“Around the dinner table, the conversation is lively.”
That sentence is probably a whole lot of mundane nonsense to anyone who isn’t watching “Twin Peaks: The Return” on Showtime. For those of us watching the series, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, either. But who texted it and to whom — now that’s fascinating.
On Sunday, we reached the midway point of David Lynch’s film in 18 parts. While some questions that have lingered for the more than 25 years since the show went off the air have been answered (We’ve met Diane!), many more have arisen in the last nine episodes (What exactly is Diane up to?).
As mind-boggingly frustrating the new series has been at times, fans truly wouldn’t have it any other way.
Here are some of the questions we have at the midpoint of “Twin Peaks: The Return.” WARNING: some spoilers ahead. We’d love to hear your questions, too.
1. How long is this Dougie Jones thing going to go on? We’re halfway through and Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) as we knew him is nowhere to be found. Cooper managed to escape the Black Lodge, but through some as-yet-unexplained trickery by the malevolent BOB, Coop switched places with a Las Vegas insurance adjuster named Dougie Jones. Nine episodes in, we’ve seen only glimpses of the Cooper we loved. Instead, Dougie/Dale is shuffling around like a catatonic amnesiac (none of Dougie’s friends or family seem to notice). We get what Lynch is trying to do with the slow reveal — we think — but still. Cooper’s full return is a long time coming. We’re kind of over it.
2. What is “The Zone”? In Sunday’s episode, investigators discovered that Principal Bill Hastings (jailed for the murder of his lover, librarian Ruth Davenport) blogged about another dimension they dubbed “The Zone.” Before her murder, Ruth and Bill rendezvoused there with Major Briggs (more on him later) and supplied him with some coordinates. Is “The Zone” where BOB came from? Is the Black Lodge in “The Zone” or is “The Zone” the Black Lodge? Is that what the glass cube in New York is all about? And who is the billionaire behind it? This one is fresh intel, and it deserves much pondering. Thankfully, there’s a “real” The Search for the Zone blog maintained by Bill Hastings “with occasional contributions from Heinrich Viegel.” The site also cites sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein, who was born in Butler, Mo., and grew up in Kansas City.
3. Who was Major Briggs — really? We’ve seen Bobby Briggs’ Air Force daddy Maj. Garland Briggs as a floating apparition when Cooper escaped the Black Lodge, but his presence has haunted all nine episodes. A headless corpse identified as Briggs has popped up in the Dakotas, but it’s 30 years younger than Briggs should be. Longtime fans recall Maj. Briggs worked for UFO hunters Project Blue Book and was searching for something called “the White Lodge.” He’s also the person who told Cooper, “The owls are not what they seem.” On Sunday’s episode, Sheriff Truman, Hawk and Bobby discovered a secret message left for them before he died in a fire (allegedly). The answer to all this so far has only two words: Blue Rose.
4. Where is Audrey Horne? In Episode 9, we caught a glimpse of her brother, Johnny, after he ran headfirst into a wall. Audrey, however, is nowhere to be found. When last we saw Audrey, she was recovering in a hospital after a bank explosion. Actress Sherilynn Fenn confirmed in 2016 that she was returning to the role, thought there were reports of discord between her and Lynch. But while Audrey Horne is missing, a fan hypothesis posits that Richard Horne, the creep who assaulted a woman in the Roadhouse and ran over a kid with a truck, is Audrey’s son with Dark Dale Cooper. The name Richard also appears in the Giant’s riddle in the first episode: “4-3-0. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.” Meanwhile, Fenn appears in theaters this week in the horror film “Wish Upon,” where she has an unfortunate encounter with a garbarge disposal.
5. And where is Phillip Jeffries? Cooper’s collaborator and Gordon Cole’s contemporary was played by the late David Bowie, who had planned to appear in the series before his death in 2016. His character, Phillip Jeffries, has been name-checked several times this year. Dark Dale claimed to have been working with Jeffries. And Ray, who shot Dark Dale in episode 8, called a “Phillip” to tell him he believed he was dead. Was that Jeffries or another Phillip, possibly inhabited by one-armed Mike? In the original series, Jeffries told of a convenience store, which we saw in episode 8 of the new series. (And, no, we’re not going to talk about Judy.)
6. Who is the band booker at the Roadhouse? What kind of musical savant books Sharon Van Etten, the Cactus Blossoms and Nine Inch Nails to all play a little bar in the upper Northwest? Most episodes of the show have ended with a band playing onstage at the Roadhouse, and they’ve ranged from weird to fabulous. Our favorite probably is Snake Eyes, which features the show’s music supervisor Dean Hurley and Lynch’s son, Riley. New York mag tracked down all the bands here. And Spotify users can easily find more than one playlist on the streaming service. Interestingly enough, Sunday’s episode featured a return engagement of Au Revoir Simone. Or did their performance signal that this scene was a flashback?
7. What’s the weird sound in Ben Horne’s office? Could be nothing. Could be just a way for the philandering owner of the Great Northern Hotel to woo Ashley Judd’s Beverly Paige. Could be the missing Josie Packard. Or it could the death rattle of another dimension. Regardless, the mystery noise illustrates one of the more fascinating aspects of the series: The songs, hums, buzzes, static and numerous other sounds lurking just under the surface of every scene. It’s unsettling as hell. Matt Zoller Seitz wrote in Vulture that “the sound design, also by Lynch, is not telling us what is happening, but making us feel it. It’s more abstract and uncanny than anything heard on television since, well, the last ‘Twin Peaks.’”
8. What was that woman’s wicked rash? One of the most disconcerting scenes in Sunday’s episode was the woman in the bar (played by singer/model Sky Ferreira) scratching at the “wicked rash” in her armpit. It looked totally gross and uncomfortable, but the scene epitomizes how Lynch uses the mundane to create moments of absolute horror, and this season has featured some doozies. A couple of lovebirds making out in a New York apartment get their faces eaten by a white eyeless demon. A man sweeps up a bar floor for what seems like forever, and then the phone rings and the barman talks casually about 14-year-old prostitutes. A gray cubicle farm becomes the scene of murder-by-icepick. Sometimes a long drawn-out scene leads to nothing. Sometimes, it turns in to some kind of grotesquery. It’s horrifying and fascinating all at once.
9. How does what happened in the 1940s and ’50s connect to what happened in the ’90s and now? The atomic bomb that unleashed BOB and the subsequent birthing of the gold bubble containing the spirit of Laura Palmer (we think) indicate this is a long gestating struggle between the forces of good and evil. How do the creepy woodsmen figure in? They helped that reptilian insect thingie seek out a teenage host back in the ’50s and saved Dark Dale/BOB’s life in episode 7. Those guys were living nightmare fuel before one grabbed a New Mexico radio station microphone and said, “This is the water, and this is the well. Drink full, and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.” (The Hollywood Reporter has a great interview with the actor who played the main woodsman. Got a light?)
10. Is it all connected? And by “all” does “Twin Peaks” connect all of Lynch’s work? Or maybe the better question, how does it connect all of his work? For many years, fans have been connecting the dots in Lynch’s ouevre. Many hypothesized the original series connected to Lynch’s film “Mulholland Drive” (which also featured someone that looked like the creepy woodsmen). The spacey weirdness of episode 8 sure looked a lot like “Eraserhead.” Lynch’s “Lost Highway” had a malevolent force not unlike BOB. In “Blue Velvet,” Dorothy Valens performs in front of red curtains, as does Club Silencio singer Rebekah Del Rio in “Mulholland Drive.” Recurring motifs or a shared universe? We have nine more episodes to find out.
Where to watch
New episodes of “Twin Peaks: The Return” air at 8 p.m. Sundays on Showtime. Previous episodes are available OnDemand.