I love Twin Peaks. At the time of writing this, i’m about halfway through the revival series “The Return” and i’ve seen the first two seasons along with the fucking masterful and perfect movie “Fire Walk With Me”. But this isn’t about that.
It was an interesting decision for David Lynch to decide to bring back the beloved show in 2017 when the context of television wasn’t poppy soap operas and police procedurals which the original show embraced as well surrealism, playing with the subconscious in a way that Lynch did with his films like Blue Velvet (a cult classic at the time). Twin Peaks was coming back in an era where it wasn’t the new kid on the block, prestige and more auteur driven television had already came in various shows, some even playing with the surreal like Peaks did (mainly The Sopranos, a few episodes of Mad Men, Atlanta etc.); this all begged the question: what could Twin Peaks offer or at least have something so say in an era where it’s idiosyncrasies would be embraced?
“The Return” stylistically reminds me more of Lynch’s recent work like 2001's Mulholland Drive & 2006’s Inland Empire, mixing humour, cheese, grit, romance and intrigue in a tight bow like the former but being bold enough to be perceived as directionless like the former. “The Return” seems more structured and written out but it plays weirder than the original 90s show, which took a lot of get into for me i’ll be real as i did miss how Lynch mixed the prestige with schlocky popcorn television in some of the best episodes of Twin Peaks but “The Return” is full steam ahead into Lynch wildness contrasting with how mundane he can be in a way the original show and the climate of television could never allow in 90s.
A good example of this is the episode “Part 8” which plays like Lynch’s version of Terrance Malick's Tree of Life (2011) creation sequence as well as elements of his own Eraserhead (1977) showing the origin of Bob and Laura Palmer, I think? It’s something that’s easier to watch and let wash over you than explain but it ends in not much answers but more questions than ever and that’s when I knew something special was going on. This iteration is not here to change TV like the original show did but push the boundaries in the way Lynch does nonchalantly does in every project just from committing to his ideas. There still isn’t quite another creative out there who can balance absurdity, humour, the surreal and the horrifying so well and so close to each other, it breaks ground just through expertise. It’s willing to be dull, lively, exploitative and down right puzzling in the same episode with an utmost respect for the viewer’s time and attention.
There’s a subplot involving the series’ favourite Agent Cooper coming back from the Black Lodge where we found him in Twin Peak S2/Fire Walk With Me where he enters the life of a dopplerganger of himself called “Dougie Jones” who was created by another version of Cooper (Mr. C) possessed by Bob and who escaped the Black Lodge in the S2 finale (if this is too much for you, stop reading and watch the show, I don’t judge). As a viewer seeing Cooper come back in his original sleek black suit with a new antagonist to defeat is exciting but we see him in a baby-ish form; stumbling across rooms, needed to be assisted across most of his daily life, not being able to speak beyond repeating the words others say. This felt so frustrating as a fan but as the series went on these became my favourite scenes, we see Cooper/Dougie simultaneously annoy and warm the heart of his lover “Janey-E” and their son "Sonny Jim", hilariously stumble into success at work and they quickly became the scenes I was most excited to see while literally turning the series’ hero into a bumbling idiot but also dialling in on the purity of Cooper himself and how that inherent part of his nature has not left despite everything he’s been through.
*huge break of writing where I finish the series and don't know what the fuck to think*
It's hard to pinpoint all the themes and ideas that Lynch goes for in this 18 hour television event but there's a through line of nostalgia and regret. Agent Cooper is stuck in a process of trying to fix what went wrong with the past and to go back to a time without pain, loss or suffering but he fails to realise that it is always around us no matter what, fixing what happened in the past doesn't change the future if you cannot understand why the past happened beyond the event itself.
I think this ethos can stretch to the series itself as "The Return" does not try and fix what happened with Twin Peaks in 90s with a show cancellation, Fire Walk With Me planned to be the start of a trilogy but cancelled after the box office and critical response (famously booed at Cannes and even panned by Quentin Tarantino for being "too far up it's own ass"). These things are embraced but are taken to move forward with Lynch's vision for his storytelling with Lynch somewhat reflecting on his need for creative control over profit in a subplot with Norma and a business man.
5 years removed from Twin Peaks: The Return, it's hard to know if it has had the same impact that the original show had on television but it shows that Frost and Lynch are still some of the wildest creative forces in modern western storytelling, Twin Peaks didn't change TV because they wanted to change it but because they saw the medium for more than what it was at the time. And with "The Return" even started an argument about if it was a piece of cinema or television series as it was split into episodes from an 18 hour script. With TV and film merging into one medium even more with mini-series being structured like 8 hour movies (maybe with less skill than here), it's hard to say if this was where prestige tv was headed or where "The Return" lead it to but what I do know is that it proved that even after 25 years, Twin Peaks will always being an outlier in it's league and a proud one.