'Twin Peaks': A Midseason Coffee Break Debate

'Twin Peaks' "The Return, Part 5" Still - Publicity - H 2017
Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

[Warning: This story contains spoilers through "Part 9" of Showtime's Twin Peaks: The Return.]

Although we're not quite yet out of the Dougie Jones woods (not to be confused with the Douglas Firs Agent Cooper loves so much), we're closer to that point than ever before, now that we're officially halfway through Showtime's 18-episode Twin Peaks: The Return.

David Lynch and Mark Frost's return to the world of Twin Peaks has contained a myriad of surprises, head-scratching plot twists, a whole lot of mesmerizing imagery and a nice slice of confusion on the side. With the show now at the midpoint of the season (potentially the first of a new run, potentially the end of the line — only Lynch knows for sure), The Hollywood Reporter's writers Josh Wigler and Chris E. Hayner hit pause for a damn necessary coffee break in which they lay out their thoughts so far on the singular series.

Read on for their take on the series' new characters, recontextualized fan favorites, theories about what's happening in the Black Lodge and more.

Josh Wigler: We're halfway through the new Twin Peaks. There are still two Coopers. There are now several people on a collision course with the Black Lodge. An Abraham Lincoln look-alike is now the newest form of nightmare fuel, when we're not busy worrying about the next bad thing the Bad Coop is going to do, which is to say nothing of Dougie Jones. (Did you know Jade gave him two rides?) We have spent precious little time in the actual town of Twin Peaks, and when we're there, we see how much some things have stayed the same — Andy and Lucy's great furniture debate of "Part 9," for instance, or the fact that James is and always has been cool — while so much has changed. Bobby Briggs is a police officer now, for instance, living out his father's greatest vision. Major Briggs, meanwhile, is a severed head floating through space, and his body is causing major problems for some people back home on Earth. Laura Dern is Diane. A nuclear bomb created Killer BOB, maybe. A Giant who goes by the name "??????" created Laura Palmer with his mind, maybe.

In other words, the new Twin Peaks somehow makes even less sense than the original Twin Peaks, and at the same time, it makes so much sense within its own context. Does that make sense? Where are you on Peaks, halfway through the run, Chris?

Chris E. Hayner: Before the premiere of this new season of Twin Peaks, it was possible to have hopes that maybe this new run would be easier to understand than the original. That all quickly went out the window, though, and halfway through this season, it's hard to not be gleeful over how unaware everyone is about where the story is heading. It's practically impossible to theorize any upcoming developments, and that's exciting. I don't know how long Cooper will be in his Dougie fog. I have no idea how Dr. Jacoby became a YouTube star. And I cannot tell even the slightest bit what the resolution to this season will be or if it'll leave the door open for more episodes to come.

Two things are clear, though: All roads are seemingly leading to the Black Lodge, and co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost have come up with so many fascinating new characters to fill this world. Who are the new additions that speak most to you, Josh?

Wigler: Off the top of my head, no pun intended, it has to be The Woodsman. Entering the new season, I couldn't have imagined Lynch and Frost coming up with a character who topped Killer BOB in terms of pure oil-slicked horror, but this Lincoln look-alike does the trick. I'm hoping he wasn't just a one-off as part of the masterful "Part 8," but if that's the end for that character, he'll still have made quite the impression. And then, of course, there are the two Coopers. Kyle MacLachlan has so much on his plate in tackling two very different individuals: one of them the human personification of pure id and evil, and the other a wide-eyed coffee enthusiast named Dougie Jones. I know that Dougie is controversial for some viewers (though when I spoke with him, MacLachlan made it sound like the old Cooper you like will eventually come back in style), but he's a laugh-per-minute for me. "Douglas Jones moved like a cobra" needs to be emblazoned on a T-shirt immediately.

More than the new characters, I can't stop thinking about how the show has handled characters whose actors have since passed away — the haunting final performance from Catherine Coulson as the Log Lady, the joyful sight of Miguel Ferrer as Agent Rosenfield, Warren Frost as Dr. Hayward's legendary Skype call ... what's more, the way the show has kept both Don Davis' Major Briggs and Frank Silva's Killer BOB in place as active characters through archive footage is incredibly intelligent and moving. It adds a level of depth that further enhances the feeling of two decades and change passing since the show went off the air, and within the story itself.

Which characters are standing out most to you, and on the flip side, are there any characters that simply aren't working — whether it's a new entry, or an old favorite who hasn't been utilized enough yet, or maybe not even at all?

Hayner: There are two that are standing out the most to me, one old and one new. Seeing the man Bobby Briggs grew up to be is a true joy to this longtime Twin Peaks fan. The emotion Dana Ashbrook has brought to this character as an adult is remarkable and given his connection to characters that are no longer with us — his father, as well as Laura Palmer — to make him the core of the story unfolding in Twin Peaks proper is wonderful to watch. William Hastings, and everything Matthew Lillard is bringing to the sad, tormented man, is another true high spot. Upon his introduction, I wasn't sure what to make of him other than he or his wife somehow got tangled up in the world of Bad Coop. After his scene with Tammy in "Part 9," though, he's a broken person that I'm fascinated by. He's also one of the show's biggest connections to the Black Lodge now, which sets up so many possibilities for the future.

As for characters that might not work, my biggest disappointment thus far is the complete lack of Audrey Horne. We know Sherilyn Fenn is back for this season, but we're halfway through, and we haven't seen a single shot of her — yet we were instead introduced to Richard Horne, another member of her family. I'm interested in learning how he fits into the bigger picture, but surely most expected Audrey to show up by now, right? One of the more peculiar introductions has been the long-awaited arrival of Diane. Based on what we've seen of her so far, how do you feel about Diane?

Wigler: She is not at all what I expected. Frankly, I'm not sure what I expected from someone who was so iconic in the original series, despite never actually appearing in it. As MacLachlan says, she's a bit more Albert Rosenfield than I would have imagined, cursing and swearing like a sailor ... but she must have a heart of gold in order for her to be so close with Agent Cooper. Right now, I have no idea what to make her relationship with the Bad Coop. In "Part 9," he sends her a text message — "Around the dinner table, the conversation is lively" — and as with most things in the orbit of Twin Peaks: The Return, I have no idea what he's referring to, but Diane seems to have an idea. I'm very curious to see how she factors into things — if she's the last person or totem Dougie needs to see in order to become Cooper again (and if so, does that mean Laura Dern and Naomi Watts will both be in the same scenes together? Please yes. Janey-E Jones is yet another absolute delight).

There are so many disparate threads in play — the two Coops, Agent Cole's investigation, Hawk and Truman's own investigation, whatever the heck was going on in New York City (and Chris, I still love your theory that Audrey Horne is the person responsible for the experiment) — and I can't wait to see how they all tie together. But in full disclosure, my head is still so dizzy from "Part 8," that I'm not even sure I want to think about what's coming up further down the line. I don't think I have ever been more mesmerized by an hour of television than I was on June 25 at 9 p.m. ET, watching Lynch go full Kubrick and take us into the eye of the nuclear hellstorm, providing what certainly appeared to be the origin of the Black and White Lodges, Killer BOB and potentially even Laura Palmer. What was your take on that episode? Do you have an explanation for what we saw that night, or does an episode like that defy explanation?

Hayner: Honestly, I can't even begin to explain "Part 8." While it might have been the last thing anyone watching The Return would have expected, it was such concentrated David Lynch that it feels like it belonged. It also, I think, gave some really interesting backstory to the world of Twin Peaks that has never been touched on before. Granted, only two people — Lynch and Frost — can be sure exactly what that backstory was. Given the two of them scripted this entire season, though, it all has to mean something. As MacLachlan told you in your interview, "Everything will come back together and make sense. It will be clear." At this point, there's no other choice but to take his word for it. And given the importance being placed on the Lodges in exploring the story of Cooper, giving their origin story — if that's what this was — is a wonderful thing for fans.

It will be really interesting if this, the most bizarre episode yet, becomes the linchpin that holds it all together once everything is revealed. That said, it makes me wonder if Lynch is going to get even more experimental on the back nine of the season. Clearly, his creative direction is the driving force with how this story is being told. Who's to say he won't go even more abstract? That said, I appreciate how episodes like that are mixed in with more straightforward fare, like "Part 9." A balance is being struck between the different types of episodes that are keeping things very interesting. Now I just wish a balance would be struck to include more of Twin Peaks itself into the show. While we knew the show would be going to new locations in The Return, were you expecting more time to be spent in the town of Twin Peaks?

Wigler: Definitely. It was probably the biggest initial shock of the series for me — poor Cooper being trapped in the Lodge for 25 years notwithstanding. That initial black-and-white image of Cooper in the chair, still trapped all these years later, was utterly heartbreaking. But that color disparity is actually a great place to start talking through the relative lack of Twin Peaks the town in Twin Peaks: The Return. As he steeps so much of the show in the Black Lodge mythology, and what happens when good people are confined and bad people are free to run amok, Lynch extends the same narrative idea into aesthetic and structural choices — a relative lack of music, for instance, alongside the relative absence of the familiar lumber town and its most iconic characters. Just as Dougie is fighting his way back to becoming the Cooper we know and love, the show forces viewers to exercise patience and earn the levity that was once as much a part of Twin Peaks as the profound darkness (and disturbing subject matter) that's marked so much of the revival. You have to wait for Bobby to see Laura's picture to hear Angelo Badalamenti's Laura Palmer theme for the first time, for instance. Just as Cooper was ripped away from the town he loved, so were we, and now we all have to fight to get it back.

Now, with all of that said, it sure looks like we're heading toward that fight very soon, what with Bobby, Hawk and Truman headed for Jack Rabbit's Palace in two days' time. What's your prediction for what's going to happen when our fearless deputies find their way to Bobby's childhood haunt? Will it happen simultaneously with the two Coopers arriving and battling it out? Where do you think this is all headed, as we start to look toward the second half of the series?

Hayner: I'm excited for Jack Rabbit's Palace. I'm not exactly sure what will happen, and that's what makes Twin Peaks so special. Obviously, it'll be an emotional moment for Bobby, but having Truman and Hawk there with him should make for quite the adventure as they come closer and closer to unlocking the mystery of the Black Lodge. I seriously doubt they would venture into the Lodge alone, as the visual is a strange one and chances are they wouldn't be able to comprehend what was happening. I think that's why it has to coincide with the two Coopers' arrival. This entire season so far has been about the idea that there can only be one Cooper, and Bad Coop is doing everything he can to hold on. This is the showdown the series has been building to — one in which Dale Cooper is both the hero and the villain. The only question left in my mind is whether either of them will survive.

While there's still nine episodes left and plenty of road to cover, I have to believe that the true Cooper's escape from his Dougie confines is coming soon. While the character has been fun to watch, it's time for him to make his presence felt once again. Regardless of how it plays out, it's hard to deny that Frost and Lynch have crafted something incredibly unique in a way only they can. Fingers crossed that this won't be the end of it.

Keep checking THR.com/TwinPeaks all season long for news, interviews, theories and more.