Twin Peaks: The Return, Part One

“I’ll see you again in twenty-five years.”

When the second season of Twin Peaks premiered in fall of 1990, curious fans were hankering to know the answers to two mysteries: Who killed Laura Palmer? And who shot Special Agent Dale Cooper in the first season finale? But showrunners David Lynch and Mark Frost had different plans. It took eighteen minutes for Dale Cooper to get off the floor, longer to find out who shot him, and many more episodes to discover who killed Laura Palmer.

That episode’s stylistics spelled the end for Twin Peaks as watercooler television, although it took some viewers a few episodes to realize it. Then as now, Lynch and Frost—mostly Lynch—eschew traditional shorthand of character and plot, preferring an immersive experience in which quotidian moments become fraught simply through duration, repetition, and delay.

Having rejected traditional time-saving techniques, or what some creators might refer to as “pacing,” Lynch instead focuses on creating a symbolic system. The red room, the Black Lodge. The Arm, which has a twenty-first century update in Twin Peaks: The Return as an electrified tree with a brain at the top. The Giant, owls, logs, shovels, and donuts. These objects mean something, even if we are still not sure what that something may be.

And we shouldn’t be sure. “Who killed Laura Palmer?” was the hook for the original series, but Lynch quickly began to ask bigger questions, like “What is the nature of evil?” and “How do we live with the knowledge of that existence?” After the first two episodes of TP: The Return, we can sense that those latter two questions remain the important, leaving the only hook as “Will this be worth my time?”

For me, it will. I enjoy Lynch’s aesthetic even more now that he has access to a twenty-first century budget on a pay-cable channel. I love little moments, like the prolonged shot of EvilCooper’s headlights on the road in Part One echoing Hawk’s flashlight in the woods in Part Two. The Red Room, and the effect of the camera panning over the zigzag floor, was beautiful.

And I’m also curious to know what the hell this is going on.

Twenty-five years ago, Bob took over Cooper’s body after Coop demonstrated imperfect courage in the Black Lodge. Now, Kyle MacLachlan’s EvilCoop is ruddy, surly, and wearing an awful lot of leather for someone who used to espouse the Tibetan Method of investigation. He beats people up and hangs out with bad characters. He’s practically as bad as the Renault brothers. (And they were Canadian!)

Meanwhile, in New York City, a young man watches a glass box and maintains video cameras that track what happens in that box. It’s a beautiful metaphor for television in general, and this show in particular: watching a box, waiting to see something that may or may not appear. When the box goes black and a blurry specter escapes, it’s a moment of narrative exuberance. Finally, something has happened, for us the viewers and for the young man who was briefly distracted from his job.

Also meanwhile—there’s a lot of mean to while in this episode—Ruth Davenport, a South Dakotan librarian, is dead, her head perched on top of a man’s body. Matthew Lillard seems to have killed her. In Twin Peaks, the Log Lady’s log has a message for Hawk. Something is missing, and he needs to find it.

It’s not a hook on par with the mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder, but it is enough.

Damn Fine Coffee

• Ashley Judd’s brief cameo, in which she and Ben Horne discuss how a skunk got into the Great Northern Hotel, reminded me of Pete and his famous line about a fish in the coffeepot.

• One Sheriff Truman is sick, the other is fishing. Hmm…

• Do you think the Glass Box Ghost was attracted to sexual energy?

• Carl Strucken, who plays the friendly giant, is listed as “???????” in the credits.

Programming Note: Showtime aired the first two episodes on Sunday, May 22nd, but made episodes three and four available online, likely because of the upcoming American Memorial Day holiday on May 28th. I’ve reviewed the first episode here, and the second here. Thomas Ijon Tichy will review the third, and then I’ll dive back in for the fourth.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

3 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Lynch and Frost are making no effort whatsoever to ease new viewers into this universe. Or even old ones. I spent most of these two episodes confused as hell and when I wasn't confused I was seriously freaked out. It's good to see that Lynch hasn't lost his skill for creating truly unsettling imagery.

TJ said...

"Shoot. Oooh, now I'm so curious, you're driving me crazy."

LOLLOLLOL.

I don't know why, but I thought that was funny:) I guess it must have been the Lynchian delivery of it all:)

------------

Reboots. Thinking of Prison Break. I lasted one episode then I realized why PB was cancelled in the first place. This type of story can only be told once. It was totally pointless to blow some new life into this.

With that in mind I was very hesitant going into Twin Peaks The Return. But how cool was this!!??!! I can't believe what I just saw. I don't understand what I just saw. But it was frikkin' awesome! And almost all actors have returned! And that last scene at the bar had me smiling from ear to ear. (OK I know that was ep 2, but for me the first two eps were a unity).

I'm loving this. Which is unexpected, I wasn't that big a fan back in the day...

Docnaz said...

I was a huge fan myself, back in the day. I saw a commercial for it and I was inrigued. I had not watched network TV since I was 15 in the 70s ( just PBS and cable movies. This looked different, though, and it was. I watched the season finale by myself with a glass of Champagne.

The reboot certainly has none of the immediate payoff of the the original pilot. The original was more cool ( like James) than weird and sexy and funny and intriguing. I spent the first hour and a half wondering "will this be worth my time?" In the end, it was. I went from apprehensively bored to exhilierated in the way only Lynch can make me feel. I have never felt any of his movies were as good as Twin Peaks and I watched them all (except Eraserhead and his last) hoping to find the magic again. That is not to say I don't like his movies. My favorite is Wild at Heart. The first two shows had too little humor, I felt. But in the end I was satisfied.

Evil Cooper was wearing snakeskin, like Sailor in Wild at Heart.
Shelly, Lucy and Good Cooper seemed to not age at all.
Laura was eerily beautiful still.
Who was the other male at the Bang Bang at the end. Do I know him?
The actress who played Laura's mom was also a character in The Killing, which had so many parallels to Twin Peaks.
Overall, I am excited.