Why David Lynch deserves all the Emmys for ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’
The Emmy nominations for 2018 will be announced next month and Showtime has rightfully started hustling for Twin Peaks: The Return to make a big impression. The network has released a series of “For Your Consideration” videos for actors from the critically acclaimed series including Laura Dern, Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, Miguel Ferrer, Robert Forster, and Michael Horse.
But there’s another important performance being campaigned for – David Lynch as FBI deputy director Gordon Cole. Publications like IndieWire have speculated that Lynch landing an acting nomination for the role is a long shot, but we’re of the opinion his layered and campy yet profound performance is unique and bold enough to garner recognition at the awards.
With his oversized old-fashioned hearing aid, difficulty with hearing, and pronounced phrasing of dialogue – punctuated by lengthy marked pauses – the character provides a shrewd vehicle for Lynch to embody his singular perspective as an artist within a character. Cole is a comedic figure but he isn’t a walking punchline, he’s an oddity but completely relatable, and though the character can be shrill and larger than life, Lynch’s performance is pared down and full of restraint.
In a show as elusive, imaginative, and broad as Twin Peaks, it’s easy for such characters to either feel contrived and without purpose or for them to be lost within the folly of a dozen other oddballs who fail to connect to one another.
But Cole emerges almost as a narrative counsel, navigating us through the various mysteries that unspool across every episode. He’s our chaperone, steering us through madness with a dry wit that suggests he’s not altogether sure what the holy fuck is happening at any one time either. Like Cole, sometimes all we can do is adjust our devices, raise a quizzical eyebrow, and eat another donut while we wait to see where each deviating and peculiar story is headed next. (Such is life.)
In its review of The Return, The New Yorker perfectly outlined the genius at the heart of Lynch’s new and improved performance as the character:
In the second season, he’s an object of self-comedy, a squawky glad-handing presence whose hearing loss is played for a laugh along with his chatty persona. Now he’s spare, pared-down, and precise. He speaks in a crackly, papery voice that’s terse with authority, keeping his phlegmatic gaze fixed to gather knowledge and ripen insight in the inner silence of his own counsel. It’s a lovely, deep performance, rendered all the more resonant by the air of nostalgic distance that Lynch builds into it.
Watch close enough and you can see Lynch leaning into his own creative process where Cole is a mirror image of the auteur pensively listening to Lynch’s thoughts and turning them into abstract acts.
As Brody posits in his review, Cole is “fiercely in the moment but a little out of date,” which nonetheless gives Lynch a poignant opportunity to reflect on the passing of time and changes in society in his own indelible manner. The moment where Cole celebrates the success of Denise Bryan (David Duchovny), the transgender FBI agent who is now Chief Staff for the Bureau, is one of the most unexpected, subtle, and moving moments, highlighting the current struggles experienced by transgender individuals.
Cole makes clear his support of the woman with one simple but mighty sentence perfectly delivered by Lynch: “When you became Denise, I told all of your colleagues, those clown comics, to fix their hearts or die.”
We didn’t expect Lynch to win an Emmy for his performance, but we at least wanted to see him nominated. Lynch more than deserved of a second nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (following his 1990 nomination for the Twin Peaks pilot) for “Part 8” of The Return – arguably the most unique, nightmarish, and masterful hour of television ever put on screen –and a nomination for Outstanding Limited Series.
Quite frankly, we’ll be tempted to storm the Emmy offices screaming “Got a light?” if they fail to acknowledge him in any or all of these categories. If we had our way, Lynch would be winning all of the Emmys for The Return. Maybe we need to pull that cow out of retirement, throw together a Lynch sandwich board, and sit on the side of Sunset Boulevard chain smoking just to make sure they get the message.