Twin Peaks: The Return - Episode 13 "What story is that, Charlie?"
Slead Score: B-
Lose at arm wrestling, and you'll lose your face.
It shouldn't be so odd, but hour thirteen of The Return manages to have one of the most gruesome scenes thus far, as well as some of the most heartfelt. This is what Twin Peaks has always been great at, really; pulling the audience in with happiness and quirk, only to slap something demented or confusing once things start to get possibly too cozy. In an episode where we see dunderheaded Dougie manage to earn even more credibility from his peers, as well as get Janey-E to fall even more reluctantly in love with him, we also spend more time in Twin Peaks than usual this season. What's important is that all of this is accented by a particularly effective scene of Mr. C getting what he needs from the screw ups around him.
Oh, Dougie. Since making the Mitchum brothers practically kiss him on the lips, Dougie has managed to get everyone he interacts with to believe he is the most brilliant and kind man that has walked the earth. We see it at work, at home, and now in his side dealings. While Duncan Todd continues to operate from afar, forcing henchmen like Anthony to take out Dougie, the support and strength surrounding good Cooper continues to grow. Hell, even the Black Lodge has its all seeing eye out for him, taunting the zombie-like man with strange visions that help him choose to ogle a slice of cherry pie, rather than take a sip of a drug-laced cup of coffee. On the flip side, MacLachlan also gets to play the very present and persuasive Mr. C, who spends little time staring off into space or blissfully following the advice of others. He's active in his search to end good Cooper, and his encounter with Ray and the backup gang is one of the most promising presentations of Mr. C's abilities we've seen so far. While bad Cooper doesn't always need to blurt out witty catch phrases or even deliver a line of dialogue to make our spines tingle, he does typically get straight to the point, which makes his arm wrestling scene that much more intriguing. Instead of just taking out his opponent, who, by the way, is obviously much larger than him, Mr. C takes his time. He's putting on a show, not only for Ray and the gang of men but for us. We may think good Cooper can continue to stumble his way forward and we'll get a fully coherent Agent Dale Cooper (finally), but hey, maybe we won't. As Mr. C continually repositions the man's arm to show how much it can hurt, he finally ends the match by breaking the other guy's arm, and then punches him so hard in the face that it collapses into itself. He wins and he'll keep on winning. Uh oh.
In true Lynch fashion, once we've recovered from that terrifying and foreboding display of power, we then spend a good amount of time cherishing the love that is still present within Twin Peaks. On one hand, Becky is still equally worried and in love with her abusive husband, but hearing Shelly ask her to come to the Double-R for a big slice of cherry pie is just the kind of warmth Becky needs, almost as much as we do. Adding more to that pile is finally an extended scene with Big Ed and Norma, and while Norma still seems to be looking over receipts, at least she gets more than two sentences to string together. The knowing and longing glances from Ed to Norma as she discusses franchising options for the Double-R feel just as important as watching Mr. C smash a man's skull, and that's clearly by design. While bad Cooper must continually remind us of his power, the original characters of Twin Peaks only need to be on screen for a brief moment to hold our attention. When they're around for longer than a minute, it feels overwhelming. There's power in these characters, and Lynch knows just how to exploit that.
Nothing says this more than the return of James at the Roadhouse. Out of all of the scenes from the original run of the series, watching James sing "Just You" with Donna and Maddy was equally laughable and mesmerizing. There was always something so ridiculously quaint about that moment, with James' higher-than-normal pitched voice and the two teen girls willing to believe that the man before them was cool. He wasn't. And yet, here he is, once again taking on that tongue-in-cheek persona, and it's glorious. Sadly, it's a better representation of what made James worth talking about in the original series than what we get with Audrey. Another scene of her arguing with her arranged husband Charlie just feels completely missing the point of everything else Lynch has set up with his old characters. While it's hilarious to always see Norma sitting behind a pile of paperwork, or Nadine sipping on a smoothie in front of a computer, those choices both feel right and authentic. Audrey arguing her life away to a man she clearly doesn't care about is not only odd, it's somewhat offensive. She would be gone and done.