‘Part 16’ of ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ offers a quickening pace, welcome answers

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It only took 15 and a half episodes, but Dale Cooper is finally back — the real Dale Cooper, that is. Before we get to that triumphant moment, let’s take a step back to the beginning of the episode. While Part 16 of Twin Peaks: The Return gave us the first taste of some long-awaited answers, it’s also one of the most focused and modestly paced of the new episodes, and there’s plenty to unpack.

A father-son moment

We begin with Mr. C, aka Bad Coop, aka Dopple-Dale, in his natural habitat: Driving down a deserted country road at night. With him is the young Richard Horn, who joined up with Mr. C at the end of Part 15.

Their destination is some sort of abandoned quarry where the only other life is a stoned and confused Jerry Horne, who spies the despicable duo through the wrong end of his binoculars. Mr. C explains to Richard Horne that he has received three sets of coordinates and that two of them match to this location. He instructs the youngest of the Horne clan to climb to the top of a nearby rock. Once Richard reaches the summit, he, well, explodes — with his great uncle watching.

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It’s unclear as to what exactly Mr. C was using Richard to do. Was he closing an interdimensional gate? Opening one? Using him as cannon fodder? The episode gives little in the way of clues.

Despite the questions of motive, it’s an abrupt and unceremonious end to Richard. However, the real shocker of the scene is Mr. C’s reaction: An emotionless, cold utterance of “Goodbye, my son.” This is important for two reasons. The first is that it suggests that Audrey Horne and this version of Cooper wound up having a romance sometime between the old and new series. Secondly, it opens some interesting questions regarding the nature of Richard and his relation to BOB. If he’s BOB’s kid, it would explain the unrelenting nastiness of literally everything Richard has done this season. The scene ends with Mr. C sending a single, cryptic text that reads “: – ) ALL” to Diane.

The return

We then return to Dougie in the hospital. After weeks of waiting, it almost seems comical how abrupt Dougie/Cooper’s recovery is. With a start, the individual we have known as Dougie for most of the season awakens from his electrocution-induced coma as Dale Cooper, but with the memories of his time as Dougie. Cooper speaks cross-dimensionally to Mike in the Red Room. “Do you have the seed?” asks Cooper, to which Mike produces a small gold bead. Cooper then plucks a hair from his own head and hands it between dimensions to Mike and, instructs him to make another Tulpa, presumably to replace Dougie.

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Mere moments after this brief interdimensional exchange, Cooper goes from bedridden hospital patient to strapped and suited FBI agent. From there, it’s a breakneck sprint from the hospital to the Mitchum Brothers’ casino, where a few more ends are tied up. Cooper says goodbye to Janey-E and Sonny Jim, thanking them for taking care of him, and assuring them that “he” (meaning Dougie) will return home soon. Ostensibly, this is why Cooper asked Mike to make another Tulpa of himself. By the end of the episode, Cooper is en route to Spokane, Washington, with the Mitchum Brothers.

Everything about the scene is classic Cooper, from his assertive charm to his beaming, kindhearted smile. Hearing Kyle MacLachlan say, “I am the FBI,” in the iconic, confident Cooper cadence while the classic Twin Peaks theme scores the moment was nothing short of elating. A perfectly executed return.

Bad neighborhood

Things go poorly for Gary and Chantal Hutchins in this episode. We find the couple staking the outside of Dougie’s suburban Las Vegas home, waiting to kill him. However, much to their surprise, both the FBI and the Mitchum Brothers show up at the home, too. While the appearance of the other parties gums up the Hutchens’ plans, their biggest problem comes in the form of an angry, Uzi-toting neighbor who wants them to move their car from his driveway. The scene quickly escalates and ends up in the Hutchins’ untimely demise.

Despite their alignment with Mr. C and the reprehensible nature of their employment as hitmen, Chantal and Hutch have become two of Season 3’s most enjoyable new characters. While their deaths get a modicum more attention and build up than Richard Horne’s did, and the overall farcical nature of the scene works well, it ultimately felt like this was just some “tidying up” of the plot before fast-tracking back to Twin Peaks proper (finally) in the second half of the episode.

“A real Tulpa.”

With Cooper back, we then move on to Dianne.

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Sitting in a bar alone at a hotel bar, she receives the “: – ) ALL” text from Mr. C, which triggers a deep emotional response. Diane finishes her drink and makes her way up to Gordon Cole’s room, with a distorted remix of American Woman scoring her ascension of the hotel stairs.

Once in the room, Diane explains to Gordon, Albert, and Tammy what happened the night Cooper (Mr. C) came to visit her, confirming what many had believed — that she was raped by Mr. C. As she recounts the horrors of that night, her demeanor changes, and she slowly loses her composure until she repeats “I don’t feel like me” over and over. As she reaches for the gun in her purse, Albert and Tammy draw down, firing two shots into Diane, who abruptly disappears.

It turns out Dianne has been a Tulpa this whole time. She appears back in the Red Room, where she shares a terse exchange with Mike. She then dissolves into black smoke, leaving behind a gold seed. What this means for the real Dianne is unclear at this point, but something tells us it’s not good.

While the scene is important from a plot standpoint, Laura Dern’s performance is incredible. Diane’s retelling of her harrowing night with Cooper — and the desperation as her psyche begins to unravel — is gripping. Her final lines in the Red Room drip with disdain, and couldn’t have been delivered any better. If this is, in fact, the last we see of Diane, it’s one hell of an exit.

Audrey’s dance

As has become standard for almost every episode this season, Part 16 closes out at the Roadhouse, in this case with a guest appearance from Eddie Vedder, but this time things get weird — even by Twin Peaks standards.

Over the past few episodes, we’ve been presented with an utterly surreal exchange between Audrey Horne and her husband, Charlie. The couple has been arguing in circles about whether they’re going to go to the Roadhouse to find Billy. Audrey seems to have finally left the house, and arrived at her destination. Following Vedder’s performance, the MC introduces the “Audrey Dance.”

Thus begins one of the most classic Twin Peaks moments of the entire season. Audrey takes to the dance floor, performing the strange, jazzy dance she did back in season 1 in the Double R diner. It drips with equal parts nostalgia and Lynchian weirdness, and its great seeing Audrey finally doing something other than arguing in circles with Charlie.

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The dance continues for a few moments, until a fight breaks out in the crowd. Audrey rushes to Charlie, frightened, screaming, “Get me out of here!”

Then she wakes up — staring at herself in a mirror in a white room — and the episode ends.

This confirms theories that have been floating around questioning whether Audrey was in the real world or not. The passage of time in season 3 has been odd and inconsistent, but the scenes with Audrey have been especially so, and now we know why — it’s all been a dream, or an alternate dimension. Or both. Either way, it’s not the Roadhouse as we know it. The reveal calls into question the reality of the events that have taken place both in Audrey’s scenes and at the Roadhouse — or at least, what level of reality is taking place. The white walls of the room call to mind the White Lodge, another of the many alternate realities in the Twin Peaks universe.

After nearly an hour of big returns and a plot that seems to be picking up serious steam toward the conclusion, answers felt like they were finally within grasp. This final reveal plunged everything back into uncertainty. Welcome to Twin Peaks.