Posts Tagged ‘Dana Ashbrook’

The first ten minutes (or thereabouts) of part elven of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three were all about what I thought was going to happen : I thought that at least one of the kids out playing catch at the beginning, who make a very grisly discover indeed, was going to get hit by a speeding car coming out of nowhere; when the domestic drama that Amanda Seyfried’s Becky is currently (or maybe that should be always) enduring finally reaches a boiling point that sees her long-suffering mother, Shelly (played by Madchen Amick) going for a ride on the hood of her own vehicle, I thought something far worse than a skinned knee was going to happen to her when she was finally thrown from it; when Becky bursts into the motel where she thinks her  two-timing old man is to be found, I was absolutely sure that somebody was gonna get shot — maybe even several somebodies.

But no, the timely intervention of Harry Dean Stanton’s Carl (wait until you see how he hails a ride into town) and the wise advice of busybody Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) saw to it that disaster was averted — with no small assist coming from Deputy Bobby Briggs (Dana Ahsbrook), who really is our central figure of audience identification (as well as, officially, Becky’s dad — although I can’t see how that would come as a surprise to anyone) for what part eleven is all about, a point to which we will return momentarily.

First, though, it has to be said — some bad shit really does go down, it goes down in Buckhorn, South Dakota, and Matthew Lillard’s luckless high-school-principal-turned-paranormal-blogger Bill Hastings is on the business end of it. Our fivesome of Feds and their friends (Lynch’s Gordon Cole, Miguel Ferrer’s Albert Rosenfield, Chrysta Bell’s Tammy Preston, Laura Dern’s Diane Evans, and Brent Briscoe’s Detective Dave Mackley) have — uhhhmmm — “escorted” the hapless Mr. Hastings back to the scene of his supposed “crime,” only to discover a vortex portal to the Black Lodge, an uncharacteristically overweight (but characteristically ethereal) Woodsman, and the dead, headless body (I’m sorry, but Lynch’s “she’s dead” line is fucking priceless) of the woman he supposedly killed. Within moments, though, the aforementioned Woodsman sees to it that Hastings himself joins his former paramour on “the other side,” and his method of dispatch is — well, let’s just call it grisly in the extreme, shall we? Poor Bill — but then, we’ve been saying that about him from the outset.

Other stuff happens, too, and plenty of it — Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan)’s Mr. Bean routine and timely purchase of a cherry pie (a “damn good” one, at that) save his ass yet again after his boss, Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) unknowingly sets him up for a date with death at the hands of Robert Knepper and Jim Belushi’s brothers Mitchum; Amy Shiels keeps on just plain killing it as Candy; Catherine E. Coulson’s Log Lady helps guide Michael Horse’s Deputy Hawk though an ancient Indian map that he, in turn, guides Robert Forster’s Sheriff Frank Truman through; Lynch gets to talk about “the policeman’s dream” (you’re looking at it in the photo above) — but while all that definitely matters, I really do want to get back to Bobby.

He’s obviously a guy who’s learned from his past mistakes. Once a low-level drug dealer and Ben Horne’s lackey, he’s now in the business of busting his former friends as a duly sworn officer of the law. Previous installments have shown the deep sense of regret with which he views his less-than-glorious past, and we also get more than an inkling that there was much he wanted to say to his father before the Major’s his untimely demise. He’s done his level best to perform what we’d call a radical course correction on his life — and for that reason, it rips his heart out to see that his ex-wife is still running around with stereotypical “bad boys” (specifically Balthazar Getty’s Red, as we learn tonight), and that his daughter seems to have a lot more of her mom in her than she does of him. Bad habits being passed down from generation to generation are never a pleasant thing to see play out before one’s own eyes, and how much of that comes down to nature vs. how much of it comes down to nurture is the central question Lynch and Frost are asking in this segment — a point driven home when what first appears to be a (yes, you’re reading this correctly) drive-by shooting at the Double R turns out to be the accidental discharge of a carelessly-placed firearm from a vehicle stopped at a red light outside. Bobby quickly goes into heroic deputy mode, only to find that the kid who may have been handling the gun is wearing the same redneck-ass camouflage hunting garb — and has the same flat, distant, emotional affect — as his idiot, peckerwood, MAGA father. Are we then, in fact, doomed to become carbon-copy clones of our parents — or are they doing their level best to ensure that’s all we become, because it’s all that they themselves know how to teach us?

The incessant honking of a car horn and a child with a grotesque mystery illness stomp all over this reverie before we (and Bobby) have too much time to ponder it, but the question lingers in the back of the mind long after the credits (accompanied this time out by a piano-playing Vegas lounge lizard) roll, and it’s among the most profound — and perhaps ultimately impossible to answer — that Lynch and Frost have asked in this series to date.

 

Can you ever really go back home again?

Two weeks ago, David Lynch and Mark Frost detonated what we thought television was capable of — perhaps even what reality itself was all about, depending on who you ask — in part eight of Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three with as much undeniable and unalterable (fuck, is that a word?) force as the atomic explosion they took us so deeply into the heart of. I was bummed we didn’t get a new segment last week, but actually appreciated having the extra time to process all we had witnessed, and now the question becomes one of whether or not you can put the genie back in the bottle. We don’t want or need every part to have the sheer nuclear impact of that last one, of course — much of its power lies in its singularity — but now that we’ve seen the “other side,” so to speak, what’s to be made of this one?

As luck — or, okay, fair enough, Lynch’s skill — would have it, quite a lot, thankfully, for while part nine is punctuated throughout with any number of small and slow “character moments” of the sort to which we’re becoming accustomed to, if not outright spoiled by (Lynch’s Gordon Cole longingly eyeing the cigarette being enjoyed by Laura Dern’s Diane Evans being a particular favorite), we’re also treated to so much sheer plot progression (executed with a kind of quiet grace that only looks and feels laconic while actually bearing down with the force of a goddamn locomotive) that, once again, a couple of viewings, at the least, are going to be necessary in order to take it all in.

In short order, then : Evil Coop (portrayed, as ever, by soon-to-be-Emmy-winner-if-there’s-any-justice-in-this-world Kyle MacLachlan) is up and running again and makes his way to “The Farm,” where we meet Tim Roth for the first time and Jennifer Jason Leigh for the second. He’s got business that needs attending to with Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) back at the Silver Mustang Casino in Vegas, so we’ll see what that’s all about, and speaking of Sin City, Dougie (MacLachlan again) and Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts) are still in the process of being cut loose from police questioning after Dougie’s attempted assassination at the hands of the diminutive Ike “The Spike” (Christophe Zajac-Denek). There’s some terrific interaction between Dougie’s boss, Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) and the trio of Detectives Fusco (David Koechner, Eric Edelstein, and Larry Clarke), and not too long after they, and the rest of Las Vegas Metro, get to play heroes by finally bringing Ike to justice in a fleabag North Strip (by the look of it) motel room.

Concurrent with all this, Cole, Agents Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), along with Diane and Cole, find their return flight to Philadelphia interrupted by a spur-of-the-moment course change to, no shock here, Buckhorn, South Dakota, where we learn that mild-mannered high school principal Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard) , still under lock, key, and the watchful eyes of Detective Dave Macklay (Brent Briscoe) and the Pentagon’s Lt. Knox (Adele Rene) is actually a blogger (poor sap) with a keen interest in what he calls “The Zone,” which seems to be shorthand for the “world between worlds” that we’ve explored in parts three and eight. He knows Major Garland Briggs — hell, he’s met the man — and what that all means is surely going to be one of the key mysteries explored in the nine short weeks we have left with this, the most remarkable piece of work ever crafted for American television screens, but for now it looks very much like Lynch and Frost have pulled another of their trademark “you didn’t think this shit was connected, but check this out!” twists, and I’ll bet you anything that the glass box in New York ties right into this particular plot thread, as well.

Meanwhile, in the town of Twin Peaks proper, while Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) shop for furniture online, Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster), Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) and Deputy (it still sounds weird to say this) Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) are bestowed with a gift from the aforementioned late (any way you slice it) Major, and when they’re given both it and as much of an explanation as she can muster from Bobby’s mom, Betty (Charlotte Stewart), we witness arguably the most powerful and affecting performance we’ve seen in this series so far, with the possible exception of Catherine E. Coulson’s as-brief-as-it-was-brave reprisal of her role as the Log Lady. Stewart’s straight-up incredible in her few moments of screen time here, Lynch directs the scene with superb humanistic understatement that really allows her to shine, and when she breaks her soliloquy with “should we have that coffee now?,” well — everyone feels both relieved and, somehow, not to sound too grandiose, transported. It’s beautiful stuff, and manages to outdo even Lillard’s harrowing breakdown under questioning that comes later in the epis — shit, there I go again, part.

Oh, and while all that’s going, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and his assistant, Beverly (Ashley Judd) still can’t find the source of the mysterious “hum” in the corner of her office (but its power definitely seems to be drawing them inexorably closer together), and brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) is just plain out of his gourd on weed that absolutely has to be laced with something stronger. After all, I’ve been pretty damn high in my time, but I’ve never had my foot talk to me, much less tell me it wasn’t my foot at all.

Further questions abound (why is Johnny Horne running head-first into a wall? Who are the two — sorry to use the term, but — meth skanks hanging out in the Roadhouse at the end?), but between the transcendent moments from Stewart and Lillard and the usual beyond-stong work from MacLachlan, Dern, and company, it has to be said that Lynch did the one thing he could, indeed the one thing he absolutely needed to do, in order to get all of our heads “back in the game” this week : trusted his cast to hit it out of the park. And they did.

So, to return to our question from the outset : can you ever really go home again? It seems you can. Our eyes are open wider, the scope of our vision expanded, our expectations amped up to a degree that no TV show has ever even attempted, much less actually been able, to follow through on, but yes. This is familiar territory. We know the world of Twin Peaks as well as we ever have.

Which is to say, of course, not at all.

 

Once upon a time, there was a school of thought in various quarters of the largely self-appointed “intelligentsia” that posited that David Lynch was something of a fraud. It was never more than a minority opinion, of course — certainly nowhere near as large as the chorus of voices that said much the same about Lichtenstein, Warhol, John Cage, or even James Joyce — and it’s one that pretty much disappeared in the wake of the near-universal praise heaped upon The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive, but it was something that dogged his tail for a good couple of decades prior to reaching his currently-enjoyed plateau of (more or less) unanimous acclaim.  The argument, such as it was, essentially boiled down to this : the guy simply slaps a bunch of weird imagery up on the screen and none of it actually means anything, but it’s done in a clever enough way to make the gullible believe that there’s some elusive “hidden meaning” behind it all that’s forever just beyond their grasp.

I never bought into it, but I did notice a fair number of fraudulent Lynch fans glomming onto his work when he first became a “hot property” in the late ’80s/early ’90s, and they bailed on him quickly — and completely — the minute it became fashionable to move (hell, run) in the opposite direction. Think about it : Wild At Heart won the Palme D’Or at Cannes in 1990, and a mere two years later Twin Peaks : Fire Walk With Me was roundly booed at its premiere there. But which film is more talked about — and lauded — now? And why the sudden change “back in the day”?

Well, the soft underbelly of Lynch pseudo-fandom began bailing on the director fairly early during season two of Twin Peaks, pissed off that the Laura Palmer murder mystery supposedly dragged on for too long — but when it finally was solved (at the network’s insistence), that seemed to piss this suddenly hyper-critical rump of viewers off even more, and when the show had the temerity to shift gears in another direction afterwards with the unfairly-maligned Windom Earle storyline, that seemed to be the final nail in the coffin. It was the very definition of a “can’t-win” situation for both Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost, and as ratings tanked, ABC’s schedulers began to fuck with the program mercilessly, first relegating it to a Saturday night “death slot” and then airing it irregularly at various times when they simply had nothing else to plug into their lineup. In the end, the final two episodes were broadcast as a two-hour “movie of the week” on a Monday night in June (back when the summer months were a veritable graveyard for network television programming) nearly two months after the show had last been seen or heard from. At that point, it’s safe to assume that a fair number of people had already assumed that Twin Peaks was over with and weren’t looking for it in the pages of TV Guide (remember those?) anymore. And so a series that had arrived with one of the loudest “bangs” in history exited the stage some 18 months later with a whimper so quiet that almost no one even heard it.

For the Twin Peaks 2017 revival — or, if you prefer, Twin Peaks : The Return — Lynch and Frost have wisely decided to run the pretenders off as quickly as possible. Trust me when I say that if the first two parts  weren’t enough to send the hopeless nostalgia-hounds and pathetic bandwagon-jumpers packing, the opening twenty-ish minutes of part three will almost certainly finish the job, because the surreal odyssey that marks the return of Special Agent Dale Cooper to the “real” world is absolutely unlike anything else that’s ever appeared on a TV screen, to the extent that it makes even the hallucinatory final episode of the series’ first go-round look like child’s play.

Coop in space? Believe it. The brief return of Major Garland Briggs (the deceased Don S. Davis) cryptically stating “Blue Rose” before disappearing back into the ether? Believe it. The most visually arresting — and confounding — thing Lynch has done since Eraserhead? Believe that, too.

And yet for all the wonderfully rich “high weirdness” on display, things are actually playing out in a fairly straightforward manner : we finally see how inhabitants of the Black Lodge travel by means of electrical currents (something previously hinted at in Fire Walk With Me), we get a fairly quick explanation of the “253 — time after time” bit of cryptic numerology laid on us last week, and when a third iteration of Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan’s sporting a paunch and hairpiece this time) named “Dougie Jones” is thrown into the mix, his origins (and purpose) are deciphered in short order by one-armed man Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel).

Okay, yeah, I absolutely can’t explain Dougie’s rapid-fire demise — or what the hell is up with the woman with sewed-shut eyelids who sacrifices herself to grease the wheels of Cooper’s return trip home — or the sudden appearance of a second woman who takes her place — or the big number “15” on the even bigger electrical outlet that Dale travels through — or why it’s taped over with a “3” when next we see it — but hey, we’ll get to all that in due course, I’m sure.

The extended sequence that takes place in the “world between worlds” that Cooper finds himself waylaid at/in is absolutely gorgeous — complete with purple-tinged skies, flickering stop-motion movement, and a more successful appropriation of A Trip To The Moon-style imagery than largely talentless future conspiracy theory nutcase Billy Corgan (you wanna talk about artistic frauds —) could have possibly dreamed up back when he was ripping off that same aesthetic for his wretched “masterwork” Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness — but it’s much more than a mere example of Lynch flexing his admittedly powerful visual muscle : nope, everything we see and experience here plays right into the next step of the “real world” storyline that’s slowly and inexorably taking center stage in the proceedings. Following his re-emergence, Cooper assumes Dougie’s life more by default than choice — complete with Naomi Watts for a wife and a young son named “Sonny Jim” — but not before winning one slots jackpot after another thanks to some timely Black Lodge/Red Room intervention, cruising around Vegas in a hooker’s Jeep, narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt, and not avoiding a run-in with an annoyingly gregarious Ethan Suplee. Oh, and did I mention that he’s basically catatonic the whole time?

I’m sure it sounds hopelessly cliched to say “it’ll make more sense once you’ve seen it,” but nevertheless, it’s absolutely true. Maybe not a ton more, mind you, but enough — and besides, Twin Peaks fans are well accustomed to the notion of having unanswered questions rattling around in our brains, sometimes for decades.

For all that, though, it appears as if many of our long-standing queries really are on the cusp of finally being answered, particularly the ones left over from Fire Walk With Me. Besides “Blue Rose” and electrical-grid physical transference, part three of The Return also re-introduces us to the green Owl Cave ring and the creamed corn motif (mixed with poison and expelled in the most violent and disgusting way possible by both Dougie and the “Doppleganger Dale” we met in parts one and two), so who knows? Maybe we really are getting closer to figuring out — I dunno, something.

The tail end of part three, and the bulk of part four, showcase the genius sense of timing that Lynch and Frost employed so effectively early on in Twin Peaks‘ initial run — having taken us pretty far “out there,” we’re now reeled back in to that which we knew before, albeit with a completely different, and expanded, perspective. The FBI offices are our first stop, where Cooper’s old boss, Gordon Cole (played, as ever, by Lynch himself) and frequent sidekick, Albert Rosenfeld (the late Miguel Ferrer) appear not to have changed a whit over the last two-and-a-half decades, although they are now joined by lovely “third wheel” agent Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) as they head for South Dakota to interview newly-incarcerated Cooper/BOB, an assignment personally signed off on by the Bureau’s new chief of staff — Denise Bryson (David Duchovny)!

So, yeah, it’s “Old Home Week” at the J. Edgar Hoover office building, but don’t worry, some new faces turn up, as well — most notably none other than Richard Chamberlain in the role of Denise’s second-in-command — and the same is true once we find ourselves back in Twin Peaks proper, where we finally meet Sheriff Frank Truman (played with typically stunning “deadpan panache” by the inimitable Robert Forster), learn that Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) is now employed as a deputy tasked with tracking down the very same drug dealers that he used to be/run with, and Michael Cera even turns up in a beyond-memorable cameo as Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz)’s son, Wally, talking and dressing like Brando and living like Kerouac. In short, if you felt like the “old-school” quirky charm of this series was missing in parts one and two (apart from Michael Horse’s Deputy Hawk, of course), rest easy — it’s present and accounted for now, and sliding back into it feels as warm and comfortable as a favorite pair of slippers.

Perhaps what’s most exciting — and intriguing — about Twin Peaks 2017, though, is that Lynch and Frost are using the familiar and “safe” as a counter-balance to, and enhancement of, the new, the unfamiliar, and the potentially dangerous. For every character who seems to be more or less exactly as we remembered them, there’s an Agent Cooper or a Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) who are clearly anything but. For every fan favorite locale (like the Sheriff’s station or the Bang Bang Bar — speaking of which, is everyone loving the “live band” musical sequences at the end of each segment as much as I am?), there’s a mysterious and foreboding far-off setting, including outer fucking space. The tried and true, then, may indeed be the soul of this new series, but it’s most assuredly not its backbone, and I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s a refreshingly gutsy move.

At this point it’s more than fair to say that, much like our intrepid “showrunners,” I’m far more concerned about looking forward than I am backward, as well. Part five of Twin Peaks : The Return can’t come soon enough, and while events seem to be leading us back home, I think we’re about to discover that it’s a place we never knew as well as we thought we did.