Slead Score: A
Yes, there are still two Coopers, but at least everyone knows it!
After the full dose of Lynch we were treated to last week, it was clear many viewers were skeptical the series would ever pick up again and become something to champion. Has Lynch completely lost his touch? Are we existing within the biggest troll in TV history since "who shot J.R.?" The largest hope, one of which I fall squarely into, is that we're just experiencing Lynch and Frost's 18-hour film in a format we weren't really supposed to: week to week. Thankfully, episode 9 has done an 180-degree turn on The Return as a whole, giving more context and clear connections to all of the slow-moving "nonsense" packed into the series' first eight episodes. In fact, apart from one specific scene, many mysteries and plot lines placed in our path so far were addressed again in this episode, and I'm extremely grateful to know this is all going somewhere interesting.
One of the first returning characters from the previous epsiodes is Jennifer Jason Leigh's Chantal, the dirty-talking baddie that is in cahoots with Mr. C. The same bad Cooper that was seemingly killed last episode, only to be brought back to life by a swarm of Charcoal Men with extraordinary rubbing powers. Chantal seems relieved to see Mr. C again, even planting a kiss on his lips and offering him a bag of Cheetos after agreeing to complete the hit out on two people in Vegas and the Warden. Acting as her sidekick is Hutch (played by Tim Roth), who shows equal devotion to bad Coop, agreeing to take care of the Warden and most likely Dougie and Janey-E. Mr. C sends a text to Diane, which we'll cover later, and gives a threatening call to the mysterious Vegas business man who had to put the hit out on Dougie earlier in the season. This opening scene sets the stage for the rest of the episodes pace, as a great deal of back and forth dialogue begins to connect plots we were given a taste of earlier. Here, we can see who exactly is working for Mr. C and, in turn, giving us connective steps to the FBI figuring out good Coop is stuck behind the facade of Dougie.
Adding an even more tantalizing layer to the whole scenario is FBI director Cole receiving the note to meet in South Dakota to go over what exactly happened to Major Briggs' headless body. Diane, still sending "fuck alls" to anyone that moves, is forced to accompany Cole and Albert to the morgue, but she clearly is falling deeper into the case as much as we are as viewers. The mention of the "Blue Rose" case that Cooper was working on all those years ago that lead him to Laura Palmer not only peaked her interest, but it created another morsel of narrative goodness. Lynch and Frost have done a brilliant trick here by setting up countless characters and unconnected events that seem almost impossible to coherently fit together, only to have this one episode wrap a majority of that up, creating a clear and steady race to the finish line with the reamining nine hours we have. As Diane realizes her mysterious text is most likely from Mr. C, Dern once again uses her acting chops to move from that scene to her prolonged smoke break with Cole, where she shows the slightest hint of fondness for her old friend. Just prior to this, Albert and the gang learn the mysterious body found in the first hour of the series was the full body of Briggs and the head of the librarian Higgins was having an affair with. Speaking of Higgins (Matthew Lillard), it turns out his wife was murdered not long after his arrest, and it's pretty clear he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with everything. His blog, which covers the phenomenons we know as the Black and White Lodges, gets him targeted by none other than Mr. C and his many goons, once again bringing us into the tight mystery we've only had glimpses of so far.
The tale of two Coopers is also finally being addressed, as Higgins reveals he spoke to Briggs in the Lodge, where he was told "Cooper" twice, tipping off Cole and the rest of the agents that their hunch is most likely true. Back in Twin Peaks, Sheriff Truman, Hawk, and Bobby visit Mrs. Briggs, who offers coffee and a great deal of emotional impact for her son, as Lt. Briggs apparently told his wife that Bobby would become a great man. She also supplies a mysterious pipe that Bobby opens for the Sheriff, which holds two small slips of paper that will guide them to the Black Lodge warp point. Once again, Lynch and Frost have packed a twenty-five-year old character arc into this moment, as Bobby realizes on a deeper level that his dad truly loved him. Bobby has to be the most surprising strong point of The Return, but nothing's better than seeing a troubled teen grow into a well adjusted and intelligent individual. Only two days from that time Sheriff Truman, Hawk, and Bobby will stumble across the warp point, and hopefully, one step further to seeing the truth. Also enclosed was a data message with "Cooper" written twice, immediately tipping off Hawk to realize there are two Coopers. It's coming together!!
In the end, two semmingly drug-addicted chicks are at the Road House, and while it's unclear of how they'll fit into everything, if at all, it leads into our typical musical performance ending. All in all, "This is the chair." was reminiscent of the series pilot episode, at least for me, in which we are given a great deal of character beats and narrative threads in a condensed amount of time. More importantly, this has brought a completely renewed sense of hope for the rest of this return season.