Rewatching the two episodes, I think I probably got into the Black Lodge material the most, mostly because I felt like the various scattered pieces shown there over the years were threaded together to effective use, especially the bookends of Leland - the part at the end where he asked Cooper to find Laura gave me a chill. The tree was ridiculous and the tree's doppleganger was also ridiculous, but the two combined tipped over into some kind of sublime ridiculousness, especially when the "bad" tree attacked Cooper. The scenes of Cooper floating out and the strange elevator blip crash sequence in the glass box as he tried to leave reminded me of old FMV cut scenes, which I appreciated, as I prefer quasi-kitsch to shiny effects.
The last scenes between Margaret and Hawk were almost too sad to process. When she said she was too weak to go out and help him look for Cooper I had a lump in my throat. I liked that her last words to Hawk were that she'd give him some good food when he came by to visit. I'd almost rather that be our last image of her - caring and nurturing and still being there - and they leave the character alive in our minds.
The whole sequence where "bad" Cooper killed that Darya woman was one I didn't watch at first, mostly because I think that we already knew he was monstrous without needing a set piece, and also because I felt like it was almost fetishizing such violence against women (although that may be why they had him move the pillow away to show her after he'd shot her - to show the reality), but the woman who played Darya did harrowingly good work in the scene, alternating between numb fear when he would ask her questions and desperate panic when she would try to get away even when she knew she couldn't. Kyle MacLachlan is doing a very good job as "bad" Cooper - he isn't overplaying the depravity of Bob, or trying to do a Frank Silva impression. Even without the murder sequences you would easily know this Cooper is completely dead inside, just from looking into his eyes, or the way he pitches his voice so flat and calculated. I also liked the touch of "bad" Cooper using a tape recorder to let Darya know he was onto her - the best possible way of showing how he has perverted everything Cooper stood for (Cooper using a tape recorder for heroics, for everyday musings, et al).
I didn't realize that was Jennifer Jason Leigh as one of his mini-harem/organization. Odd use of her, but...she certainly had a lot of screen presence.
The parts with the Ruth Davenport murder were probably most stilted for me, although Matthew Lillard gave a decent performance. I was anxious the whole time the plus-size woman was on as I was afraid she was going to be humiliated or violently killed and it would be treated in a grotesque way. I'm glad that wasn't the case.
Of anything in these episodes I think I may have been happiest to see a show that had actual closing credits again. The song was gorgeous too.