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Whether or not you love The Return, there are certain aspects of it that were truly incredible. Seeing Cooper go back in time and save Laura Palmer from her death, watching Freddie put Bob to rest at last, and seeing Lucy and Andy happy in their relationship to name a few. However, I am also aware that some people became frustrated with the slow story-line, the plot threads that appeared to lead nowhere, and the Dougie/Audrey situations. Here I am going to write about my personal highlights and critiques.
To me, the main highlights were what was done with the main characters, the new minor character additions, and the moments of catharsis in the 17th episode.
In terms of the main characters, decisions such as making Bobby a deputy were a good call. There must be others out there who always saw Bobby as an essentially good character and wanted him to have a successful future. Dana Ashbrook plays the role incredibly well, and, of course, this also fits Major Briggs prediction for his future - to the satisfaction of many viewers. I also love that Shelley is still working in the RR. She doesn't look her age, and her relationship with Norma is still wonderful. Although it's a shame she and Bobby could not stay together, I was delighted when I realized Becky was their daughter! Additionally, the choice to keep Andy and Lucy together made me happy. I enjoyed seeing how their relationship had evolved, and it's clear to see they are still happy together. It was also great to have that scene where we met their son.
I also must add that seeing Ed and Norma appear as though they were finally going to be together was one of the best moments.
The new minor characters were all excellent choices. We are blessed with the comedy of the Mitchum brothers, the entertainment of Ike "The Spike", and seeing Patrick Fischler involved also made me happy.
Rodney and Bradley gave us so many one-liners, and of course brought with them Sandie, Mandie and Candie. Their role in the series and their relationship with Dougie was not only entertaining but perfectly woven in too.
Senora Dido, Janey-E, and Diane were all also excellent cast additions - we get to meet Diane at long last! That was one of my top highlights - made even better by my pre-existing love of Laura Dern. I felt she acted the part incredibly well, and the adrenaline rush when we realized Albert had gone to meet the elusive Diane and we were finally going to see her for ourselves was amazing. My other favorite scene for this character was her slow walk through the building to meet Gordon whilst David Lynch's remix of Muddy Magnolias "American Woman" played loudly.
The 17th episode finally gave so much; we saw the death of Bob, Cooper save Laura Palmer's life, and Dale's return to Twin Peaks. We also saw Cooper reunited with Diane, Gordon, and Albert's last scenes, and Lucy kill Bad Coop. This gave moments of pure elation and joy, and lead to musings over what could possibly happen in the finale (little did we know...). This climax was so deserved by audiences and the episode was in many ways a conclusion in itself.
Some criticisms came, though, when I consider the fate of Audrey, the scenes that lead to nowhere, and some of the time issues in some episodes.
I was a little disappointed to find that the glass box story-line was taken no further than the first few episodes. We will probably never know the fate of Tracey or Sam... and we never discovered who owns the box either. Oddly, these small details bother me much more than the bigger speculations such as, "What year is this?". I think that is because I enjoy musing about the big, existential things, but I dislike not understanding basic things about the series. Although, in the scheme of things I'm not convinced it really matters who actually owns that box.
However, there were also all those Roadhouse story-lines that also lead nowhere. I wouldn't say they bothered me as such - I enjoyed them at the time, but I feel there was so much potential to develop clever links between each of those scenes and create another story... but as far as I can tell they all seem pretty unrelated. On a similar note, we also have that screaming girl who was never seen again... Although I love the mysteries of Twin Peaks, these particular mysteries almost felt like mysteries for the sake of it. I'm not convinced they served a higher purpose. We also had that random man in the jail cell (some speculate this was the Billy Audrey is speaking of to Charlie), Naido (whose role is tenuous, although resolved), Gersten (also seemed to serve no higher purpose), and, finally, Polish Accountant with no context or backstory. This one though I can forgive because that scene with Hutch and Chantal was incredible.
The fate of Audrey was also a little underwhelming. Although I enjoyed her scenes and was frankly just very glad to see her again, I had really looked forward to her being a strong in control character... something she couldn't have been further from in this series' portrayal. On the other hand though, her dance scene in the Roadhouse was every bit as mesmerizing as her dance scenes in the original series. We get to see her with a proper audience who seem genuinely transfixed and the music suits her so well.
My final critique is some of the timings. Although obviously there are revisions made in the timeline, they made sense. While it's not crystal clear exactly what was has happened, it's a deliberate attempt to change the timeline. However, there were also discrepancies with time that seem to either be not deliberate or make no sense. For example, the scene we have of Sonny Jim throwing a ball at Dougie during the time he is meant to be having an all-nighter with the Mitchum brothers. This frustrated me because I doubt it was a mistake, but it doesn't seem to make narrative sense (although yes, I'm not convinced narrative sense is what they were aiming for!).
Those are my main takeaways now that I've had a year to process everything that happened... Up until this point I have only been able to revisit particular scenes and episodes, but I think I'm finally to do a complete re-watch binge!