Many of you who know me are aware that my absolute favourite TV Series of all time is Twin Peaks (1990/91) - I loved every minute of every episode - even the weirder tangents. For those that grew up with the series, there has not been anything since really that has had the same lasting impact. David Lynch uses a unique alchemy of atmosphere, mystery, music, photogenic cast and smart filming and editing techniques to instil wonder, fear, hope and dread all in the same frame.
There is this excellent video where composer Angelo Badalamenti discusses how the two of them came up with the classic moody anthem ’Laura Palmer’s Theme’ which so well captures the essence of the show:
For Twin Peaks: The Return, many will struggle with the opening two episodes of the new series - which don’t do much to tie the previous narrative with the new, or explain what Agent Cooper has been up to for the last 25 years. We also have a mystery observation box, which may be connected / a conduit to the hidden dimension of the Black Lodge, and we have a myriad of vignettes and smart cameos - of course with a few macabre deaths.
In fact a lot of people have criticised the new show for just being a patchwork of random scenes, whose meaning is still extremely obscure / obtuse. I like to think of this as more of a scene setting technique, and a general introduction to the new broader universe of Twin Peaks - which ranges much further outside the eponymous named town. For the first 4 episodes, there is relatively little that takes place within those town limits, as most of the action happens in and around Buckthorn County and Las Vegas.
Although the slot machine sequence is very much its own thing, it brought me similar glee to the ’Milk Bottles’ episode of the previous series. What really glues all this together though are the virtuoso performances of Kyle MacLachlan - here handling three roles - as Agent Cooper, the Black Lodge Evil Doppelganger, and a golem supposedly created by the latter.
It is still Dale Cooper who is the soul of Twin Peaks and who grounds the whole endeavour - no matter how kitsch or creepy the action gets. There is much in the two first episodes that is reminiscent of David’s first film Eraserhead - a film not without its merits, but likely my least favourite David Lynch production - the current favourite is a 3-way tie between Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire.
In fact there is much of Inland Empire in this film too - slow brooding sequences which end up sinister and menacing. Some have criticized the use of fairly lo-fi special effects, but to me this lends an air of quirkiness which just underlines and reinforces the tone of the whole.
There is enough material in the first four episodes to fill twice that many film-making insights classes. And the tone varies enormously from menace and gore to almost slapstick - you genuinely don’t know what to expect next.
I call this out as brave film-making, and as bold and innovative as anything out there at the moment. This show will likely alienate several audience members, and especially those who liked the more vanilla narratives of the original. For me this is one of the two truly great TV events so far this year - the other one being American Gods on Amazon Video.
Shout-out to my good friend Bex, hope she is enjoying the weirdness of the new series too. Great episode 2 outro song choice also, and reminiscent of Julee Cruise’s input into the former series: