David Lynch’s magnum opus, “Twin Peaks”, returns to TV after 25 years and wastes no time reminding the world why it became a phenomenon
“I am dead, yet I live.”
“Twin Peaks” is my favorite television series in the world. To be honest, it’s actually closer to being my favorite piece of media, period.
I stumbled upon “Twin Peaks” a little over 15 years ago and it instantly opened my eyes and forever changed my perception of what was possible on television. The disturbing beauty of “Twin Peaks” naturally threw me into the wild at heart, crazy on top world of David Lynch. Then it wasn’t long until I had breezed through the director’s filmography as well as introducing myself to a number of like-minded filmmakers that showed me the different ways in which storytelling and narrative could be explored. It’s no exaggeration to say that “Twin Peaks” has made me the individual that I am today, as well as how my relationship with the series has helped inform the sort of writer that I currently am. My old dog’s name is even Cooper.
“Twin Peaks” connected with countless other people in the same way that it struck a chord with me. It’s the reason why we now have shows like “LOST”, “Carnivale”, “Fringe”, “The Killing”, and so much more serialized gold on television. One of this year’s biggest hits on the CW was their modern adaptation of Archie, but one of the main reasons that “Riverdale” performed so well was due to the small-town murder mystery and Lynchian atmosphere that it ripped straight from “Twin Peaks”. FX’s “Legion” was another of this year’s breakout hits, but it’s also a show that owes a tremendous amount to the nightmarish tone and visuals that Lynch is so often known for.
I started watching “Twin Peaks” during a time when it wasn’t easy to watch “Twin Peaks”. Sure, the first season of the show was available on DVD, but due to interesting licensing rights, the feature-length pilot episode was not included on the set. That means that for those interested in checking out the series, they’d have to do so without the incredibly crucial first episode of the show that introduces the whole infamous Laura Palmer murder, as well as all of the residents of Twin Peaks. Even if audiences were able to track down the separately sold pilot episode on VHS (a DVD copy? Surely you jest), a copy of the show’s second season wouldn’t be legally available until 2007. This meant that you really had to work to finish all of “Twin Peaks”. It was almost a mystery in itself to be able to find all of the pieces and actually finish the series. You had to be an intrepid investigator to even see how the pivotal show concluded. This is how a series is able to remain a phenomenon so long after its debuted. People were hungry—demanding—to seek it out. It’s that same appetite for more that has led to the series coming back to life 25 years after it went off the air.
“Twin Peaks” might now be something that’s readily available. Not only is there a fancy special edition DVD set out that contains the entire series as well as the follow-up feature, Fire Walk With Me, but the series is also up on a number of streaming services. In spite of the series’ reputation seeming to only get stronger through the years, it’s still hard to believe that these new episodes are actually here—let alone that David Lynch is directing all 18 installments of this return. It feels as surreal as some set of events that you’d see playing out in a trippy dream of Cooper’s. And yet, here we are, and wasn’t this just—excuse me—a damn fine return to Lynch’s universe? Once those iconic bars of Angelo Badalamenti’s music started blaring and that familiar green-brown font projected itself on the screen time, weren’t you just instantly transported back to this surreal world where pie goes to die, where birds sing and there’s always music in the air, and of course, where the owls are not what they seem.
When “Twin Peaks’ return first kicks in it rather brilliantly re-plays Cooper’s iconic dream from the first season that mentions Laura’s prophetic statement, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” It plays this scene as a prelude of what’s to come, as if this lengthy departure was Lynch’s plan all along. As if this he’s just been some disciple of the Black Lodge waiting until he has permission to carry out the sentence that’s been prescribed. Lynch’s first duty is to scroll through familiar locations from the series, yet they now feel foreboding in new ways. His new fascination with spinning over the Black Lodge’s zigzagging design to create a disorienting, almost hypnotic effect is an especially brilliant touch to how Lynch is seeing these old areas now. To begin with, trees have never looked more beautiful with high definition being very kind to these Northwestern locales. But Lynch scrolls through these areas with a new menace. They feel frightening in ways that they didn’t before. Right from the jump Lynch makes it seem as if something is unleashed here.
Many people have been saying that it’d be smart to not expect Lynch to do the exact same thing this time around with “Twin Peaks” and how these new episodes could result in a very different show. While I do think that Lynch has a lot of new things to say here, it’s almost comical that this season starts out with nearly a carbon copy dream mystery that Cooper must figure out in order to solve something larger at hand. The Giant leaves Cooper with the details: 430 (and later 253), Richard and Linda, and two birds with one stone. Lynch is clearly having fun with this, almost mocking the aesthetic that he so successfully created by having Cooper respond with a dry, “I understand” to the beyond cryptic message. After that though, Lynch catapults the show from out of its usual comfort zone.
The first two seasons of “Twin Peaks” more or less stayed put in the titular city (give or take a road trip from James). There’s been a lot of talk about how Fire Walk With Me will play a large role in these new episodes and something that that movie did was hop around the map. Season three of Twin Peaks offers up a mysterious scene with Dr. Jacoby but then flies all the way to the bright lights of New York City and officially begins mixing things up. This might feel sacrilegious to some, but it’s beyond beautiful to see how Lynch juxtaposes overhead shots of foliage with booming skyscrapers in the city. In a lot of ways, it feels like Lynch has never felt more alive while shooting this season of the show. The full story of what’s exactly going on in New York (although Tracey’s a bad girl, to be sure) is still waiting to reveal itself, but in my wildest dreams this is the military somehow trying to weaponize the Black Lodge or understand the science between entering and leaving the dimension. What seems like a more plausible (although still unlikely) scenario is that the rich billionaire in charge is maybe trying to open up the Black Lodge and pull Cooper out? Could Audrey have accrued that much wealth by now?
It’s also encouraging to see how Lynch is just allowed to take his time here. There’s been much talk about how Lynch delivered this season as a 400+ page script rather than individual episodes. He wrote this as one piece (which is why these installments are referred to as “parts” rather than “episodes”), which he then broke up into 18 pieces of varying length. It’s practically 15 minutes into this episode before a conventional conversation is had. Lynch is allowed to craft each scene into its own little mystery. It’s this distinct pacing and attitude that gives this show that specific energy that’s weirdly, purely of Lynch.
While there’s never been any doubt that Lynch has lost his touch in regards to his eerier side, he’s also still a pro at balancing it with that bizarre off-kilter humor that is so specific to this series. Ben Horne arguing over a skunk complaint is pure “Twin Peaks”, up and down. Not to mention, every moment between Ben and his wanderlust brother Jerry hits just as well as it did all of those years ago. If characters like Jerry Horne can bring back such overwhelming waves of nostalgia, clearly you are doing something right. The meandering material with maintenance man Hank and the rubes in Buckhorn, South Dakota is also a lot of fun before it takes a turn for the morbidly gruesome.
Lynch has always been wonderful about selecting effective songs to feature throughout his work, but goddamn, the theme song—which might in fact be “American Woman (David Lynch Remix”, which is far too awesome—for Evil Cooper that plays before he kicks some ass is pretty much the perfect introduction to how Bob has been using this guy for all of these years. Not to mention, his line later on, “Boy, you’re wet all right,” is something I never thought I’d hear coming from out of the couth Cooper. It’s unclear what Bob/Evil Cooper’s up to with Otis and Buella, but the way in which he takes Ray and Daria away with him almost feels like he’s channeling Frank Booth from Lynch’s Blue Velvet. MacLachlan nails the stoic, bad-ass nature of this new iteration of the character and he seems to be having a blast playing it. He’ll no doubt be having even more fun if this eventually turns into a season of Good Cooper needing to vanquish Evil Cooper.
On the topic of evil things, thank God Lynch isn’t toning down the horror at all in his work. I think some of the scariest stuff that the director has turned out is found in his last film, INLAND EMPIRE, and the sequence that transpires in New York inside of the surveillance room is pure nightmare fuel. At first I thought that the disturbing visage that was appearing in the box was what the series’ new version of Bob was going to look like, but this appears to be far more savage than that (which is saying something). I’ve always held Bob’s murder of Maddy Ferguson to be one of the scariest things that the show has ever done, but in one fell swoop this stab-happy murder monster instantly replaces that moment. This creature (which might have been the Arm’s evil doppelganger?) made me yell out loud. The moment in the Black Lodge where Laura gets spirited away makes for a close, unnerving second. Some viewers are bound to take exception that so much of the very first episode takes place outside of Twin Peaks itself, but to me it’s always seemed obvious that what really fascinated Lynch was the dark evil and mythos that the city was a gateway for. These new episodes double down on that, which seems to be a fair indication of the direction of where this is all heading.
When the show is in Twin Peaks, it’s satisfying to see things like Hawk occupying the de facto role of sheriff. He’s a pleasant presence to have running the show, in lieu of Truman, and him being in charge of retrieving Cooper has me excited. Especially if he has to work around a bumbling Andy and Lucy as he tries to get the job done. Meanwhile, on the other side of the law in Buckhorn County, there’s a murderer being dealt with that feels a lot more like he’s from out of Se7en that “Twin Peaks”. It sets the stage for a formidable villain and isn’t afraid to hit the ground running when it comes to the gore factor this season. Many people are obviously tuning in to get answers to old questions and see familiar faces again, but there’s also a new mystery brewing here, one which seems to have Matthew Lillard’s Bill Hastings right in the thick of it. He finds himself accused in Ruth Davenport’s grisly murder and he does a wonderful job at progressively crumbling under the pressure.
Bill’s assertions that he wasn’t at Ruth’s apartment but merely dreamed about being there also feels like it’s taking a page right from out of Lost Highway. I’m all for this return to Twin Peaks becoming a synthesis of the many themes and ideas that Lynch enjoys playing with if that’s the route that he chooses to go. There’s a moment in the Black Lodge where Cooper is shown the evolution of the Arm (The Man From Another Place) and it’s hard to not think of the practical effects work done in Eraserhead. Also, how bonkers is it that Lynch replaces Michael J. Anderson with a freaking electrified brain tree!? As if that’s what that little guy was always leading to. I love it.
To be honest, this new murder is what really takes the focus of these first two episodes, even if the tone and mysteries from the first two seasons are still being felt throughout everything. This is far from negative though. In fact, it’s exciting to see how these two narratives eventually dovetail into one. It doesn’t even take long to realize that Bob/Evil Cooper is really the one pulling the strings here as he continues to “manipulate human nature” perfectly. The guy even slams down shoddy diner coffee as if he doesn’t know any better! Furthermore, while death was a rare event in the first two seasons of “Twin Peaks”, Cooper builds up a body count in these first two episodes that’s higher than anything ever seen before. Windom Earle would love this guy. There’s a new angry, bitter energy to the season that is fueling this new Cooper and it makes for an exciting dynamic to have lives be so expendable.
While “Part 2” furthers thing along with the Hastings case, it does pivot things back to Twin Peaks considerably. In fact, it’s rather surprising to see Hawk picking up on the secret to Glastonbury Grove so quickly. However, he’s still not allowed entry to the sacred place. It’s genuinely exciting to see Lynch pulling back the veil on all of this Black Lodge material and not being afraid to start providing answers. It seems like Evil Cooper may be communicating with a consortium of lost souls from the Black Lodge dimension. He touches base with Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie’s character from Fire Walk With Me) who was an FBI agent who disappeared not unlike how Cooper did. Garland Briggs also gets name-dropped as another person in their clique, which only deepens the plot further.
The material with Mr. Todd (Scott Coffey) in Las Vegas also seems to imply that a cabal of people are allowing Bob to inhabit them for some sort of sight unseen payoff. That’s a very interesting idea (one that even makes me think back to the pact between the aliens and the Syndicate in “The X-Files“). Personally, all of this material is fascinating to me, so to hear Evil Cooper talking about knowing that his time is up and that he has ways of weaseling out of his Black Lodge-bound fate is exactly what I want. Earlier seasons of the show might have drifted rudderlessly, focusing on the town’s many inhabitants and unnecessary sidestories. Now that Lynch is on board full time it’s comforting to see what areas he’s interested in focusing on this time around.
“Twin Peaks” was known for being a show that genuinely made viewers unsure of what they were seeing. Like they were being told something in a different language. Lynch is able to successfully conjure that feeling again with an overwhelming sequence where the Black Lodge appears to glitch out. Cooper is rendered “non-exis-tant” during the commotion and it results in some of the craziest stuff the series has ever done, which is truly saying something. With shows like “Legion”, “Hannibal”, and “American Gods” so effectively raising the bar for visual storytelling, it’s encouraging to see that Lynch still has plenty of tricks in his bag. The effects he employs to convey the chaos going on are straight out of the more experimental moments in his short films.
Endings are always difficult, but Lynch nails another homerun by ending this re-introduction with a very Julee Cruise-esque performance going on at the Bang Bang Bar. Lynch shows Twin Peaks’ former generation mingling with its current one as history continues to repeat itself (I also couldn’t help but laugh at the reveal that James got into a motorcycle accident and is “quiet” now). On that note, Lynch’s return to “Twin Peak”s is still a show that makes you grab your head and say, “I have no idea what’s going on” just like the original series did, while managing to expand upon the original text in exciting ways.
This is without a doubt going to be the same caliber of event television that the first iteration was. This truly feels like one of the few revivals of an old property that’s not going to be tainted just because Lynch has carried this story within himself for so many years. Now that Lynch isn’t forced to bide his time with an arbitrary episode order, runtimes, or filler plotlines that he has no interest in, the series is truly able to focus on what it wants to be and that’s super exciting. If this somehow isn’t doing it for you (and admittedly, the visuals of Laura taking her face off or an evil brain tree doppelganger beating up Cooper might be too silly for some), stick with it for a little bit longer. These new installments are the purest distillation of the show possible. If anything, Lynch is going too far down the rabbit hole with these new additions to his tome (which is entirely possible).
It has always felt like “Twin Peak”s has been a show about evil. It’s origin, how it corrupts people, and what happens when it’s let loose. The one overwhelming feeling that these new episodes of “Twin Peaks” fill me with is the feeling of evil being unleashed on a massive scale. The pieces are still very much coming together but it feels like Bob’s time out in the world as Cooper has been leading to some dangerous developments with the powers that he wields. There’s a lot of garmonbozia out in the world to suck up and the guy certainly seems to be covering a lot of ground. Let’s just hope he hasn’t been getting stronger with every new soul that he takes down with him. Hawk doesn’t have a quirky special agent to bounce theories off of. At least not yet.
Evil Cooper himself said it best; “A game begins…”
I can’t wait to keep playing.
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