We’re a third of the way into the new Twin Peaks, and there’s still no sign of Agent Cooper. If you’d told me that before the show started, I’d probably have feared the worst: that the new series wasn’t really very good. As it turns out, of course, that couldn’t be less true: the new series is startlingly good, and Cooper’s absence is part of that reason.
Instead of Cooper, there’s Dougie. But! He’s slowly, painfully metamorphosing into the lost FBI agent he really is: this episode sees the return of his black suit, and for a moment — when the elevator doors open, and Coop is standing there, a big grin on his face, clutching his coffee joyfully — it seems like the transformation might be complete. The spell is broken when Dougie — for it is he, still, for now — lets the doors close and open several more times, until he’s led from the elevator by one of the endless stream of characters who seem compelled to treat him with compassion.
His weird luck is undiminished in this episode; he draws scribbled, childish pictures of the Black Lodge floor and of the Evolution of the Arm all over the work he’s supposed to be doing, but in doing so manages to draw his boss’s attention to the fact that the same name is on all the files. He’s led home by a couple of security guards after he’s left standing outside his office, catatonic and broken. And his wife, Janey-E — the splendid Naomi Watts — manages to get rid of his gambling debts by delivering a magnificently pissed-off speech to the two standover men sent to collect them.
I wrote last week that I hoped that the Dougie thing wasn’t going to be drawn out for long, but I’m starting to reconsider that position: the slow reconstruction of the shattered pieces of Agent Cooper is as tortuous for us as it must be for him, and the process is lent a real emotional depth by Kyle MacLachlan’s wonderful performance, all pathos and melancholy, shot through with the occasional moment of joy. (Look how gently he connects with a son that isn’t even his. Look how happy he is with his coffee!)
But still, he needs to hurry up, because someone terrifying is coming for him. That someone terrifying is a pint-sized hitman — Ike “The Spike” Stadler, according to the credits — who likes to stab his victims brutally to death with an icepick. Ike is summoned by the nameless office worker that we met a couple of episodes ago, the one played by the same guy (Patrick Fischler) who had a dream about the terrifying homeless woman behind Winkie’s in Mulholland Drive. Fischler has an uncanny ability to portray a sense of latent terror — it’s in the way the smile just melts off his face, leaving only the fear he’s been trying to hide — and his appearance in a David Lynch piece signals that absolutely nothing good is about to happen.
So it proved last night. Hitmen of questionable ability are a Lynch trope, but while Ike isn’t the get-in-and-get-out-without-leaving-a-trace type — by the time he’s finished slaughtering the unfortunate Lorraine and a couple of her workmates, he’s covered head to toe in blood — he certainly gets the job done. Dougie’s next on his list, and if he’s still the sad, shuffling figure he is now by the time Ike finds him, he’ll be mincemeat.
Ike is the second of two terrifying characters introduced last night. The first is Red, Balthazar Getty’s Frank Booth-esque drug lord, off whom the vile Richard Horne — who we met at the end of last episode molesting a local girl in the Bang-Bang Bar — is buying cocaine. Horne is a thoroughly nasty piece of work, but Red is in an entirely different league. He’d have been terrifying even if he hadn’t performed some sort of creepy magic trick — he tosses a coin into the air, the coin suddenly appears in Richard’s mouth, and then inexplicably returns to Red’s hand — but he did do that, so yeah, he’s scary as fuck.
Magic is, obviously, not exactly without precedent in Twin Peaks. It’s only mentioned as such a couple of times, though. The first time in the incantation that appears several times throughout the series: “Through the darkness of future past/ The magician longs to see/ One chants out between two worlds/ Fire walk with me.” The other time you might not remember: it’s mentioned by Mrs. Tremond, the strange old lady who appears in Fire Walk With Me and also several times in the original series. At one point, she notes that her equally creepy grandson has been “studying magic.”
Could Red be Mrs Tremond’s grandson, another malevolent spirit who delights in terrifying and murdering? Or is he a garden-variety human lunatic? Either way, he is clearly not a man to be messed with. Horne, however, appears either too high, too stupid or too psychotic himself to realize this; he’s more upset by the fact that Red insisted on calling him “kid” than anything else, and his rage sets in motion the events that dominate the Twin Peaks-based half of last night’s narrative. He’s driving back to town, going way too fast, doing bumps of blow, and then makes the fateful decision to fly through a pedestrian crossing. In doing so, he knocks down a small boy, who is killed instantly.
It’s occasionally hard to tell whether Lynch is deliberately making everything weird or just not being able to make anything that isn’t weird: see, for instance, the bizarrely overdramatic renderings of the horrified bystanders. The death of a child in a hit-and-run accident is, by anyone’s measure, a tragic event, but the amount of foreshadowing here seems over-the-top, as do the post-accident shots of bystanders weeping like tragic renaissance paintings. It’s so overblown that it’s somehow disconcerting.
And finally, the most exciting event of last night’s episode: the appearance of Diane. In the flesh! We only meet her briefly, when Albert tracks her down in a New York bar, but presumably we’ll be seeing more of her. Her appearance is preceded by the most flat-out hilarious moment of last night’s episode — when Albert, irascible as ever, curses the rain that greets him as he opens his car door by snarling “Fuck you, Gene Kelly, you motherfucker” — and it promises some sort of resolution of the twin Coopers dilemma: why else would Albert be tracking down Coop’s long-time secretary and confidant than for her to distinguish between Good Cooper and Evil Cooper?
Her appearance suggests that threads from different parts of Cooper’s life are starting to weave together. The other beacon of hope: Hawk’s discovery of some pages stashed in the toilet door at the sheriff’s office. The way in which he discovers the clue to which the Log Lady was directing him is fortuitous, at the least: he drops a coin (the second time a coin has played an important role in this episode, by the way), notices the native American’s head on the door manufacturer’s seal, notices a missing screw… and in a flash of intuition, begins peeling back the door’s cladding. Inside: some pages from… a diary? Laura‘s diary? If you’ve seen Fire Walk With Me, you’ll remember Annie Blackburn appearing to Laura to tell her, “The good Dale is in the Lodge and can’t leave. Write it in your diary.”
Is this what Hawk’s discovered? If so, how did the pages get there? What will he do with the knowledge, anyway? As ever, there are more questions than answers. We wouldn’t have it any other way, though.