A few years back when I was working a summer in-between semesters of college I was engaging in a favorite pastime with a coworker-talking about our shared love of movies. It wasn’t long before he brought up the name David Lynch, asking if I had heard of him or his movies. I had claimed to be a future director and writer of films, but had not heard this name. My fellow colleague stared blankly at me Was I joking with him? He started naming titles of films I had never even remotely heard of; Blue Velvet? No. Eraserhead? Nope. Surely I had heard of Mulholland Dr.? Not even once.
Life continued that way for awhile, too busy consuming other films along with finishing college, and then getting some sort of job here and there. You know, the typical creative path: winding and without a clear direction. Fast forward to last fall when murmurs of a show called Twin Peaks was going to make a comeback much like many shows recently, reanimated from the dead for one last swipe at the small screen. More importantly though the name David Lynch came up again and like a mysterious ringing in the distance, I went to discover what may lie uncovered. So I did what anyone else in my position with an ounce of curiosity would do, I searched Netflix for Twin Peaks.
What I found was a show all it’s own. First and foremost, Twin Peaks is weird. Quite weird in fact. The show takes its time unraveling this weirdness to the audience. We’re introduced to, well, the whole town essentially. It’s a cast of characters that all feel quirky enough on the outside to be real in their own odd way. The show took risks, for the time anyway, as it was aired on television in the early 1990’s. It all began with the murder of the town’s high school homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, beloved by everyone.
The original show, seasons one and two, are still on Netflix and I encourage you to check them out if you haven’t seen them. Twin Peaks is.. many things all at once. It’s an over the top emotional murder mystery that unravels mystery after mystery the more the characters try to dig at the truth. It’s a show about loss and grief, and how a death can affect a community. The show is also about abuse in a multitude of forms. It’s also got a varied sense of humor that morphs over time from stylized black humor, to something a bit dry, sometimes even slapstick, or sometimes simply awkward humor ahead of its time. Between juggling soap opera tendencies with a police procedural, the show’s main attraction are the cast of characters that live in Twin Peaks. The star character and fan favorite of the show though is Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper. He’s the one through-line of everything Twin Peaks. With everything that happens in this universe, Agent Cooper, in one form or another, is one of the few consistent entities that gets focus. His love of trees, strong black coffee, and his almost childlike optimism throughout his time in the original Twin Peaks quickly made him the lovable, but true to his morals, character that the audience embraced. Which is why the ending of the original show crushed so many. With the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers that ended the series due to its cancellation, many wondered, would we ever find out what happened?
Then, in 1992 a Twin Peaks movie was released and entirely directed by David Lynch unlike the show during its run. Huzzah! Answers! Or at least that’s what most probably assumed they would be getting. Not so fast! The film “Fire walk with me” was a prequel that focused on the last week of Laura Palmer’s life and the events that lead to her death. You may think, if it’s a prequel, should I watch it before the original series? Not unless you want massive spoilers, the film flutters around time and the context that the show gives the film helps to understand what’s happening. The film is far darker than the show, fully embracing the sexual abuse and violence that the original series hinted at. Plus, David Bowie plays an FBI agent, so that’s kinda cool.
Now, twenty-five years later, we have the much anticipated third season of Twin Peaks, which is calling itself “The Return” and is a limited run series eighteen episodes in length airing on Showtime. You can also find the show streaming on Showtime’s website. David Lynch has reunited with writer Mark Frost and is directing every episode of the show’s return. As of the time of this writing Showtime has released eight of the eighteen episodes, and boy, does it get weird. As someone who was never entirely into abstraction in narrative, I have to admit, if I had described this show’s style and demeanor to myself before seeing it, I might not have been so eager to give it a watch. Here, David Lynch has captured my rapt attention. By placing new and innovative visuals and artistic style in the world of a narrative that I’ve come to know and become invested in, he has me returning to Showtime’s website each week to find out what will happen to Agent Cooper? I don’t want to dive too far into the details because it really is something you have to see for yourself, but I must heed a warning; this show requires your viewing patience. If you can’t sit through a three minute scene of someone sweeping up the Bang Bang Bar floor after closing for the night, then you may not enjoy this revival of Twin Peaks. This is not the cozy pacific northwest town you once knew, nor is it the style of show that we are given. However it is fascinating because it feels as though there is a clear artistic vision behind all of the choices being made. The audience may never know exactly what Lynch was planning. Or maybe we will. That’s kind of the beauty of this revival. The term “Lynchian Horror” has been thrown around in describing this show, and though I am not familiar with his other works, it seems appropriate. Between ideas of existential crisis, the origin of a new evil, brooding and unsettling atmospheres abound-this feels like a psychological horror rather than anything traditional.
As I’ve gotten older I have come to appreciate art that challenges the viewer in new ways, and this show is most definitely of that variety. If you’re game for something new and inexplicable, I suggest giving the show- in its variety of forms- a watch. I may return after the show has ended to give my thoughts on this television experiment, until then-try watching something new, it’s good for you!