Twin Peaks continues its strange trip as a never-before-seen character is finally revealed in one of the most gruesome and dark episodes yet.
Well, Twin Peaks has gone and done it. After nearly 30 years, the series has finally revealed Agent Cooper's trusted confidant and assistant Diane, and she comes to us in the form of Laura Dern. Diane has been huge part of the series since the very first episode, when Dale was seen recording messages to her on his handheld recorder. Seemingly the recipient of every single thought that ran through Cooper's head, Diane has long been the subject of speculation, as her identity was never revealed onscreen nor did any of her communication with the square-jawed agent ever appear to be much of a two-way street. But when it was announced that Dern, a previous David Lynch collaborator on Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, and Inland Empire, would be joining the series' return to television, well, that seemed to set off some alarms.
For what it's worth, 'Part 6' doesn't spend a lot of time with Diane, she's only seen briefly wearing a sliver wig (at least it looks like a wig), sitting at a bar when Miguel Ferrer's Albert Rosenfeld tracks her down on a cold, rainy evening while Gordon Cole is enjoying a very nice Bordeaux. Albert merely gets her attention by calling her name, at which point Diane turns and reveals the internet's suspicions to be true. Aside from Albert's irritability, it's one of just a few bright moments in what may be the darkest hour of Twin Peaks since its return.
'Part 6' features a couple onscreen deaths, two of which are shockingly graphic. The first shows a young boy hit by a speeding truck driven by Richard Horne, the guy who was introduced last week harassing Jane Levy's character and her friend. This week, it's Richard who's being harassed, but by Balthazar Getty's Red who badgers him with the sort of uncanny coin flip that would make David Blaine renounce his self-appointed title of "mystifier". The second death comes as part of a contract on Dougie, as Lorainne – the woman who first ordered a hit on Dougie – winds up on the business end of Ike "The Spike" Stadtler's ice pick that's shown in all it's gruesome glory.
Lynch's penchant for holding the camera on his subject when other filmmakers would cut or focus their attention elsewhere has been on display throughout these first episodes of Twin Peaks, and now that the show has established that it is indeed back and it's not all part of some collective fever dream, these flourishes have begun to stand out even more. As was the case with the glass box in the premiere, the long Lumiére Brother's-like escape of Dale Cooper from the Black Lodge, or even Grace Zabriske's soul-piercing howl from the series premiere all the way back in 1990, Lynch is determined to keep his camera trained on anything that might cause the sort of discomfort a viewer might want to look away from.
But 'Part 6' isn't all icepick murders and tragic hit-and-runs; the real Dale Cooper is slowly emerging and getting back to what he does best – even if he's still mostly on autopilot. Last week left Dale enamored with a statue outside the Lucky 7 Insurance offices where Dougie worked, and in staying true to Lynch's claims that Twin Peaks would be more like a movie than episodic television, that's where we find him. Like the long look at a floating dime or Lorainne's murder, Lynch has been taking his sweet time with Dale Cooper's return to normalcy. It remains to be seen if that's even on the table in a show like Twin Peaks, but there are some positive signs that these hours spent watching Kyle MacLachlan speak monosyllabically and maintain a fascinatingly neutral facial expression will have been worth it. After receiving a message from Mike in the Black Lodge, Cooper spends an evening doing some light doodles on his case files, apparently drawing some connection that his boss Bushnell Mullins deems interesting enough that Dougie is asked to keep the information to himself.
The long drawn-out process of seeing Cooper recompose himself is reaching a boiling point that's made fascinating by how Lynch refuses to pay it off. Structurally speaking, Twin Peaks is so different from anything else that when it ignores the typical cues to see Cooper snap back to his original self, the tension that wasn't released continues to build, adding a fascinating sort of stress to any scene involving Cooper. It feels like Lynch is baiting the audience time and again, but it works because the gaps left by Cooper's absence are filled with terrific scenes like the one where Janey-E berates a pair of loan sharks played by Jeremy Davies and Ronnie Gene Blevins about the state of the world and convincingly gets them to accept a greatly reduced interest rate on the money they loaned Dougie before he was puking up internal organs and finding his way to the Black Lodge.
Like 'Part 5' this week's episode is a collection of seemingly random pieces of the larger puzzle that is Twin Peaks. There are a ton of unanswered questions and what seems like a million different plot threads dangling about and Dale Cooper has yet to request a piece of pie. Thankfully, there are still 12 more hours to go. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who could make complete sense of what's going on here and how it's all connected (though some corners of the internet will certainly try), and yet despite the bizarre electric crackles that seem to signify the coming and going of travelers from various metaphysical lodges, the appearance of Diane, and the various plots to murder a Dale Cooper doppelganger, Twin Peaks continues to hit it out of the park week after week.
Twin Peaks continues next Sunday with 'Part 7' @9pm on Showtime.
Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME