Art films are unpopular because a majority of people do not like them. That is a plain fact and you can take it to the bank, where you can whisper it into an ATM maybe. But art television? Man, get real. Who wants to embrace challenging or esoteric concepts on a work night? Not while Sheldon is nerdin' off and apocalypse survivors are beating each other to death with little league equipment.
Let's keep it simple, art! Tell us exactly how to feel and then let us go to bed. But what if — and let me get a little wild here — challenging or esoteric art were actually valued by mass audiences and allowed to exist within pop culture? That's the question Showtime and David Lynch are asking with 18 audaciously difficult new hours of Twin Peaks. And now 2017 is saved.
Twenty-seven years ago, co-creator Lynch Trojan Horsed an adaptation of his dream journal into primetime television in the guise of a cozy, small-town whodunnit. By the third episode of Twin Peaks, which featured a backwards-talking little person shimmying through a red velvet room, it should have been clear to everyone that Twin Peaks was never going to be that easy. For a brief and wonderful moment, the strangest show on television was the most popular show on television.
But within a year audiences grew tired of doing all the interpretation themselves and moved on to more easily digestible pastures. Which, fair! Proper cult appreciation can't form until the majority turns its back on something. Well, Lynch's Trojan Horse has returned, and this time he's taken advantage of the current TV nostalgia craze that's exhumed many other beloved shows, but he's smuggled in something much bolder: Legit avant garde television, to out-art even the Peak TV he himself helped create.
In short, the first two new episodes of Showtime's Twin Peaks revival are as weird and wonderful (and challenging!) as I'd hoped. Let's talk about "The Return" Parts 1 and 2!
Flashbacks to the original series popped up throughout the first two episodes, and also kicked the whole thing off. Specifically the part from the then-series finale where Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) informed Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) that their story would resume again in 25 years. Replaying this clip was the ultimate told-you-so cartwheel. Nailed it.
From there we were treated to the new opening credits... Gone are the lengthy shots of logs getting buzzed and birds chirping, as they've been replaced by aerial shots of Twin Peaks, Washington, and dizzying imagery of the Black Lodge zig-zag pattern whirling around us. And the theme song! Oh, that theme song. It felt like a warm hug from an old friend.
Our first glimpses at the modern-day characters came during this exchange between Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and someone who LOOKED like the Giant (Carel Struycken), but was credited as a character named "????????" which was honestly one of the options my parents considered when I was born, so don't judge.
The two of them discussed a few things that were hard to comprehend. Numbers and names and aphorisms about killing two birds with one stone, plus it was all in black & white for some reason. Agent Cooper seemed to get what ???????? was saying, so I trust him to remember it all. But yeah, no, I was already lost and loving it.
Our first scene in the town of Twin Peaks featured Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), who received delivery of about eight shovels. Friend, I can't tell you what he intends to do with all those shovels, but maybe we will learn in hour 15 or 16.
From here the episode really began to go into unexpected territory. By that I mean, New York City (which, I laughed out loud when the title "New York City" appeared over a shot of the city's iconic skyline. Oh, THAT'S what that place is called.) Anyway, we were in a Manhattan high-rise where a glass box was being watched by a handsome young man.
His main job seemed to be staring at this empty box with a haunted expression while occasionally getting up to change the memory cards of the cameras currently trained on it. Seemed like a good gig, the kind listed in the "Other" section on Craigslist.
A lady named Tracey kept showing up to bring the guy coffee and hopefully flirt her way inside the clearly top secret facility. Would her feminine charms earn her entry? Stay tuned.
Then Ashley Judd got a job as Benjamin Horne's (Richard Beymer) new secretary, and she had to pretend to be charmed by Ben Horne's brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) who had spent the last quarter century becoming a mega-stoner.
And yep, the Horne brothers are still a borderline vaudeville act! Some things never change. (No Audrey in these episodes, unfortunately.)
We then checked in with Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) down at the Sheriff's station. Apparently after the events of Season 2, crime in Twin Peaks had gone way down and they were now back to a sleepy hamlet where very little law enforcement was necessary. That being said, according to Lucy there were now TWO Sheriff Trumans (possibly owing to the fact that Michael Ontkean opted not to return for this season and Robert Forster will instead be introduced as Sheriff Harry S. Truman's brother).
Um, hey, remember in the Season 2 finale when Agent Dale Cooper was seemingly possessed by BOB in the Black Lodge and then re-entered the real world? Well, here's what that person looks like now. That's right, unless I'm mistaken, it appears BOB has been inhabiting Cooper's body for the past 25 years and had not shampooed even once. Making matters worse, he seemed to be some kind of crime lord or hitman, and he was in the middle of some shady dealings with an upstanding local family.
Man, I loved this lady. She didn't have much to do, but I hope she'll be back. Same with her roommates:
I wonder if they've got a room for rent, because sign me up.
These two were the actual low-lives that BOB was looking for, but what did he need them for? It wasn't clear.
Back at the Manhattan glass cube room, Tracey successfully flirted her way inside and within minutes the two youngsters were naked and boning. And then guess what popped into the glass box behind them? This friend:
Yeah this moment was already plenty terrifying, but then the creature burst through the glass and bit their heads and faces off!
Can I be honest for a second? This was one of the scariest things I've seen on TV, but I was excited to see Joy Behar finally branch out into acting. Didn't know she had it in her!
And then the episode shifted to Buckhorn, South Dakota. Come to think of it, a majority of these two episodes of Twin Peaks did not take place in Twin Peaks! Which makes sense... Cosmic evil doesn't always respect state lines. Anyway, this woman here nearly collapsed from the stench coming from the apartment next door, so the cops were called. They were not stoked about what they found.
It was bad enough that a woman had been murdered, but why had her body been replaced with that of an obese man?
It was rude and strange, and it also constituted an official murder mystery to be solved. Not exactly a Laura Palmer scenario, but at least it was something! (Also, Jane Adams had a brief appearance as a crime scene investigator and she is always a pleasure.)
I was lucky enough to see this episode in a packed theatre and you should've heard the hushed reverence that swept over the room when the Log Lady first appeared. Filmed shortly before the late Margaret Coulson's death in 2015, her performance is simultaneously fragile and a joy to behold. It's a testament to David Lynch's innate humanity that a character many considered to be an absurd joke back in the '90s is now the beating heart of this enterprise. And this brief, cryptic exchange between the Log Lady and Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) left me in actual tears.
His "Goodnight, Margaret" to her "Goodnight, Hawk" was almost too much to bear. Rest in peace, ICON.
Anyway, the Log Lady urged Hawk to look into Dale Cooper's disappearance finally, and Lucy and her babydaddy Andy (Harry Goaz) reminded Hawk that Cooper hadn't been seen since before their 24-year-old son Wally had been born. And worse yet, Cooper hadn't sent a Christmas card even once! For that reason alone it was clear Hawk knew he had to find Cooper.
So, back to that beheading in South Dakota... The cops matched some fingerprints to a local principal, and that guy was played by Matthew Lillard. Clearly he'd been having an affair with the victim, but had he actually murdered her? He claimed no!
Unfortunately for him, investigators found what appeared to be a chunk of sashimi in the trunk of his car, so he was at the very least an unsanitary eater.
But this exchange with his high-strung wife revealed that they'd both been having affairs, and she seemed a little TOO happy to see him thrown in prison. This guy knows what I'm talking about:
Yeah, nobody's quite sure what the deal was with the painted-black man in the cell next door, or why his body disappeared before his head floated up to the ceiling. But maybe it's none of our business? Did we consider that option?
Anyway, then Matthew Lillard's wife arrived home to find none other than BOB pointing a gun at her. He quickly murdered her, and it was then that I realized maybe that not only was BOB a hitman, but his specialty was jumping into other people's bodies so as to frame other people for the murders. Like perhaps this woman and her lover hired BOB to possess her husband to kill his mistress? I don't know, I'm just speculating, which I realize is probably pointless here, but it's still fun.
We then got this seemingly unrelated scene set in Las Vegas in which a man handed a wad of cash to another man and they both commiserated about having to work for a bad person. Was it the same "anonymous billionaire" who'd funded the glass box project in New York? Was there some wealthy villain out there we hadn't met yet? Again, just questions!
At this point if you'd been fretting that we hadn't spent enough time in the Black Lodge, guess what? It was now Black Lodge o'clock! First of all, imagine sitting in that room for 25 years, all the TV you'd miss. All the political debates.
On second thought, that place looks way cozier than the outside world. Count me in for at least a couple decades. The One-Armed Man seemed to agree, as he had completely forgotten the difference between past and future. But he flittered on out of there when THIS superstar arrived:
Laura! Well, I *think* it was Laura. Her arms do bend backward sometimes. Also, she occasionally removes her face.
Classic Laura Palmer move. But yeah, a total pleasure to see Sheryl Lee again, she looks great! But after Laura informed Cooper that he was now allowed to leave Black Lodge, she whispered some extra rules into his ear, kissed him on the lips, and then was somehow snatched out of existence by an unseen force?
Then the velvet curtain blew away and the white horse looked borderline annoyed about it!
But the best new character of the season, hands down, is this thing, which we were informed was the "evolution of the arm," meaning, the Man From Another Place. (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me revealed that he had been the embodiment of the One-Armed Man's missing arm, long story.) Yes, the dapper little person had turned into a tree puppet! That's one way to recast a role! It goes without saying that this character is the best.
In the outside world, BOB was out BOBbin' off by squeezing faces creepily and murdering folks right and left.
At one point he discovered that the two sexy yokels he'd picked up earlier had been trying to kill him, and that an unknown wealthy person had put a hit out on BOB to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars. Again, was this the same wealthy weirdo who'd funded the glass ghost box? Whatever the case, BOB murdered the girl half of the duo (after pressing her about whether she'd ever seen the above playing card before), and after attempting to contact David Bowie's FBI agent character from Fire Walk With Me, he went next door to hang out with his girlfriend, Jennifer Jason Leigh.
The best detail here was all the empty and/or spilled Cheeto bags strewn around her room. SAME.
We met another familiar face back in the Black Lodge... Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), who was either still wracked with guilt over allowing himself to be possessed by BOB and murder his own daughter, OR was newly wracked with guilt now that she'd been snatched up into the sky (or whatever). Even in death, Leland Palmer was not in a great place.
The only way Agent Cooper would be able to leave the Black Lodge would be if BOB were somehow pulled back into it. But it was clear BOB did not want this to happen, so the battle was going to be a tricky one. Meanwhile, it turned out that the tree puppet had an evil doppelganger! And it screamed at Cooper until the floor opened up and swallowed him into a black abyss where he then appeared inside the, you guessed it, glass box in New York!
But wouldn't you know it, it was at the exact moment that the young guy watching it was distracted by the arrival of his lady friend. Meaning, it happened shortly before they were murdered by that white demon monster thing. Meaning, maybe that monster had followed Cooper here? Before Cooper could fathom what was going on, he was sucked back into the Black Lodge, so better luck next time!
It was nice to see Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) again, even though her existence was now limited to chain-smoking while watching lions eviscerate a buffalo on her enormous television. Who couldn't relate?
The episode concluded with a blast of nostalgia straight to the pleasure center: We were back in the Roadhouse, which was now a hipster music venue! There we checked in with Shelly (Mädchen Amick) enjoying some beverages with her gal pals. They openly lusted after James (James Hurley) who, despite a motorcycle accident, is handsome as ever.
It was especially touching when Shelly beamed at him and murmured to her friends, "He's always been cool." Aw, are these two gonna be an item? Or was Shelly still into bad dudes?
This finger-gun blasting biker (Balthazar Getty) definitely seemed to have her number!
And from there the Chromatics took us away with "Shadow," a synthy fuzzpop song that suggested what Julee Cruise might be up to if she were living in a Brooklyn loft these days. But after two hours of dark, baffling, and occasionally alienating television, this final moment felt like a warm hug. And I'm not going to lie, I felt borderline emotional about it. I may not understand everything I've seen, but I don't think it's necessary or even encouraged to understand it. Twin Peaks is like a dream (not least because of how devoted David Lynch is to his own subconscious) and it's best to let it wash over us like a woozy pop song played in a room full of familiar faces.
The only thing better than these two hours of weirdness is the promise of 16 more. Truly welcome back to our lives, David Lynch.
Twin Peaks airs Sundays at 9/8c on Showtime.
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