Hit or Sh**: Showtime’s TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
No show has ever challenged my instincts like TWIN PEAKS, and no show has ever left me with such a disorienting emotion following the finale that I had to watch cooking videos of tiny Asian food on YouTube to cool myself down afterwards. To this day, the final image of the series is fiercely burned into my memory: Killer BOB in the mirror reflection of Agent Dale Cooper, both characters wide-eyed, bloodied, and cackling as if their jaws had unhinged, staring at the viewer like their gaze could suck your soul out on the spot. After the mystery and drama unfolded over only two seasons, I distinctly remember watching the final episode mouth agape, and as the credits rolled, I was stirred into a mess of confusion, both yelling and crying over the demise of our lovable hero, and laughing over the absolute trip the show just put me through.
26 years later, TWIN PEAKS is as effective as ever. With growing rumors of a revival over the past few years, fans new and old rightfully rejoiced over the announcement that Showtime rounded up David Lynch to film and premiere a sequel season (and reflective of the story’s chronology in real life, to boot). Though the premiere was delayed one extra, grueling year, the buildup nonetheless included trailers of sweeping, coniferous vistas, neon bar signs, and characters still recognizable through their wrinkles and grey hair, all the while soundtracked by the lullaby of Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic synth and bass theme. What a moment of ecstasy it is to hear it play once again as the portrait of Laura Palmer smiles eerily back at us. Likewise, cast lists not only teased the return of many original characters (Log Lady! RIP Catherine E. Coulson!), but also new players like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jim Belushi, Michael Cera, Amanda Seyfried, and Naomi Watts, just to name a few. Seeing as the sense of TWIN PEAKS hinges on the relationships within its enormous cast and the ways their drama intermingle with one another’s, fans could assuredly expect to only go into the new season with more questions than they came out with after the original series ended.
Twin Peaks: A Very Lynchian Christmas™
Although I trust Lynch as an artist and storyteller, I entered TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN with one precursory fear regardless. Part of the charm that draws fans like me—someone who began watching TWIN PEAKS only a couple years ago—to the show is the nostalgic aesthetic. I know that sounds like some first-wave hipster, but hear me out: TWIN PEAKS is very pleasing to watch as visual stimuli. There is no doubt that filming the original series on celluloid perfectly captured the sweaters and teased hair peppered between collages of Northwestern landscapes and Lynch’s twisted surrealism. This very aesthetic generally forgives the campiness of the show’s melodrama—it all just seems like a different world from a different time. Thus, I wondered how the realm of Twin Peaks might hold up under the light of a contemporary, digital era.
With little surprise, the reboot retains the atmosphere of the original, though feels arrested in time without overexerting its modernity. While it could merely be an erratic, Lynchian timetable, there are details that nonetheless might be interpreted as maintaining the ambiguity of its temporal agenda. A rolodex here, a weirdly oversized smartphone there—the minutiae of the production design keeps things from feeling too real, much like 2014 horror IT FOLLOWS, suspending the show in a constant state of unease and supernaturalism.
This scene specifically inspired by fans waiting 26 years for the goddamn reboot
In fact, so far the revival has completely departed from its infamously soap-operatic roots and thrust us into some of the deepest, darkest trenches Lynch has ventured into with the franchise. With ominous, ambient scoring and little dialogue, TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN is visual storytelling at its finest, regardless of how confounding it may leave you. Parts One and Two are perfectly bizarre, setting us up with plenty of questions we can hope to unpack throughout this new season. Wrought with symbolism, the show delivers some incredibly stunning paranormal sequences, and to intensify its otherworldliness, RETURN is even more explicitly erotic and graphic than its predecessor. The result is an absolute thrill, to say the least. It’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE on steroids; if you thought the Black Lodge couldn’t get any wilder, then you ought to sacrifice an arm over to our dear friend MIKE. One complaint I had heard so far had to do with the visual appearance of some special effects and CGI; to this, I respond on the assumption that the way they look is a very specific, stylistic choice and not a matter of amateur design (the budget is far too generous). The effects are supposed to look inhuman, and to make them appear otherwise would ignore the fact that the show’s evils originate in a spiritual realm, despite manifesting in the earthly, physical realm.
At this point, the series is really investing in its signature knack for elements of crime drama and sci-fi, and foregoing mundane or irrelevant side stories (I’m looking at you, James “I Just Wanna Get on My Bike and Ride” Hurley). The biggest cliffhanger from the original’s finale left viewers wondering what happened to Agent Cooper, and the reboot quickly establishes a lens into the last 25 years, but hopefully the rest of the new series will dive deeper into the lives of the many eccentric characters that surround him and complicate the stories within. What makes the possibilities of this even more electrifying is the fact that the show’s universe has opened up outside of the town of Twin Peaks, diversifying the range and intersections of drama.
The biggest moral takeaway from the reboot is that if you drink too much coffee, you’ll turn into a Leather Daddy
It is exciting to watch how the new cast members undertake their roles in the Twin Peakiverse, adding color to the show’s veteran personalities. However, Kyle McLachlan continues to shine brightest, and performs better than ever under the demands of his new role as an evil, leather-clad nega-Cooper. For other returning cast members, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) remains spiritually tuned, Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson) is still a ditz, and Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) is as bumbling as ever. Though lovable for their defining idiosyncrasies, it seems like time has weakened the supporters’ acting performances. The unnatural, even pace of their delivery leaves you feeling like the camera was rolling just a bit too long; but then again, this was a feature present in the OG, though was forgivable due to the show’s campiness. And even so, it’s not bothersome enough to take away from the urgent mysteries at hand.
Most impressive newcomer performance goes to Harry Goaz’s paunch
All that there is to love about the original is radiant with so much new life, it’s hard to stay mad that it took 26 years to see it happen. Taking time was probably for the best. Lynch has sufficiently equipped TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN to—for lack of a better word—mindfuck us all in ways that the original hadn’t and couldn’t. It is hard for me to imagine that this reboot will alienate many fans, and if anything, it deserves to draw in even more for its foray into darker, weirder, and more horrifying territories of the story and themes TWIN PEAKS is infamously founded on. These are the things that people should come to the show for, and if not, at least stay to see (spoiler alert) Kyle McLachlan dressed as a leather daddy.
TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN airs on Sundays on Showtime