‘Twin Peaks’ just keeps getting stranger in Part 5, for Agent Cooper and all of us

twin peaks the return part 5 analysis header
Five episodes into the new run of Twin Peaks, viewers may be growing impatient with one particular storyline: That of the show’s protagonist, Agent Dale Cooper. Audiences may have expected that, after more than two decades off the air, Cooper would quickly be back in the thick of things. Instead, he spends Part 5 shambling around in an oversized suit, parroting other people’s words and struggling to use the bathroom. While a triumphant return to the town of Twin Peaks may have been a little too straightforward for a David Lynch project, Cooper’s time in limbo could seem excessive.

Yet Cooper’s time living the life of Dougie Jones, his insurance agent doppelgänger, is par for the course with the new season, which has so far bucked the popular trends in television storytelling, just as the first season of Twin Peaks toyed with the tropes of its contemporaries, soap operas. In the age of binge watching, shows that still air weekly have to figure out how to pace themselves to keep audiences coming back week after week. Twin Peaks’ answer seems to be a refusal to play the game, telling, in its own way, a story about the passage of time and the difficulties of returning home.

Cooper struggles to operate his body

Since returning to the “real” world after his decades in the Black Lodge, Cooper has seemed a shell of himself, barely able to speak or act on his own. To the world, he is Dougie Jones, an insurance agent. Dougie’s wife dresses him, drops him off at work, and must even unbuckle his seatbelt and push him out of the car.

twin peaks the return part 5 analysis cooper struggling

After years in a spiritual dimension where time flows any which way, Cooper seems completely lost, having returned to his flesh. Hunched over in the hallway at work, clutching his groin as he seems unable to locate a bathroom, he seems more like a toddler than the charming, competent Cooper of Twin Peaks past. It’s an undignified position for him to be in.

It makes sense, given where he has been. Having existed for so long without a body, the constraints of flesh — the urge to consume, to fill oneself up, followed by the swelling and straining of a bladder — must be disorienting. Cooper’s struggle also works on a thematic level. Twin Peaks: The Return has so far kept the old characters and locales at a distance, only occasionally checking in with characters like Hawk and Shelly. Time has passed, the world has changed, and it just isn’t easy to go home again.

Becky’s story shows that the world changes, except when it doesn’t

So far, the actual town of Twin Peaks has been a minor part of The Return, which has expanded the show’s setting New York, South Dakota, even Argentina. When the show does go back to Twin Peaks, the feelings it evokes are complex. On the one hand, there are the familiar faces: Shelly, Bobby, Lucy, still working the same jobs, still drinking at the roadhouse at night.

But the differences stand out. The Bang Bang Bar is no longer hosting Julee Cruise — not yet, anyway — but new acts like Chromatics. Doctor Jacoby still wears his red and blue shades, but now he broadcasts conspiracy theories to audiences via internet streaming, which Jerry Horne watches while smoking now-legal weed.

twin peaks the return part 5 analysis becky tripping

Even as the world has changed, some things stay the same. Shelly’s daughter Becky (Amanda Seyfried) is the latest incarnation of a common figure in Twin Peaks: The good girl caught up in bad business. After borrowing money from her mother, Becky gets into a car with her boyfriend, disheveled and unemployed, who offers her a line of coke. Despite some reluctance, she takes it, and drifts into a reverie, the camera focusing on her face the car rumbles on.

It’s a scene with many of Lynch’s signature touches — a beautiful girl, drug-induced euphoria, a vintage ‘60s pop song playing in the background — and it reveals that, no matter how much time may trample aspects of society, human behavior remains the same. Like Laura Palmer before her, Becky is a seemingly lovely young woman on a dark path of drugs and dangerous men.

The original Twin Peaks was a product of its era, not just in the genres it drew from, but in the world it presented. The opening credits of the first two seasons showed an industrial society, with factories running, machines sharpening saw blades. These images are absent from the new credits. The world has changed, and Twin Peaks, like Cooper, is adjusting. What hasn’t changed is the show’s willingness to be different, no matter how obtuse it may come across.

twin peaks the return part 5 analysis cooper statue

As with Cooper, the show refuses to give us an easy grasp on things, even in its format. After Parts 2-4 ended with musical performances, Part 5 subverts expectations, rolling credits as Cooper stares at a statue of a lawman, drawn to an emblem of his former life.

Here’s what you missed in Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 4.

Movies & TV

Star Wars series 'The Mandalorian' adds 'Deadpool' actress Gina Carano

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Winter coming in spring? HBO reveals 'Game of Thrones' season 8 premiere date

With the eighth and final season looming, Game of Thrones fever has officially become a pandemic. Our list of all the relevant news and rumors will help make the wait more bearable, if you don't mind spoilers.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

The best movie soundtracks of all time, from 'Star Wars' to 'E.T.'

Whether you're a lover of beautifully composed original scores or a fan of perfectly compiled popular music, these are the best movie soundtracks of all time — from Star Wars to Garden State.
Movies & TV

'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' will seem muddled to mere muggles

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald brings magizoologist Newt Scamander back for more adventures, but the sequel to 2016's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes a very deep dive into Potter-verse lore.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Movies & TV

Is the end near for Pied Piper? ‘Silicon Valley’ season 6 delayed, might be the last

Season 6 of Silicon Valley might not premiere until 2020, as HBO has delayed production on the season until summer 2019 due to showrunner Alec Berg's work on another HBO series, Barry. Season 6 could be the final one for the show.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Movies & TV

More cast members join Jordan Peele’s ‘The Twilight Zone’ reboot

Get Out writer and director Jordan Peele is developing and hosting a reboot of the classic sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone for CBS All Access, and the cast for the first season is filling out with some familiar faces.
Movies & TV

‘Moonlight’ film studio A24 to produce movies for Apple

Indie movie studio A24 has entered into an agreement to produce films for Apple. The studio is best known for bringing Oscar-winning drama Moonlight to audiences, as well as Room and Ex Machina.
Home Theater

From game consoles to 4K UHD spinners, these are the best Blu-ray players

Streaming may be popular, but the disc isn't dead yet. To get the very best picture and sound quality from your system, you need to be watching Blu-ray or 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, and these are the best Blu-ray players you can buy.