On Ashley Judd Time
by ELEANOR MORROW
creators David Lynch & Mark Frost
“I can’t do this,” a man tells a woman in a room they both know. From one corner of the room, possibly under a lamp’s base, something indescribable is shaping their words and deeds. Twin Peaks: The Return is a show about the Schrodinger state of indeterminacy: not knowing whether you are alive or dead, whether the things these people – the Midwestern sort with salt in their beards and their minds – are experiencing exist in the true world or another.
In 370 B.C. Xenophon wrote down his story of Cyrus the Younger’s invasion of Asia to depose his brother, the great king of Persia. He titled it Anabasis, and thereafter any military expedition from sea inland was also referred to by this term. Similarly, Twin Peaks: The Return begins on the eastern seaboard in a dark New York apartment, about as far from David Lynch’s home in Los Angeles as you can get.
At one point, when Winston (Lynch himself), Diane (Laura Dern), Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy (Chrysta Bell) are flying over South Dakota on their way to Philadelphia, Winston has the plane suddenly reverse direction. They cannot, physically, head towards the coast. That would be like giving up, as lemmings do, on their short and lonely lives.
In a police station where the bloated body of Major Briggs sits, still fresh some thirty years after its presumed expiration date, the pieces begin to come together. You honestly need a scorecard to follow them all, but it all comes back to the day Agent Dale Cooper first heard of the existence of the White and Black Lodge. After that a lot of it is pretty murky, and if you want to figure everything out, you might be here awhile. There are podcasts and recaps to explain these connections better than I ever could, but Twin Peaks: The Return is about whether or not you can perceive the existence of a mythology behind your life. The details themselves are largely immaterial; the real evidence of another world is in the present moment, the one you currently inhabit.
What is astonishing about the world Mr. Lynch gives us from moment to moment is that certain things disappear from it completely, replaced by the sense of forboding that overwhelms the self. Gender is not really present, even though sexism is. These particulars are merely small forces exerting themselves on the world, while something larger and more earthly is really taking a tighter grip. In a way a man’s wife (Naomi Watts) is a god, as much as anyone.
This democratization of self takes over as Lynch presents a series of people we would not normally identify as protagonists or antagonists. He brings them out of the background of these scenes, giving them their full duration in the sun. Whether it is a series of chuckling local federales or Tim Roth as Evil Cooper’s accommodating henchmen, the way these people talk to each other makes us feel like mere observers. The last piece of television that properly managed such an arrangement was The Wire. I like to think of Twin Peaks as The Wire of rural America.
Ashley Judd had this great movie where she played the wife of Bruce Greenwood. Bruce was in a lot of debt, so he faked his own death and made her look like the killer. She served eight years in prison and was released on parole, for murder. The second she got out she went looking for Bruce, and when she found him, he was selling himself at a charity auction in New Orleans. She bid on him and won.
Imagine the world above us, where time moves more slowly than it does here. We could spend, say, twenty years ago in that place but it would feel like only months on Earth. Still, we would age, grey overtaking our temples and armpits, while the real world sped by. That is what it must have been like for Ashley Judd in prison. I hope she never went there, but in my heart I think I know that she did.
With the deliberate pace that Lynch has established with this revival, it seems almost fait accompli that Twin Peaks: The Return is in line for another season after it finishes this run on September 3rd. These episodes have seem so effortless, like poring over a children’s picture book. Perhaps Lynch wants to return to other topics, challenge himself with different concepts and forms. This will be a loss for television — but it is not the only medium, only the most malleable one.
Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.