Lost In The Bang Bang Bar

It’s A Goddamn Bad Story, Isn’t It: Testing The Limits Of Storytelling With Twin Peaks: The Return “Part 12”

Party at Sarah’s house!!!

Why hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers and Twin Peaks fanatics! What’s that? You’re in the mood for a Bloody Mary? Well, me too! Ever since last Sunday, Sarah Palmer got me in the mood. Why even she knows Bloody Marys are always in season! I only wish that before she went on a tear in the grocery store she picked up some Absolut Peppar rather than that snoozy Smirnoff. Live a little, honey! Anyway, let’s party at Sarah’s house, while we continue to get Lost In The Bang Bang Bar, diving into Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12.

“Please speak succinctly and do not make any loud sharp noises,” requests Gordon Cole in the beginning of Twin Peaks: The Return Part 12. Even though Lynch himself plays Gordon, begging Albert to speak succinctly, Lynch doesn’t heed this call. Instead, Part 12 seems to do anything but be succinct, with scene after scene of meandering stories–even some that don’t even relate to any characters we’ve seen in the previous eleven hours.

Beyond just a ploy to enrage and frustrate the audience, Lynch seems to experiment throughout Part 12 with just how far he can push storytelling. He continues to strip narrative strategies away–piece by piece, character by character–throughout the episode until we’re left at the end with two women characters we don’t know speaking about other characters we don’t know. For Lynch, this is an achievement of aesthetics and world-making. The ominous atmosphere that pervades Twin Peaks: The Return and its ever-present crackling of electricity and ambient whooshing seem to show that traditional storytelling–in this sense–doesn’t particularly matter in the world Lynch has created.

Now, beyond just his work in film and TV, Lynch himself is an expert storyteller. Ok, maybe not expert, but certainly a distinctly captivating one. Just watch his documentary David Lynch: The Art Life or peep his recipe for quinoa, and you’ll see his unique style of speech. Hands fluttering, usually with an ever-present cigarette, Lynch tends to imbue his lengthy–up to the point of exhausting–stories with disarmingly specific details. Typically, Lynch’s tales go nowhere, but they’re sprinkled with such aesthetic precision that it doesn’t matter. It’s like he transferred his storytelling ability into an entire episode for television in Part 12.

The episode begins with probably the most typical and clear narrative as Tammy, Gordon and Albert sit in a hotel lounge drinking red wine. Albert and Gordon ask Tammy to join a top secret F.B.I. task force that explores “the troubling abstractions raised by cases Blue Book failed to resolve.” Here we finally learn what Blue Rose cases mean even though they’ve been mentioned in the Lynch universe since the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. And of course, they’ve weighed heavily in the previous eleven episodes of The Return.

With Tammy now on board and apparently prepped for this since making the honors list at George Washington High, Diane, that sourpuss, joins the trio, walking through a heavy red curtain that is reminiscent of the Black Lodge. The agents ask to deputize Diane, presumably to keep an eye on her conversations with Bad Coop. After asking what’s in it for her (“Some cash–not much. Maybe the satisfaction of knowing what happened to your friend Cooper.”), there’s a surge of ominous music as Diane raises her fingers and says, “Let’s rock.” Now, if you’re paying attention, Twin Peaks fanatics, the Man from Another Place uttered the same phrase in Cooper’s initial surreal dream sequence in the original series. Does this mean Diane is a part of the Black Lodge crew?

Savor that scene, because the narrative threads begin to fray from there as we see Laura Palmer’s mother Sarah prepping for a Bloody Mary fest at a grocery store. Reaching the register, Sarah gets a carton of Salem’s and fixates on a display of turkey and beef jerky behind the register. She mutters to the cashier:

“I don’t remember seeing those beef jerky there before.”
“That’s new”
“What type is it?”
“It’s turkey not beef”
“Is it smoked?”

Afterward, Sarah proceeds to freak the fuck out. What is it about the jerky? If you look closely, the horned logo kind of resembles the symbol on the Owl Cave ring, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Some people on the Interwebz have also pointed out that the brand is “Albatross,” which can signify an emotional burden, of which Sarah has heaps. Lastly, in Fire Walk With Me, there was a bizarre exchange between Laura and James about turkeys. “I’m gone. Long gone. Like a turkey in the corn,” says Laura. James responds, “You’re not a turkey. A turkey is one of the dumbest birds on Earth.” “Gobble-gobble,” she replies. Does this terrible dialogue have continued relevance?

But no matter what the explanation, that turkey jerky certainly sends Sarah spinning. Freaking the fuck out, she yells, “Were you here when they first came? Your room seems different….And men are coming. I’m trying to tell you that you have to watch out! Things can happen! Something happened to me!” Muttering, “I don’t feel good, I don’t feel good. Sarah Stop doing this,” she runs out of the store. The cashier then, speaking for all of us, says, “Whaaaaat?”

That exchange is oddly reminiscent of Laura Palmer’s breathless behavior throughout Fire Walk With Me. Is Sarah channeling her daughter? Terrified of the Woodsmen? Nevertheless, Grace Zabriskie once again proves that nobody does existential terror quite like her. Just recall her memorable scene from Inland Empire, creeping Laura Dern out about “Brutal Fucking Murder!”

After Sarah runs out without her booze, the bagger boy offers, “I know where she lives and I can deliver, I guess.” Later, we see Hawk visiting Sarah, checking up on her after her freak-out. As he pulls up, we hear strains of “Laura’s Theme” from the original series in a hint that maybe Laura isn’t so far gone. There are also several shots of a whirling ceiling fan, which, in both the original series and Fire Walk With Me, heralds the threatening presence of BOB. Can you look at your ceiling fans without thinking of Twin Peaks now? I know I can’t.

Sarah opens the door, clearly calmed down after some Bloody Marys, assuring Hawk, “I don’t know what came over me.” Her demeanor has changed entirely within the house–either she’s drunk or possessed. Suddenly, there’s a rattle of glass bottles. Did she take the grocery boy hostage? Is she having a party with the Woodsmen? Why am I not invited! “No, just something in the kitchen,” she explains. “You’re ok then…” Hawk tries to confirm (poor guy). Her mood darkens: “It’s a goddamn bad story, isn’t it Hawk?”

That it is, Sarah, that it is. And the bad stories continue from there throughout the rest of Part 12. From Carl trying to prevent his fellow trailer park resident not to sell his blood to Ben Horne rambling about a bicycle to the frustrating return of Audrey, Lynch pushes the limits of storytelling. Like a record skipping, a sound much-adored by Lynch as heard on ambient soundtracks like The Air Is On Fire, many of these scenes and stories feature repeated phrases and questions.

For example, Sheriff Truman visits Ben Horne at the Great Northern Hotel to explain that his grandson–Richard Horne–mowed over a boy and tried to murder Miriam, who we see bruised and beaten in a hospital bed. Though the Sheriff initially mentions she’s in intensive care, Horne asks him again. He similarly keeps asking Sheriff Truman if his brother Harry Truman would like the key that belonged to Cooper in the first Twin Peaks that mysteriously arrived at the hotel. With all these repetitions, the scene feels both elongated and willfully antagonistic on the part of Lynch. We get it!!

After the Sheriff leaves, Horne tells a rambling story to his secretary Beverly about a bicycle his father gave him as a child: “I remember…I remember riding. My father got me this old Schwinn…secondhand. He painted it green, got a new seat for it. Two-tone green, kind of a lime green and a deep forest green. Fat tires. Oh it was so hard to ride, but I loved that bike. I loved that bike. I’d ride with my friends…I loved that bike….I loved that bike that my father got for me.”

You know who that sounds exactly like? LYNCH! Horne replicates Lynch’s exact cadence and neurotic attention to details that exemplify Lynch’s own storytelling strategies.

Just leave already!!!

Speaking of Lynch, we see Gordon Cole with a beautiful French woman in his hotel room. Interrupted by Albert, Cole asks her to wait downstairs at the bar while he and Albert speak. The woman proceeds to take the longest ass time imaginable to leave. Giggling and vamping, she slowly puts her jacket on, wiggles her heels at Gordon, drinks wine and puts on lipstick–all the while Gordon is oogling her. Adjusting her skirt, her frantic yet almost purposeful actions harken back to a scene in Fire Walk With Me when Gordon invites a woman to mime details of a Blue Rose case to fellow F.B.I. agent Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak). Now, I’m not sure that’s what she was doing here, but I’m betting Lynch intended for that connection. She’s even wearing a red dress.

“She’s here visiting a friend of her mother whose daughter has gone missing. The mother owns a turnip farm. I told her to tell the mother that her daughter that her daughter will turn up eventually,” quips Gordon, commenting on Albert’s blank expression, “She didn’t get it either. Being French it doesn’t translate.” The entire dialogue between Albert and Gordon feels clipped, imbued with, like the French women’s campy actions, untranslatability and misunderstanding. “Albert, sometimes I worry about you,” Gordon concludes.

This untranslatability in storytelling comes to a head with the return of Audrey. Lynch clearly knows how anticipated the return of Audrey is and almost sadistically puts her in a scene that makes very little sense to the entire narrative of The Return. Luckily though, Audrey’s sass is on point. She’s just as saucy as she was in the original series, but with a bit more bitterness lobbed toward her sleepy, “milquetoast” husband Charlie.

Audrey is panicking about a missing person named Billy, wanting to go to the Roadhouse to look for him. Charlie tries every excuse in the book to avoid going out (“Audrey look at this paperwork I have, I’ve got a deadline. Look stacks of it. How I can I leave this and go out so late at night?”). She spews back at him, “What kind of shit are you? If you were missing, would you want people finishing their fucking homework before they went looking for you?… You’re nothing but a spineless, no-balls loser. Do you know that? Because that’s what you really are.”

Who is Billy? Who the hell knows. All viewers know is this random Billy is missing and Tina (who is Tina) was the last person to see him, according to someone else named Chuck who is, as Audrey says, “certifiable.” Though viewers have no clue who any of these characters are, it seems that Lynch, banking on the viewers’ love for Audrey, wants to test if it matters if the audience even knows the context of the dialogue.

Learning that Audrey is in love with Billy (“You have no balls. That’s why I’m in love with Billy. That’s why I am fucking Billy. I saw Billy in my dream last night and he was bleeding from the nose and the mouth. And dreams sometimes harken a truth”), we then watch, with Audrey, her husband call Tina in a one-sided phone call. It’s torturously long: “What? “Yeah I know that. You’re sure? But…okay. Yeah. Yes, Tina. Okay. How did you find…what? Really? Oh my goodness. Thank you , Tina. Great. I’ll talk to you soon. I’ll try tomorrow. Sighs. Yeah again sorry to call so late. Unbelievable, what you’re telling me. I won’t.”

Echoing the audience, Audrey screams, “You’re not going to tell me what she said?! Charlie!”

As if this weren’t enough, Lynch strips down the narrative even more in the final scene at the Bang Bang Bar where two women who we’ve never seen before sit at a table and chat: “Where’s Angela?” “I haven’t got a clue. She was supposed to show last night. She didn’t show then either.” “She might be with Clark.” “Clark?” “Yeah, they’ve been hanging out lately.” “Really?” “Yeah. You look surprised.”

Who are any of these people?!!!

With the Chromatics playing, it seems like this final scene presents the success of atmosphere and aesthetics over narrative. As a guy named Trick runs in yelling about almost getting run off the road (“All I see is two headlights coming after me”), Lynch cements the overall feeling of the world spiraling out of control in Twin Peaks without even having to establish any recognizable characters.

Now, is Lynch doing this to manipulate his viewers? Undoubtedly so. But I also get the sense that his testing the limits of storytelling is a personal fixation as well. As David Foster Wallace writes in “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” “It’s not that Lynch is somehow “above” being manipulative; it’s more like he’s just not interested. Lynch’s movies are about images and stories that are in his head and that he wants to see made external and complexly “real.” His loyalties are fierce and passionate and entirely to himself.”

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