Monday, October 23, 2017

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

There's enough to like about the unusual Twin Peaks redux to keep most fans going, probably, through the 18 one-hour episodes of David Lynch's intuitive crackpottery and never-ending freak show of the human unconscious. But there could also well be enough of those Lost Highway and Inland Empire dead ends to chase them away too. I wouldn't want to bet how many are actually making it all the way through The Return without bailing. For those who bailed, yeah, it only gets more inexplicable, but you missed Sheryl Lee. I know—at a certain point the mystery is why you care anymore about the mystery (inside the enigma wrapped in the riddle coiled around the conundrum all lathered up in ambiguous confusion). A certain exhaustion with mystery might be the very point and wouldn't that be fine.

I went all the way anyway and thought it was worth it. Not least because, with some 17-odd hours to spend, director David Lynch and his Twin Peaks writing partner Mark Frost found all kinds of surprising ways to be generous. Every cast member who made it back gets at least one genuinely nice scene, with the possible exception of Lucy Brennan, who is only annoying, and that's not Kimmy Robertson's fault. Even Lucy's now-husband Andy (Harry Goaz with a Jack Nance hairstyle) has one or two amazing scenes. (Did they marry on the show? I can't remember.) Lynch and Frost have sly fun with the legal cannabis now available in Twin Peaks, of course. Cherry pie and coffee make significant appearances, as they should. Laura Dern and Naomi Watts do their things, and are amazing as usual. And some of the most stunning establishing shots of cityscapes I have ever seen are casually tossed in there too—no kidding. Las Vegas and New York especially.

It's Kyle MacLachlan who makes the whole thing work, as much as it does, more than ever. Or it's easier to see how Dale Cooper is the one holding it together, from even the earliest scenes of the original TV series ("Sheriff, what kind of fantastic trees have you got growing around here?"). He gets the starring credit here and deserves it. He tears apart and puts back together the Dale Cooper role in a few different (albeit mystical) ways. David Lynch gets relatively more screen time than he's ever given himself, even in Fire Walk With Me, which I think is significant of the level of his involvement. He also directs every episode. For better or worse (you be the judge), there's also ample time to elaborate a woozy metaphysics based on overdetermined Native American arcana, nighttime dream signals, and midcentury fashions. The story at those points often feels too much like an episode of The X-Files, which in its own way perhaps owed its existence in the first place to the Twin Peaks original. The original series aired on CBS, by the way—somehow I remembered it as ABC. In the end, now, as I ponder the mass of clues set before me, I tentatively settle on things like extra-dimensionality to explain it. Or, a familiar fallback, no explanation at all, the implication being that no explanations are possible ever, for anything.

I don't want to explain it anyway. If its fantastical details are maybe too literal for my taste (I still haven't brought myself to see what the internet has to say about it), at the same time, as so often, they are also generally way too obscure. But it's better than Inland Empire. Chronologically, in an exercise I'm not yet prepared to execute, but can foresee doing one day, the whole thing starts with the 1992 movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, then proceeds to both seasons of the original series, and then finally to this recent Showtime production. Don't wait another 25 years!


  1. The original definitely aired on ABC.

  2. Yup, you're right, I'm wrong again. Not even sure now what my source was for CBS. Should have just stuck with my original impulse. Thanks for the correction and for reading.

  3. Actually, at least for the time being, I think I'm bailing after four episodes. I'm too impatient right now for the slow pace. Thinkin' I might try the first season of Stranger Things. Ads for the new season remind me of Super 8, Spielberg, etc.