To be a David Lynch fan is to have patience. His more abstract films treat narrative like a piece of Play-Doh, twisting it around into different shapes while tearing off little bits that, at one point, seemed integral to the overall structure. Last summer’s Twin Peaks: The Return—which premiered a year ago today—was packed to the gills with small, curious storylines and characters that appeared, disappeared, and subsequently haunted the edges of every succeeding episode. Remember Balthazar Getty’s drug-trafficking Red? Or the sick husband of Ashley Judd’s Beverly? Or that strange ringing sound in Benjamin Horne’s office? Whether or not you’re comfortable with these moments fading into the ether no doubt factored into your enjoyment of the series.
Some of the strangest, most confounding events of The Return, however, unfolded at the Roadhouse, which was as rife with dread as it was dream-pop. But one scene, in particular, stuck in the craw of even the most die-hard fans, and that was one that found the club’s janitor silently sweeping up cigarettes and peanut shells for several minutes as the surviving Renualt brother doddered away in the background. Did it have meaning? Or was it just a simple moment of calm, the kind of scene that Lynch would be annoyed to find the world dissecting? Well, YouTube channel The Long Take has an interesting theory that speaks directly to the structure of the show itself.
Host Rafeal Hernan Gamboa begins by dissecting how those myriad narrative interludes serve to paint a portrait of Twin Peaks that’s much larger than Dale Cooper, Laura Palmer, and Audrey Horne, one that speaks both to the rotten core we’ve long come to associate with the town and the culture of complicity and repetition that’s allowed it to morph into something grander and, perhaps, more malevolent. The town’s denizens strive to maintain a cheery facade, but the darkness continues to pool.
The sweeping, then, functions as a visual metaphor. “The longer we watch this man sweep and sweep and sweep,” says Gamboa, “the more we become keenly and frustratingly aware of its Sisyphean futility.” In the end, we’re almost perversely comforted by Renault’s subsequent conversation, which reveals that, after all these years, the Roadhouse remains a hub of underaged sex trafficking. It’s a bit of a stretch, as an analysis, but it’s about as good a take on the scene as exists, even a year later—just evidence of how many mysteries the show created.