The first two episodes of Showtime’s revival of the Lynch/Frost surrealist drama have aired and it’s given us a lot to mull over. While I do talk some spoilers, I’ve left a lot out, as some things need to be seen for themselves.
Simultaneously being something totally new and also, essentially the most Twin Peaks thing ever, Lynch and Frost have returned from the Black Lodge rejuvenated and ready to go. The first two episodes answer some twenty-five year old questions but ask a whole lot more.
At its core, Twin Peaks has always been the story of Laura Palmer and The Return is no exception, with the first episode opening with Laura’s promise of seeing Special Agent Dale Cooper again in twenty-five years. This new series has a murder mystery of its own, with a high-school principal, played by Shaggy himself, Matthew Lillard being arrested for a truly horrific double murder, is he under the control of BOB or one of the other denizens of the Black Lodge?
Speaking of which, Agent Cooper’s evil doppelganger from the finale of season 2 is still on the loose and rampaging around our world, desperate to stay out of the Black Lodge. It’s never explicitly stated that he’s BOB, but a long haired Kyle McLachlan definitely gives off that vibe, channeling the spookiness of the late Frank Silva. Although I know Silva passed away in 1995, I constantly expected him to appear, baring his teeth and climbing over a couch. The real Dale Cooper is still inside the Red Room, with MIKE, looking for an escape. It’s hard to take, especially as Coop is one of the nicest, most earnest heroes TV has ever seen. His scenes here are sad but an essential continuation. We can’t go from “How’s Annie?” back to coffee and pie. Not so soon, maybe not ever.
This new Peaks is free of network censorship and fully embraces the gore, swearing and nudity it wasn’t allowed first time round. It’s a lot more like Fire Walk With Me or even Lost Highway than the original series. But that’s fine, it suits the progression and it works. Nothing, even the creatures or whatever they are, seems forced or over the top.
While Twin Peaks has always been a little scary, I would definitely say this new version is pretty much horror. While shows like True Detective have aped the Peaks style, here Lynch blows everyone away with his slow burning terror. Lingering shots, pulsating music, purposefully dragging scenes out, Lynch rachets the tension and drags us along with him. The discovery of the corpse(s) in the apartment building slowly pull you to the edge of your seat. The storyline in New York with the glass box is flat out terrifying, feeling like some of the J-horror that has been inspired by Lynch. Some people might find this slow approach tedious or the creatures silly, but chances are they’d have found backwards talking and a Log Lady daft too.
Catherine E Coulson, the Log Lady, sadly died in 2015 just after filming her scenes, and her appearance here shows how ill she was. With chemotherapy hair loss and a tube in her nose, she looked so frail , my eyes filled with tears seeing her that way, but she delivers her dialogue so perfectly and so real, it’s an incredible performance to leave us with. This double episode was dedicated the memory of both her and Frank Silva, which was a nice touch. Knowing that we’ve lost several cast members since filming adds an extra layer of emotions to our viewing experience too, especially to a show with themes of death and finality such as this one.
We do get a return of some of the original cast, with Ben and Jerry Horne, Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly still as hilarious as ever! Andy, Lucy and Hawk in the Sheriff Department had me aching for Sheriff Truman but I know Michael Ontkean is now retired and living in Hawaii. Near the end it was wonderful to see a scene into the bar, with The Chromatics replacing Julee Cruse, but it felt like the old days. Seeing James and Shelly as well as some new characters. Jacques Reno back from the dead and tending bar in the background was odd, unless he’s got an identical cousin. Hey, it’s happened before!
Darker, scarier and just as mysterious, Twin Peaks: The Return has raised the bar for TV yet again. David Lynch and Mark Frost are still light years ahead of everyone else.
The current epsiode of the Supernerds UK Podcast is a Twin Peaks special and features my interview with Jerry Horne himself, David Patrick Kelly!