James D. McCallister

author of the Edgewater Chronicles

Review: TWIN PEAKS (2017)

Or is it, Twin Peaks: The Return? That’s what it’s called on the streaming service I’m using to get Showtime all summer, just to see this continuation of a 25 year-old network television show most casual viewers remember as running into a ditch in its second season and never recovering.

“See you in 25 years…”

While that’s not quite true (see handy graphic below), creators David Lynch and Mark Frost did step away from the show’s active production for a time to work on other projects, during which Twin Peaks veered away from the spine of its central mythology to focus more on humor and quirk.

Furthermore, 1992’s movie prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a remarkable and disturbing work of art on its own terms, featured so little of what home viewers had enjoyed about the show—mainly the portrayal by Kyle MacLachlan of Special Agent Dale Cooper, with his brand of eastern mysticism coupled with an All-American, boyish love of pie and coffee—that it, too, landed with a thud, critically and otherwise.

Even with the notion having been planted by Sherilyn Fenn’s “Laura Palmer” that she’d see us again in 25 years, as well as the cliffhanger of Agent Cooper’s apparent possession by the demon who orchestrated Palmer’s torture and murder, the announcement in 2015 that the show would return for a limited run additional season on Showtime was met with gasps and amazement. Besides Twin Peaks itself having become a bit of a musty pop culture relic, Lynch hadn’t directed a film since 2006’s INLAND EMPIRE (that’s the way he likes it spelled out, all caps).

What gave fans the most hope for a quality return and not merely a cash-grab reboot: Lynch and Frost would write the whole season, and Lynch himself would direct the whole shebang. Add in a lengthy cast announcement filled out not only by most of the old favorite characters but quite a few new actors of note (Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Jim Belushi), and slow-burn interest, anticipation, and PR would build to the premiere in May 2017.

So: after all that, how is it?

Deputy Andy!

Designed quite clearly as a long movie—18 hours of it by the end—six episodes into the weekly run (how quaint!) Twin Peaks 2017 demonstrates that Lynch seems to be firing on all cylinders. The show looks beautiful and cinematic, the sound design is exemplary, and the actors and plot threads, as in the original show, veer from humorous and bizarre to unsettling and violent.

 

Much of what occurs may seem inscrutable on first viewing, but know this for certain: The original White Lodge/Black Lodge central mythology is the spine. Viewers who really want to see how it all hangs together will want to follow Lynch’s advice by examining carefully the last few episodes of the original show, as well as Fire Walk With Me.

Deep-dive fans will also want to explore Frost’s 2016 “novel” called The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a lengthy dossier serving not merely to flesh out the Twin Peaks universe, but provide a lens through which to view the entire history of American conspiracies going back to the time of Lewis & Clark. It’s quite a cool book.

Plot-wise the show picks back up where it left off, with the central dilemma still at hand—evil Cooper has been loosed on the material world, while good Cooper is still trapped in the mysterious, dreamlike world of the Black Lodge. It’s another plane of existence where a rather gnostic view of the world is depicted: entities like Archons live here, feeding on the pain and sorrow (called “garmanbozia” and looking like creamed corn) of human beings, a thread depicted best in FWWM.

When a dopplegänger isn’t good enough, add in a third character for Kyle MacLachlan to play!

While we are introduced in the first two episodes to quite a few new characters and locations alongside teases of the old small town milieu of the original series, it’s not long before it becomes obvious that Cooper, whom we remember with such fondness, has been up to nefarious no-good for a long time. It’s quite a shock and a stretch seeing MacLachlan playing such a part, but he looks like he’s having fun with a monstrous, dangerous persona.

As for further plot summary, it’s simply too much to go into and not worth a casual viewer’s time. If you’re interested in Twin Peaks, or just want to see one of our world-class filmmakers working with few creative restraints in the limited-run TV season form that has emerged in the last few years as a genuinely satisfying alternative to the cartoonish feature films of the modern age, then seek out Showtime’s revival of this groundbreaking series.

A warning: Lynch films are not for the easily triggered or disturbed. While the show has not featured wall-to-wall violence, after the traumatic events of episode six you’ll know why I mention this.

 

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About dmac

James D. McCallister is a South Carolina author of novels, short stories, and creative nonfiction. His latest novel Let the Glory Pass Away releases in January 2017.

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