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‘Twin Peaks’ Review: David Lynch Bids at Least One Pensive Goodbye in a Powerful ‘Part 15’

David Lynch and Mark Frost craft an hour-long tribute to one of the series' most beloved actors in a melancholic ode to love and death.

Twin Peaks The Return Naomi Watts Kyle MacLachlan

“Twin Peaks: The Return”

Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

Just in case you didn’t notice, Lynch amps up the melodrama by blasting Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” as Ed charges into the diner to sweep Norma (Peggy Lipton) off her feet. Lynch, the sound designer on the series, tunes down the song when Norma appears to reject Ed’s proposal, driving him to the counter to order coffee “and a cyanide tablet.” But it blasts over the scene as she breaks free from Walter (Grant Goodeve), and the newly engaged new couple kiss.

Such overt soap opera is as inherent to “Twin Peaks” as it is to the town, and the saccharine romanticism is deftly countered by the series’ other half: darkness, death, and the utter absence of love. Immediately after the proposal, we’re sent on a long, winding road in the black of night as Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) goes to meet Phillip Jeffries (voiced by Nathan Frizzell).

Insistent on discovering who this Judy character is, Mr. C grills Jeffries as long as he can, but gets little out of him. Mr. C and Judy have already met, and Jeffries blows some stream rings in the form of numbers for Mr. C to write down — that’s it. When he leaves, Mr. C is confronted by a hostile Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), but quickly disarms him and takes the young man-on-the-run with him to Las Vegas.

More love stories pop up as the episode goes on, and they become more and more twisted; as if they’re the byproduct of extremes from the introduction. Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) and Gersten (Alicia Witt) exhibit an intense physical and emotional infatuation with each other as they writhe around at the base of a tree, but they’re clearly not well (nor are they good people). Hutch (Tim Roth) and Chantelle (Jennifer Jason Leigh) show their love for one another by sharing french fries (with extra ketchup) and mourning their lack of opportunity to torture people anymore. Even the mysterious Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Charlie (Clark Middleton) relationship continued to fall apart, ending with her at his throat screaming, “I hate you!” into his face.

Twin Peaks The Return

Does Cooper Have to Die to Leave Dougie Behind?

Finally, the episode gets back to the real Cooper and Janey-E (Naomi Watts). Their relationship has all the markings of a healthy American love story, but Cooper’s repressed state further illustrates the couple’s artificiality. He can’t even communicate clearly, leaving Janey-E to hear whatever she wants to hear.

That’s never more evident than when she whispers, “It’s like all our dreams are coming true,” to a man who’s basically comatose. She’s projecting her own desires onto him. Like the stereotypical suburban couples Lynch and Frost are satirizing, Janey-E is more concerned with the appearance of happiness than genuine love. They don’t have what Ed and Norma have, and now they may not have anything at all.

Cooper, gripped by the imagery of “Sunset Boulevard” (which portrays another kind of dark dreamworld — in Hollywood) and responding to the name “Gordon Cole,” crawls on his hands and knees to the source of evil and attacks it. Electricity helped get him there, and it’s been a presence throughout Season 3. It often hovers around evil men, like those at the gas station Mr. C visits. Now, it’s pulled Cooper to the place from whence he came. Death is either his destroyer or his savior, and it was the primary focus of Episode 15.

The specter of death looms large in “Part 15” and ultimately has the final word. What started as a bright, beautiful story — “How beautiful is this?” Nadine says to Ed, when she joyfully sets him free — became a dark tale of death and terror. The final scene — of Ruby (Charlene Yi) crawling between the legs of The Bang Bang Bar’s patrons and screaming — evoked terror in blunt fashion. She’s scared. We may not know why, but we know how to feel.

It’s a shift from the rest of the episode, but one in line with “Part 15’s” clear trajectory from happiness to fear. Margaret says goodbye to Hawk, noting her fear even though she’s ready for the change. James’ friend (who I can only think of as the true Iron Fist) may have killed Renee’s (Jessica Szohr) husband, after the innocent singer just wanted to talk to his crush, and with Janey-E’s piercing screams, we realize Cooper may also be dead.

The lead of the series, who audiences have spent most of the season waiting to see recover, may only be able to change through death. There’s hope in his story, just like there’s hope in Margaret’s goodbye. Lynch illustrates this critical point while grappling with the concept of mortality. “Part 15” works on a real level — from the lens of one artist paying homage to another — and from a fascinating reimagining of death itself. Either way you take in the episode, it’s hard to imagine a more fitting remembrance than this.

Grade: A

“Twin Peaks” airs new episodes every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Showtime. 

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