Instead of a typically long and pretentious preamble typical of my work, I’m just going to dive right in and say that the new season of Twin Peaks is exactly the type of programming that “serialized” television was made for. Much of the shows experiencing huge numbers in viewership owe their legacy to the little show that could all the way back in the 90’s. Before Twin Peaks debut, there weren’t many tv shows that soaked up the public consciousness whole sale in the way it’s typical of programming today. When the first season dropped back in the early 1990’s, it kind of invented the sort of water cooler discussions we have at work and elsewhere. The mystery behind Who Killed Laura Palmer really captured the imaginations of many people back in the day who kept up with each episode each week not only because it was riveting but also to stay relevant in the conversation the next day arriving at work. Nobody wanted to be left behind in the zeitgeist that Twin Peaks blew the doors open on (and the X-Files would go on to later cement). Those original seasons (more so the first one than the second) had such an electric mix of bizarre ambiance, small town eccentricities and luscious mysteries to bask in that it literally spread across the country like wildfire.
Sadly, once the actual mystery as to Laura Palmer’s death was solved, the ratings started to drop and quality of the actual storytelling began to suffer. The supernatural elements evolved from elegant window dressing to full blown plot devices and it seemed that people just weren’t ready to fall down that deep a rabbit hole. In a ballsy move, David Lynch (who supposedly only had a loose sort of creative control over the second season) came back for at the time the series finale and ended the whole thing on a cliff hanger. In true Twin Peaks fashion, it was a gutsy move that in my opinion divided fans across the board but showed that Lynch wasn’t afraid to go extra weird and mix up things up. Not long after the show came to an abrupt end… Lynch decided to film the infamous Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me movie. This film acts as a prequel to the series detailing the final moments of Laura Palmer’s life leading up to her death in the series pilot. It doubled down and went full tilt boogie on the outlandish and extremely weird style with which Lynch is known for and again divided fans even further. I for one relish every moment of this quaintly surreal universe he’s built and salivate at every chance to revisit it.
Flash forward 25 years and rumblings had begun to drum up of a revival series to the original show coming back to television. No one knew what to expect other than creators David Lynch and Mark Frost were going to be in full creative control of the project. After many months of rumors that David Lynch had decided to walk away from the project, Showtime had announced that they were bringing back the show with both Lynch and Frost in tow for a full 18 episode run called Twin Peaks: The Return.
As of this writing, we are now 7 episodes (all though the network refers to them as “parts”) deep into this revival and I’m overjoyed to state that this show is not only as brilliant as when we left it, but perhaps even eclipses the first two seasons in a big bad way. Lynch has decided to go the same very unconventional route of the movie, but at the same time telling the story in a deceptively straight forward way. If that doesn’t make any sort of sense, allow me to explain.
Yes, the actual framing of the events that have unfolded thus far aren’t always told in a linear matter. There are so many characters new and old that we have to focus on that it’s often hard to stay tuned in on one plot thread or through line. Episodes don’t always connect in a neat way. Sometimes the end of a particular show doesn’t get picked up again till a few episodes later and it sometimes starts up well after the point we left off causing us to think we missed something along the way. I know some might accuse that of being sloppy storytelling, but if there’s one thing you can say of David Lynch’s body of work, it’s that there’s always a plan and no scene is extraneous or without service to the story being told.
We’re so used to every episode of television lately wrapping up in a neat little bow on some level reserving cliff hangers and unresolved endings for the season finale, that when it comes to being second nature for Twin Peaks throughout… it can be a jarring experience.
However, the weirdness is usually reserved for the way the story is being told and not the story itself (save for all the Black Lodge visions that Dougie/Coop has since escaping the Lodge itself).
The new season tells a rather straight forward story of good vs Evil and the steps a man must take to restore his identity to its once shiny glory. I don’t want to go into super spoiler territory for those that haven’t seen the show, but I promise you that the weird vibes you might get from picking it up only really touch how these stories are told and not always the content itself. I like that this revival makes the viewer work a little harder for the revelations and plot developments we so thoroughly crave in this updated binge-watching society we now find ourselves in. Not that I don’t like having access to all that content at once, watching a story like this unfold week by week giving us little bits and crumbs on the way to the big reveal at the end of the road feels infinitely more rewarding to me. That’s just my opinion though. It’s like we’re taking the journey with the characters as opposed to being purely spectators on a ride we already know the outcome of.
The new series doesn’t just take place in the town of Twin Peaks but unfolds across many different settings across the country. Yet every scene that takes place outside of the original town in some way ties back to its inhabitants or the weirdness that originated there. Like I said every scene, every line of dialogue has a purpose and nothing exists just for the sake of being weird or pretentious. I love that this show can grow in scope yet still retain the more intimate setting of its story and the character relationships contained there within. This show is proof that beloved cult properties can disappear for huge chunks of time and return with all the vigor and vitality of its original incarnation without missing a single step (I’m looking at you Firefly… someday…)
Twin Peaks: The Return is the perfect storm of reaching maximum potential in the extending of a pre-existing cult fandom well past when it went off the air. Having both David Lynch and Mark Frost return and shepherd the show through this new era is absolutely the only way this show succeeds and believe me this is a home run in every sense of the word. All of your favorite characters with a vast array of interesting new ones return to the scene and it’s like a homecoming of sorts seeing all these people this many years later after having been with them last. Twenty-Five years later, Twin Peaks has come roaring back to life with a vengeance, showing people how things are done and bringing with it the weirdness and the things that made people fall in love in the first place; it’s as if nothing more than a day has gone by in the intervening time. Watching the revival up until this point makes me think that perhaps they’d been planning it all those years in between with how perfectly everything works in these new episodes. Make no mistake… Twin Peaks: The Return is made almost strictly for fans and very heavily leans on knowledge of the first two seasons. However, maybe it’s time you guys go back and watch the first two seasons on Netflix. Because I guarantee not even one episode in you’ll be a fan and you can join the rest of us on this roller coaster ride of awesome that is Twin Peaks.
PS… sorry for the terribly amazing pun in the title.