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Review – Twin Peaks: The Return – A place both wonderful and strange

Finally, that gum I like has come back in style!

Twin Peaks finally returned last night with David Lynch at the wheel on a twisted ride through who knows what as The Black Lodge leaks into America.

I have always been a big fan of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks. I remember watching it first time round when it became a TV sensation. Nothing quite like it had ever been seen before and the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was everywhere. People either seemed to love it or hate it.

Possible spoilers ahead…

The first season flew by in a whirlwind of damn fine coffee and cherry pie. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) was oh so cool in a totally square, mystical kind of way and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) hit my teenage self like the bombshell she was. Wrap it all up in a weird, strange series of events and characters and I was lost. I wanted to be one of the Bookhouse Boys, have a slice of pie in the Double R Diner, and throw rocks at a glass jar with Agent Cooper.

Then came the second season and David Lynch’s involvement was only for a few episodes. We found out who killed Laura Palmer and events became more broadly comic. It lost viewers, but I still enjoyed it. Kenneth Welsh’s Windom Earle was delightfully deranged as he plotted against Cooper and, like Coop, I fell in love with Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham). It was a mish-mash of soap opera, noir and weirdness that lost its way.

Then Lynch came back or the season 2 finale. He threw out what was planned and took us on a journey with Agent Cooper deep into the Black Lodge. A bombshell of surreal imagery ensued that dragged us into “what the hell is going on” land. Then came that ending with the real Agent Cooper trapped behind the red drapes as Cooper / Bob asked “how’s Annie?”

Evil Cooper

We didn’t find out, but we did get to see the events leading up to the beginning of the series in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. David Bowie, Chris Isaac and more showed us what had been going on with Laura Palmer. I never enjoyed the prequel film as much as the show, but it was still a fascinating watch.

Then that was it. There was nothing more and it seemed there never would be.

Luckily that was not the case and we have 18 episodes of new Twin Peaks on Showtime. David Lynch and Mark Frost are back and Lynch has directed all the episodes. He has said that he filmed it all as one big movie and, after watching the first two episodes, I can see how that works. It is all set up and strangeness.

Without the simple question of who killed Laura Palmer, it at first feels like there is no direction to the events that unfold, we see a man watching a glass box in case something should appear in it (or is it a metaphor for the whole Netflix and Chill generation?), a woman’s decapitated head is found with a man’s headless body, Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby Doo) looks really old, and Cooper / Bob looks like a slightly younger Gene Simmons without the Kiss makeup!

For the almost two hours we don’t actually see much of the town of Twin Peaks – we get short scenes showing Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) taking a delivery of some shovels, Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) still sat in his office helped by new to the series Ashley Judd, the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson who sadly passed away shortly after filming her scenes) is still receiving cryptic messages from her log, Andy and Lucy (Harry Goaz and Kimmy Robertson) now have a 24 year old son, the Twin Peaks Sheriff department has two Sheriff Trumans yet we see neither, while Deputy Sheriff Hawk (Michael Horse) seems to be the boss.

All just enough to give us a taste of what we have been missing, with lots of characters still to make an appearance.

However, the majority of the show takes us around America to dirty whorehouses in the back end of beyond, motels off the beaten track, a quick stop in Las Vegas, that aforementioned glass box in a New York City skyscraper, the strange head and body combo, and The Black Lodge.

Agent Dale Cooper has been in the Lodge all this time and, while older, he still has the suit and slicked back hair. He is visited by some familiar and some changed faces (the arm is now a tree) and it seems we get a possible point to it all – find Laura Palmer, but that may not be the case. Anyway, Coop is stuck in The Black Lodge until Cooper Bob returns.

Evil Cooper is out in the underbelly of America. He is happy killing people and is still in contact with Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie played that character the Fire Walk With Me film). He also has a plan to stay away from the Black Lodge.

As you may have guessed, there is a lot going on and it all seems rather disconnected. It put me in mind of the first half of Fire Walk With Me. We see a series of, at first, unconnected events, a murder being investigated and a suspect who doesn’t remember doing it, and other bizarre goings on (the glass box and the two things that appeared in it promise good things and gore). As Lynch said, this is going to be a film cut into 18 parts so definite long form storytelling without the usual conventions of cliffhangers and wrapped up resolutions.

It is the old Twin Peaks seen through the lens of an older, wiser David Lynch. His more recent work had shown more and more of his artistic interests and while I haven’t enjoyed all of them (I’m looking at you Inland Empire) it is great that he has stuck to his artistic vision.

I love how the camera lingers on a person after they have finished talking and the scene has ended. We see them blinking and waiting, while out mine projects various interpretations as to what has just occurred. We get the usual Lynchian thing of some supporting actors giving what appear to be bizarre line readings and you think they’re acting bad. You then realise that their characters are strangers to each other and they don’t know how to interact with each other, and memories of times when you have been in similar situations pop up. Those times when you just don’t want to talk to someone, yet they’re right there with you and you have to fill that gaping silence with something, anything, no matter how innocuous.

Everything looks gorgeous, even the dirty, filthiness of the truck drivers brothel that introduces us to Evil Cooper’s scheme of whatever it is. The soundtrack envelops us with that laid back dreaminess. We get new characters doing new things and you are never quite sure whether their story is done or if they will return.

I can see new viewers wondering just what the hell is going on, and maybe not coming back. Even long time fans will be scratching their heads as we don’t have the soap opera / detective story that opened the original series. There is nothing of the norm for us to grab hold of, but then if there was what would be the point of making it?

If you are going to carry on a story from 25 years ago, you don’t want a rehash of what has gone before. You want slight familiarity to give way to new things, new dreams, new nightmares and that’s what the return of Twin Peaks appears to be giving us.

I don’t know what is going on, but I am enjoying the ride and it it truly is a place both wonderful and strange. That’s the thing about Lynch. It’s not really about the destination, it just about the journey and the various stops along the way.

I really do want to know how Annie is. I hope we find out.

What did you think of the first two episode of Twin Peaks: The Return? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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