Posts Tagged ‘Tim Roth’

Pre-emptive separation anxiety — it’s a real thing.

I admit it : I’m not ready for David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three to be over, and I’m sure the same is true for many of you (and there are a lot of “you”s if my WordPress readership statistics are to be believed — let me say thanks for that right now). This is only going to happen once, and that “once” ends just seven short days from now. Oh, sure, we’ll be discussing, debating, theorizing, even philosophizing about what it all meant for the next 25 years (at least), but the “event” (a term that really does apply in this case) itself is almost finished.

At least part sixteen gave us a chance to say some good-byes in advance, thus preparing us for the “big good-bye” next Sunday, and so : good-bye to Eamon Farren’s Richard Horne, set up for death by his own father (told you!!!!), “Evil Coop” (played with Emmy-worthy sneer n’ cringe by Kyle MacLachlan), while a fucked-up Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) watches from a safe distance through the wrong end of his binoculars. Good-bye to Laura Dern’s Diane Evans, revealed, in a truly shocking (at least to me) sequence to be a “tulpa,” and one that tried to knock off Lynch’s Gordon Cole, Chrysta Bell’s Tammy Preston, and Miguel Ferrer’s Albert Rosenfield on her way out before undergoing — uhhhhmmm — “de-manufacturing” at the hands of The One-Armed Man (Al Strobel). Good-bye to Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth, who met the fate of all who attempt to harm Dougie Jones and his family, courtesy of a psychotic next-door neighbor, played by Johnny Coyne, who’s credited only (but entirely accurately) as a “Polish Accountant.” And a very big, sloppy, wet-kiss, heartfelt good-bye to Dougie himself, who starts out this evening’s installment comatose after his light-socket-and-fork number and ends it —-

Well, hello, Special Agent Dale Cooper! Yes, the real Special Agent Dale Cooper! “100%!” “I AM the FBI!” All that good stuff. Goddamn, but this sequence was amazing to watch, as Coop emerges, Angelo Badalamenti’s original version of the show’s theme swelling in the background, borrows a snub-nose revolver from Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray), and arranges for a private plane owned by Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper’s Mitchum Brothers to take him to —- Twin Peaks.  Oh, and the Mitchums, Candie (Amy Shiels), and her fellow side-kicks? Apparently they’re all coming along for the ride. That promises to be interesting!

Unfortunately, but wisely, Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon) won’t be. Dougie/Coop’s farewell to his wife is another Lynchian nod to Old Hollywood, and while I have no doubt that his promise to return to “his” family is sincere, the fact that he asked for an extra “seed” from the One-Armed Man (who, by the way, passed the “Owl Cave Ring” onto him) and gave him a lock of his hair tells me that the Coop we know won’t be coming back to Vegas, but that another manufactured doppleganger will be. Cooper seems to have memories of Dougie’s life, though, so who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and he’ll get his happily-ever-after with a wife and son that at least part of him “knows.” At this point, as always, I have far more questions than answers.

Speaking of which — so, like, what the fuck happened at the Road House tonight? Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) and ostensible “husband” Charlie (Clark Middleton) finally made it — and just in time to see emcee J.R. Starr introduce none other than Eddie Vedder himself to the stage (great song, by the way) — but as soon as the Pearl Jam frontman wraps up and the house band plays “Audrey’s Dance” (complete with her original Badalamenti theme — we’ve got a theme going here tonight), you figure something’s gotta be up. And something is up. Specifically, this :

That’s one hell of a cliffhanger, ain’t it, though? Has everything she’s been seeing, doing — or, more accurately, not doing — these past few weeks been entirely in her head? Is she institutionalized? Is the man we know as “Charlie” possibly her doctor or something?  Again, only questions, no answers. I kinda figured the Renaud family couldn’t afford to pay Eddie Vedder to play their dive bar, though. They already blew their live music budget on “the” Nine Inch Nails — assuming they were ever really there themselves — oh dear God I’m lost.

And that’s where I want to be for a good long while yet, but like it or not, we’ve got one two-hour chunk left, and that’s it. There’s a symmetry of sorts to this — the original series ended with two episodes sandwiched together as a “TV Movie Of The Week,” shoved into a scheduling “suicide slot” on a Monday night in June back when summers were strictly “rerun season,” and the new series ends with the final two parts airing back-to-back on a holiday weekend, so that seems a bit poetic — but even if the circumstances are right, the stars are aligned, and what have you, I’m still not ready to let go. If you want a few hints as to what may be in store but want to avoid actual “spoilers,” the show’s cast listing on IMDB now has final stats for how many parts everyone appears in available, and some of the folks who will be coming back are very surprising indeed — and the same is true for some of the folks who won’t be. Beyond that, I’ll say no more, because I don’t want to know any more myself. What I do know is that I’m probably not ready to be done writing about Twin Peaks after the finale airs next Sunday. What form that additional writing will take I have yet to determine, but maybe that’ll be one more answer that we finally get next week, too.

 

There’s so much we could talk about when it comes to part fifteen of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three —

We could, for instance, talk about what I call “The Ballad Of Norma And Big Ed.” Nadine (played with an extra spring in her step by the great Wendy Robie) has finally given her long-suffering husband (Everett McGill) his freedom, and he heads right for the Double R and the woman he loves, the woman he’s always loved (Peggy Lipton) — only to have his heart broken one last time when cheeseball Walter (Grant Goodeve) puts in an appearance. Norma sends the slick operator and his franchise operation packing, though, and two minutes later she’s agreed to be Mrs. Big Ed Hurley. I’d like to talk about this. I’d like to talk about it a lot, in fact.

We could also talk about the trip “Evil Coop” (Kyle MacLachlan) makes to the world/realm/dimension above the convenience store, and about how he finally meets Phillip Jeffries (not David Bowie, obviously, but a disembodied voice who apparently has taken up residence inside one of those vaguely bell-shaped devices that we’ve seen so much of inside what we’ll call “The Zone”), and about how Phillip can blow numbers in smoke. We could talk about what those numbers mean — or might mean — and speculate on who or what this “Judy” he’s always going on about is.

We could talk about “Evil Coop” clocking Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), who I still maintain is his son, before they hit the road together bound, I’m assuming, for Las Vegas, where Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) has just met his end at the hands of Jennifer Jason Leigh — who likes ketchup with her fries, apparently. Lots of it. And we could talk about how the way Tim Roth dotes on her is actually rather adorable.

We could talk about the harrowing extended finale that perpetual loser Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) finds/comes to, meth skank in tow, out in the woods is actually one of the more disturbing scenes in the entire series, and about how Lynch’s goddamn fucking genius sound design literally makes the entire thing work and elevates the demise of a “throwaway” character into one of the most gut-wrenching things that’s ever been shown on television. Yup, we could talk a whole lot about that.

Once we ran through all that, we could talk about how overhearing the name “Gordon Cole” in a movie has seemingly brought a glimmer of awareness to Dougie Jones (MacLachlan), and how the crackling of electricity from an outlet threatens to bring about more. We could talk about his (literal) “tuning fork” and what the holy hell is happening to him as the lights flicker and his wife, Janey-E (Naomi Watts) understandably freaks out. We could talk for hours, in fact, about what this all means going forward.

We could theorize, as well, on just what’s going on between Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) and her husband, Charlie (Clark Middleton). Are they stuck in some sort of decaying time loop, endlessly repeating the same thing over and over again, while never really going anywhere — or doing anything — at all? Or is it just the most screwed up co-dependent-bordering-on-mutually-abusive relationship of all time? We could also talk about whether or not she’s really going to kill him.

Once we’d exhausted all these big subjects, we could move on to the smaller things, like James Hurley (James Marshall) getting into a fist- fight that gives his buddy, Freddie (Jake Wardle) a chance to show off his super-powered gloved hand, or the young girl freaking out hard on the floor of The Roadhouse while The Veils play, or the fact that the coolest emcee in the world, J.R. Starr, is a big ZZ Top fan. We could also talk about how great it is to see Harry Dean Stanton one more time, even if it’s in the far distance, and about how he’s proving to be, in many ways, the ultimate “glue guy” in this series. These things are all worth talking about, as well — and I guess, for a moment at any rate, we’ve done precisely that.

But more than any of the above — hell, more than all of it combined — I want to talk about Margaret Lanterman, better known as “The Log Lady,” and the extraordinary artist who brought her to life and made her an icon — the late, great Catherine E. Coulson. She died before this show made it onto our screens, and I have no doubt that all of her various phone calls to Deputy Hark (Michael Horse) were filmed in one afternoon, so fragile was her health, but if you thought you’d seen bravery from her in earlier parts (and we certainly have), tonight proved that she’d saved her most powerful performance — heck, one of the most powerful performances anyone has ever given — for her last. She talks about dying, and about how it’s not an end, but a change. She talks about her fear. She talks about the unknown. She talks about what may lie ahead. She talks about everything that matters — everything that could ever matter — and says so much with so few lines. Above all, though, what she does — in a more public way than any thany any actor has before — is say goodbye. And it’s not even acting at this point. This is Coulson, speaking from her heart, about what she’s going through. Her log is turning to gold, and so are her words. But me? Shit, I don’t mind admitting that I was turning to jelly as I watched this.

Not everyone knows that Coulson was one of Lynch’s oldest and closest friends. The two went all the way back to his Philadelphia days, and she was even his assistant director on Eraserhead. He credits her with sparking his interest in TM, which has become, in a very real sense, the center of his life and his being. And she created the character of the Log Lady more or less from whole cloth, with only minimal suggestion from her decades-long friend and artistic collaborator. Lynch dedicated part one of this series to Coulson’s memory, and tonight, after Hawk said one last, stiff-upper-lipped “goodbye” to her on the phone, and the lights went out in her cabin for the final time, and Michael Horse, Kimmy Robertson, Harry Goaz, Robert Forster, and Dana Ashbrook bowed their heads in a silent display of respect, he dedicated this part to Margaret Lanterman. I realize that I’m referencing the wrong show altogether here, but goddamnit — so say we all.

 

Quick question : who is the most tragic figure in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks : The Return/Twin Peaks season three?

Is it Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper, bifurcated into two distinct beings? I’m thinking no — in part thirteen, “Evil Coop” finally dispenses with the troublesome Ray (played — for presumably the last time — by George Griffiths) once and for all, after winning an arm-wrestling match, placing the infamous “Owl Cave Ring” on Ray’s finger, pumping him for the co-ordinates he’s been needing (along with some info on the ever-enigmatic Phillip Jeffries), and, unbeknownst to him, forging an unspoken bond with the psychotic Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), who I still maintain is his son. And while all that’s going on, back in Vegas, the brothers Mitchum (Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper) are happier than hell with Cooper’s Dougie Jones persona, coming into his insurance agency’s office in an honest-to-God conga line along with their showgirl sidekicks (once again Amy Shiels’ Candie being the only one who actually speaks) and bestowing expensive liquor, cufflinks, and even new cars on both Dougie himself as well as his boss, Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) as ostentatious tokens of appreciation for an enormous insurance claim being decided in their favor. Heck, Sonny-Jim (Pierce Gagnon) even gets the swing set of every kid’s dreams and Janey-E (Naomi Watts) — well, shit, she’s just happier than ever, and why shouldn’t she be?

Of course, this isn’t good news for everybody — and by “everybody” I mean Tom Sizemore’s Anthony Sinclair and Patrick Fischler’s Duncan Todd. Still, Dougie’s simple-minded fascination with Sinclair’s dandruff — yes, you read that right — triggers a 180-degree transformation in the ethically conflicted con artist, and soon he’s spilling his guts and probably saving his job in one fell swoop just when he was about to commit himself to a truly irreversible decision, and with the comedically incompetent Detectives Fusco (Larry Clarke, Eric Edelstein, and David Koechner) on the case of deciphering Dougie’s true identity and predictably writing off key clues as simple “mistakes,” our empty vessel’s newfound and truly mindless suburban marital bliss seems very secure indeed. No real tragedy to be found here, then.

Could our tragic figure then be Sherilyn Fenn’s Audrey Horne? There’s clearly a lot more going on in the battle of wills between her and her husband (Clark Middleton) than we suspected last week — in fact, this is some MK-ULTA, Chuck Traynor/Linda Lovelace-level manipulative bullshit that’s playing out before our eyes. Audrey doesn’t even seem completely sure of where she is, what she’s doing there, where she wants to go, or how to get there from here — wherever “here” even is. So, yeah, depending on how things shake out in future installments, she might be the character trapped in the most tragic situation of all — but I really don’t think so. She’s always been a survivor, and a devious one when needs be. She’ll work her way out of this mess one way or another.

Who, then? James Hurley (James Marshall)? There was talk way back in part two about him being in a motorcycle accident some years ago, and he does seem a shadow of his former self, but no less an authority than Shelly Johnson/Briggs (Madchen Amick) informed us, if you’ll recall, that “James is still cool,” and he proves it tonight by taking the stage at the Roadhouse (after being introduced by beyond-awesome emcee J.R. Starr) — the same stage recently occupied by the likes of Chromatics and “the” Nine Inch Nails — and making a transfixed female member of the audience cry with his  heartfelt rendering of what’s apparently still the only song in his repertoire, “Just You And I.” Even the two creepiest-looking backup singers you’ve ever seen in your life can’t diminish James’ musical magnetism, so nope, he’s not exactly leading a tragic existence, either.

A brief check-in with Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh shows that they’re headed through Utah, and that’s certainly tragic, no doubt, but they’ll get through to the other side of the state and make their escape at some point. And, as I predicted in my last review, Russ Tamblyn’s Dr. Amp/Jacoby and Wendy Robie’s Nadine Hurley appear to be on the verge of cosummating their previously-confined-to-the-airwaves romance in the shadow of her silent drape-runners, so these two lonely souls may have just found true love at last. Let’s rule out all four of these “suspects,” then, and move on.

Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried) has it rough, there’s no denying that , given that she’s trapped in an abusive relationship with a drugged-out, two-timing loser, but at least her mom still loves her, loans her cash, and feeds her homemade cherry pie — and does she really have it any worse than her father, Deputy Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), who’s reduced to eating alone at the Double R and pining after the wife and daughter he’s lost?  Hmmm —two strong contenders here, to be sure.

Except that in the end, Bobby doesn’t have to eat alone — he’s invited over to the table shared by Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) and (finally!!!) “Big” Ed Hurley — and I think Ed might just be our guy, because this happy trio is soon interrupted by Norma’s new beau, a cheesy financier named Walter (Grant Goodeve) who’s so blatantly phony and insincere that he makes old-school game-show hosts like Wink Martindale and Chuck Woolery seem honest and authentic by comparison. “Big” Ed still clearly carries a torch for Norma, and despite his assurances to Bobby that “nothing’s going on here,” he’s not fooling anyone. McGill gives a truly gut-wrenching (and largely silent) performance here in part thirteen, one that anyone who’s ever been sweet on somebody they can’t have (shit, I guess that includes anyone who was ever in their twenties) can immediately relate to. He’s obviously  envious of Mr. Plastic, but  at the same time you can feel that he wants Norma to be happy above all else — he just knows it sure won’t be with this sleazy operator, who’s convinced her to franchise out her diner (now we know why she’s doing her books all the time), but then has the unmitigated nerve to tell her how she should be running the place. “Big” Ed obviously loves Norma to death — always has, always will — and the final scene of him eating his take-out soup alone in his gas station as the credits roll is enough to rip your beating heart right out of your chest. This is emotional desolation at its most profound — and most profoundly difficult to watch.

Yup, that’s it then, case closed — the most tragic character on the Twin Peaks revival is “Big” Ed Hurley.

But then I remember Grace Zabriskie’s Sarah Palmer, self-medicating away her pain with fifty bucks’ worth of booze and three or four packs of cigarettes every night, her daughter and husband both dead at the hands of forces beyond her understanding that now appear to be coming for her as well, watching blood-soaked nature documentaries and 1950s boxing matches on her giant television every night, basking in the cathode ray (or whatever the hell they’re made out of these days) glow in an otherwise silent home — a woman for whom the end of the world is no longer an abstraction, but something that already happened a quarter-century ago and didn’t even have the decency to take her with it. Imagine an apocalypse so heartless and cruel that it leaves you behind with no road map for how to put your life back together while everyone else goes on with theirs all around you, as if nothing even happened, and you’ll have some inkling as to what Sarah’s going through. Compared to that, shit — even “Big” Ed has it easy.

 

When I was a kid, I had a massive crush on Sherilyn Fenn. Or, more specifically, on her character of Audrey Horne. And who wouldn’t? She was that alluring combination of cute, calculating, and maybe even a little  crazy (although the “crazy” was downplayed significantly as the original run of Twin Peaks progressed) that whispered “I’m gonna take you down the road to hell, and you’re gonna love every minute of it.” A true femme fatale for the “Generation X” set. So, yeah, the older version of me that shambles around, half-dazed, through the world of 2017? He was extremely curious to see what David Lynch and Mark Frost were going to do with her in Twin Peaks 2017/Twin Peaks:The Return/Twin Peaks season three — and, fully 2/3 of the way through, we finally have our answer.

We know all (or some) about her kid already, of course — Richard’s been rising holy hell for some time now, and in part twelve tonight, that finally comes back to bite his grandpa Ben (Richard Beymer — who seems to have cooled off his percolating “office romance” with Ahsley Judd a bit and gets a genuinely nice extended scene with Robert Forster’s Sheriff Frank Truman) in the ass. If Audrey knows about any of this, though, she seems completely unperturbed by it, and is far more concerned with the recent disappearance of a guy that she’s been stepping out on her perpetually-tired, workaholic husband (played by Clark Middleton) with. This appears to be an unconventional marriage, to put it mildly — the word “contract” is mentioned more than once — and, as such,  it makes for plenty of old-school “prime time soap” intrigue, but to have this all dropped on us this late in the game? Well, let’s just say I’m waiting to see how successfully Lynch and Frost are going to shoe-horn yet another subplot into the mix here on top of everything else (or maybe that should be subplots, plural, because at the tail end of part twelve we meet three new characters altogether and who they are and what they have to do with anything is anyone’s guess at this point).

Anyway, while Audrey’s long-awaited return may have been a highlight for me personally, there were plenty of other developments that merit a mention : Gordon Cole (Lynch) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) officially induct Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) into the brotherhood — or maybe that should now be brother/sisterhood — of the Blue Rose (and we get our fullest explanation beyond the printed page of Frost’s “novel” as to what the Blue Rose is all about); Cole makes time with an exotic and alluring French mystery woman who sure knows how to take her time making an exit; Dr. Amp/Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) continues his love-affair-via-the-airwaves with Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie), whether he knows it or not; Harry Dean Stanton further reveals himself to be the guardian angel of Fat Trout Trailer Park, and perhaps of this entire series; Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh pop back into the picture to perform a sniper-rifle “hit” on poor Warden Murphy; Dougie (Kyle MacLachlan) and “his” boy, Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon) play a decidedly one-way game of catch in the backyard; Laura Dern’s Diane is discovered to be a double-dealer by Albert and cryptically exclaims “Let’s Rock” when officially deputized back into the FBI fold; Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) finally makes it down off the mountain — plenty to mull over, indeed.

Tonight’s show-stealer, though, has gotta be Grace Zabriskie as the long-suffering Sarah Palmer. The years have been every bit as hard on her as one would expect given the compound tragedy that befell her family a quarter-century ago, and her breakdown at a grocery store checkout lane is downright painful to watch. There are even hints dropped that the Black Lodge hasn’t had the decency to leave her alone yet — her ceiling fan is still doing “that thing” (whatever it is), she talks as if there’s another entity taking up residence within her body and mind, and Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) hears inexplicable noises in her kitchen when he drops by to check on her well-being (or lack thereof). She’s doing her best to hold it together — but is anyone’s “best” good enough under such circumstances?

Zabriskie’s acting is straight-up dynamite in this segment (who are we kidding? It always is), every raw nerve and strained-beyond-the-breaking-point thread on full display in a gripping and altogether unforgettable tour-de-force right up there with the best we’ve seen in this series. It’s not easy stuff to watch, by any means — but it’s downright impossible to look away from.

Wrap it all up with a return appearance from Chromatics at the Roadhouse and we’ve got yet another ridiculously compelling installment of the darkest and most irresistible siren call to ever play out on American TV screens under our collective belt. With six parts to go, the prospect of all of our myriad questions being answered seems remote, indeed, but I’m not really sure that’s the point — giving us a map and a methodology by which to find the answers ourselves (even if it takes another 25 years) is what Lynch and Frost are building towards, and in that respect, they’re succeding in a manner that’s equal parts harrowing and beautiful.

 

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.

 

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Waaaaayyy back in my early days as an armchair critic, I focused almost exclusively on exploitation, horror, and other “B”-movie genres. They’re pretty much all I wrote about, in fact, and calling my blog “Trash Film Guru” made a kind of sense back then. These days, of course, I find myself casting my hopefully-more-sharply-trained critical eye on just about anything, and if I went back and added up the numbers over the last two or three years I’d probably find that I’ve reviewed just as many comics as I have films, and that I’ve reviewed as many Hollywood blockbusters, documentaries, foreign films, and straight-to-video numbers as I have old-school (or, for that matter, new-school) exploitation flicks, but still — the “Trash Film Guru” name continues to run at the top of my site, and since it does, I take it as almost a personal responsibility to review new Quentin Tarantino films as soon as they come out, given that he’s essentially the living embodiment of the exploitation ethos in our day and age.

Not that it’s a responsibility I don’t relish, mind you — I’m not ashamed to admit that I still absolutely love all of Q.T.’s work to one degree or another (yes, even Death Proof), and that I still consider it a genuine cinematic “event” when something new from the man hits theaters. And yet —

I never did get around to seeing 2015’s The Hateful Eight when it was playing cinemas. I was short-staffed at work at the time and clocking six-day weeks for a good few months there, and so getting out to the movies just wasn’t something I had time for. By the time things settled down a bit and I found myself with something vaguely resembling “free time” again, wouldn’t you know it — the damn thing was long gone. It’s out on Blu-ray and DVD now (with excellent picture and sound as you’d expect and sparse extras, the most notable of which is a decent little “making-of” featurette), though, so hey — I can finally do my duty as a self-appointed “guru” of exploitation and report back to you, dear reader, with my thoughts on this, our guy Quentin’s latest, and perhaps most divisive, effort.

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First off, let’s not kid ourselves — everybody loved Inglourious Basterds (and with good reason), and everybody especially loved that long, slow-burn first scene. A lot of folks even openly wished the entire flick had aped its tone and structure, and evidently Tarantino was listening, because The Hateful Eight is easily his “talkiest,” most insular, most claustrophobic, most subtle work yet. It takes a long time to get going and is decidedly less flamboyant in terms of its balls-to-the-walls, operatic violence(though rest assured there’s still plenty of it) than we’re used to from the auteur, but in many ways that’s the best thing about it — not only because, hey, a little variety is always good, but because Tarantino extends that meme outward within the film itself. The Hateful Eight, ya see, is much more than “not exactly what we were expecting” —  it’s also never exactly what it appears to be.

On the surface, of course, this story about bloodthirsty bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (played by Tarantino mainstay Samuel L. Jackson) crossing paths with more-supposedly-gentlemanly-but-really-even-more-twisted fellow bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) as he escorts his latest captive, Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) into the one-horse town of Red Rock, Wyoming barely ahead of a blizzard sounds like it’s probably a fairly traditional western — as new characters make their acquaintance, though, such as the town’s purported new sheriff, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), and add layers of intrigue to the proceedings, one starts to get the idea that perhaps Tarantino is going to give us a Peckinpah-esque “revisionist” western. It’s not until we meet the rest of the “hateful” bunch, though — former Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Bruce Dern), Red Rock hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), cow puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and substitute shopkeep Bob (Demian Bichir), who are all waiting out the storm inside the confines of an establishment known as Minnie’s Haberdashery — that we realize what we actually have on our hands here is an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery where no one is who they appear to be. Even the ones, paradoxically, who are.

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But hold on a minute. Is that really what Tarantino is serving us here? Of course not. The various characters are, in fact, the flesh-and-blood embodiment of any number of problems (specifically those of the racial, cultural, political, and sexual varieties) plaguing just-post-Civil War America, and even as the onion of just who the fuck did what and what it even means is being peeled, the deftly-intertwined socio-political commentary is where the real action is here — and even there you honestly have to wonder whether or not Tarantino is confining his critique to this historical setting, or showing just how little has really changed between then and now. None of this ever gets heavy-handed, but it sure is thought-provokingly juicy.

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The other delicious bit of sleight-of-hand that Tarantino indulges in comes by way of the brilliant “switcheroo” he pulls immediately after the film’s opening act. Robert Richardson’s gorgeous cinematography at the outset gives us magnificent snow-swept vistas of such quietly ominous grandeur that I was literally kicking myself for not having seen this flick in 70mm, and coupled with Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-winning score the feel established early on in epic in the truest sense of the word — then the remaining 90% of the movie takes place in a single room and is pretty much a stage play on celluloid. Here’s the funny thing, though : Richardson and Morricone’s work only gets stronger once confined to these tight quarters. I have no idea how that works, but works it does.

Needless to say, the acting from all parties concerned is absolutely superb, and much as every line of dialogue in The Hateful Eight  is loaded with import whose meaning will only become clear later, every single movement, gesture, even facial tic on the part of the actors matters here. At over two-and-a-half hours long you’d be forgiven for assuming that there was a fair amount of “filler” material on offer in this flick, but the truth of the matter is that each and every detail is relevant to this film’s outcome. Not only are there almost no “throwaway” lines, there are very few, if any, “throwaway” moments.” So, ya know, pay attention.

And I hope that the nay-sayers who bad-mouthed this flick are still paying attention. If ever there was a film almost purposefully designed to benefit from critical re-appraisal as the years go on, it’s this one. Sure, it’s something of a lengthy slog and most of the tension is bubbling well beneath the surface, but damn — The Hateful Eight is a powder keg that could go off at any second, even if it isn’t always exclaiming that fact in forceful, “in-your-face” tones. You do need to be patient with this flick — but your patience will be richly rewarded.

So — is this Tarantino’s best work? No, Jackie Brown still holds that honor in my own humble opinion. But The Hateful Eight is definitely his most complex, multi-faceted, nuanced, and politically aware effort to date, and shows that while the years may be mellowing the tone of his product, they are in no way blunting its impact.