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I hope we can all still agree that, even after last week’s excellent finale, the experience of Twin Peaks: The Return was largely a very mixed bag. For every heartfelt exchange between aging people living very human lives, there was a scene of two pointless assassins eating Cheetos in a van. For every abstract bit of mad, dream world horror, there was a 5 minute sequence of a guy spray-painting some shovels. And, of course, for every triumphant return of a character we’ve been aching to see, there was a Dougie Jones.
Now there’s no doubt in my mind that David Lynch was trying to say something, with Dougie Jones but search me up and down if I can make even half a guess as to what the hell it was. As our very own Twin Peaks podcast theorized, it may have been something to do with asking us to look at the infirm, the sick, and the deformed in a different light, as this seems to be a common theme for Lynch.
Is Dougie some avatar for the common man, in all of his inferiority? Is he meant to be a commentary on recent politics? Hey, maybe. You know what? Your guess is as good as mine on that front, and you’re more than welcome to have at it but I have another theory, one of my very own that I’m actually pretty content with: Dougie was a huge waste of everyone’s time.
I mean, at least with the bloody pine weasel nonsense and that silly civil war business in Twin Peaks‘ second season, we could make the excuse that David Lynch was off filming Wild at Heart, but here, in Twin Peaks: The Return, where David Lynch is firmly in control, we don’t have that luxury.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not just being contrarian for its own sake. There was a lot for me to love here in the first true David Lynch project in over a decade. The 8th episode, in particular, was the heroin dose of Lynch that we had been promised by the top brass over at Showtime, and the finale, while a bit hard to follow, was some top notch television. There were brilliant bits and bobs spread throughout the entire run, to be perfectly frank, but does that really justify something as goofy as the Dougie Jones character? Could anyone else, aside from David Lynch, get away with this kind of horse shit?
I mean, let’s start from the very beginning with this guy. What the hell is happening in that casino? I felt like I was in a parallel fucking dimension when I was reading reactions online to Mr. Jackpots. How is this, in any way, “good” or “quality” television? It’s just a confused old man yelling “Hellooooooooooo!” over and over again at god-damned slot machines.
And we’re thinking: “It’s okay, Dougie’s wearing the suit now, so Cooper is gonna wake up any time now! Gosh-darn, don’t I just know it, he’ll be here soon! Look, he’s drinking coffee! He’s eating cherry pie! Oh boy, oh boy, I can’t wait to see my old pal Coop again!”
13 episodes later, Cooper finally emerged from this ungodly convergence of Weekend at Bernie’s and Mr. Bean. What did we put up with in the interim? Oh, just entire episodes where Dougie’s only contribution was getting hit with a baseball or sticking a fork in an electrical outlet.
But wait, those ones were actually the upswing. Other weeks we got entire anthologies of scenes where good ol’ Dougie haplessly wanders and stumbles his way to success as if this were an episode of Inspector Gadget. Is this really what we fucking showed up for? Entire scenes of people projecting their emotions onto Dougie like he’s the god-damned protagonist of an RPG?
Look, I love David Lynch as much as the next guy, but we have to know when to say when, and the ends do not always justify the means. For example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X Files, and, of course, Twin Peaks, are all among my all-time favorite shows, but they all have some terrible fucking episodes.
Nothing is sacrosanct, and just because David Lynch made this series, that does not justify egregious wastes of time like the entire character of Dougie Jones, a Pacman-esque entity that just ate up hours and hours of screen time while we hopelessly waited to see the one god-damned person who could make us feel better in this god-awful shit hole of a world.
Really though, how much leeway are we going to give a guy like Lynch just because he made Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive? For that matter, how much leeway are actors like Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts going to give him to waste their time on utterly pointless characters that don’t challenge them or make full use of their talents?
Most of us know that this series was originally meant to be 10 episodes rather than 18, so what happened in the change-up? Did they just add 8 hours of wheel-spinning to the script they already had in order to beef it up? When you look at it closely, it can certainly start to seem that way. How many lingering shots of nothing happening occur in the series? How many musical performances? How many long, uninterrupted silences that stretch 2 minutes of dialogue into 5 minutes?
David Lynch is a talented artist and a brilliant director, but even the greatest, most creative minds need an editor, and Twin Peaks: The Return could have used a hell of a lot of editing. Maybe with an iron-fisted editor in the game, or at the very least someone who had the gall to stand up to David Lynch, and simply say that not everything he put in here was a good idea, we could have gotten a truly great television experience, rather than something that wobbled back and forth between sublime bliss and utter exasperation.
Since this is likely to be the last thing of import that the semi-retired Lynch makes, however, we’ll probably never know what could be done with that mind of his if it were just given a bit more focus.
One thing is for certain though, Dougie should have been left in that god-damned Red Room, where he belongs.
Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he’s still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there’s hope for him, there’s hope for everyone. He’s the managing Games editor for Goomba Stomp, and the host of the Fire Keepers podcast.
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