After all the hype, anticipation and secrecy, Twin Peaks is finally back. But WTF was that premiere that just aired on Showtime all about? With Kyle MacLachlan back as FBI Agent Dale Cooper and more, the first two parts of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s new 18-part installment was weird, sometimes intentionally tedious, and amazing at the same time – and something you have to watch.
As I say in my video review above, there are a lot of perfumed tea leaves and dank soil to rummage through as you absorb the visceral onslaught of the two-hour, two-episode debut of the new Twin Peaks, but WTF has to be the question. Look, along with the more than 30 million viewers who tuned in and more than a few producers over the years, I was a huge fan of the original medium-shattering Twins Peaks when it debuted on Sunday night, April 8, 1990. Though the second and final season started to quickly wane once Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed, this return truly intrigued me – unlike so many cash-grabbing reboots and revivals that populate the small screen in this era of Peak TV.
So, like I also say in my review above, well played sirs and welcome back; you were missed. Also, watch your self-appointed heirs reel and scurry into their own creative woods for a while because, from what I’ve seen so far going almost full Eraserhead, Lynch has embraced the vistas and madness that define his best work. Despite not having made a feature since 2006’s Inland Empire, the Blue Velvet director (who helms the entire new series) has shown he still can conjure dread and darkness. While it may give new fans and old fans narrative vertigo, this Twin Peaks stands in proud succession to its original and solidly on its own.
You can see more of my take on the new Twin Peaks by clicking on the video above, but here’s a recap of tonight’s two-episode debut. Almost always one to keep things close to his chest, the often-cryptic Lynch has told Deadline and others that the fundamental reason he resurrected Twin Peaks after more than two decades is that “the story was not over.” Word is that almost no one besides the Palme d’Or winner, Frost, MacLachlan and some Showtime execs know where this is all going and what happens in this latest installment.
Here’s what we know from the opening two episodes. Starting with footage from the original series, the whole thing is seemingly launched by that lingering “I’ll see you in 25 years” line from Laura to MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper in the evil den of the Black Lodge back in the once assumed final episode of the second and final season in 1991.
Cut to more than 20 years later, the soul of Dale Cooper is still trapped in the Black Lodge where we last saw him more than two decades ago as his doppelganger possessed by the demonic murderous spirit known as Bob woke up in Twin Peaks. The trapped Cooper is visited with warnings by from a disturbing flesh topped talking tree and a soon to be abducted again and aged Laura — again played by Sheryl Lee, like in the original series and the terrible 1992 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me prequel movie. Picking up from the end of that last season of Twin Peaks, that Cooper doppelganger, who seems pretty clearly still possessed by Bob — and now looks a lot like the Portlandia alum dressing up as Michael Madsen in Kill Bill — is loose in the world on a killing spree and something more. Some of that more includes what seems to be a brief conversation with a man who may be Philip Jeffries, the FBI Agent played by the late and great David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me – a homage, a plot twist or both?
— Twin Peaks (@SHO_TwinPeaks) May 22, 2017
As a secondary story, though it could turn out to be the main plot knowing Lynch and Frost, there’s a well wired and well watched by cameras and a young attendant glass box that sits in what seems to be a billionaire’s care in NYC. The point of all that surveillance is to see if anything appears in the box – at one point a confused and floating Agent Cooper is in the glass box unnoticed and at another point, a blurred naked beast appears. To that, because sex often seems to kill in the lore of Twin Peaks, two new additions to the series are horrifically mauled if not killed by said beast as they are getting it on in the room. At almost the same time, local police in South Dakota discover a gruesome beheading of a women in a blood-soaked bed with a bloated body.
The subsequent arrest of a local high school principal, played by Scream alum Matthew Lillard, for murder suggests a connection – at least when Evil Cooper gets on his Microsoft Surface laptop for some looking around the FBI database and prison security systems. Laying off the new series slogan of “It Is Happening Again,” the portal and the case in the Dakotas seem an indication that the punishing violence that defined the original Twin Peaks is back — with the gore cranked up to and sometimes beyond cable levels.
Speaking of being back, we’ve already seen a number of the old cast and old haunts with more than just MacLachlan, Lee, plus Carel Struycken as the Giant and Al Strobel as the One Armed Man. The Great Northern lodge in rural Washington state is still standing and open, but the Horne brothers, played by Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly, are making a lot of their cash from the pot business nowadays. In the town of Twin Peaks itself, hooked up to an oxygen tank and with most of her hair gone, Log Lady Margaret Lanterman warns Deputy Sheriff Tommy Hawk that “something is missing.” On the phone with the late Catherine E. Coulson’s character, the Michael Horse-portrayed Hawk goes searching in the dark forests with promises of pie later, only to discover a dank and murky pond that looks a lot like a portal to the Black Lodge from the original series.
Meanwhile, had to say it, at the Bang Bang Bar roadhouse, James Hurley, played still by James Marshall but having had a motorcycle accident in the past, arrives with a pal for a beer and the Chromatics’ show. James sees Shelly Johnson, still played by now-Riverdale regular Mädchen Amick, having drinks with friends. The damaged and often quiet biker, who left Twin Peaks in the second season, can’t stop staring at their table, though who he is actually looking at is unclear. At the same time Shelly sees a man at the bar, played by newcomer Balthazar Getty, making a pistol hand gesture to her. That concludes the two-hour debut as the Chromatics play out the end of the opening episodes in a way that is so very familiar to fans of the original.
We have not seen new and old castmates Laura Dern, David Duchovny, the late Miguel Ferrer, Robert Forster, Harry Dean Stanton, Naomi Watts, Jim Belushi, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder or Monica Bellucci or many others yet, but there’s a lot of coffee and pie promised too. Of course, if you are a Showtime subscriber you can stream episodes three and four right now instead of waiting for next week and see how much further Lynch and Frost go and where the rotting breadcrumbs lead.
What does it all mean?
Well, at the L.A. premiere of Twin Peaks on May 19, Lynch told the invited crowd “I love trees, I love wood.” Hard to tell still if that is a hint or a tailless tease, but it is clear Lynch’s enthusiasm was genuine as was his love of getting his hands dirty. The result has got me hooked on the new Twin Peaks, just like I was with the original all those years ago.