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Can I Watch the Twin Peaks Reboot Without Seeing the Original?

This guy is the key to the show. Photo: Showtime

With the first four hours of Twin Peaks: The Return now rattling around the public consciousness, it’s time to wonder exactly how much the 2017 version ties to the original series. A number of people out there have asked if they can jump right into the new Showtime series without having seen any of the first (or giving up when Lynch did in the sometimes awful season two). Before it aired, the instinct was to say “no way” and encourage people to catch up, but the truth is that these first four hours, at least so far, are only loosely tied to what happened on the original Twin Peaks. Sure, season two subplots like Ben Horne’s Civil War obsession could resurface, and we may soon learn that Nadine Hurley thinks she’s a teenager again, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely. So, what do you actually have to remember about the first series to understand the new one?

1. Dale Cooper was trapped in the Black Lodge.
The key action of the opening act of The Return centers on Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) escaping the Black Lodge, the alternate plane on which he’s apparently been trapped for 26 years. At the end of what we all thought would be the series finale in 1991, an essential episode directed by David Lynch himself, we learned that it wasn’t Dale Cooper who left the supernatural otherworld, but Bob (Frank Silva), the malevolent force who possessed Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) and forced him to kill his daughter Laura (Sheryl Lee). The final shot, in which Cooper smashed his head into a mirror, in which we saw a cackling Bob, is essential to understanding what’s happening in The Return. It turns out Dale never really left the Black Lodge, and it was an evil doppelgänger who was loosed into the world and has been running through it for the last quarter-century, at one point possessed by Bob but now just a tough-talking bad guy himself.

2. He wasn’t alone.
Many of the familiar faces in the new iteration of The Return are in the Black Lodge itself before Cooper makes his escape. These scenes don’t have the same power if you’ve never seen or don’t remember Laura Palmer, or her father/murderer Leland. Even the Giant (Carel Struycken) and the One-Armed Man (Al Strobel) return in the Lodge. These characters almost serve as a commentary on the reboot itself: Cooper has to escape the past, represented by the old characters, to get to the new show.

3. People loved Dale Cooper.
If you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, you may wonder why people like Hawk (Michael Horse), Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), and Andy (Harry Goaz) are so quick to act when the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) tells of her visions of Agent Cooper. The Cooper from the original Twin Peaks, especially in the first season, was well-liked by everyone in Twin Peaks and everyone with whom he worked — which also explains Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Gordon Cole (David Lynch) rushing into immediate action when he returns. Again, this feels almost like a commentary on fans of the show itself, those loyal people who are willing to drop everything when the name Dale Cooper comes up.

4. Don’t panic if it doesn’t make any sense at all.
We’ve seen people asking questions about the first four hours as if they missed something or if there’s a “correct” interpretation of certain scenes or images in Twin Peaks: The Return. What we’ve seen this year is a version of Lynch and Frost’s creation that’s willing to completely embrace the surreal elements of the show and feels no need to directly explain what’s happening or why you should care. So if you’re thinking there’s something you’re not “getting” or thinking you might have forgotten a plot point from the first two seasons that will somehow unlock the new one, let it go. If we’ve learned anything about Twin Peaks through these first four hours, it’s that there’s no way to know what the show will do next. And that’s kind of liberating if you really think about it.

Twin Peaks: Can I Watch Without Seeing the Original?