[The following contains spoilers.]
“It was a dream. We live inside a dream.”
The film is David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me (1992) and FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) has just materialised in the midst of the FBI’s headquarters. He is “long lost” and, more specifically, he has been lost in Argentina for two years. After submitting his report – “we live inside a dream” – he promptly vanishes.
“We live inside a dream.”
Dreams are often premonitory within the world of Twin Peaks. In the most celebrated scene from the original series, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) dreams of meeting Laura Palmer for the first time. His dream is set twenty-five years in the future. In Fire Walk With Me, Cooper dreams of Jeffries’ visit to the FBI before it happens, so that it seems as if Jeffries has walked out of one dream to confirm that it is only contained inside another. In episode eleven of Mark Frost and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: The Return, the mobster Bradley Mitchum (Jim Belushi) receives a message via a dream that will save the life of the man who he is about to kill. That man is Cooper’s doppelgänger Dougie Jones (MacLachlan) and the message is a cherry pie.
By now, viewers of Twin Peaks: The Return will be suspicious that the entire Dougie Jones storyline is, if not a dream exactly, then some sly extension of the unreality within the Black Lodge. Perhaps, as with Jeffries, the cherry pie has been beamed out of one dream and into another. Dougie has the same blank personality as a dreamer and the same eerie acceptance of everything that he encounters. They say that the most unnerving thing about dreams is not the bizarreness of their contents but how you respond to them as if you are not yourself. The dreamer experiences a hallucination of the self, and one without its normal memories, repertoire of reactions, and common sense. This is potentially uncomfortable but, of course, the dream-self accepts its own alienation along with everything else.
Dougie is like a wishing-well that reliably echoes every sentence that is thrown down into it. There is a distinct echo of his own lobotomised presence in the death of the high school principal Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard). Hastings is depicted sitting brainlessly in a police car – his skull has been pulverised and his brain apparently torn out. He is in some respects like Dougie perfected.
The events in Las Vegas currently have the mood of a dream. Dougie floats mindlessly back and forth from his dream home to his dream job. There is an unsettling, authentically dreamlike fluctuation from anxiety to elation once the gangsters decide not to kill him. And are these tell-tale details that are now creeping into the story – the gangster who pulls the cut off his brother’s cheekbone as though it is a plaster, the glamour girl Candie’s (Amy Shiels) inexplicably voracious descriptions of traffic? It increasingly seems too unreal to be recoverable.
The Las Vegas storyline is still wholly separate from the rest of the story. It is separated geographically and it is also set aside in its fairy-tale cheerfulness. Everything in this Las Vegas series-within-a-series is running disconcertingly smoothly.
Both of Cooper’s good and bad doppelgängers are obviously indestructible. Bad Coop has survived being shot at close range – Good Coop has been nimbly saved from execution by a supernatural intervention. Will the doppelgängers finally meet and have a never-ending battle in which neither can kill the other? Or will they blend into each other to produce a rounded psyche?
Elsewhere, Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and his goons clatter about looking ever more irresistibly like the Ghostbusters. In episode eleven, Gordon almost gets sucked up into a vortex. I can imagine someone who wanted to be cruel remarking about the director finally disappearing up his own arsehole, but it is nonetheless a vexingly inconsequential scene. We are left disrobed of the series’ customary horror and suspense. How can Gordon and his agents legitimately arrest ghosts and bring them to justice? Where would they even start?
If Cole had disappeared into the vortex, he would have been the fourth FBI agent to be lost. The agents Chester Desmond, Phillip Jeffries, and Dale Cooper have all emigrated to the hereafter. Defective or “bad” versions of Jeffries and Cooper have slipped back across the porous border. The vast buzz of petty clues and leads that the Twin Peaks characters and viewers have been given are yet to yield any direct route back from the dreamworld.
The realest or most material place in this series is still the homely town of Twin Peaks. In episode eleven it nonetheless provides a harum-scarum venue for violence and dismay. There is one long scene that alternates in gentle downward bumps from a family chat in the Double R Diner to Shelley’s (Mädchen Amick) flirting with a demonic criminal to an unattended child finding a gun to another child vomiting up green slime. It is all laid out like the strange parchment that Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) uses to map good and evil across the landscape. But were Dale Cooper able to be somehow salvaged from Dougie Jones, could his former innocence and heroic certainties ever have any purchase over the complex, distressing mess that this mountain town now is?
This is not, however, a straightforward chronicle about innocence ending. It is far more interesting than that. Psychologically, it appears that a happy ending to Twin Peaks is impossible. Despite this, the whole engine of the show’s suspense is our wish to learn how it will be achieved.