What’s worse: Crushing a person’s skull or crushing their spirit? The back-from-the-dead Twin Peaks has seen its fair share of the former violation, courtesy of the supernaturally strong denizens of the Black Lodge. When those demonic entities are around – whether they’re Woodsmen assaulting radio-station employees or Dale Cooper‘s evil doppelganger shattering a rival criminal’s face with a single punch after an arm-wrestling bout – no cranium is safe. And then there’s the long, wordless scene starring Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill, making his revival debut), which features no monsters and no murders – but as the credits roll over his sad and lonesome face, didn’t your brain feel under assault?
It’s not as if co-creator/director David Lynch is new to depicting the trials of growing up and getting old. You don’t need to look any farther afield than Twin Peaks‘ own Carl Rodd, played by Harry Dean Stanton, for a portrait of the weariness and wisdom that comes with that territory. (Stanton’s wordless appearance in the filmmaker’s 1999 movie The Straight Story is quietly devastating for the same reason.) Moreover, the visible effects of aging on actors such as Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), James Marshall (James Hurley), Michael Horse (Deputy Hawk), etc. were enough to take the breath away from any fan who remembered them primarily in their youthful, brown-haired heyday. It’s not that they looked bad, by any means – just that the lines in the face and the gray in their hair, or in James’ case the absence of hair altogether, remind you that you, too, have aged 25 years since our last visit to this sleepy, sinister town.
But Big Ed’s return is especially gutting. While at first it appears he’s together with Norma Jennings, the love of his life, at last, it turns out they’re now just friends; she’s actually seeing a corporate suit who’s helped her turn the Double R diner into a franchise. He still wears his wedding ring, but it’s unclear if he’s still together with his one-eyed wife Nadine; at any rate, she seems far more interested in Dr. Jacoby and his goofball anti-government, anti-capitalist screeds. Even Ed’s “Gas Farm” seems to be dying out from lack of business. So we’re left with a vision of this man alone at night, joylessly sipping soup – or is that garmonbozia? – from a Double R take-out cup and idly lighting fires that burn down to his fingers. With his high cheekbones and severe haircut, McGill gives the impression of a childless King Lear, surveying a kingdom of rust with no heirs to claim it.
Big Ed is far from the only character whose happily ever after never arrived. Bobby may get along well enough with his ex-wife Shelly to be able to order “the usual” at her diner and help her co-parent their wayward daughter Becky, but she’s still, y’know, his ex-wife. And Bobby’s former classmate Audrey Horne, whose return last week revealed her to be part of a loveless marriage, seems to be in even worse shape than we though. In a series of cryptic, panic-stricken statements, she reveals that she’s unsure of where she is, who she is, what the hell went wrong with her life. Meanwhile, her “milquetoast” husband Charlie apparently has the power to “end your story” if he so chooses. We leave her in the middle of gut-wrenching sobs that suggest Lynch and his creative partner Mark Frost have not reduced her to some kind of joke. No one can watch her suffering and laugh.
But it isn’t all bad news, believe it or not. Down in Las Vegas, Coop, aka the ersatz Dougie Jones, has escaped yet another brush with death, returning to Battling Bud Bushnell‘s insurance agency in triumph with the Mitchum Brothers and their trio of pink-clad gal pals. After they present Bushnell with gifts to reward the company for clearing up their insurance claim, “Dougie” sleepwalks his way into coaxing a confession out of Anthony Sinclair, the crooked insurance agent who tried to frame and poison him. The experience shakes the repentant criminal so badly that he offers to testify not only against Duncan Todd – the Mitchums’ rival and the Coopelganger’s minion – but also against the crooked cops in Mr. Todd’s employ, led by one Detective Clark (The Deer Hunter‘s John Savage). Considering actor Tom Sizemore’s own checkered past, watching him sob and beg for forgiveness carries a lot of weight. So too does the sight of Dougie’s kid Sonny Jim bouncing merrily through the gaudy gym set that the Brothers provide him with as a reward – and the besotted look on the face of his wife Janey-E.
Somewhere in Montana, the Evil Coop gets his revenge against his traitorous henchman Ray after beating his boss Renzo in an arm-wrestling match – a contest that ends not just in arm-breaking defeat, but face-destroying death. It’s no surprise that the clone defeats his would be employee and the memorable band of thugs who’ve offered him protection, including one geek in a tie and sweater who seems completely out of place. The real surprise here is the clandestine presence of Richard Horne, the psychopathic Twin Peaks resident who may well be the doppelganger’s biological offspring. There’s something in the way the young murderer looks at the black-eyed villain that indicates recognition. But this is one family we hope will never be reunited.
Our final positive moment comes courtesy of James and a rendition of “Just You” — the very song he workshopped with Donna Hayward and Laura’s soon-to-be-slain cousin Maddie Ferguson back in the day. Nowadays, he seems every bit as home on that stage as, say, the Chromatics or “the Nine Inch Nails”; the song reduces his much younger would-be girlfriend Renee (Gossip Girl‘s Jessica Szhor) to tears. Hurley ends his performance with a smile; between that and the emotional involvement of the woman who clearly loves him, we’re given a double-barrel blast of emotional uplift. After 13 hours, we sure could use one.
Previously: Prodigal Daughter