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Identity Crisis: The Wild Return of ‘Twin Peaks’

I have to think that there’s a portion of the established fan-base of Twin Peaks that’s turned off by the drastically different reboot currently airing on Showtime.

As far as I can tell, we’re midway into the season of Twin Peaks: The Return, or Season Three if you’re so inclined to think in linear storytelling terms.  Traditional storytelling, of which this past weekend’s episode eight boldly rejected, does not apply. Showtime has finally proven their “no limits” mantra from a decade ago.

The original ABC series from David Lynch and Mark Frost changed the future of  small screen dramas to come.  There simply would be no Northern Exposure, no Picket Fences, no X-Files, no Sopranos, no Mad Men, no American Gods without the profound game changing force of Twin Peaks.  So it’s all the more amazing that in this new golden age of television, with an abundance of quality shows to choose from a broader availability of channels, the new Twin Peaks knows how to challenge expectations.

 

PREVIOUSLY ON TWIN PEAKS

If there’s any continuity to be found in Showtime’s reboot, it lies somewhere in the final moments of the original series.  The disturbing final image of season two finds Cooper and Bob reflected in a cracked-mirror, blood dripping from the FBI agent’s forehead, united in otherworldly evil intention.  It was a shocking “twist” that’s been unresolved, yet expectedly so for over two decades.

Back in the day, I was completely convinced for a good portion of season one that it was Cooper who killed Laura Palmer.  As much as the series dipped into the supernatural, Cooper-as-killer was a whodunit answer made completely implausible by the show’s then-linear storytelling.  Maybe my theory was ahead of its time, considering where the new series has taken the tale.

 

LYNCHOMANIA

To fully appreciate what’s going on this season on Twin Peaks, I don’t think you necessarily have to be an avid viewer of David Lynch’s filmography, but I highly recommend it.

Whereas the original series borrowed slightly from Lynch’s Blue Velvet, you in needed to know it to become hooked on the quirky serialized drama of Twin Peaks.  Both the film and the series revolve similar Americana towns, in this case called Lumberton, and possess a dark, criminal world under its surface.

Over twenty-five years later, this Twin Peaks is an aggregation of so many things Lynch has explored both thematically and visually, it’s like a grab-bag gift each week for fans.  There are recreations and variations from nearly everything in the director’s oeuvre (and not just the films).

To put it in perspective, the ABC series wasn’t known for channeling Eraserhead, but the Showtime series has countlessly.

 

EXTREME EXPRESSION

As of episode eight, Lynch has given us so many of the things that personify him as an auteur, that we may be witnessing his art at its most expressive, purest form.  It’s completely free of network-notes or second guesses.  He’s assembled a growing cast of actors completely comfortable in what they’re doing, most impressive of which is Kyle MacLachlan’s reassigned performance(s).  He’s breaking the rules of pacing, holding on moments of silence or mundane tasks, often to the point of hilarity.  He’s peppering each episode with fantastic musical guests (The Nine Inch Nails most recently); first expectedly, under end credits, then sporadically, between storylines.

 

FEAR WALK WITH ME

“Cooper you may be fearless in this world, but there are other worlds.”

Hawk (episode 211)

 

Most notable of all, in this return to Twin Peaks, we’re stuck deep in the subconscious of Lynch’s fears.

Although he’s explored the merger of science and technology with our natural world in films like Lost Highway, that’s a theme imperative to the new show.  There are forces at work that even the FBI doesn’t know of.

Then again, twenty-plus years in the town of Twin Peaks, Lucy doesn’t grasp how cell phones exist.

 

LISTEN CLOSELY

It’s not a coincidence that Lynch plays a character with limited hearing capability.  Always a master at it for mood, the director has played sound designer all season, and with the added technology of today’s surround systems.  Notice how much he brings even the slightest sound effect up for impact, like during the end credits of season 7 in which unidentifiable drones and diner conversations compete for clarity with Santo & Johnny’s Sleep Walk.

Lynch’s small-town Americana has always been bastardized by evil forces, but he might be making his boldest statement each Sunday night on Showtime.  Not only is he playing in the sandbox of our own nostalgic ties to his landmark early 90s series, but he appears to be reevaluating its existence in the landscape of today’s television.

 

EXPECT ANYTHING AND NOTHING

We may never get an explanation behind some of the truly disturbing visuals, story sidelines, or endless character introductions that have twisted the minds of faithful viewers, and no doubt have turned off a portion of the audience.

We are way, way beyond the simplicity of a prom-queen washed ashore, her body wrapped in plastic.  But I am completely captivated, and generally fine with the possibility of no explanations as long as the coffee continues to be this damn fine.

 

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