectations to evoke an unexpected and unpredictable emotional effect. Here, it makes for an exchange both amusing and tense. Viewers can laugh all the way up to Mr. C caving in Renzo’s face. It’s bloody and shocking, making you recoil after delighting in tamer, less permanent pain. Though you knew it wouldn’t end well for his opponent, the value came in watching the specifics unfold. In studying Mr. C, there’s quite a bit to process in the moment and for the future.
Continue reading for more on “Twin Peaks” connections to the past and a final grade for “Part 13.”