“Twin Peaks: The Return” should be a shoe-in for numerous Emmy nominations given it was one of 2017’s best reviewed pieces of entertainment, but David Lynch’s polarizing style means the show isn’t the lock it should be this year. IndieWire’s Emmy expert Ben Travers has the series listed as a major contender for nominations in races like Outstanding Limited Series, Actor in a Limited Series (Kyle MacLachlan), and Supporting Actress (Laura Dern), but every “Twin Peaks” fan knows three nominations won’t cut it — nor is anything a guarantee.
In this year’s acting races for limited series, Showtime is throwing its weight behind MacLachlan and Dern and launching campaigns for actors such as Naomi Watts and David Lynch, among others. However, “The Return” is filled with so many memorable actors giving some of the best performances of their careers that Emmy voters ought to look below the surface for deserving dark horses. Whether it was instant classic cameos from Michael Cera or a final goodbye to the great Catherine E. Coulson, “The Return” was an acting showcase.
With just one week left before Emmy voting closes, IndieWire offers nine acting underdogs that need to be on voters’ radar before it’s too late. The series is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, plus Showtime’s On Demand platforms.
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Sheryl Lee is second only to Kyle MacLachlan as the face of “Twin Peaks,” and David Lynch and Mark Frost waited until the last hour of “The Return” to unleash her talents. The wait for Lee’s return was tedious for some fans, but the result was a dramatic knockout. Playing Carrie Page, a slightly altered version of Laura Palmer, Lee delivered a performance at once heartbreakingly familiar and terrifyingly new. The final hour of “The Return” finds the DNA of Palmer creeping under the skin of Page and ends on the character fully realizing her tragic past and letting out the scream to end all screams. The arc is tremendous and difficult for any actor to nail, especially in just under 60 minutes, but Lee delivered and brought the entire revival together with that scream no “Twin Peaks” fan will ever forget. Lee may have a slight edge, too, given Showtime screened “Part 18” at its “Twin Peaks” FYC event.
Catherine E. Coulson
“You know about death, that it’s just a change, not an end,” The Log Lady says over the phone in her goodbye to Deputy Hawk. Catherine E. Coulson’s final moments in “The Return” represent the series at its most emotional. Made only more crushing by the fact Coulson herself was dying from cancer during production, the scene is a testament to the actress’ gift of filling the frame with wisdom that buries itself into your soul and never lets go. Her delivery of The Log Lady’s meditation on death is handled with an unshakeable patience that knocks you off your feet. Coulson’s fragility in the scene is devastating and brave, and this moment alone should make her a lock for an Emmy nomination.
It took several hours for “Twin Peaks: The Return” to prominently feature Sarah Palmer, but the character made a big impression in “Part 12” thanks to Grace Zabriskie. The actress used her brief scenes to deliver a heartbreaking portrait of a woman still haunted by her daughter’s murder, 25 years later. Zabriskie’s unnerving rage made Sarah unpredictable and dangerous in “The Return,” and she turned every inch of her face into a wound still overflowing with pain and panic. Watch the scene of Sarah losing grip of herself in a grocery store to see why Zabriskie is a one-of-a-kind talent.
Michael Horse and Robert Forster
Showtime is campaigning Michael Horse and Robert Forster for Emmys this year, but most prognosticators will tell you both are long shots for a nomination. Voters should give Horse and Forster some thought, however, as their roles in “The Return” were essential in crafting Lynch’s nostalgic sense of time. In Forster’s case, his character alone was a reminder of how much time passed between the original series and “The Return.” The actor played town sheriff Frank Truman, brother of Michael Ontkean’s Harry Truman, but it’s ultimately Forster and Horse’s skills at conjuring a longing for the past that remain unparalleled and are worthy of Emmy noms.
The actors’ characters are forced to confront the past quite literally as “Twin Peaks” once again becomes a battleground for the forces of good and evil. The power of their work is in their subdued and specific choices. Much of “Twin Peaks” can be goofy and melodramatic, but Forster and Horse represent the quiet reflection that drives the real emotions under the series’ surface. They deliver monologues as if they’re nostalgia personified and paint portraits of men reluctantly moving into the future and being forced to accept that their world views are a thing of the past.
Eamon Farren’s Richard Horne is the deranged child of Audrey Horne and Agent Cooper’s doppelgänger who became “The Return’s” most feared new character. Horne perfected the art of bottled-up rage, making Richard such a threatening presence, any time he showed up during an episode the series became unpredictable in the most nerve-wracking way. Farren’s performance in “Part 10” is especially Emmy-worthy as he channels the menace of Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange” and unleashes fury on Horne’s family members.
Michael Cera’s brilliant cameo as Wally Brando should be a contender for a guest actor Emmy this year. The actor appeared in the fourth hour of “The Return” as the son of Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department receptionist Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and deputy Andy (Harry Goaz). Named after Marlon Brando, Wally dressed like the splitting image of the “Wild Ones” actor (complete with a motorcycle) and Cera delivered his lines in such a slow manner that his acting was a masterclass in surreal performance style. For more on why Cera’s appearance is so Emmy-worthy, read this ode to Walle Brando from IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen.
One of the most polarizing new additions in “Twin Peaks: The Return” was Audrey Horne’s husband, played with an unforgettable sense of suffering by character actor Clark Middleton. The actor debuted in “Part 12” and proved to be the perfect foil to Sherilyn Fenn’s energized return as Audrey. Where Fenn was all over-the-top rage, Middleton was full of internal strife. Married to a woman who doesn’t love him (their marriage appeared to be a contract of sorts) and stuck in a life he never wanted, Charlie became an irksome “Twin Peaks” figure to some fans and a highlight to others. Lynch tasked the actor with reacting to Audrey’s long, drawn-out monologues, and it’s a testament to Middleton that he was able to create an entire backstory for his character in every pout and sigh.
Matthew Lillard struck many “Twin Peaks” fans as a bizarre casting choice, but never underestimate David Lynch’s ability to make you see any actor in a bold new way. As high school principal and alternate dimension theorist William Hastings, Lillard proved he was fearless in tackling Lynch’s oddball material. The actor juggled the show’s shifting tones between goofy and menacing with such Gung-ho confidence he ended up being one of the most thrilling new additions to the series. Lillard’s Emmy moment arrives in “Part 9” as his character is interrogated by an FBI agent over why the beheaded body of Major Garland Briggs turned up in an apartment full of his fingerprints. Lynch lets Lillard loose with anguish in a scene that’s downright uncomfortable in its emotional brutality. Lillard’s frantic weeping and Lynch’s refusal to break the tension by cutting creates one of the revival’s best acting moments. This one scene redefined Lillard’s onscreen acting abilities, and he deserves consideration for it.