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Twin Peaks: The Return – Parts 1 and 2

Twin Peaks is back.  The show’s opening moments remind us how long we have been waiting.  In a clip from the final episode from its original run, Laura Palmer tells Special Agent Dale Cooper that she will see him again in twenty-five years.  It’s actually been twenty-six years for us, but who’s counting?  We had Fire Walk With Me to tide us over.  That conversation took place in the mysterious Black Lodge where Agent Cooper still resides.

Flashbacks remind viewers of the show’s infamous second season cliffhanger in which our hero was trapped in the Lodge while his evil Doppelganger took his place in the real world.  I wondered if Lynch and company might sidestep this dangling plot thread but the new episodes offer no easy solution.  Coop is still trapped and his Doppelganger is a terror that needs to be stopped.  This is the story I have waited a quarter century to see completed and Twin Peaks didn’t disappoint.

But there’s a lot more going on in the two-part season premiere.  Lynch has 18 hours of television to play with and he’s taking his time introducing new characters, locations and mysteries.  Lynch demands patience from his audience and that was frequently on display in the first two episodes.  Perhaps that is why Showtime is doubling up episodes for the first two weeks.  It would be maddening to have Coop’s story parceled out one week at a time.  With a full two hours to luxuriate in, I didn’t mind spending time learning about the world outside of the town of Twin Peaks.

Unlike the first two seasons of the show, the revival skips around to different locations.  In New York, we’re introduced to a young man (unnamed) with a top secret job.  He sits in a room and watches a glass box waiting for something to appear.  Sound familiar?  The young man is sitting on a couch doing more or less what we are doing as we watch the show.  Only there are also cameras all around so maybe he’s a surrogate filmmaker.  In Twin Peaks, he can be both.

The man is visited by a friend name Tracy.  She brings him coffee as an excuse to get past the security guard into the top secret room.  Her first attempt is unsuccessful, but on her subsequent visit the security guard is missing.  The young couple doesn’t question the guard’s disappearance.  Instead, they take advantage of the opportunity to make out on the couch in front of the glass box.  Their Netflix and chill session becomes downright chilling when the box goes dark and an otherworldly creature appears inside.  The couple looks on in horror as the creature escapes the box and, well, I guess eats their faces.

The scene plays out very slowly.  Lynch builds a sense of foreboding and dread.  As is the case in countless horror movies, you know this won’t end well.  But when something finally does happen, it’s strange and unsettling enough to take you by surprise.

Lynch takes a similar approach to comedy.  In Buckhorn, South Dakota, a woman calls the police because she thinks something may have happened to her neighbor.  The police arrive and they set about finding the apartment complex manager so they can get a key.  A series of miscommunications goes on and on as the woman attempts to be helpful but repeatedly comes up short.  After enlisting the help of the equally unhelpful maintenance man, the woman remembers that she was supposed to water her neighbor’s plants and offers up a key she had all along.

A scene like this may frustrate some viewers because it demands a lot of patience.  This is Lynch’s idea of humor because no one gets their faces eaten off.  Of course it all ends in the revelation of a bloated, decapitated corpse.  But that’s just Lynch keeping us off our guard.  You never know when the show’s eccentricities will end in goofy slapstick or grisly horror.  Sometimes both.

The local high school principal (played by Matthew Lillard) is brought in for questioning.  Despite his insistence that he had never been in the apartment building, his fingerprints are all over the place.  Eventually we learn that he was having an affair with the murdered woman.  The principal confesses he had a dream in which he killed the woman, but he insists it was just a dream.  Shades of Lynch’s Lost Highway.

Lillard’s wife isn’t buying it.  She tells him that she knew about his affair and she’s having at least one affair of her own.  Turns out, she’s been sleeping her her husband’s lawyer.  That might represent a conflict of interest, but we’re unlikely to find out.  Because the wife receives a visit from Dark Cooper who shoots her in the head with the lawyer’s gun.

Coops’ Doppelganger has been dealing with some criminal types.  He sends them out for information he wants.  He stresses this point.  He has wants, not needs.  The information he wants is a set of coordinates which will somehow allow him to avoid being sucked back into the Black Lodge now that his quarter century of freedom is up.  MacLachlan is surprisingly intimidating as ruthless Cooper.  I had no idea he had it in him to be such a tough guy.  After recording a phone conversation in which his associates discuss their plans to do away with him, Dark Coop turns the tables on them and then shacks up with Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Meanwhile, in the Black Lodge, the real Dale Cooper is having a Twin Peaks reunion.  The giant is there as is the One-Armed-Man.  The Man From Another Place has been replaced by a weird tree-like creature because actor Michael J. Anderson had a rather public and unpleasant falling out with Lynch.  That’s a shame, but it turns out not to be a major obstacle for the show.  Turns out a backwards-talking tree with what appears to be a brain in its branches is equally unnerving as a dancing dwarf.

Leland and Laura Palmer are also there despite having died in the original series.  Laura tells Cooper that she is dead, but lives on.  For an old time fan, there is an undeniable nostalgia fix in seeing these two characters together again.  But that ends when Laura is sucked away in what appears to be a painful manner.  Whatever afterlife she has in the Black Lodge, it does not appear to be a peaceful one.  Hopefully, Agent Cooper can address that once he returns to the physical world.

Unfortunately, escaping the Black Lodge isn’t as easy as hanging out in the waiting room for twenty-five years.  In order for Coop to get out, his Doppelganger has to return.  When it seems like Cooper has found the exit, a nearby statue transforms into the Man From Another Place’s doppelganger and attacks him.  The floor beneath him gives way and Cooper falls into what the tree creature calls non-existence.  Or perhaps cancellation.

But Cooper is back in the glass box.  We flashback to Tracy and her unnamed TV-watcher as they wondered where the security guard went.  Cooper appears in the box and floats around helplessly.  What does it all mean?  If you watch enough David Lynch, you know that’s up to you to decide.

Over the course of two hours, the show checks in with familiar characters.  Andy and Lucy are married and have an adult son.  They still work for the sheriff and they are still adorable.  Deputy Hawk has been promoted and with the help of the Log Lady is trying to find Agent Cooper.  Their scenes are bittersweet in that Catherine E. Coulson filmed her half of their phone conversation before she died in 2015.  Thank goodness we got one final message from the log.

Sarah Palmer is glimpsed watching a violent nature program on TV.  The Horne brothers are up to their old shenanigans.  Ben still runs the Great Northern but Jerry has moved into the newly legalized pot business.  It seems to suit him.  Dr. Jacoby is out in the woods receiving a shipment of shovels for some reason.  And as the second hour ends, we see James Hurley and Shelly Johnson hanging out at the Bang Bang Bar.  After all the disturbances we have witnessed, it’s comforting to see these characters back in our living room.

I waited a long time for Twin Peaks to return.  During most of that time, it seemed like too much to hope for.  Now that it’s back, I can only say that it was worth the wait.  I hope you will join me for the next several weeks of weirdness in Twin Peaks.  As much as possible, I intend to do weekly write-ups although I know at least one of them will be delayed.  To the extent that it’s possible, I will try to keep my recaps accessible to those who aren’t watching along at home.  But do yourself a favor and subscribe to Showtime.  You don’t want to miss this.

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Posted on May 22, 2017, in TV, twin peaks. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. daffystardust

    There was a nice mix of interesting new mysterious situations with just enough well-placed references to the original to leave me with absolutely no shame for the genuine impact they had.

    In particular, the show’s returned score by Angelo Badalamenti and a specific repeated memorable line from Laura Palmer struck home sharply and took me back to the early 90s.

    I was tempted to break out my second hand suit vests and Robyn Hitchcock records.

    Hopefully this new version continues to be as weird and funny and stilted and upsetting as it has every right to be.

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    • Starting episode three now. I’m guessing people’s enjoyment level is going to rely heavily on what they want out of a TP revival. If the only Lynch you liked was the show, this season may be too much for some viewers. Personally I prefer my Peaks with more Lynch than Frost.

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  2. daffystardust

    I decided to watch a couple of old episodes on Netflix to get a taste of the original series.

    I’ve gotta say, that even though I knew what was going to happen, “Lonely Souls” was every bit as surprising and brutal and wistful as it was back in 1990. I just may be hooked enough to re-swallow the whole series over the long weekend.

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    • I watched most of the episodes relatively recently. To prepare for the new season, I rewatched Lost Souls, Beyond Life and Death and Fire Walk With Me. All three were excellent.

      I remember watching Lost Souls when it aired. My roommate and his girlfriend didn’t watch the show, but they saw some of the previous episode and decided to watch this one with me.

      In order to properly describe the experience, I need to share something dark. Maggie, my roommate’s girlfriend, had been raped. As you can probably imagine, the assault in that episode hit her extra hard.

      Tom, my roommate, told me they couldn’t watch the show anymore. I think he wanted me to give it up as well. I assured him the show was not typically that dark or violent. The following week, Maggie came back for more. Despite finding the material upsetting, she was hooked.

      A year later, Tom and Maggie were broken up. I lived with a different bunch of guys and didn’t hear from either of them very often. But when Fire Walk With Me opened, Maggie called to see if I wanted to go see it. I did, but after reading the terrible reviews I might have skipped it if she hadn’t called.

      We watched the movie in a nearly empty theater in total silence. It was Lost Souls times ten. I have no idea what was going through her head. She was clearly moved, troubled and transfixed. I have read accounts that Laura Palmer’s story has been a touchstone to women who have been through similar experiences. I can’t imagine. All I know is that I have a strong reaction to it without having suffered any abuse.

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      • daffystardust

        I can only imagine how those scenes would effect someone who has been a victim of violence. Especially someone who has been victimized by a family member. I am definitely horrified and upset by what I see, but of course my reaction is one of general human empathy and artistic impact.

        Lynch has the unique ability to reach into the impulsive terrors of his audience in a way that is almost never predictable or hackneyed (he leaves those qualities for some of the other portions of his work). My reaction to Fire Walk With Me was definitely that it was too bleak and hopeless. Part of what helped make Twin Peaks work as a series was the hopeful vein than ran through it no matter what horrors or ethical weaknesses we witnessed. This hope brought us back, somehow knowing that eventually Laura Palmer’s murder would be avenged in some small way.

        The unhappy ending I was so thrilled by at the end of the 2nd season was only effective for me because it felt like a purposeful, but very logical, pulling of this hopeful rug out from under us.

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