Twin Peaks is a show about respect. This, perhaps, is a strange thing to say about a series that routinely violates time, space, sanity and basic human decency. And that's to say nothing of the relatively run-of-the mill mockery it makes of its many lovable goofballs, from Dr. Jacoby to Dougie Jones. But this week's episode demonstrates the tremendous reverence and compassion with which co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost depict people at their most defenseless.
Let's start with the unexpectedly happy ending the show serves up to Big Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings, like a slice of feel-good cherry pie. When Nadine comes striding down the street, golden shovel in tow and a smile on her face, it's every bit as perplexing as her lanky spouse makes it out to be. But it seems she's finally ready to relinquish her claim on her husband's heart, and allow him to follow it to the owner of the Double R Diner, as he's wanted to do for decades.
When Big Ed hen he strides into the restaurant to give Norma the good news, she blows him off in favor of Walter, her business partner and apparent boyfriend. Devastated, her would-be beau does the only thing he knows how to do: He grabs a chair at the counter and orders a coffee ("and a cyanide tablet" he adds under his breath). The rapturous strains of Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" plays in the background sounds like a cruel taunt. The man can't even open his eyes to face the day any longer; actor Everett McGill looks carved from stone, like an Easter Island megalith, a perfect portrait of devastation.
Then, as he hears someone approach, his lips curl into a smile. A woman's hand appears in the frame, sliding over his shoulder. It's Norma, who's just exercised her option to pull out of the franchise deal and implicitly break up with her beau in the process. Within seconds, she and her longtime lover are kissing like kids. What a treat it is to see love between two older people on TV played completely straight, sweet and (dare we say it?) hot.
But not all romantic dreams come true. In the woods outside Twin Peaks, Steven Burnett, Becky's ne'er-do-well husband, and his mistress Gersten Hayward huddle against a moss-covered tree, their shirts a splash of crimson in a world of green. They're so high on drugs and low on life it's all but impossible to make out what they're saying. But it's clear they're coming to terms with the fact that their relationship will never work out. There are tears and sobs, desperate hugs and blunt come-ons … and a loaded gun.
The unexpected appearance of a dog-walker sends Gersten fleeing, only to hear a shot ring out seconds later. Since both the stranger and his terrier appear at Carl Rodd's trailer park to inform the elderly owner about the incident, we can tentatively conclude that Steven turned the gun on himself. He's an abusive, cheating scumbag. The intimacy between those two was completely undeniable, however, as was their obvious and insurmountable pain. Again, few shows are willing to go to places like this.
And no shows go where Dale Cooper's evil doppelganger goes – specifically, the infamous convenience store where the creatures of the Black Lodge meet on Earth. He encounters several Woodsmen and other Lodgers (including a creepy woman who pops up quite frighteningly at the end of the credits) and an entire array of sets, props and characters from the prequel film Fire Walk With Me. It all culminating in a conversation with the disembodied voice of Philip Jeffries, the M.I.A. FBI agent once played by David Bowie, emanating out of what looks like a vintage industrial steamer.
The Coopelganger receives clues from Jeffries about "Judy," a mystery woman mentioned in Fire much to the bafflement of all of its viewers. He then exits the store only to discover a gun-toting Richard Horne, who tailed him to the location from the gang hideout the other week. Here we learn that this piece of shit really is Audrey Horne's son, and that he recognizes "Cooper" as FBI from the photos his mom kept of him. The false Dale handily disarms the young thug and orders him into his truck, saying he'll "explain on the way." Please do, man. Please do.
There's even more – much more – to this jam-packed episode. Audrey, who increasingly seems like she's not crazy but actively persecuted by forces unknown, assaults her awful husband. James Hurley and his buddy Freddie get in a bar fight and wind up in the clink next to the crooked cop Chad, the eyeless extradimensional entity Naido and that strange disfigured drunk who just repeats whatever he hears. Down in Vegas, the Evil Coop's minions Hutch and Chantal kill his other minions Duncan Todd and Roger. Back at the Roadhouse, a young woman rudely displaced from her table by a pair of tough guys looking for a place to sit crawls through the crowd on the dance floor, then begins screaming uncontrollably, like this was the last straw for a very, very bad day.
Most importantly, "Dougie Jones" overhears the name "Gordon Cole" when he happens upon the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard on TV. At long last, something clicks, and he seems to remember the life he once had. With actor Kyle MacLachlan igniting a light in his eyes far more reminiscent of the noble FBI agent than the doddering Vegas insurance agent, "Dougie" crawls toward an electrical socket and jabs the handle of a fork into it, shorting out the house's electricity and seemingly moving us much closer to the endgame.
But the beating, breaking heart of the episode is undoubtedly the death of Margaret Lanterman, the prophetic Log Lady. During one of her regular phone calls to Deputy Hawk, she tells him, repeatedly, "I'm dying." She seems to have as positive an outlook on it as possible, saying death is "just a change, not an end." But this is all coming from the mouth of actor Catherine E. Coulson, who was herself actually dying when the scene was shot. "Hawk, my log is turning gold," she says, her voice wavering. "The wind is moaning. I'm dying. Goodnight, Hawk." "Goodnight, Margaret," he says as they hang up. Then, after she's gone, he mournfully repeats the phrase: "Goodbye, Margaret." If you could make it past that point without bawling, you're made of stronger stuff than most of us.
The Log Lady, Big Ed and Norma, Audrey, Steven and Gersten, the screaming woman at the Roadhouse: They're all connected not just by geography, but by states of spiritual extremis. They experience enormous, nearly crippling feelings – all of which leave them questioning their place in life. Lynch and Frost still bring the bizarre in this hour. But they also carefully, respectfully depict deep, vulnerable emotional states and trust us to take them seriously. That makes all the difference.
Previously: Stairway to Heaven