The beginning of The Return has taken us to various difference places across the United States, but until now our visits to the titular town of Twin Peaks has been few and far between – and often brief. Now, however, we get a slightly more expansive stay at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department and if feels like a genuine welcome home, in spite of how things have changed.
Lucy Brennan (Kimmy Robertson) is on the phone, having a problem with the thermostat and also with the concept of cell phones. Once endearing, her stupidity being played for laughs has lost some of its charm, but still the character taps a vein of nostalgia that, up until this point, The Return has shown little interest in mining. Part 4 changes all that, and the upcoming scenes are the show’s first real concerted effort to kindle something approaching that ‘old’ feeling.
Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) arrives back from the fishing trip we heard tell of back in Part 1.
Forster has his own brief history in Lynch’s company. He played a detective investigating the disappearance of Laura Elena Harring’s amnesiac in Mulholland Drive. His role appears suspiciously curtailed, but only because that film was – as previously explained – intended to be a series, and his character’s important would have, one assumes, grown as it went on as initially conceived.
Having suitably alarmed Lucy, Frank continues into the building and we go with him, getting a better picture of the modern workings of the department.
A large office space – previously unseen – houses a great deal of modern technology, while a number of desks are set up (somewhat conspicuously) with Dell computers. Still, the decor favours the warm wood paneling we grew so cosy with during the first two seasons. There’s a curious contrast at work here. The new and the traditional sharing the same space. A deliberate sense of disconnect and juxtaposition. It’s entirely fitting for a belated reunion with a beloved fictional world that has also, in its own ways, moved on.
Maggie (Jodi Thelen) sits at a control bank; it is her responsibility to field incoming 911 calls. Truman enters, greets her and gets an update on recent activity. In the rear of the room are two of the station’s new deputies; Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello) and Jesse Holcomb (James Grixoni). Chad, as we’ll discover, is the bad apple in the bunch, insensitive, bolshy and also corrupt. Jesse, meanwhile, seems like he’s barely out of high school; fresh faced, immature, and bares a striking resemblance to Elijah Wood.
Maggie informs Truman that a boy OD’d at the high school, rekindling memories of the influx of cocaine that was coming into Twin Peaks and making its way through the school back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when we were last there. Some things change, some things stay the same.
I grew up in a small town surrounded for the most part by woodland hills, a little way detached from urban centres, and I recognise the truisms of these kinds of epidemics that creep in on the fringes, penetrating supposedly heartland places like schools. Kids in small towns get restless. They want to rebel and find independence and there are limited ways of finding these outlets. Much as we may want to pretend otherwise, drugs and associated crimes coarse through these small towns. Twin Peaks admits these problems, rather than sweeping under the rug. When people talk about how Lynch’s work often uncovers a seamy underbelly in the American Dream, it is largely this confrontational element that they are referring to.
This news also stirs up, deliberately, our memories of the high school and of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), almost as preparation for the flood of nostalgia awaiting us in the Conference Room…
Speaking of which, Truman asks where Hawk is and Chad directs him to the Conference Room.
Forster brings a nice sense of both weariness and tranquility to Frank Truman. I’ve spoken before about Michael Ontkean’s reluctance to reprise his role as Harry, and that Forster was initially Lynch’s top choice for the role. His work as Frank is typical of the fine actor’s sensibilities, and he fits in well with the established mood of the Twin Peak’s Sheriff’s Department. One imagines that he’s been a fine sheriff, however long he’s been maintaining the position in Harry’s stead.
The final – and very brief – shot of this scene sees Truman nod acknowledgement to four previously unseen men in the corner of the large office. They are plain clothes men, at least three of them have badges identifying themselves as law enforcement and, to my recollection at this time of writing, they are never seen or heard from again, nor are they credited. One holds a “CRIME SCENE” jacket, another is on one knee holding a roll of police tape. They’re clearly part of the department, but who they are remains a very minor mystery.
We continue with Frank through toward the conference room and he finds himself following in the footsteps of a silver haired deputy, who he calls out to, “Bobby”. The deputy turns and Lynch has cinematographer Peter Deming rush forward a little at the reveal that it is none other than former Twin Peaks hellion Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). Always a good soul trying out a bad boy persona, its heartening to see that Bobby came good in the end, and appears to have grown into a decent and responsible man.
Still, it’s worth remembering that Bobby was no saint. He was heavily involved in the aforementioned distribution of narcotics through Twin Peaks’ high school and, in Fire Walk With Me, it was revealed that he shot a man during a nighttime drug meet that quickly descending into violence.
Evidently this has still not been discovered and traced back to him, in spite of the very poor job he and Laura did of covering up the body. The drug trafficker he killed was also a sheriff’s deputy, from the town of Dear Meadow, where Teresa Banks was murdered, and where FBI Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) disappeared…
Truman and Bobby talk about the OD of ‘little Denny Craig’.
“I’m guessing it was Chinese designer drugs again,” Truman supposed, and Bobby agrees. The ‘again’ pressing the insinuation that this is once more part of an epidemic of incidences. Time and time again. Bobby cuts off their discussion to reveal his urge to use the bathroom – “I’ve got to take a leak so bad my back teeth are floatin’.” Improbably, this too feels like a deliberate if slightly oblique callback. Characters often pressingly need to urinate at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department. Most famously Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) himself, who hurries through an update with Sheriff Harry Truman in season one before dashing off to the men’s room.
They agree to meet in the Conference Room. Just before we get to that bit of business, editor Dwayne Dunham (who I haven’t mentioned enough yet) cuts back to reception, where Andy (Harry Goaz) is soothing a still-distraught Lucy, trying to help her to understand the fundamental function of cell phones. She stares intensely into the middle distance as Andy leaves to see Sheriff Truman. It’s a work in progress, clearly…
In The Conference Room, Chad enters and slouches against the wall as Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) brings the sheriff up to speed on Margaret Lanterman’s cryptic phone call about Agent Cooper.
“So, Margaret says that something is missing having to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper and only you can find it because of something about your heritage.” Truman reiterates for the audience’s benefit and his own. Andy and Lucy join them.
“I thought that log woman was 10-96 and not even allowed in this building,” Chad offers, advising us early doors of his belligerent and generally disrespectful attitude. 10-96 in police code refers to a person with mental problems.
“That’s on account of a kind of gum,” Lucy explains, inviting long-term fans to reminisce to the days in season two when the Log Lady exhibited a bad habit of spitting out her pitch gum in public places.
“Well, I’ll chew on that,” Chad replies. Andy’s head swings back and forth as he gets visibly wound up by Chad’s attitude. When he continues, equating Margaret’s log to Pinocchio, Sheriff Truman calmly asks him to leave.
It would appear as though Chad would be better suited to the law enforcement team in Deer Meadow…
As Chad exits, Bobby enters, and on seeing the Conference Room table laid out with the case files from the Laura Palmer investigation, he is hit by a wave of sentiment. The centrepiece of the display, facing him, is that signature photograph of Laura as homecoming queen (formerly the image that closed virtually every episode). Badalamenti’s ‘Laura Palmer’s Theme’ swells on the soundtrack and we are invited to join Bobby in an unbridled wash of nostalgia.
It works so effectively because, elsewhere, the use of key musical pieces from old seasons of Twin Peaks have been so keenly absent. The show used to be filled with music, in a manner that deliberately embraced repetition. The Return is notable, by contrast, for its long stretches of quietude. This ‘return to form’ is a grand gesture in the scheme of things.
Bobby says her name and cries, an open call-back to numerous performances from the feature-length pilot. In this moment he is also Sheriff Harry Truman, Sarah Palmer, Josie Packard, Doc Hayward and so many other citizens of Twin Peaks, as though the news of her death had broken all over again. All of it is evoked. In terms of short-cut nostalgia, the effect is acute. This is the brand of nostalgia that Mark Frost and David Lynch could have comfortably mined for all of The Return. That they don’t shows restraint and creativity. Their goal is to do more than rehash. Still, this moment brings a strange kind of comfort for a lot of fans so jolted by the weird events of the story so far.
“Man,” Bobby manages, “Brings back some memories.” No doubt. In doing so he also vocalised the name of Part 4.
Sheriff Frank Truman brings Bobby up to speed. Bobby remembers, adding something we didn’t know: “Cooper was the last person to see my father alive.”
Viewers will by now have correctly assumed that the headless corpse found in Ruth Davenport’s apartment is that of Major Briggs (the late Don S. Davis), especially having seen his disembodied head floating in space when Cooper visited The Purple Realm. Now we have knowledge that the last person to see him alive was Cooper – and of course this must’ve been his doppelganger, Mr. C. Mr. C’s involvement in Major Briggs’ death is now
almost totally solidified.
“A few days after my dad died my mom told me that Cooper had come by the house and talked to my dad and I guess Cooper left town pretty soon after that,” Bobby continues.
“Nobody’s seen or heard of him since,” Hawk says and Bobby adds, “My dad died in the fire at his station the next day.”
This fire is certainly Mr. C’s handiwork, though the headless body we’ve seen (and will again) does not look burned. Neither is fire generally capable of severing someone’s head so cleanly.
Sheriff Truman asks if he knew what Briggs and Cooper talked about but Bobby doesn’t know. The brooding moment is pierced by Deputy Jesse Holcomb, who arrives with news that Sheriff Truman has an unusual visitor waiting for him outside… Wally Brando.
Lucy and Andy gasp… their son!
“Oh, boy,” Sheriff Truman says. He leaves as Bobby struggles still to recover from his tears.
Next time: Wally Brando