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‘Twin Peaks’ Part 6 Gives Us A Moment of Grace Amid Savage Brutality

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Twin Peaks (2017)

David Lynch loves exposing the nasty and the brutish among us. From Frank Booth in Blue Velvet to whatever demons Nikki Grace is outrunning in Inland Empire, the devils of humanity are always the most nakedly vicious in Lynch’s hands.

Twin Peaks: The Return has given us another of these wretches: Richard Horne (Eamon Farren). He first appeared in Part 5 as an initially seductive, then gleefully misogynistic assaulter of women. The only thing we knew about him was that he appeared to pay off a member of the sheriff’s department — and his ominously suggestive name, thanks to the closing credits.

Part 6 didn’t reveal if Richard was Audrey’s son, or connected in some other way to the Horne clan, but it made abundantly clear that Richard was a monster. The way in which Lynch demonstrated that, however, was nothing short of masterful.

GIF: Showtime

The use of cross-cutting has been a stylistic technique since the turn of the last century. An easy way to link two or more separate filmic spaces happening at the same time is to alternate shots of each location, thus building cohabiting scenes. This may seem like an obvious thing to do with more than 110 years of hindsight, but when Edwin S. Porter began playing around with it as a way to make an action scene more suspenseful, it was revolutionary.

Porter, D.W. Griffith, and thousands of filmmakers after them have used cross-cutting to give a sequence maximum dramatic impact. A popular, and often manipulative, subcategory of cross-cutting is its use to depict the violent death of a child. The playful innocence of a young boy or girl, juxtaposed with an imminent threat that will ultimately claim that child’s life, is a powerful and often crass way to generate intense emotions in a viewer.

GIF: Showtime

Lynch is using that trope in Part 6, when he builds to the moment when Richard runs down a boy who runs into the street. Lynch makes the technique his own, however, both in style and in result. It is not unspeakable violence that climaxes the sequence, but rather a moment of grace immediately after the violent act.

Lynch cuts three separate sequences together into an eight-and-a-half-minute section of the episode. He begins with Richard in his truck, high on drugs and feeling both scared and angry after a meeting with Red (Balthazar Getty) about moving product down from Canada. We then move to the “New” Fat Trout Trailer Park and its manager, Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton), last seen running the original version down in Deer Meadow, Oregon, in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. That’s the trailer park where Teresa Banks was murdered by Leland Palmer, where FBI agent Chet Desmond disappeared after finding the green owl ring, and where it was strongly implied that the spirits of the Black Lodge could move through electrical wiring.

GIF: Showtime

Well, it seems as if Fat Trout became a franchise, and Carl got transferred up to Twin Peaks. An extended conversation between Carl and a tenant, Mickey (Jeremy Lindholm), unfolds in the back of a van heading into town. We then cut to the Double-R, where schoolteacher Miriam (Sarah Jean Long) chatters ebulliently about Norma’s cherry pie to giggling waitress Heidi (Andrea Hays). After leaving a generous tip, Shelly (Madchen Amick) suggests they treat Miriam to a free slice of pie the next time she stops in.

We cut back to Richard, acting crazier and driving faster. We then return to Carl sitting on a park bench, reveling in the simple elegance of the trees and the birds, and smiling at a mother and her son playing tag. Then, back to Richard. He approaches a stop sign with a line of cars behind it. “Fuck this,” he exclaims, and he peels off down the wrong side of the street. The critical shot comes: The boy is at the crosswalk, ready to run out to avoid his mother’s tag. He runs, Richard barrels into his helpless body, and the mother screams in terror. Loop closed.

GIF: Showtime

This part of the sequence, comprising six minutes of screen time, is typical of cross-cutting to create both tension and dread, but Lynch adds his own unique style to it. The scene between Carl and Mickey plays out very leisurely, fleshing out Mickey’s back story and and giving Carl some color. The moments between Miriam, Heidi, and Shelly are seemingly unnecessary, except to extend this false sense of placidity over the proceedings. Lynch wants to prepare us for the horrifying by giving us the charmingly mundane. In other words, we are less prepared for it. He builds in duration where others would literally cut to the chase.

This point is driven home even further when Lynch chooses to extend the sequence another two-and-a-half minutes, bringing all three parts together. Carl hears the scream. The mother holds her son, her grief as savage as the murder itself. Richard drives on, and Miriam sees him, well enough to identify him in court if need be. Carl arrives at the scene of the crime, only to see a golden flame rise up from the dead boy into the sky, fading as it passes some electrical wires. He then walks over, kneels, and places his hand on the mother’s shoulder. He holds her gaze as bystanders look on, performing the standard acts of horror and fascination that such people always do. The camera closes the sequence by panning up a telephone pole to the crackling sounds of electrical wires. Fade out.

GIF: Showtime

Not only do we see the common expression of everyday decency between Mickey and Carl, and between Miriam and the Double-R staff, we see a simple gesture of empathy between a caring soul and a grieving parent. Carl is surely possessed of some kind of skill akin to Dale Cooper, Sarah Palmer, and others, but the surreal is always a gateway to the real. Carl is taking on the pain of this woman, hoping to relieve her of the greatest suffering. In so doing, they might yet reach a state of grace.

That moment would lose its power were this elaborately cross-cut sequence lacking in those Lynchian moments of dead time, of people being generous and kind. They build the tension to the moment of violence, with Richard’s scenes almost like short, staccato punctures to the overall rhythm. They also allow for Carl’s pure expression of empathy to feel continuous, a conclusion to these extreme contrasts in human behavior. Twin Peaks—and Twin Peaks—has plenty of Richard Hornes. It also has plenty of Carl Rodds. Lynch never lets us forget that both have always coexisted. The darkness must cross into the light.

GIF: Showtime

Evan Davis is a writer living in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDavisSports.

Stream Twin Peaks: The Return, Part 6 on Showtime

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