Review: Showtime’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Will Probably Break Your Brain (In the Best Way Possible)
Warning – FULL SPOILERS for Sunday’s Two-Part “The Return”:
I have no idea what I just witnessed. I don’t mean to be cute; I don’t know exactly what to say about an intrinsically weird series that returned twenty-five years later, as esoteric as ever. As I often thought of the old Twin Peaks, Showtime’s two-part premiere was inaccessibly bizarre, yet curious in a coy way that dares you to decode it.
It’s 25 years later in the world of Twin Peaks (twenty-six if your math holds), but don’t let that lull you into a sense of overdue explanation. The Cooper we know remains trapped in the Black Lodge, while a greasy-haired doppelganger by the name of “Mr. C” plots illicit underworld activity across the nation. Familiar faces like James Hurley and Shelly Johnson still frequent the Bang Bang Bar, seemingly with children of their own. Lawrence Jacoby collects shovels for an unknown purpose. Lucy, Andy, and Hawk all still work at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, and the Log Lady has a mysterious mission for them.
Those piecemeal chunks are about how the new Twin Peaks operates, peppered with David Lynch’s unapologetic rebuke of traditional storytelling. Anyone paying attention to press is likely familiar with Lynch’s charming and curmudgeonly refusal to explain anything, let alone play into the obsessive TV culture machine that tries to decode shows like Westworld weeks ahead of schedule. That storytelling engine isn’t necessarily running here, even as Cooper’s mysterious giant (Carel Struycken, amusingly credited as “?????”) or an electric tree rattle off numerical clues that could play a part in future episodes. They’re equally likely to end up as pointless as five minutes spent with two South Dakota police officers; first running from a dead woman’s neighbor to a skittish maintenance man for a key to the woman’s apartment, only for the neighbor to remember she had it all along.
What we do have is compelling horror and shadow parsed out in the best of Lynchian ways. The new series quickly ventures beyond Twin Peaks to an eerie New York, following a young man tasked with watching an enormous glass cube in an abandoned loft; every shift gets interrupted by the advances of a local coffee girl. In South Dakota, a high school principal (Matthew Lillard) is arrested for a ghoulish murder, with no memory of why his fingerprints coat the victim’s apartment. His wife seems more concerned with a dinner party than the arrest, and ultimately leaves her husband to rot. Back in New York, the young lovers finally glimpse something within the glass box, the gruesome outcome of which feels right at home with Lynch’s sporadic, but nightmarish vision.
It’s an elegant cocktail of nostalgia, intrigue, and sensory overload, shaken with enough disorienting camera work and unusual line readings to leave you exasperated and confused. There’s a talking tree with a brain attached! Ashley Judd as a secretary! Laura Palmer explodes! One of my notes reads simply “BAD COOPER RUBBIN A DUDES FACE!” I’ve watched only two of the four episodes made available, and remain flabbergasted that Lynch will fill 14 more after that.
What I do know is that for all the preciousness of Showtime’s secrecy and promotion, the new Twin Peaks recaptures a sort of dark, undefinable imagination that’s as unsettling and visceral as ever. Is it random for randomness’ sake? Perhaps. Lynch at his cinematic peak? Probably not. But it’s worthy of the curiosity built up over all these years, and a terrifically weird start in an age of predictable TV.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- The initial two episodes only bring back select Twin Peaks characters, but good on them for putting the late Catherine Coulson’s Log Lady front and center early on.
- Bad Cooper’s call to Agent Phillip Jeffries references David Bowie’s Fire Walk With Me character, but the late icon did not shoot any revival scenes.
- Also briefly glimpsed among the 217 cast members: Jennifer Jason Leigh as Cooper’s accomplice Chantal.
- No sign of Sheriff Truman (one of two?) this week, so it’s still unconfirmed if Robert Forster is taking over for Michael Ontkean.
- Thought I remembered producers downplaying gore or nudity up to Showtime standards, but we certainly got both.
Twin Peaks will continue on Showtime Sunday, May 28 at 9:00 P.M., while the next two episodes are currently available to stream.
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