Warning: Major spoilers up to Episode 6.
Twin Peaks has never been shy about its embrace of the “good vs. evil” dichotomy as a way of understanding human behaviour. That was clear enough from the moment Killer Bob, a demonic entity who survives on fear, pain, and suffering, first began to stalk the dreams of Laura Palmer’s bereaved mother back in Season One. In “Part One” of The Return, we learn this evil force has continued to wreak havoc on the world for the past twenty-five years, and in a bitter twist of fate, it has done so through the host body of Agent Cooper, the very man who had led the charge to eradicate it all those years ago.
Which means that, while the show has wrung several episodes of comic delight from parading Cooper around in a green suit, slurping coffee out of a paper cup with the name “Dougie” written on it in Sharpie, our laughter has been undercut with a profound sadness. Twin Peaks has always made us care about this struggle between good and evil, and seeing Agent Cooper so indisposed, and the rest of the “good side” similarly weakened, has been gut-wrenching to sit through.
In “Episode 6,” David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost seem to be pushing this dramatic tension to a climax. On the one hand, Cooper is increasingly showing signs of remembering his former self, as he stands for hours beside a statue of a heroic gunslinger, is strangely mesmerized by a police officer’s badge, and even accidentally does some crime-fighting when his scribbled markings on the case files his boss gave him reveal, miraculously, the shady dealings of another insurance agent.
Meanwhile, in Twin Peaks, the sleazy cigarette-smoker from the last episode, whose name we know from the credits is Richard Horne, has made an arrangement with a drug dealer named Red to help smuggle “sparkle” in from Canada. To my eyes, Red is a dead ringer for Frank Booth, Dennis Hopper’s equally menacing psychopath from Lynch’s Blue Velvet, and he seems to be passing on to Richard not only a truckload of cocaine, but also his evident lack of a soul. Minutes later, Richard, fuming about Red’s referring to him as “kid,” accidentally rams into a child crossing the street, killing him instantly. He knows he has done something horrendous, but he doesn’t stop.
If Red is an echo of Frank Booth, then Richard Horne is surely an echo of Bobby Briggs, the coke-slinging, motorcycle-riding bad boy who confesses to having been one of several of Laura Palmer’s lovers in the original Twin Peaks. Over the course of the two seasons, as Bobby began to see the destructive effect of his actions on others, he slowly transformed from a mindless wannabe criminal into a conscientious young man, and in The Return, he has become a law enforcement officer in the spirit of his disappeared military-man father. From what we have seen so far, Richard seems destined to walk a similar path, his ability to tell right from wrong clearly evident, but thoroughly suppressed for now.
When we recall that Cooper’s doppelgänger, at the end of the last episode, seemed poised to break out of his imprisonment, the situation seems very dire indeed. “We are living in a dark, dark, age,” reflects Dougie’s beleaguered wife Janey-E, played admirably by Naomi Watts, as she hands a couple of small-time bookies $25,000 in cash to pay back Dougie’s gambling debt. Just as Deputy Gordon’s admission of ignorance in “Part 4” was an invitation for us as the audience to admit the same, here again Janey-E’s words transcend the text like a Greek chorus, providing an apt summation of what we have seen up to this point. Until Cooper returns, Janey-E’s take on the situation seems to be accurate: evil is winning.
Next week: “Part 7”