‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ has reintroduced all its major characters. But did it do so successfully?
With respect to Big Ed Hurley, all of the major characters from the original Twin Peaks have now reappeared in Showtime’s revival. Since Twin Peaks: The Return has a slate of 18 episodes, this task took longer than most fans probably expected, culminating with the long-awaited return of Audrey Horne in the 12th episode. But now we have a better grasp of how everyone has fared, for better or worse, in the two-plus decades since we last visited the small logging town in picturesque Washington.
Some characters have remained relatively the same, while others have drastically changed to the point that they’re almost unrecognizable, in appearance and persona, without verbal cues. Much of this is by design from series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, who continue to offer up one of the most alluring, haunting critiques of small-town Americana ever put to screen.
But have they done all of their major characters justice? Have they offered a satisfying and rational — or as close to rational as you can expect from Twin Peaks — explanation for what’s happened to everyone? For the most part, yes, but a handful of characters leave us yearning for more depth and resolution in the final six episodes of the series.
Agent Dale Cooper
Technically, we haven’t really seen Agent Cooper show up: Kyle MacLachlan, bless his soul, has been playing an evil doppelgänger version of Coop, as well as the vegetative Dougie Jones (the real Coop is technically posing as Dougie). But Coop is finally starting to show signs of life again as Dougie, thanks in large part to his favorite indulgences from the original Twin Peaks: coffee and some damn good pie.
Though Dougie has tested the patience of some fans, it makes sense on a narrative level: Coop was trapped in the otherworldly Black Lodge for more than two decades. That will fuck a person up. And with each passing episode, the real Coop edges closer to returning. Some more coffee and pie should do the trick.
Agents Albert Rosenfield and Gordon Cole
As we learn in episode 12, Miguel Ferrer’s Albert Rosenfield and Lynch’s Gordon Cole are, essentially, part of a dying breed: FBI agents tasked with investigating the supernatural and extraterrestrial, the “Blue Rose Task Force.” The other agents — Coop, Phillip Jeffries (the late David Bowie, who didn’t have a chance to reprise the role) and Chester Desmond (who disappeared in the 1992 prequel film, Fire Walk with Me) — are all missing.
Thus, there is an underlying somberness to Albert and Gordon’s odyssey to find Coop, made even more bittersweet by the fact that Ferrer died before the revival premiered on Showtime. But every moment spent with them onscreen is a treasure.
Audrey Horne’s reappearance, in episode 12 of The Return, is far and away the most disappointing of all. The original’s Audrey was an unconventional femme fatale, whose actions had an undercurrent of innocence on a show teeming with darkness. Her swaying at the Double R Diner is as synonymous with Twin Peaks as doughnuts, coffee, the Log Lady’s log and the Black Lodge. Audrey could’ve had her own spinoff — which, though probably a bad idea, speaks to the popularity of her character.
Yet this Audrey is shrill, incoherent and limited to yelling at her husband about another man she’s having an affair with, for a scene that’s excruciatingly long. (And if Twin Peaks: The Return has had any issues, it’s with their treatment of women.) Sherilyn Fenn is trying her best, but it’s hard to put much into a performance when the dialogue feels like it was written by Tommy Wiseau — who isn’t great about portraying women, either.
I think I know where Lynch is going with Audrey: It’s obvious her son is the monstrous Richard Horne, and we know that she was in a coma after the bank explosion at the end of season two. I suspect Coop, under the demonic entity BOB’s possession, visited an immobile Audrey in the hospital and raped her before leaving town. (Richard is evil because, well, it’s basically in his DNA.) Audrey’s affection for Coop was one of the few heartwarming elements of Twin Peaks, and the devastation of evil Coop assaulting her could’ve drastically changed Audrey. It’s an interesting path to take, if that’s the case, but the Audrey we see onscreen after so many years is still a frustrating collection of stereotypes.
The way that Bobby Briggs, played by Dana Ashbrook, is reintroduced feels like the inverse of Audrey in the new Twin Peaks. Whereas the coke-snorting, rebellious teen was one of the original’s most obnoxious characters, Twin Peaks: The Return shows him in a new light. He’s a cop — who would’ve ever guessed that from watching the original series? — and on the surface, an empathetic man who has learned from his past mistakes.
Bobby’s best scenes are when he’s at his most vulnerable: seeing an old photo of Laura Palmer and bursting into tears, or when he gets a message from his late father, Garland Briggs, who said he knew Bobby would turn out OK. Bobby’s fragility is suddenly one of the hallmarks of his character. It’s an effective and moving transformation.
Although Bobby has done a complete 180-degree turn, it appears Shelly Johnson is doomed to repeat the mistakes of her past. Shelly — Mädchen Amick, still great — has constantly been in the orbit of awful men: her former husband Leo Johnson and peak fuccboi Bobby in the original, and now, a new drug kingpin in Twin Peaks that goes by the name Red. Suffice to say, any dude that goes by the name Red is probably a douchebag.
Shelly’s ill-fated taste in men has extended to her daughter with Bobby, Amanda Seyfried’s Becky, whose own relationship is so bad that she went parading around the town with a pistol looking for her abusive husband. It’s tragic and ironic that Shelly and Bobby are no longer together, despite Bobby’s reformed nature as a sensible cop. Hopefully, these troubling relationships won’t end horrifyingly for either Shelly or her daughter.
Ben and Jerry Horne
Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) is now the subdued owner of the Great Northern hotel and another man trying to reform himself. It’s a far cry from the guy who once had a penchant for oddball monologues and who randomly chewed vegetables plucked from his breast pocket. Ben was so dastardly that it was easy to believe he was Laura Palmer’s true killer at first — though that turned out to be a red herring. At first, new Ben is Chill Ben. But the chaos surrounding his life — especially in the form of his odious grandson, Richard — leads him to be beguiled by his old vices, like being tempted by an affair with his secretary, Beverly Paige (Ashley Judd). Whichever way Ben ultimately sways in The Return, I’m intrigued.
His brother, Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), meanwhile, has spent most of The Return high out of his mind roaming the forest. At one point, he believes his foot is talking to him. He screams maniacally when he runs out of cell service. He looks like the Sasquatch from Jack Link’s beef jerky commercials. Never change, Jerry.
Andy and Lucy Brennan
Revisiting Andy and Lucy (Harry Goaz and Kimmy Robertson) is like entering a Twin Peaks time capsule: Nothing’s changed. To be sure, much has changed around them. The Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department has a technology-laden wing that responds almost instantaneously to any crimes happening in the area. Lucy’s secretarial work at the front desk is essentially obsolete (all emergencies appear to go through a different operator in the tech wing). Andy, meanwhile, seems to only respond to the most innocuous crimes in town.
I’d like to say that Andy and Lucy’s aloof charm remains, but the noticeably darker tone of The Return makes their scenes feel completely disparate from the rest of the series.
Tommy “Hawk” Hill
Due to the fact that Sheriff Harry Truman is offscreen (Michael Ontkean has retired from acting and isn’t reprising his role) and Agent Cooper is living far away from the town of Twin Peaks as Dougie Jones, a law-enforcement overhaul was necessary for The Return. This means the investigative spirit of the original Twin Peaks is solely in the hands of now-Sheriff Hawk (Michael Horse).
It’s rather fitting, since Hawk was one of Twin Peaks’ most underappreciated characters. He was just as capable as Harry and Coop, if not more, in dealing with the supernatural elements of the series, offering crucial insight into the Black Lodge. In The Return, he’s unlocking its biggest mysteries, finding more pages from Laura Palmer’s diary and putting the pieces together with Coop’s sudden departure from the town two decades ago. If Twin Peaks had an MVP award, my vote would go to Hawk.
The Log Lady
The Log Lady was one of Twin Peaks’ most mystifying roles: A woman who literally held a log wherever she went — yes, it was absurd — and offered up cryptic messages for Agent Cooper and co., which in turn suggested she might be the most all-knowing character in the entire series. Indeed, the Log Lady (the late Catherine E. Coulson) is still a vague, bewildering presence in The Return, now providing Hawk with clues to the whereabouts of the real Cooper.
But the Log Lady’s scenes are especially poignant in The Return, given her gaunt appearance and anguished expression. It’s likely Coulson filmed some of the earliest scenes in The Return’s production; the actress died from cancer in 2015. Whenever she picks up the phone and delivers a message to Hawk, you wonder if it’s the last time we’ll ever see the Log Lady — and Coulson. The actress’ death is a major loss for the show, because the Log Lady embodies the spirit of Twin Peaks, even more so in 2017: As she says in the premiere, “Stop by — I have coffee and pie for you.”
Dr. Lawrence Jacoby
Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), Laura Palmer’s former psychiatrist, is now living in the woods. He sells “golden” shovels that he spray-paints by hand and shouts a lot about capitalism for a budding YouTube audience.
He basically became Alex Jones. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that.
James Hurley sucks. (Sorry, James Marshall, but it’s true.) He was a moody, fundamentally uninteresting piece of Twin Peaks, and the subject of season two’s most unnecessary and frustrating subplot. For all of Lynch’s accomplishments with the series, James is the sullen reminder that while Twin Peaks is indeed a cult classic, it’s not without its blemishes — especially the one always donning a motorcycle jacket.
Unfortunately, James shows up again in The Return, though quite briefly as Chromatics play at the Roadhouse at the end of the two-part premiere. He stares flirtatiously at one of Shelly’s friends, as another friend says, “There’s something wrong with that guy.” Shelly defends him, unconvincingly. “James is still cool. He’s always been cool.” He’s not, but it’s OK. The Return knows that, too.
We haven’t seen James since.
Twin Peaks: The Return now airs Sundays at 8 p.m. Eastern on Showtime.
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