Twenty-five years, two-and-a-half seasons, and umpteen weird plot twists later, it’s easy to forget that Twin Peaks began as what appeared to be a reasonably conventional whodunnit mystery. The show’s pilot began with the discovery of Laura Palmer’s body on a riverbank, and as Agent Cooper pursued her killer, we slowly came to realize the hideous truth: that she was murdered by her father, who had been raping her for years.
Of course, that’s not really what the show was about: everyone has their own interpretations, of course, but to me the show was always about the atavistic evils of abuse: the ways in which it can scar its victims, who become perpetrators themselves; the ways in which it can damage an entire community; and the ways in which that community can perpetuate the abuse by keeping doors closed, mouths closed, and not asking questions. And as the narrative has diversified — encompassing supernatural creatures, alternate dimensions, doppelgängers, and a talking blob on top of a spindly sapling — to the extent that a character in last night’s episode could ask, straight-faced, “Who’s Laura Palmer?”, that single theme has remained constant. Abusers are made, not born, and as they carry out their crimes, they create new abusers.
No-one, it appears, has carried out more abuse in the 25 years we’ve been away from Twin Peaks than Dale Cooper. Not the real Dale Cooper, of course, but the creature that escaped from the Black Lodge wearing his body: BOB, the evil that men do, the Devil, or whatever else you want to call him. And nothing gives a greater sense of the extent of the damage he’s caused than the reaction of Diane, once his closest confidante, to seeing his face.
We met Diane for the first time last episode, but this is the episode in which we really get to know her. She is, like everyone else in this show, damaged: beneath her tough exterior (she pretty much single-handedly doubles the show’s “fuck” count in the course of 50 minutes, and even Albert, who’s usually the one doling out the insults, seems intimidated by her), she’s a mess. We get a hint as to why when she finally confronts Evil Cooper. She asks if he remembers when he last saw her, and he says that he does: at her apartment. Nothing is spelled out, but it seems something very bad happened. My sense is that he raped her.
Whatever the case, though, the sight of him — even with a sheet of bulletproof glass separating them — is too much for Diane to bear for long. Even in the short time she looks at him, though, she senses that something is wrong: “Look at me!”, she implores him, and then asks, horrified, “Who are you?” Outside the prison, she tells Gordon Cole, “Listen to me: that is not the Dale Cooper that I knew. It isn’t time passing, or how he’s changed, or the way he looks.” Motioning at her heart, she says, “It’s something here. There’s something that definitely isn’t here.”
She’s right, of course, and it finally seems that others are coming to the same conclusion. The pages from Laura’s diary that were discovered at the end of the last episode, stashed in a toilet door by Leland for Hawk to find 25 years later, do (as we predicted!) indeed narrate the dream where Annie Blackburn appeared to her, telling her, “The good Dale is in the Lodge and can’t leave. Write it in your diary.” As Hawk relates the story of Cooper’s emergence from the Lodge to Sheriff Truman, the penny begins to drop: if the good Dale is still in the Lodge, then who the hell came out?
The answer is sitting in a federal penitentiary… but not for long. As we move to the conclusion of the episode, Evil Cooper — who has always given the impression of being able to escape pretty much whenever he wanted — does exactly that, blackmailing the prison warden with a threat we don’t entirely understand (who the hell are “Joe McLusky” and “Mr Strawberry”?) but can certainly get the gist of. He demands a car and the presence of his associate Ray Monroe. The warden, who’s clearly terrified, dutifully delivers both those things, and Evil Cooper disappears into the night. God help whoever he calls on next.
In one respect, Laura’s diary isn’t entirely correct: the good Dale is not in the Lodge anymore. He might as well be, though, because he’s still marooned in the body of Dougie Jones, who remains as catatonic as he’s been for the last four episodes… except when the murderous Ike “The Spike” Stadtler appears wielding a gun. Suddenly, Cooper snaps back into FBI agent mode, wrestling his would-be killer to the ground and disarming him. It’s another glimpse of the old Cooper, and like last week, we’re led to think that maybe he’s back for good. But no. Not yet.
Even Ike isn’t the most frightening presence this week, though. That prize goes to the … thing that shuffles into the mortuary where the headless body we met in episode one is being kept. It appears that the body in question, impossibly, belongs to the disappeared Major Garland Briggs (played in the original series by the late Don S. Davis); the body is in its forties, while Briggs would be in his seventies, and the body died only days ago, whereas Briggs has been missing, presumed dead, for decades. Mysteriously, it also appears that Briggs’s fingerprints have turned up elsewhere in the intervening years — Lieutenant Knox, the military officer sent to examine the body, refers to the prints appearing “again.”
She mentions this as she stands in the mortuary corridor, relating what she’s discovered over the phone to her commanding officer. As she does so, a figure appears in the frame behind her. At first, it’s a blurry out-of-focus blob, but then the focus shifts briefly, and for an instant we see that the figure is a person… or, at least, it looks like a person, in the same way that a scarecrow looks like a real man from a distance. The figure is entirely black. Its face is jet black. And it radiates sinisterness. As a viewer, you want to yell at Knox to TURN AROUND.
She does so, finally, and then returns to the room in which the body is kept. The camera lingers on the creature in the corridor for a few moments longer; frustratingly, it remains out of focus, so we can’t examine the figure’s face further. When the shot switches back into the room, we see the figure again, briefly, as it shuffles past the door. It’s a man, it seems: decrepit, perhaps homeless. And he’s familiar, too; it takes a moment to place him, but he’s the same shadowy, black-painted man who was in a cell next to the (apparently forgotten) Bill Hastings, the man accused of the murder of the headless body and/or the bodiless head, in episode 1. Who is he? We’ve no idea, yet, but there’s a palpable sense of Knox having dodged a bullet by getting out of his way.
Regardless, the way that he’s so frightening — after all, at the end of the day he’s just a man with some black body paint — is a perfect example of how David Lynch has a way of imbuing the most quotidian of objects with irrational terror. So it goes for this episode’s last scene, too, which focuses for several minutes on a man sweeping the floor of the Bang Bang Bar, the Twin Peaks bar in what used to be the Roadhouse. Just… sweeping.
Anywhere else, you’d be wondering why on earth the shot wasn’t cut, or at least edited, but not here; instead, tension builds until finally the phone rings. It’s answered by a man who’s instantly familiar, despite not having appeared before: he’s scruffy, unpleasant, and speaks with a French-Canadian accent. The Renaults are back! And, as with everything else in Twin Peaks, it’s hard to imagine much good will come of their return. Quite what will come of it… well, that’ll have to wait until next week.