In the first of our weekly reviews of David Lynch’s highly-anticipated return to Twin Peaks, Milo Garner gives a taste of The Return’s first two hours.
“I’ll see you again in 25 years” – so spoke Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the last episode of Twin Peaks, which aired in 1991. In what is more a surreal twist of fate than a long planned artistic venture, it seems Laura was speaking quite literally. A quarter-decade later, David Lynch – ten years retired from his directional career – returned to the helm to film 18 more ‘parts’ of Twin Peaks, titled The Return, with the first two airing as a feature length double-bill.
In its opening moments Lynch, who is directing all 18 parts as opposed to merely showrunning, presents us with an image of familiarity. We return to the Red Room, with Laura prophesizing her meeting with Special Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) 25 years hence in a clip from the show’s 1991 finale, before jumping forward to the present, with Coop still trapped exactly where he was. Aesthetically there is little contrast – the reverse cinematography is just as creepy as ever, and the sound design remains fantastic (which is incidentally credited to Lynch himself). From here we are greeted with various cryptic messages from denizens of the Red Room, old faces from the original run. A conspicuous absence is The Man from Another Place (played in the first two seasons by Michael J. Anderson, and ‘evolved’ in The Return), whose unnerving dancing was little less than iconic – but besides him and a select few others, nearly all of the cast of the original Twin Peaks appear for a moment or two across these two episodes. However despite this sense of continuity, especially engendered by Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable main theme, this new series has some significant stylistic differences to its ancestor.
The original Twin Peaks was a murder mystery cloaked in an ever encroaching sense of strangeness, which occasionally overtook the show in the episodes Lynch directed; but in those he didn’t, it could almost be a sort of bizarre small-town soap opera. This new season, however, follows more in the tradition of Lynch’s filmography and the select episodes he directed of the original – the long silences, the seemingly disconnected story threads, that feeling of ‘not-quite-right’; these episodes feel more akin to Lost Highway than to most of Twin Peaks. But this is no problem – in fact, it was what I hoped for most – Showtime have seemingly decided to give Lynch the reins, and taking into account his (irrational and disappointing) reassertion that cinema is over for him, it should be celebrated that we can still see his vision somewhere. As such, the domestic to-ing and fro-ing that defined much of Twin Peaks’ slower sections have been lost, instead replaced by 120 minutes of feverish surrealism.
Across the two episodes several plot strands are established, but in true Lynchian fashion none of them make too much sense as of yet – there is a sort of murder mystery in Buckhorn; Coop’s mission against Bob in the Red Room; a man watching a glass box in New York; something or other happening in Las Vegas; and a host of small strands in Twin Peaks itself. But despite there being little solid to clamp onto in terms of plot, Lynch’s filmmaking is ever engrossing. Visually, the episodes are a wonder, with the Red Room especially offering some new visual tricks that are sure to disturb and amaze in equal measure. They also sound great – Lynch knows when something should be loud, but perhaps more exceptionally, when something should be quiet. Given that Lynch is behind the wheel for every episode this time around, some of these mysteries might never fully unravel – but as made clear in Mulholland Drive, sometimes the journey is far more valuable than any solid conclusion.
Twin Peaks: The Return airs weekly on Mondays at 2am on Sky Atlantic, and then repeated Tuesdays at 9pm. We will be reviewing the series every week – continuing with Parts 3 & 4, available to stream on Sky On Demand and NOW TV.