Welcome Back to the Black Lodge: Twin Peaks: The Return

Um. So… that all happened.

Where to begin unpacking the long-awaited (almost 27 years!) return of one of television’s biggest shows? There were ominous trees, corpses, familiar faces, mentions of pie, chevron floors, white horses, blonde chanteuses, and a lot of head-scratching. And screaming.

Twin Peaks has certainly returned. Was it worth the hype?

For me, the premiere event was worth its weight in doughnuts. But it was also exhausting.

I can binge-watch most anything, from Jesse Pinkman’s downward spiral on Breaking Bad to David Milch’s cowboy Shakespeare on Deadwood to every dragon burp on Game of Thrones to the original two seasons of Twin Peaks itself, but I was utterly spent after the first two hours of Twin Peaks‘ return. I got about ten minutes into Part 3—available along with Part 4 on the Showtime app right now—and had to tap out. If you thought last night’s episodes were peak Lynch, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

Lynch’s weird style has often been divisive. My biggest worry going into the new Twin Peaks was that the show would feel like a parody of itself, or too dated. TV is a lot more sophisticated these days; audiences are, believe it or not, largely smarter. We can handle complex characters and vast mythologies. But I don’t think everyone will enjoy where Lynch wants to go. And if that makes me sound pretentious, I don’t mean it to.

But I also don’t care. So far, I’m mostly happy.

Some spoilers for Parts 1 and 2 ahead.

We’re not in Portlandia anymore.

There are a few facts established: pure and just Agent Dale Cooper has been trapped in the red-curtained, chevron-floored Black Lodge for 25 years, just as he was told by the late schoolgirl Laura Palmer’s avatar. His evil doppelganger, possessed by the killer entity known as BOB—let’s call this double Mr. C., for clarity’s sake—is out in our world, doing shady, evil things with his FBI knowledge. Agent Cooper can’t leave the Black Lodge until Mr. C returns to it. So, Cooper’s journey to freedom seems to be a major plot point, as many fans hoped.

Elsewhere, a mystery man watches a top-secret glass box in New York City at the request of a shady billionaire, and an excellent character actor in Las Vegas…well, he talks cryptically about someone we never meet for five minutes. The other big thread connects Mr. C to a high school principal accused of a particularly foul murder, maybe under the influence of BOB or some other sort of evil.

Evil abounds. Twin Peaks is as unsettling as ever, from blob-topped sentient trees to a violent naked ghost-woman with an Admiral Ackbar-like head. Unsettling is definitely the vibe Kyle McLachlan is going for, in a deep tan and his worst hair since Showgirls, and he’s selling me on Mr. C, even if I don’t know what his game is yet. The only sour note for me is that as much as I know Twin Peaks is modern noir, long Lynch’s arena, I wish the mutilated woman trope got an update; by the time I saw my third naked, or nearly naked, lady covered in blood, I felt dirty yet bored.

Nostalgia played a smaller part in my positive feelings, but damn, it was really good to see some of my favorite characters again. Aside from the real Agent Cooper, handsome Deputy Lieutenant Tommy “Hawk” Hill is now a silver fox, Andy is still goofy, his wife Lucy still has that sweet voice, and Jerry Horne is still a sartorial joy, now making money via a new edible cannabis business.

One of my favorite moments of the night was seeing Margaret Lanterman, aka the Log Lady, for the first time in nearly thirty years. Her distinctive blonde bob has turned sparse and white, she wears an oxygen tube, and her eyes seem full to bursting with decades of concern over the dark things her log foretells. When Hawk ends his first call with a gentle “Goodnight, Margaret,” I got a lump in my throat. It’s impossible not to feel sad over the loss of Catherine E. Coulson and the other Peaks players who are no longer with us to see the show come back in style. Goodnight, Catherine. Goodnight, Jack Nance and Don S. Davis. Goodnight, David Bowie. Goodnight, Miguel Ferrer—I simultaneously can’t wait and dread seeing Special Agent Albert Rosenfield again.

With the abundance of old characters and new throughout the first hour and forty-five minutes, I did wish the return of the Bang Bang Club, where we once saw Julee Cruise sing love ballads to a room full of bikers, was pushed to a later episode. It was just overkill, nice as it was that the Chromatics’ lead singer echoed the original series and closed out the premiere with a dreamy song. But perhaps I’m biased against any scene that features James Hurley, let alone one that literally tells me that James Hurley was always cool.

No, he wasn’t, Twin Peaks. Advanced age is making you remember the past as better than it really was.

But, James aside, David Lynch does seem to remember what made Twin Peaks compelling and compulsive TV, ripe for commentary that can never be watered down to 140 characters. Will that hurt the show’s audience growth potential? Perhaps. However, with a hefty sixteen more hours of ludicrous, heartfelt, disturbing film already in the can, I don’t need to worry about Twin Peaks getting the axe, so I can enjoy David Lynch having free reign over his surreal kingdom.

It’s a present I’ll give myself once a week. And only once a week.

Twin Peaks: The Return airs Sundays at 9pm E/PT on Showtime.

Sometimes Theresa DeLucci‘s arms bend back. A regular contributor to Tor.com, she’s also gotten enthusiastic about TV for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, Barnes & Nobles’ Sci-fi & Fantasy blog, and Den of Geek. Find her in The Black Lodge or on Twitter.

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