We Need to Talk About the Twin Peaks Roadhouse

A deep dive into what all those weird, creepy, soapy, odd little scenes might mean

On Sunday, September 3rd, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s iconic series Twin Peaks comes to an end. In anticipation, Consequence of Sound will be reporting live from The Great Northern Hotel with some damn fine features all week. Today, Bookhouse Boy Randall Colburn spends some time in the Roadhouse, where something very, very strange is going on. He may not have all the answers we’re looking for, but he knows all the right questions, and that’s as great a place as anyone could be right now.

For some, Twin Peaks: The Return has been everything they hoped it would be: Mysterious, terrifying, abstract, funny, romantic, and, perhaps most importantly, weird as absolute fuck. All of the elements that hindered the original series—the fractured tone, soapy theatrics, and general aimlessness—had been cast off in favor of the kind of atmospheric, patchwork storytelling David Lynch came to master in films like Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and, to its most extreme extent, Inland Empire. This is bold, ambitious, and joyously frustrating storytelling.

For others, it’s been a test of a patience, a viscous swamp of disconnected scenes and illogical characters plodding through a bizarre, peripatetic world. You can’t blame them really. I think everyone can remember being annoyed by that farcical murder-robbery sequence in Mulholland Drive when they first saw it. But Lynch fans have come to train themselves to let scenes breathe in lieu of finding the thread. As a million people before have stated much more eloquently, Lynch creates living nightmares, moving images that evoke the broken, unnerving emotions that swirl around the unconscious mind. That’s why his work is best viewed uninterrupted—there’s a reason there’s no chapters on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive.

But that wasn’t a possibility for Twin Peaks: The Return, a Showtime miniseries set to unfold over 18 hours. Lynch’s inhales and exhales weren’t meant to be pondered week-to-week, and while doing so has certainly spawned some fascinating Reddit threads, it’s also caused many to lose patience, whether that be with Dougie’s monosyllabic antics, Evil Coop’s opaque machinations, or, well, all that other stuff. What stuff? You know what stuff. The characters you’ve probably already forgotten about. The scenes that slipped through your fingers. The quiet revelations eclipsed by Sarah Palmer’s appetite or Dale’s awakening or, well, an atomic bomb spawning an ancient evil.

Remember Red’s magic trick? Or Beverly’s sick husband? Or Major Briggs’ severed head? Or Carl Rodd’s angelic vision? Or Amanda Seyfried even being in this thing? Not everything is going to pay off here, and any fan of Lynch should embrace that. His films almost always leave a few loose threads dangling, but it’s those threads that help make rewatches that much more intriguing. To try and grasp the minutiae of Lynch is to stare through a pane of frosted glass; the shapes are there, but the details are fuzzy. For his fans, that’s part of the appeal.

This has been especially true of the series’ Roadhouse scenes, many of which have featured characters we’ve never seen discussing characters we’ve never met. We’ve seen a few major players pop up there—Shelly, James, and, as of last week, Audrey—but what’s become clear is that the Roadhouse is not the place it used to be, and not just because it now has the clout to book the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Chromatics, and Sharon Van Etten.

In the original series, the Roadhouse functioned as both a gathering place and a source of comfort, despite the fact that its owners were involved in both drug trafficking and underaged prostitution. Mysteries were solved there, revelations unfolded, and magic unspooled. In The Return, it remains a gathering place, but something about its core is rotten. The characters we meet there are criminals, losers, and addicts, reflecting a scarred community that’s only slipped further and further downhill since Evil Cooper emerged from its woods 25 years previous.

The more things change, the more things stay the same, it seems. Balthazar Getty’s Red is running drugs in a manner that seems at least a bit more organized and well-funded than Leo Johnson’s rinky-dink operation. Another Renault, Jean-Michel, is still pimping out 15-year old girls via the Roadhouse. Young women like Amanda Seyfried’s Becky—a character just about everyone likened to Laura Palmer when she first appeared—are snorting their potential away while dating abusive dopes like Steven—this era’s Bobby Briggs. As Richard Horne proves, the next generation of Twin Peaks is the most poisonous of all, and if there’s one thing to be taken from these numerous Roadhouse scenes, it’s that the community is crumbling as a result. You can see it in the rotting teeth and festering rash of Sky Ferreira’s Ella, the gossiping of Abbie and Natalie, and in the fights that can’t seem to stop breaking out. It’s a fight, after all, that shatters the dream that was Audrey’s Dance in “Part 16”.

In the original series, Twin Peaks was an idyllic vista with a violent undercurrent. Now, that violence is oozing from the grass, infecting its populace. There’s a reason the drunk in the jail cell is rotting from the inside out and the girl in the car is bleeding out on the floor of her mom’s car. There’s a reason we have dirty cops now when the police station was once a paragon of virtue, a place so infectiously good-natured that it brought a cynic like Albert Rosenfield to his knees. It’s telling that the most important place we’ve seen in Twin Peaks so far this season has been Jack Rabbit’s Palace, a creation of the imagination.

But the Roadhouse contains multitudes, and online communities have debated its significance since the first few episodes aired. There’s Audrey’s connection to it, and the belief that the characters we’re seeing there are actually manifestations of her own dissociative identity disorder. Zeroing in on this idea are several theories pointing to the possibility that Audrey is actually Tina, the woman who people claim was the last to see the vanished Billy alive. Not sure how deeply I buy this one, necessarily, but here’s a few threads that elaborate, should you be so interested. Considering how Audrey’s Dance concluded at the close of last week’s episode, we’re bound to find out come this Sunday.

Others have pointed to the idea that at least some of the Roadhouse scenes are this series’ version of Invitation to Love, the in-show soap opera of the first two seasons. Hearing about the interlocking relationships, infidelities, and general gossip of Tina, Billy, Paul, Angela, Clark, and Mary is both a reference to the show’s soapy roots and a way to paint a larger portrait of a town that, over the last 25 years, has seen drama surface in the way it does in all small towns. As Rolling Stone puts it, this approach also applies to that frustrating first glimpse we got of Audrey Horne and the mysterious Charlie: “The idea behind these climactic ‘scenes from a small town’ conversations is the same one animating Audrey and Charlie’s argument. This idea is that everyone we meet has a story that sprawls out unseen in all directions, and at any moment we’re only aware of a tiny fraction of it.”

Lynch has said time and again that he loves the world of Twin Peaks and with The Return wanted the space to explore it again. Maybe that means he wanted moments like these, slices of life that lead in no particular direction. Or, hey, maybe they do all point to larger mystery that we’re yet to fully comprehend. If nothing else, they’ve at least given us some beautiful music. Regardless, let’s take a look at each Roadhouse scene one-by-one. These don’t include music-only scenes, FYI, but that shouldn’t stop you from revisiting Sharon Van Etten’s gorgeous rendition of “Tarifa”.


Part 2

What Happens: Shelly (Mädchen Amick) drinks with her friends, lamenting her daughter’s boyfriend, Steven Burnett. “What? Everybody loves Steven,” says Renee (Jessica Szohr). That’s when James Hurley (James Marshall) arrives with a Brit wearing a green glove named Freddie Sykes (Jake Wardle). Shelly says James was in a motorcycle accident, and defends him when some of her friends take shots at him. “James is still cool,” she says. “He’s always been cool.”

James makes eyes at Renee, who’s into it. Meanwhile, Shelly is getting eyed by a handsome newcomer named Red (Balthazar Getty), who mimes shooting her. Given that this is the ex of both Leo Johnson and Bobby Briggs, she is predictably smitten. Shelly just loves those bad boys.

Eagle-eyed fans will also notice Walter Olkewicz, the man who played Jacques Renault, tending bar, though the credits reveal that it’s not the long-deceased Jacques, but Jean-Michel. Those Renaults breed like rabbits, it appears.

What It Means: Unlike other Roadhouse scenes, this one exists mainly to broaden the world, introduce some relationships, and, most importantly, reintroduce some familiar faces after two hours of Black Lodging and New York mystery boxes. What’s easy to miss on the first watch, however, is the positive characterization of Steven, which is surprising in retrospect considering he seems to carry himself like the abusive, unemployed, drug-abusing dickhead he is.

Who’s Onstage: Chromatics, playing “Shadow”


Part 5

What Happens: Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) smokes a cigarette below a No Smoking sign, causing the manager, Frederico (Vincent Castellanos), to come over and tell him to put it out. Chad Broxford (John Pirruccello), who we’ve briefly met as a deputy in the Twin Peaks police department, says he’ll handle it. Richard gives him his pack of cigarettes, which is filled with cash. Clearly, Chad is helping Richard with some kind of illegal activity.

When Chad leaves, a girl named Charlotte (Grace Victoria Cox) asks Richard for a light. He asks her to sit by him; after she does, he grabs her violently, growling, “You wanna fuck me, Charlotte? You wanna fuck? I’m gonna laugh when I fuck you, bitch.” Charlotte’s friend, Elizabeth (Jane Levy), tells Richard to leave her alone, but he holds on. That the scene ends here makes it that much more terrifying.

What It Means: This is our first glimpse of Richard and he pretty much immediately establishes himself as a goddamned psychopath. Twin Peaks was always a dark place, but never was violence flaunted as flagrantly as it is here. In the old days, someone like Big Ed would’ve been on Richard in a second. Here, the people at the next table over don’t even notice. Charlotte’s friends don’t leave their booth. Nobody helps her, and the scene ends with her still wrapped in Richard’s arms, his laughs burbling beneath the bleating music.

Couple all of this with the fact that Richard is collaborating with a corrupt cop and it becomes clear that this is not the Twin Peaks we used to know.

Who’s Onstage: Trouble, playing “Snake Eyes”


Part 7

What Happens: A dude sweeps the floor for two-and-a-half minutes before Renault takes a phone call. “I sent him two blondes,” he says before revealing he’s speaking about two 15-year old prostitutes. He calls them “straight-A whores” in the same oily tone Jacques used when skeezing all over Laura in Fire Walk With Me. It’s sick shit.

What It Means: That there’s always a new evil to replace an old one. Despite the Renault family being more or less decimated across the first two seasons, more sprouted in their place to keep the family business trucking along. The same darkness that consumed Laura Palmer 25 years ago is still at work here, consuming more and more young girls with every passing year.

Who’s Onstage: No one, but Booker T. & the M.G.’s plays on the jukebox.


Part 9

What Happens: Two women, Chloe (Karolina Wydra) and Ella (Sky Ferreira) share a beer and giggle about what we’re assuming is drugs in a coded language. They both look drugged-out, especially Ella with her rotten teeth and horrible complexion. Ella laments losing her job serving burgers for coming into work high, but then says she got another job “across the street” serving burgers. Ella also has a disgusting rash that she can’t stop scratching.

What It Means: It’s easy to imagine these pair of girls as former prostitutes that aged out of the Renault’s operation; now, they have nothing to do but serve burgers, do drugs, and giggle about the local drug trends. It’s a vision of how the town’s darkness is creating a generation of wasted potential and bodies that are more or less disintegrating before our very eyes. Ella’s rash, which Lynch emphasizes by dialing up the sound of her itching, could very well be a harbinger of the zombie-like behavior exhibited by locals in future episodes.

The coded language is also relevant. “You know that zebra’s out again?” Chloe asks. Later, Ella asks Chloe, “Have you seen that penguin?” Both animals are black and white, a detail that many online have associated with the Black and White Lodges. Whether or not that’s the intent, it certainly shows that Red’s supply is running rampant.

Some have also pointed out that Ella’s rash is on her left side, the side that tends to go numb for characters connecting with the Lodge. It’s also the same arm that MIKE cut off. Make of that what you will.

Who’s Onstage: Hudson Mohawke, playing “Human”

Later, Au Revoir Simone returns to play “A Violent Yet Flammable World”


Part 12

What Happens: Abbie (Elizabeth Anweis) and Natalie (Ana de la Reguera) gossip about some mutual acquaintances. Angela and Clark are a thing, Natalie says, but Abbie saw Clark and Mary making out at the Roadhouse two nights previous. Natalie mentions that Angela is “off her meds” and has recently lost her mom in a way that’s driving her crazy.

Soon, an older dude named Trick (Scott Coffey) shows up, saying he was run off the road and almost killed. After he goes to get a beer, Natalie says he’s no longer under house arrest, which causes Abbie to express romantic interest in him.

What It Means: This is one that we’d probably be wise not to overthink, as to do so will only lead you into dead end after dead end. None of the characters they discuss are mentioned elsewhere, nor do they hint towards any larger mystery in the Twin Peaks universe. Obviously, there’s a touch of menace in the fate of Angela’s mother, but the description is so vague that it’s difficult to summon any kind of specific instance.

Now, to overthink it: This conversation occurs during the same episode as Audrey Horne’s (Sherilyn Fenn) first appearance, during which she’s concerned about her own lover, Billy. Audrey says a woman named Tina was the last person to see him. Later, we find out Tina was also having an affair with Billy, despite being married. This makes the situation a love triangle in much the same manner as the Angela/Mary/Clark situation. That Angela is “off her meds” could also have resonance here, what with Audrey acting like someone who very well could be on meds. Here’s where the theories of the Roadhouse characters being extensions of Audrey’s own mind have a bit of credence—are they somehow directly linked with Audrey’s mind, or do they exist simply to accent Audrey’s narrative arc?

Fuck if I know.

Who’s Onstage: Chromatics, playing “Saturday”


Part 13

What Happens: James sings Twin Peaks camp classic “You and I” to a rapt audience that includes Renee. By song’s end, she’s in tears. Sparks, baby; they’re flying.

What It Means: No matter what happens to James, the dude remains a stone-cold romantic. Also, Renee is way, way into him.

Who’s Onstage: James Hurley, playing “You and I”


Part 14

What Happens: Sophie (Emily Stofle) accuses Megan (Shane Lynch) of getting high at “the nuthouse.” Megan says she’s been getting high in her own room and also reveals she stole her sweater from someone named Paula. Here, we find out that Megan was with her mom the last time she saw Billy. She says Billy jumped a six-foot fence and ran into their house with blood pouring from his mouth.

Sophie asks what Megan’s mom’s name is and, after a long pause, Megan says it’s “Tina.” This revelation is met with some ominous music, though it’s unclear why. Megan says Tina had “a thing” with Billy. She also can’t remember if her uncle was there or not.

What It Means: When I first watched this scene I was struck by Megan’s repetition of how she wasn’t sure if her uncle was present during Billy’s arrival. That uncertainty, coupled with the scene’s languid pace and freaky music, gives the whole thing a dreamlike feel, as if we’re unmoored from reality. In many ways, the scene is the closest thing this season of Twin Peaks has to Mulholland Drive’s terrifyingly iconic diner scene.

This description of Billy having blood pouring from his mouth has caused many to believe that he’s the “drunk” in the Twin Peaks Police Station’s holding cell. That man, if you recall, evokes the dying girl Bobby sees in the honking woman’s car, as both are similarly bloody.

More connections to Audrey’s story can be found here as well, though the most interesting theory I’ve seen online regarding this scene concerns “the nuthouse.” In Part 10, a song plays beneath Richard’s assault of his mother and brother; one Reddit user pointed out that it’s “Charmaine”, which is off the soundtrack to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, probably the quintessential nuthouse film. That’s a pretty deliberate choice and this revelation has been used to float the theory that Audrey’s mother’s house is “the nuthouse,” as it contains both the mentally disabled Johnny Horne and Audrey, who in this theory is suffering her own mental disorder. Could this again point to Tina and Audrey being the same person? If so, that would make Megan Audrey’s daughter and Richard’s brother. Curious stuff.

Who’s Onstage: Lissie, playing “Wild West”


Part 15

What Happens: We’ve got two in this episode. The first finds James and Freddie saying hi to Renee, who sits with her husband Chuck (Rod Rowland), as well as Skipper (Casey O’Neill) and an unknown brunette woman. James stupidly replies to Chuck’s anger by saying he “likes” Renee (god, what a dolt) and getting slugged in the face for it. In James’ defense, Freddie uses his magic green glove to lightly bop both men; in keeping with his description of the glove’s powers, though, that pop pretty much scrambles their brains. James apologizes to Renee, saying that Chuck’s “eyes don’t look right.”

What It Means: Really, the scene just serves as proof that Freddie’s bizarre story about his magic glove is actually true. On a deeper level, however, it serves as a further testament to Twin Peaks’ culture of violence overflowing that much more. Sure, James is dumb to say hi to Renee when she’s out with her husband, but Chuck’s anger is volcanic and his leap to violence is almost instantaneous.

Also, more love triangles. And, if Audrey’s Charlie is to be believed, Chuck is also the name of Tina’s husband, who she describes as insane. Also, Charlie and Chuck are the same name. Also, the name of the actor who plays Charlie is Clark Middleton. There was a Clark mixed up in here somewhere. Lynch is just trolling us isn’t he?

What Happens: At the end of the episode, Ruby (Charlene Yi) is forcibly removed from a booth by two huge bikers, who throw her to the ground. Ruby sits on the ground for a moment before crawling into a sea of legs. Slowly, the formation of legs increases around her until she’s totally trapped. Then, she screams.

What It Means: Twin Peaks is not a safe place. It’s a downright dangerous one for women. What we see with her is Laura Palmer, Ronette Pulaski, and various others in microcosm: After being displaced by men, the woman crawls for safety into the darkness only to find something much, much worse hiding there. Yi’s scream here reminded me of Laura’s in the Black Lodge. Truly chilling.

Who’s Onstage: The Veils, playing “axolotl”


Part 16

What Happens: Audrey and Charlie arrive at the Roadhouse. Charlie orders martinis. Audrey looks uncomfortable. Eddie Vedder finishes his song. Charlie proposes a toast “to us,” to which Audrey replies, “to Billy.” Then, the MC announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, Audrey’s Dance.” The band plays her song from the original series. The dance floor clears for her. Audrey is hesitant. And what unfolds is a stranger, more elaborate version of the dance that once beguiled America. Everything’s kinda perfect until another burst of violence shatters the illusion; it’s more infidelity, a fight between a cuckold and an adulterer. Audrey runs to Charlie and tells him it’s time to leave. That’s when she snaps awake in a white room, staring in a mirror, muttering “what” over and over again.

What It Means: We’ll find out next week, but the fact that the jazz band began playing her song backwards during the closing credits says that we’re likely leaping into an alternate dimension.

Who’s Onstage: Edward Louis Severson, otherwise known as Eddie Vedder, playing “Out of Sand”


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