GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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On traditional measures of what people seek from televisual entertainment, there is little denying that the viewer satisfaction quotient skyrocketed and went astronomical this week as the sixteenth installment of Twin Peaks-The Return delivered no fewer than five major, long-awaited narrative developments--any one of which could have carried an entire episode--that virtually cleared the stage for a spectacular final reckoning between Cooper and Mr. C. in the two-part series finale next week. In a scintillating if scant hour's time, we witnessed two of the series' most vile villains vanquished, a double-agent with a troubled history unmasked, and two of the series' most beloved characters "finding themselves" after seemingly interminable somnambulant wanderings in the existential wilderness. Moreover, all of this was executed with such poetry and panache that even the most hardboiled of long-suffering fans had little choice but to stand up and cheer. It's fair to assume that this astonishingly good hour raised impossibly high expectations of the series improbably higher.
The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca has some provocative advice for those with high expectations: "Cease to hope and you shall cease to fear." His point seems to be that the more attached we get to longing for certain outcomes, the more susceptible we become to allowing fear to take the helm of our lives, robbing us of the joy of living in the present. When our hopes are raised, our fears ascend in equal proportion: the more desperately we desire a certain outcome, the more fearful we become that it will not obtain. In this state of fear, the precious attention that we ought to lavish on each passing moment is dissipated--disseminated between the regrets that accrue to unrealized expectations past and the anxiety that attends to pining for their future fruition. Seneca's advice is difficult to follow at all times, but it's especially hard when prospects are looking good for the achievement of something you really, really want to happen.
I have to admit that Part Sixteen got my hopes up for a happy ending, and--as Seneca predicts--the advent of this hope has put me somewhat on edge. I typically try to enjoy life as it comes along, and I've intentionally approached The Return from the beginning without expectations so that I could relish each and every beautiful second, come what may. As a result, it's been a wonderful and mysterious ride that has helped me to cultivate present attention--to find intrigue in languishing bouts of childish scribbling on insurance paperwork, hilarity in unnervingly far-fetched arm-wrestling boss battles, and beauty in the rich details of Audrey and Charlie's interactions and surroundings, whatever and wherever it turns out that they "actually" are. To my surprise, the disciplines of attention I've been cultivating in watching The Return seem to have increased my daily joy in attending to the present details of my own circumstances as well. There is a kind of glow and a certain hum to things that I'm noticing more often and relishing more deeply, sometimes even to the point of tears. (Especially when "Shadow" is playing, which is often these days.)
As the events of Part Sixteen unfolded before me, I felt positively ecstatic. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never felt so intensely good watching a television show. This feeling was more like the deep, sustaining, soulful good one experiences while watching one's child succeed at something she loves or being in the right place at the right time to help someone in trouble out of a jam. Now that some distance is gathering, I worry in retrospect that maybe Part Sixteen raised my hopes too high--so high, in fact, that I'm tempted to wonder if this episode wants to teach me something about the risks of heightened expectations. In that spirit, I'll take the warning and celebrate some of the great moments in Part Sixteen below as a means of letting them go, loving them for what they are while taking care to remain open to whatever wonders follow in their wake, for good or for ill.
Richard Horne's Shocking End
For some, Richard Horne's death might have seemed mercifully quick. One can perhaps be forgiven for willing a more protracted demise for a man who has been nothing short of loathsomeness incarnate: an incorrigible misogynist, a molester and probably a rapist, a drug-runner, an unrepentant child killer, a would-be murderer, a man who would--and did!--quite literally beat up his own grandmother. Even so, can we imagine a more poetically tragic end for poor Richard? Here is a young man seeking to exorcise the demons of a fatherless life by going full bore into toxic masculinity only to meet his untimely death serving as a disposable tool of his own father's rapacious greed, with nary but a smirking "Goodbye, my son" to mark his departure. That his own father got a wry chuckle from Richard's toss-away death somehow achieved the impossible in me--instead of the catharsis I was expecting Horne's inevitable death to be, I felt empathy for a person I had come to hate with burning fury.
With a Daddy who makes Darth Vader look like Mr. Rogers, Richard Horne never had a chance. That his final act would be a fireworks show ignited by dear old dad and witnessed by his drug-addled great uncle through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars is about as tragically fitting as it could be.
Hutch and Chantal's Final Accounting
Merciless psychopathy is tough to play for laughs. But Hutch and Chantal made it look easy week after week, as these Wendy's gorging, Cheeto-gobbling yokels with gaping holes where their hearts should be took out Mr. C.'s trash. That these two stone killers met their destiny at the trigger-happy hands of a representative of Zawaski Accounting Inc. makes perfect sense: where there is evil, there is usually inordinate love of money; and where there is inordinate love of money, there are always dutiful managers stacking it up and eliminating those who wish to take it by hook or by crook (or in this case by an automatic handgun with an extended magazine).
This grisly end to the Hutchins family was all the more fitting in view of Hutch's observance of at least mild regret over an outstanding fiduciary obligation to a deceased friend. One way or another, we all end up paying our debts.
The awakening of Special Agent Dale Cooper after his fantastic journey back to Earth and his protracted purgatorial sojourn in the life of Dougie Jones is one of the greatest moments in television history (where he now keeps elite company with himself in Part Three, his Doppelgänger's inhabiting spirit in Part Eight, his Doppelgänger's arm-wrestling triumph over Renzo in Part Thirteen, his Doppelgänger's visit to the Dutchman's in Part Fifteen, and etcetera). And his immediate reclamation of the signature combination of poise, grace, confidence, goodness, and near-to-omniscient command of the circumstances facing him and those he loves that compelled us all to fall hopelessly in love with him 27 years ago is almost too much to bear. I cried. Maybe you did too?
Picking up on the previous discussion of the connection between hope and fear, I can scarcely imagine having a deeper televisually-oriented hope than that Special Agent Dale Cooper will win in the end. As a result, I can scarcely imagine having a deeper televisually-oriented fear that he will be sacrificed somehow or--far worse--ruined by his quest. I suspect it would be an excellent test of mindfulness to have to witness his demise (again!) and bear it with resolve, dignity, and gratitude for his life. I also suspect it is a test I would miserably fail, notwithstanding my openness to facing it.
Diane's Double's Denouement
When Diane turned to face a rain-drenched Albert on that fateful night at Max Von's Bar, I was overcome by a nauseating sense that things wouldn't end well for her. And they certainly didn't end well for the woman at the bar. But perhaps the silver lining is that the woman at the bar was Diane's tulpa and not Diane herself. Do the futures of Janey-E or Naido hold the keys to redemption for the real Diane, if ever there were such a person? I hope so, but I also fear the opposite.
If the real Cooper and the real Diane ever meet again in this world or some other one, it's hard to imagine a more stable foundation for rekindled intimacy than the rare shared experience of having involuntarily delegated existence to a manufactured version of oneself from whom one must eventually reclaim being in order to be made whole. Or maybe this experience isn't all that rare after all, given that cultivating genuine vulnerability after the hard work of dismantling one's façades is pretty much the foundation of every intimate relationship.
Is there a word for inhabiting the past in such a fearless way that nostalgia is outstripped into the resolve for future travels along old paths previously obscured from one by naivety, wistfulness, or lack of vision? (I mean, Heidegger had a word for it--vorlaufende Entschlossenheit--but I'm looking for a better known, less nerdy word.) Everything about this scene was uncanny and I've never felt so blissfully in tune with not-at-home-ness. From the graying grunge-era rock god crooning us rapt about running out of sand to a brunette bombshell of a certain age clearing the floor to push a decades-old dance past its limit into a transgressive epiphany, the magic of this scene was cast through the jarring juxtaposition of memory and mortality, as if the audience had been furnished rose-colored glasses to observe the rapidly narrowing temporal abyss coming to swallow it whole.
Audrey's awakening (if that's what it was) presents us with some fascinating and unsettling prospects for the finale. Is the Roadhouse a real place, a psychic projection, a combination of both, or perhaps all of the above? And now that Mr. C.'s minions have all gone away--Darya, Ray, Duncan Todd, Richard Horne, Hutch, Chantal, Diane's tulpa--can one be blamed for fearing the worst, that perhaps Audrey is being summoned to serve nefarious purposes dreamed up by the man who paid her a fateful visit in intensive care so many years ago when coyness and saddle shoes were her only protection?
What will be will be. Let us embrace it with resolute gratitude and wonder!