"And I am who I am/Who I was will never be again" sings this week's Roadhouse musical guest Edward Louis Severson a.k.a. Eddie Vedder, performing his new ballad "Out of Sand" and summing up Cooper's strange two-and-a-half-decade-long spiritual journey. Yet that's not just a micro view, but a macro one, a guiding ethos for a series that could have relied on easy callbacks—could have, indeed, given us that Dale Cooper of old (physically weathered, certainly, but none the worse for wear philosophically) and deployed him as the fond memories of both creators and fans dictated. Instead, Lynch and Frost make Cooper's "Return" (as the revival is subtitled) the thematic and emotional spine of the new season. And they recognize that a return to one's core self is not a regression. Time still passes, and moving inward doesn't mean you stop moving forward.
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You've Made My Heart So Full (Keith Uhlich / MUBI)
Dale Cooper is not what he seems...
David Lynch transcended TV drama in one stunning hour (Nick Mitchell / The i Paper)
The normal rules simply don’t apply to Twin Peaks.
While most TV shows are often burdened by the strictures of the format, by ad breaks and studio interference (“can we make them more likeable?”), Showtime have granted David Lynch and Mark Frost complete creative freedom. And how this pays off in The Return, which set up next week’s double-bill finale in a brilliantly satisfying hour of television.
Twin Peaks is 100 percent awake (Emily L. Stephens / The A.V. Club)
“Special Agent Cooper wears that command easily, but it wasn’t easy to come by. It took 15 hilarious, harrowing episodes to get here. And it was a privilege to watch them, because that journey is the return. Twin Peaks: The Return was never about Dale Cooper sweeping in to perform a swashbuckling season of derring do and arcane detective work. It was always about the process of return: about the show’s return, more than 25 years later and unafraid to show its age, to a television landscape it helped shape; about its hero’s slow, sometimes painful return to a world from which he’s been too long absent; about an adoring but flawed popular memory that clamored for the return of something that never was; about the way time and loss make it impossible to return to the past.
Phillip Gerard, checking in from the Red Room, isn’t alone in greeting Cooper’s awakening with “Finally!” But that wait gives weight to Dale Cooper’s return. Seeing him dodder around in Dougie’s life, seeing him barely grappling with the most essential aspects of daily life, seeing him grope for (and fail to grasp) the signs pointing to his true self—these challenges and delays demonstrate just how lost Dale Cooper was. And seeing him snap back into form with unerring mixture of certainty and kindness demonstrates his virtuous core more vividly than anything else could.”
Rude Awakenings, Violent Ends, and Audrey’s Dance (Chris Cabin / Collider)
David Lynch treats Cooper’s awakening with the rousing sense of joy and anticipation that the moment deserves without ever overplaying his hand. It’s in the way he immediately makes plans to get to Spokane, the way he thanks Bushnell and the Mitchum brothers with sincerity and convincing humbleness, and how he knows how to convince the doctor to let him go. It’s even in the hero’s big goodbye he gives to Janey-E and Sonny Jim, which echoed a number of famed Westerns, most notably Shane. And yet, Lynch laces the moment with a painful moment of desperation and confusion: before heading to Spokane, he tells Dougie’s family that he is not Dougie, and offers no explanation before abandoning them in the Mitchums’ casino.
There’s heartbreak in watching Janey-E grapple with this bewildering statement and Lynch seems dedicated to showing that the awakening of Cooper at the cost of Dougie’s destruction isn’t without its ugly outcomes. Blissful freedom must always come at the cost of panic, anxiety, and confusion
We're Noticing A Pattern With Twin Peaks & Sexual Assault (Rebecca Farley / Refinery29)
In the Lodge, the alter-ego Diane literally rips to pieces and then disappears, leaving behind her seed. It's an unnerving metaphor for the reverberations of rape; the implications are that Diane, after being violated by Cooper, became a warped version of herself, literally a corrupt doppelganger.
It's also emblematic of the show's primary objective — since the beginning, Twin Peaks has been an exploration of the aftereffects of sexual violence. Laura Palmer is the epicenter of it all. Her death started everything, and has been since shelved as the show's "Macguffin." But she's more than that. Palmer is a guiding light of sorts for the show; her death set a precedent for how this world would treat sexual violence.
‘Twin Peaks’ is Flying Into Its Finale: Why All That Action Could Lead to a Definitive Ending (Ben Travers / IndieWire)
What Cooper went through as Dougie still matters. That life isn’t one to be tossed aside in favor of a larger plot. As much was made clear when he knelt down with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon). Cooper gave a family that was never his the heartfelt goodbye they needed, along with an assurance that the right version of him would return and stay with them for good.
But it was evident before that, on a deeper level. For as much as it seemed like Cooper wasn’t really there while living Dougie’s life, he was completely aware of where he was and who people were when he woke up. He knew what he’d done, what had been done to him, and had a plan in mind that involved many of “Dougie’s” friends.
To have Cooper wake up and not recognize his life would have been frustrating on a number of levels, but Lynch and Frost have set him up on a very specific path, and everything he went through as Dougie is part of it. He needs the Mitchum brothers’ plane to get to Twin Peaks, and the long, winding road to that favor involves the accumulation of more knowledge that could prove useful in the future.
From Her to Eternity (Sean T. Collins | Rolling Stone)
“You are awake,” says the one-armed man Philip Gerard in a vision.
“One-hundred percent,” says Dale – the real Dale – in response.
Welcome back, Cooper — the do-gooder, go-getter and wrong-righter whose decency shone like a beacon through all of the darkness all those years ago. The music that accompanies his awakening is the Twin Peaks theme itself. He even still loves and cares for Janey-E and Sonny Jim, the family you might have expected him to simply abandon. By the time his insurance-agency boss Battlin’ Bud Bushnell warns him the FBI is looking for him and he turns to the camera and says, “I am the FBI,” it’s hard to believe there was a single Peaks freak on the planet who wasn’t either screaming for joy or a blubbering mess.