In Review

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars - 'Outstanding - Starkie!'
Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Sherly Lee, and just about anyone and everyone who has ever worked on a David Lynch project.
David Lynch.
Only 18 hours long.
"Outstanding - Starkie!"
[insert log line here]
Review by Clinton Stark

Lynchian it was. Lynchian it is. And, hopefully, Lynchian it will forever be.

Twin Peaks returned, fully caffeinated, and fully full of all things David Lynch. Surreal, I almost cried. Yes, it is happening again.

Thankfully what I saw, at least in the first two hour-long episodes, was as far removed from something that would typically come out of corporate television or studio film (from Variety review: “Lynch’s vision is so total and absolute that he can get away with what wouldn’t be otherwise acceptable.”) as anything I can recall in recent memory. On that point alone Twin Peaks: The Return is an unmitigated success. Illustration perhaps, that in this world of 140-character rants and mind-numbing memes, there is still room for imaginative, challenging, and form-breaking work.

Test screenings? Nielsen ratings? Non-offensive imagery and story-lines?

Forget all that.

David Lynch, pure and unadulterated, is exactly what his swan song needed to be (he’s said he will not make another movie, marking 2006’s Inland Empire with Laura Dern his last).

So forgive me if I scoff and smirk a bit when reading reviews this morning across the internet. We’re only hour 2 into an 18 hour odyssey. We shouldn’t expect things to make sense. Now. Or even later. As always, it’s the journey and puzzle-solving and inevitable head scratching that Lynch bestows upon us from beyond the yellow brick road that really counts.

And that imagery!

That David Lynch is an oil painter, and reaches deep into the arts for inspiration is beautifully evident — both in the original Twin Peaks of 1990 and the “season 3″/reboot that aired last night on Showtime. Framing of scenes is sublime. If ever a screen felt like a living, breathing canvas, this would be it. The use of a technique known as speed ramping to add odd eye motion to a pivotal scene with Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is subtle and wonderfully quirky, if unsettling. And — purists note! — the inky use of black and white for a few scenes is surely a wink and a nod to the early days of David Lynch, most notably his landmark debut, Eraserhead (1977) and even earlier projects when he was a student at the American Film Institute.

This is exactly what we wanted. Not Diet Lynch. This is full-on, non-compromised Lynch.

The return to Twin Peaks (26 years later!) was notoriously fraught with starts and stops. Would Lynch direct? What network would carry the show? After last night none of that mattered. Clearly, David Lynch is at the helm and he and co-writer Mark Frost seem to be making one thing very clear: there’s Peak TV and there’s Lynch TV. Do not confuse the two.

Eraserhead - Twin Peaks
Eraserhead. Is the baby’s head on the tree in Twin Peaks a reference to this scene from David Lynch’s 1977 masterpiece?

So it’s all here. Organic-based set design, often juxtaposed against modern machinery, such as the little tree sitting innocuously on a sidetable in that weird, futuristic monitoring room in New York City (see Eraserhead and Lynch’s film school projects). The oxygen breathing machine worn by the magnificent, late Catherine Coulson (see Mulholland Drive). The random sweets. Red drapes. Ornate, glowing lamps. Fir trees. Sublime soundtrack (Chromatics performing dreamy “Shadow” in neon lit Bang Bang Club at close of episode two). And, of course, Lynch’s notoriously detailed and haunting sound engineering.

Then there’s David Lynch’s sly sense of humor. Still intact, and ever so cheeky. Take, for example, when two police officers are trying to find a key to an apartment so that they can investigate an offending odor. A daft neighbor (who could very well be played by Kathy Bates in Misery mode, the slightly crazy sweetheart one) with a dog who leads the detectives on a goose chase, before realizing that, yes, she did, after all, have a spare key for the apartment (to water the plants, in case her neighbor went travelling, of course).

It’s not Twin Peaks I: The Phantom Menace. Thankfully, we are in a galaxy far, far away.

Yes, there is a story line, and, admittedly, it seems to be simmering somewhere in purgatory. I have no issue with that. This is a David Lynch greatest hits album, not some eager, desperate new band looking to make a viral YouTube video.

But will new audiences embrace and latch on to the new vision that is Twin Peaks: The Return?

It doesn’t matter. In some snobby way I hope new fans don’t “get it” or feel the need to dive in. There’s something more rewarding about knowing that Twin Peaks is more cult than it is Glee.

Either way, this is one heck of a swan song. I suspect it will be David Lynch’s last commercial work. Ultimately, if I had to choose, I’d go with his films, especially Eraserhead (1977) and the magnum opus that is Mullholland Drive (2001). They’re re-watchable arthouse gems that reveal more upon repeat viewings. Going out with a bang with Twin Peaks is not something I’d complain about though. It looks to be the gift that keeps on giving. I mean, it’s essentially an 18 hour (!) David Lynch film.

‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ Ep. 2 Closing Track: Chromatics “Shadow” (Blondie?)

Some critics have complained that the plot doesn’t connect with them as did the Laura Palmer murder investigation in the 1990 pilot episode. That’s probably a fair assessment — the original set-up of the discovery of the body, and the ensuing introduction of the quirky and charming Agent Cooper and the merry cast of a bucolic lumber town was so unlike anything on TV at the time, it cut through the noise with brilliant affection.

Then again, Lynch and his team, probably only had two choices: either tell the same (or similar) story again; or take the series in an entirely new and unexpected direction (or dimension). The latter makes perfect sense.

An auteur like David Lynch, while pulling liberally from his Lynchian toolbox, strikes me as the kind of guy who does’t do the same thing twice the same way. Clearly (at least so far) this is not Twin Peaks I: The Phantom Menace. Thankfully, we are in a galaxy far, far away. (2