The new chapters reveal the importance of one memorable sequence, a confrontation between Cooper, his wacky superior officer Gordon Cole (Lynch himself), and a long-lost agent named Philip Jeffries (David Bowie, once again a man who falls to earth). This scene repeatedly haunts The Return, as if Bowie himself wants to rise from the dead for a cameo.
It would take a book to map out the elaborate web of storylines connected to that scene. Let’s leave it at this: Like Jeffries, Cooper is now a man lost between worlds in three distinct personas, all brilliantly played by MacLachlan.
First, there’s Cooper’s monstrous doppelganger—a rapist and murderer dressed like a Satanic Johnny Cash. If he’s onscreen, you might want to fast-forward.
Second, there’s Douglas “Dougie” Jones, an insurance agent, family man, and village idiot. Like Being There’s Chauncey Gardiner, he’s a holy fool, stumbling in a semi-catatonic state, intrigued only by reminders of his FBI past. (Even his name is an echo of Cooper’s enthrallment with the Northwest’s towering Douglas firs.)
Meanwhile, Cooper’s true self? He’s trapped in a red-curtained purgatory, confounded by cryptic messages from benevolent spirit guides.
The Return, then, isn’t ultimately a new string of murders for Cooper to solve (though bodies are turning up everywhere). It’s a multi-genre critique of the iconic Western hero: This suit-and-tie lawman wants to save the day, but he’s too busy warring with his own divided self, incapable of fulfilling his ambitions of solving—or undoing—crimes that grieve the world.
David Lynch’s Televised Revolution
Asking “Should I watch Twin Peaks?” is kind of like asking “Should I watch television?” In this series, Lynch has embraced the best and worst of the medium, celebrating everything he loves.
And he loves it all: those lovers’ quarrels and betrayals in cheesy daytime soaps; those prime-time melodramas about family dynasties; those supporting-cast goofballs in assembly-line sitcoms; those grisly CSI procedurals; and those thrilling Western gunslinger showdowns. He weaves them together into a compelling—and personal—whole. Lynch doesn’t imitate; he innovates. His style is so unique that the term “Lynchian” has become ubiquitous in film criticism, describing a descent from a shiny surface into subterranean rot.
The first two movies born in Lynch’s imagination were 1977’s Eraserhead (a hybrid of horror and comedy that Stanley Kubrick called his “favorite film”) and 1984’s Blue Velvet (a descent from an idealized white-picket-fence America into an obscene criminal underworld). They set the sinister tone for all that would follow. Even The Straight Story—his wonderful, G-rated Disney film—has moments that resonate with spiritual disturbances that are distinctly, well, Lynchian.
But Twin Peaks now stands as the centerpiece of his career: a mural-sized self-portrait made of memories, fears, fetishes, and dreams. TV shows and movies like The X-Files, Donnie Darko, Lost, and The Leftovers continue to evince the original series’ influence. It is arguably the most expansive and multi-faceted artistic vision in American filmmaking.
But I’m still dodging the question “Should we watch it?” Here’s my one-word answer for Christian viewers: “Maybe.”