Thursday, October 12, 2017

Twin Peaks: Audrey's Return

Among the original-series characters who returned in Twin Peaks: The Return, one of the last to appear was Audrey Horne, who wasn't seen onscreen until well into the second half of the season. Despite this late reintroduction, Audrey's four scenes stood out prominently in a number of ways, being strange, then increasingly strange, and finally abruptly ending the season's second-to-last broadcast. The Audrey scenes are hard to decipher in any sensible way and because of – not "despite" – this, may be among the most important of the season.

First, I offer a quick overview of the four scenes with Audrey. More details of these scenes and related ones will follow later:

Audrey's four scenes occur near or at the end of episodes 12, 13, 15, and 16. In each of them, she interacts with only one person: her husband Charlie, who has never been seen before and does not appear in any other scenes. In the first three, they are in what appears to be their home, discussing whether or not to go to the Roadhouse to look for a man named Billy. The conversations they have are remarkably bitter and hostile, frequently nonsensical, and include the information that Audrey is having an affair with Billy. They discuss other people, including Chuck and Tina, none of whom clearly links to any characters we can otherwise identify. In their fourth scene, Audrey and Charlie appear at the Roadhouse, where the M.C. introduces a song from Season One as "Audrey's Dance." Audrey dances alone to it, then a fight breaks out, and she suddenly seems to wake up disoriented in an all-white room.

There are many oddities, as stated above, and we must almost certainly conclude that the Roadhouse scene is a memory, dream, or delusion. However, the first three Audrey scenes also contain remarkable inconsistencies that make their reality suspect as well:

• Audrey and Charlie's conversation remains on a single topic, going in circles, while multiple days pass for the other characters in the show. Much is made of putting jackets on or not, and in the transitions between them, jackets are suddenly on or off, while all of the other clothing remains the same. It is hard to explain those scenes as taking place consecutively or on different days.

• The dialogue is very strange in tone and emotion. Charlie seems minimally hurt when Audrey makes exceptionally cruel comments. She seems like a young girl speaking with false confidence about things like contracts as though she is pretending to understand them. She is very aggressive in the first and third scenes, but whimpers defensively in the second.

• The dialogue is frequently illogical on a factual level. Charlie claims that they can't look for Billy because there is a New Moon. This is not only irrelevant to looking for someone indoors, but contradicted by a shot showing a crescent Moon. The third scene begins with Audrey saying almost exactly what she said to begin the first scene. Audrey says that they have already looked everywhere else for Billy, which certainly can't be true (e.g., he could be in another state). Charlie protests that he is too sleepy to look for Billy. Audrey sarcastically asks if Charlie has a crystal ball, and he answers her literally, not understanding the sarcasm. (Remarkably, he says that he does not have a crystal ball, but there is a crystal ball right there on his desk.) Audrey suddenly asks if "this" is Ghostwood. Charlie threatens to end Audrey's story "too." Audrey asks what story that is if it's "the story of the little girl who lives down the lane."

• Audrey's hair is quite different in the final "wake up." If her hair looks like that now, the scenes with Charlie are probably not happening close to the current time, if they ever happen(ed) at all.

• There are numerous references to someone being an unreliable narrator. Audrey says that she has details about Billy from her dream in which he is injured. Charlie suggests that Audrey is on "drugs." Audrey says that she's seeing Charlie as though he's a "different person" and doesn't feel like she is herself.

Suffice it to say, the first three scenes, no less than the Roadhouse scene, are difficult to explain as a real interaction between two married people, and we should suspect that all four of the scenes are unreal, with the final "wake up" showing Audrey's actual situation, which seems to be an institution.

We may also note that in several of Lynch's films since Twin Peaks last aired, main characters dream or imagine their lives to be very different than they are, and the viewers are shown extended scenes that are part of a delusional reality; the viewer, like the characters, face the challenge of realizing what is real and what was the delusion. This pattern holds true in Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire. There is also a prominent scene in which Gordon Cole says that in one of his dreams, he is told by Monica Bellucci that their lives are like a dream, but, the question is, who is the dreamer?

It is easy enough to adopt an interpretation, then, that Audrey is institutionalized and her vision of a very unhappy marriage with Charlie and a missing lover named Billy is just a delusion, and that the third scene repeats dialogue from the first because she repeats different versions of the delusion on multiple nights. We may also imagine that she has "Audrey's dance" in her dream because the original version of that scene, from 1990, was stirringly memorable, helping to give Sherilyn Fenn national fame and status as a sex symbol, and this is something that older Audrey may remember fondly as the best moment for her younger self. But then, the fantasy goes wrong and she wakes up. This explains the four scenes adequately.

However, that explanation doesn't go quite far enough. Audrey's scenes can't be merely her internal delusion because other scenes during the season echo things from the four scenes with Charlie. This is most obvious concerning a scene in episode 14, in which young women named Megan and Sophie discuss a group of people with names and biographical details matching the people in Audrey and Charlie's scenes. To be specific, there is a Billy who is bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth, and a Tina and another man who, in Audrey and Charlie's telling, is named Chuck. The last detail provided is when Sophie asks the name of Megan's mother, and Megan answers portentously that her name is Tina, and both characters pause strangely in response to this. It should be noted that this scene occurs in the approximate time slot of the fourteenth episode that Charlie and Audrey's scenes occur in the two episodes before and two episodes after, with the time slot as well as the character names suggesting that this scene is part of the Audrey-verse. They also mention a "nut house," which could match the appearance of Audrey's actual location. So perhaps this fifth scene is also part of Audrey's delusion.

But this, too, doesn't go far enough. Episode 7 ends with a man rushing into the RR Diner and asking for Billy. The music accompanying this scene is the 1959 instrumental song, "Sleep Walk." Perhaps this, too, is a hint that this scene, and all the Audrey scenes, are a dream.

We might, alternately, conclude that the Sophie-Megan scene as well as the "Billy" scene are real and that Audrey, inside the institution, has somehow gathered details of the real world because Megan is, as Sophie suggests, spending time inside a "nut house" and could spread gossip that Audrey hears.

And yet this still doesn't go far enough. There is a fight in the Roadhouse involving a Chuck and this fight leads to Freddie punching someone, and possibly inducing a bleeding nose and mouth. There is also a drunk who is bleeding profusely from his nose and mouth in a jail cell, where he mockingly repeats everything he hears. Moreover, both Audrey and The Arm in the spirit world use the same curious phrase "Story of the little girl who lives down the lane." The Arm says this in Episode 18, after Audrey has said the phrase. Now we require one of several exceptional explanations:

• Audrey is dreaming as much as is needed to explain all of the connections.

• Audrey is dreaming everything. Maybe no part of this season "really" takes place and Audrey is "the dreamer" of every moment of every episode. Note that the bleeding man in the jail cell is present when Andy says that he needs to take everyone upstairs, but is not present when they arrive upstairs. If that very important scene is part of Audrey's dream, it's hard to draw a boundary around her dream and everything else. And if she knows there's a Bad Cooper, then maybe even the second and/or first season of Twin Peaks is a dream, too.

• There is a real world, a spirit world, as well as Audrey's delusion, and something or someone is communicating between all of them.

• The similarities between Audrey's dream and the real world exist but are simply unexplained. In the Twin Peaks reality, we've seen this before. In particular, recall that when Leo was shot, there was also a similar shooting on Invitation to Love. And remember when inhabiting spirits MIKE and BOB's names mirrored high school Mike and Bobby. Probably quite close to why the word "Twin" is in the title, Twin Peaks shows things that align in ways that almost make sense, but not quite.

• Maybe the Audrey scenes work on a metalevel. Note that Charlie threatens to end Audrey's story ("too") and one episode later, the series does indeed end Audrey's story! This isn't explainable as a meaningful connection if she is having a delusion and then her life goes on as before. It would mean that the Twin Peaks show as a piece of fiction is an object within the Audrey-verse. We may further wonder, then, if Charlie is a stand-in for the creative forces on the show, perhaps for David Lynch himself. This would be the first instance, then, of the show breaking the fourth wall and making Audrey not the dreamer of part/all of the show, but as a fictional character aware (even if deleriously so) of her fictional nature.

If the final possibility is indeed true, and the Audrey scenes work on a metalevel, then there is added significance to the two uses of the phrase, "story of the little girl who lives down the lane." This opens the discussion wider to a consideration of what the phrase means in Episode 18, and to what Episodes 17 and 18 mean overall… Here, I will conclude the portion of the discussion that focuses on Audrey and take up the topic again in another post. Suffice it to say, the scenes with Audrey seem deeply significant, far more than those of other characters and may encompass what the show's entire story in fact is.


  1. Love your analysis Rikdad! I came to the conclusion that there is a meta storyline going on with Audrey where she is becoming aware of her fictional status, and that final shot of her was her as Sherylin Fenn. Most of the Roadhouse scenes seem to take place in a "limbo" world. Eddie Vedder is called by his real name, ZZ Top music can be heard, and characters seemingly without a place in the story can be seen talking to each other (girl with armpit rash). If only Donna had made an appearance there I would be able to confirm it as a meta holding place for unused characters and plotlines. A friend of mine suggested that maybe the "Billy" that Audrey is looking for is Billy Zane from season 2.

  2. Jonny,

    Very interesting. To the extent that Charlie might be David Lynch, one might infer that the character talking with him is Sherilyn Fenn, not Audrey Horne, although I have no sense that Lynch and Fenn have such a poor relationship!

    I like the thought re: Billy Zane, and I neglected to include another meta Billy idea I had: After Twin Peaks, Sherilyn Fenn starred in a show called Rude Awakening, and her character's name in that is Billie. (One might also add that the Audrey scenes end with a rude awakening.)

    The Roadhouse does have an odd quality of detachment to it, but characters with another place in the story do wander in and out. We see a mixture of "real" characters (such as James and Shelly, as well as Richard Horne) and tangential characters who are mainly about 25-35 years old, and were not part of the original two seasons.

    One of my overall surprises from the season is that the town of Twin Peaks is so marginalized, whereas the TV series was strictly, almost to the minute, entirely set inside the town, with the main exception being One Eyed Jack's.

    Great idea! More thoughts soon.

    1. Thanks Rikdad, it just seems like there is something more than meets the eye about the Roadhouse in this. Any idea why "the" nine inch nails would be there? clearly, during the Audrey scene it is part of her delusion, Eddie veder is in that scene I believe. It would be interesting to track the timeline of days and see if the roadhouse scenes make sense in the timeline of the show
      Side note though, have you listened to the lyrics of the nine inch nails song "she's gone away"? i keep thinking they are relevant to the Laura palmer agent cooper story, but could be wrong.

  3. Jonny, it's possible that the entirety of the Roadhouse scenes hold together in a way I don't yet see. I have watched part of the season again, but not all. Clearly, two things stand out: There are many characters who are are the new generation in town, and they are not, in most cases, adequately introduced for us to know who they are or what their stories are. Perhaps they were created to permit future storylines that didn't take place in this season but could in a fourth. Perhaps they are by design incomplete, acting as symbols or avatars for more general themes.