My Thoughts on Twin Peaks: The Return

David Lynch and Mark Frost spent the past five months taking viewers back to Twin Peaks, a place that cannot be returned to. After sitting through all 18 episodes of 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return, I feel like I know so much more, and so much less, about Twin Peaks. Everything was the same, and everything was different. A dozen questions were answered, and a hundred new ones were posed. Twenty five years ago when Twin Peaks first aired, the question on everybody’s lips was, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” By the end of Twin Peaks: The Return, I was asking not only where was Laura Palmer, but when was Laura Palmer, and maybe even why was Laura Palmer.

A quarter of a century ago, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper arrived in the sleepy town of Twin Peaks to solve Laura Palmer’s murder. Cooper’s investigation was the backbone on which the bizarre, confusing, supernatural, sometimes entertaining and sometimes maddening world of Twin Peaks was introduced to viewers. It was through Coop’s eyes that we met the employees of the Twin Peaks sheriff’s department, Laura Palmer’s friends and family, and other citizens of Twin Peaks. By the time Twin Peaks went off the air in 1991, we knew who had killed Laura — an evil spirit named Bob, who had possessed the body of Laura’s father, Leland. At the end of the second season, Bob had possessed the body of Dale Cooper and was loose in Twin Peaks, while the real Dale Cooper was stuck in the Red Room, the lobby that leads to the Black and White Lodges which are located in another dimension.

In Twin Peaks: The Return we find Dale Cooper still lost in limbo while his doppelganger, Mr. C., continues to roam the earth, doing evil. All we want is for the real Agent Cooper to escape the Red Room, return to earth (or at least a plane of existence we recognize), and defeat the evil Mr. C. Of course for David Lynch to deliver that story gift-wrapped in a linear fashion would be downright Un-Lynchian. Instead we get murders, unidentified bodies, time portals, a talking tree, members of the mob, a little person with a propensity for stabbing people with ice picks, and a big person who makes Yoda sound like Shakespeare. Caught up in the middle of all of this is Agent Cooper who, through some weird inter-dimensional travel, is zapped into the body of “Dougie,” where he spends more than a dozen of the season’s eighteen episodes shuffling around in a near-comatose state.

Twin Peaks: The Return feels like swimming through a waking dream, and sometimes a nightmare. New faces are presented as old friends, and old friends don’t act the way we remember. Characters and plot lines appear and disappear at will. Information is presented out of context, making it impossible to process. Each episode is like a movie presented slightly out of order, with the beginning and the ending cut off. The more episode I watched, the more curiosity turned to frustration. Scenes that should (or at least could) have lasted a few seconds dragged on for minutes. As the weeks passed it became impossible to separate the valid signals from the static.

Twenty five years ago, David Lynch fought with network executives over the fact that he never wanted to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer; ABC executives balked and Lynch compromised, a decision he feels ultimately ruined the show. Originally considered to be a confusing and ridiculous show, today, the original Twin Peaks frequently listed as one of the greatest television dramas of all time. Twin Peaks: The Return suffered from no such network interference. It seems Showtime handed Lynch and co-conspirator Frost a huge budget and absolute control, the result being undeniably Lynchian. Viewers hoping to have much of anything explained to or for them are as innocent as the eternally dazed Dougie, shuffling around and waiting for someone to show them the way.

Like the original, I expect Twin Peaks: The Return to be torn apart, analyzed, discussed, and critiqued for years to come. Almost every character this season has complained about not understanding what’s going on. Every viewer this season has complained about the same thing. In the end, the show landed somewhere between the slice of cherry pie we wanted and the gold-painted shovel we deserved. Everything came together for a brief second before it all imploded, worse than ever before.

I can’t wait for another season. If they make one, I won’t watch it. I loved it. I hated it. It was Twin Peaks.

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