TV Review: ‘Twin Peaks’

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By Eric Ashley (@flapjackashley)
 
This is a review of the first two episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks, currently airing on Showtime. This will contain major spoilers and opinionated comments, as well as possible spoilers referencing the original series.
 

IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN

 
One thing I am quickly reminded of right from the get-go is that David Lynch plays by his own rules. The series creator has returned for the 18-episode revival series and is writing and directing each episode. In comparison, he was only behind the camera in five episodes in the series’ original two-season run.
 
From the opening credit sequence, the mystery is immediate. The rich and lavish shots accompanied with the original theme that is bound to make any fan tear up but lacks a scroll of the cast list, leaving who will appear in the episode in doubt. Crafty.
 
The first hour of the two hour premiere (episodes one and two combined) was not what I was expecting. It was infuriating to watch. After a brilliant opening with the Giant and Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), who is still trapped in the “Black Lodge” after 25 years, the show shifts to introduce a swath of new characters and scenarios at a breakneck pace. First, there is this random guy in New York who is watching this empty glass box from a couch while fending off the obvious advances of a female co-worker. In short order, things do not seem to go well for them, but what exactly happens is unclear at the moment.
 
Then we get Agent Cooper’s doppleganger who is out and about – and we are unsure of what his motivations are, and he doesn’t seem to be so sure, either. The doppelganger, as you may remember, first appeared in the original series cliffhanger as a vehicle of the demonic spirit of Killer BOB.
 
Shifting to yet another location, a dead body is discovered at an apartment complex with a blown out eye socket on its detached head, accompanied with a body that does not belong to it. Fingerprints lead to the high school principal (Matthew Lillard). He seems innocent, save for some weird dreams he’s had, but just like the owls, all is not as it seems. His wife is exposed to be having an affair with his brother and he with the murder victim. The vengeful wife appears to have the upper hand until Doppleganger Cooper shows up.
 
So, is this another murder mystery? How do all of these very detached stories tie into one another? We don’t know. And what’s more, the major answers to the cliffhangers we have been waiting over nine thousand days for are barely acknowledged throughout the episode. Twin Peaks secretary Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) mention to Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) that Agent Cooper has been missing since before their son was born “and he’s 23 years old”. Earlier, Lucy mentions that there are two Sheriff Trumans…. perhaps an early explanation for Michael Ontkean’s absence. What happened to Audrey Horne and the bank explosion? Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) doesn’t mention her. More baffling is that neither the doppelganger nor Cooper himself mention Annie’s (Heather Graham) whereabouts, and that is the last line of dialogue we’ve had echoing in our heads for decades. These are questions I’ve wanted answered, but instead, I’m left with more new characters and a first hour that is all over the place. For an hour of television, it sure seemed like it said a lot but didn’t say much at all.
 
But then, I’m reminded, David Lynch does not play by the rules.
 

I AM DEAD, YET I LIVE

 
With the first appearance of the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulsen) about 50 minutes in, the first hint of dreamy jazz music at the 1:05 mark, and a revisiting to the Black Lodge in the woods and soundtrack from the series finale add up to the show returning to somewhat familiar territory. Inside the Black Lodge, Cooper encounters the One Armed Man and Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), who whispers another secret into Cooper’s ear. Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) appears with a cryptic plea to Cooper to “find Laura”. The stuff with the Black Lodge is just as batsh*t crazy as the finale was – and the One Armed Man’s missing arm taking form of a talking tree-like object is trying the stuff of classic Lynch.
 
Doppelganger Cooper knows his time is limited, and seemingly knows that the real Cooper will be out to get him and return him to the Black Lodge so the real Cooper can finally leave. But the doppelganger, much like Lynch, plays by his own rules and claims another victim – pretty brutally – in the closing minutes of the episode, end game still unclear. His mention of Agent Jefferies (the character from the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me played by the late David Bowie) raises plenty of intrigue.
 
Back in Twin Peaks, we get a “Where are they now” type rollcall. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) is home alone watching some unsettling documentary footage of animals ripping each other apart… perfectly calming nighttime viewing. The Roadhouse is hopping with music (alas not by Juliee Cruise, but still good nonetheless) and a barkeep who looks strangely similar to Jacques Renault. Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) looks great as she begins making eyes at James (James Marshall), whom she manages to say has been pretty quiet since a motorcycle accident, but yet makes no mention of her wife beating husband Leo Johnson nor James’s girlfriend Donna Hayward. The Good Cooper seems to escape from the Black Lodge in a time jump scene that appears to explain the glass box from the first hour – or does it and does he? And an end credit sequence that mirrors a theatrical feature film, which is what this two part episode felt like on many levels.
 

THE FUTURE

 
The two-hour event was pretty uneven for me, but it goes along with the series in general. Some parts were almost as bad as the middle stretch of season two episodes, while others were ingenious as the original pilot or killer reveal episode were. For his reduced role in Fire Walk With Me, Kyle MacLachlan is clearly the star here, playing two roles and getting the headlining “Starring” credit at the end. And he’s really good in both parts. Everyone else involved, from the newcomers (even if I didn’t quite get why some of them are included) to the returning actors, seem to be having a blast, and that translates to benefit the viewer.
 
There are lots of questions to be addressed as this episode while still ignoring others that we have longed to know about. Is this setting up another murder mystery? The prime suspect seems to show some undertones of the Leland Palmer/BOB arc that we have come to know… why is there a focus again on the Palmers, and what do they have to do with a story that is 25 years after the Laura Palmer crime? Is Leo Johnson still holding up those spiders by a string with his teeth? Who fathered Shelly’s daughter – the yet unseen but we know is appearing Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), and if so, why is Shelly seemingly interested in Bobby’s old rival James? Shelly also mentions that something is not right with said daughter. And how’s Annie? If one was, like myself, expecting some resolutions to a cliffhanger that we’ve suffered 25 years with, you’d be disappointed and frustrated. But this is Twin Peaks.
 
David Lynch does not play by our rules, and I am reminded that is why I love Twin Peaks so much. It is not what we expect it to be, yet it is everything we expect it to be. The episode played with a very different tone than the original series, and even the 1992 film. As a fan of Lynch’s other works like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, what I saw last night fit right in with them while putting a new spin on the Twin Peaks legacy.
 
Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. How will the show deal with the fact that the actor who played it’s main villain (Frank Silva as Killer BOB) passed away in 1995 – although it’s worth mentioning that it is a warm touch that a flashback is included in hour two so the actor still gets a credit. Lynch has said that this is not just some nostalgic walk down memory lane but an all-new chapter that tells its own story. Gone are the familiar lingering shots of Snoqualmie Falls, the famous stop light, wind blowing through the trees or even the jazz score in it’s entirety that we have all come to love. While that stuff may show up over time, this episode went to great lengths to prove that this is a new Twin Peaks. Granted, I was more excited to see the old faces again, but as much as the newer stuff bothered me on some levels, looking at the bigger picture – I think it will all pay off in ways I can’t envision. My annoyance at lingering unanswered questions could have been too great to really enjoy it as a whole. I trust David Lynch, who has his fingerprints over the entire revival series, to not lead me astray. I’m excited for what is coming next.
 
As a side note, episodes three and four are available to watch right now on Showtime On Demand and their streaming app, but they will air as another two hour episode on Sunday. My review and thoughts will be posted after it airs in its normal timeslot for those who do not have access to either of those options to watch early.


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