Twin Peaks returned to television for the first time in 26 years and it was both everything some fans might have expected (bizarre David Lynchian stream of consciousness, heavy on Black Lodge references) and nothing anyone could have anticipated. Unless, that is, you predicted the revival of this cult favorite to feature a talking tree that is the manifestation of the One Armed Man’s missing limb. “I am the arm,” whispered the glorified twig with a pulsing brain to Agent Cooper and one-armed Mike, “and I sound like this.”
Well, I am a viewer of the first two hours of Twin Peaks, and I sound like this: Say what?
Those first two hours were disjointed, occasionally brilliant, and weird even by today’s weird TV standards. Within the first few minutes, the Giant reappeared, although if you sat through the closing credits, you may have noticed that Carel Struycken’s character wasn’t even identified as the Giant anymore. My hand to God, his character was listed as “???????” Twin Peaks is so freaking out there, it is now naming its characters using punctuation marks. Suck on that, American Gods and The Leftovers.
“It is in our house now,” ??????? told Cooper in that early scene, one of the many surreal vignettes peppered throughout the back-to-back episodes. “It all cannot be said aloud now. Remember … 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”
I have zero-point-zero idea what any of that means, and I sort of dig that about this revival of Twin Peaks, even though it zigs and zags from moment to moment to an extreme that rivals the floor design in the Black Lodge.
Several threads are introduced in hours one and two. The closest thing to a “traditional” story line involves a new character, Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard), a high-school principal in Buckhorn, South Dakota, who stands accused of murdering a librarian named Ruth Davenport. Clearly Bill was influenced by Bob to commit the crime — or maybe Bob convinced his wife to convince Bill to kill Ruth? It’s unclear. Bob, by the way, has fully inhabited non–Black Lodge, real-world Dale Cooper, and you can tell that’s the case because Bob-Cooper kills people without remorse, drives a Mercedes, and looks like Tommy Wiseau in The Room. (“You’re tearing me apart, talking arm tree!”) As for the good Cooper — who, as noted in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, remains trapped in the Black Lodge — he was rendered nonexistent and hurtled, in shrunken form, into the glass box in New York City that was being watched over by Sam Colby (Ben Rosenfield). Much of the season will presumably revolve around pulling good Cooper back into reality and getting rid of bad Bob-Tommy-Wiseau Cooper.
The premiere contains all kinds of non sequitur scenes that come and go, as if their only purpose is to reintroduce certain characters then move on to the next bit of surrealism. We see Dr. Jacoby getting a shovel delivery, Ben and Jerry Horne gabbing about pot-laced sweet bread, and Sarah Palmer watching movies of animals having sex and/or feasting on each other. So far, no signs of Audrey, Doc Hayward, or Bobby, but we do catch glimpses of James, Shelley, Lucy, and Andy.
For every oddity that seems to exist for oddity’s sake, there is a moment that is genuinely moving or disturbing. The most poignant parts of these first two episodes come from the Log Lady, who reaches out to Deputy Hawk to tell him that he must find something missing that relates to Agent Cooper and that he will do so using “his heritage” as a guide. Catherine E. Coulson, who died in 2015 after a struggle with cancer, was obviously ill when she shot these scenes, which infuses them with a genuine urgency and sadness. I also was fascinated by all the business involving the glass box in that New York warehouse, which Sam is apparently being paid by some anonymous millionaire — maybe Bob-Cooper? — to keep an eye on at all times.
David Lynch has always been a phenomenally evocative director of horror, and the scene in which Sam and Tracey (Madeline Zima) are attacked by the entity that shows up in the glass box — maybe it was Cooper who sliced them to bits, or maybe it wasn’t? — provides solid evidence that he still knows how to use that gift. So does the awful, slow reveal of Ruth Davenport’s corpse, which is really just her head associated with another random body.
At the same time, these two hours are so cuckoo-bananas and all over the place that it’s hard to deem them a success. I didn’t hate this new iteration of Twin Peaks, but I didn’t love it either. It may best be described using the words from the Chromatics song performed at the end of the premiere: “I took your picture from the frame and now you’re nothing like you seem.” A lot of the imagery of Twin Peaks is still there — the waterfalls, and Kyle MacLachlan with a tape recorder, and Laura Palmer telling us that sometimes her arms bend back. But it is in a totally different frame now, and it feels nothing like it used to feel. Which is sort of what I expected it to feel like.
What did you think of the premiere? This is no longer the early-’90s, so you can actually share your Twin Peaks feelings in the comments, right here and right now, on the internet!