Ahead of David Lynch’s revival, I went back and binged on the original series, interested to know if it would still capture me like it did 27 years ago. I was only a few years older than the fictional 17-year-old Laura Palmer when I sat with my mom and best friend Erik each week, religiously invested in Special Agent Cooper probing Laura’s grisly death. My mother didn’t laugh at the dark humor that Erik and I enjoyed over the slain girl’s mom wailing long past when other directors would have yelled “cut!” We had grown up on Lynch’s Blue Velvet and were more than prepared for the dramatic swings—after all, Dennis Hopper snuffing up oxygen through a mask is practically normal. Still, both generations were glued-fast to the intrigue.
Experiencing Peaks after such an absence was a strange homecoming of sorts. Like a family reunion where some faces are more recognizable than others but in a few short moments everyone’s personality comes raging back. Vixen Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), “Damn fine cup of coffee!” Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), and lovely Laura (Sheryl Lee) are among the many of the memorable faces, along with (hey I remember now!) Ed Hurley (Everett McGill), Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz), and Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson). Plus a host of other quirky subversive characters milling about the picturesque Twin Peaks, the town that’s just waiting to have the phony facade peeled back revealing the demons at play.
Watching it again, I was engrossed by the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer—though I knew exactly, her father Leland as possessed by the evil spirit BOB. I had forgotten that Laura tells Cooper she will meet him again in 25 years. How prescient is that! I remembered the cliffhanger with BOB possessing Coop and then little else in that final half-season. That final half, plus the film Fire Walk with Me (1992), didn’t necessarily ever have me begging for the show’s return.
I was only a few years older than the fictional 17-year-old Laura Palmer when I sat with my mom and best friend Erik each week, religiously invested in Special Agent Cooper probing Laura’s grisly death.
Against my lowered expectations, I didn’t jump up and down with the announcement that Lynch was heading back to Peaks at first, but I have to admit that a second go-around made me curious to see if he along with Mark Frost could recreate the magic without treading over the same hallowed ground. Would I give a damn about these characters so much more mature? And after revealing the murderer in the second season, ratings steadily dropped—so what made Lynch think anyone would still be gripped? We watched the original for not just the satire and quirky characters but because there was an intriguing mystery at the heart of the narrative. Once that went, what was left? Turns out, quite a bit.
Lynch picked up where we left off in 1991 with Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge and his doppelganger still on the loose. Kyle MacLachlan sporting longer hair and wearing a leather jacket, killing at random, was not exactly where I thought we would be, but it makes sense that the evil one has been off raising hell while the FBI agent has remained trapped in limbo, aging. He’s told by a naked twiggy tree topped off with a pulsating brain (Lynch cheesiness at its best) that the doppelganger—malevolent Cooper—must return before Coop can go.
In an episode highlight, a woman (Sheryl Lee) resembling an older Laura Palmer confronts Cooper, who asks if she is indeed Laura. The woman says she knows her, and then claims to be Laura Palmer before bending in that familiar way and hovering over Cooper, whispering in his ear. Then, she is eerily yanked away screaming. What the hell was that about?
Outlandish and bizarre doesn’t even begin to describe some scenes—like a young man watching a glass box being filmed nonstop from all angles. A woman who delivers coffee to him each day is curious about what’s behind the locked studio doors and gets her “visitor pass” when the security guard disappears. The two are making out on the studio couch when a spirit crosses the mystical divide and begins bumping into the glass wall, as if in a loop, until it finally breaks through and attacks them, blood flying, ripping them to pieces.
In another scene, cops are investigating a woman’s apartment and find her covered up in her bed, dead. Pulling away the blankets, they discover her head has been severed from her rather bloated body, only the post-mortem examination reveals the body is not hers. Interlacing scenes accentuate Lynch’s unique brand of humor. The wife of the man suspected of murdering the aforementioned dismembered woman watches as her husband is being led away in handcuffs, but she’s more ruffled about whether he will be back in time for their dinner guests.
Then, there’s Lucy Moran still faithfully working the front desk of the sheriff’s department, befuddling visitors who’ve stopped in to ask a simple question. And just how welcoming was it to see the Log Lady’s return! Actress Catherine Coulson passed away in 2015, but thankfully she was well enough to film some scenes. Still holding her sentient piece of tree, she delivers its auguries over the phone to Hawk.
Various, seemingly divergent plot threads (what was Doctor Jacoby doing with those shovels and Sarah Palmer just sitting there watching a violent nature program?) all gelled beautifully, unlike the first three episodes of American Gods, which felt somewhat scatterbrained. The master is back, and other shows could learn a thing from Lynch’s superb pacing.
Ending on a high note, Shelley Johnson (Madchen Amick) is hanging out at the bar, commenting on how cool James Hurley (James Marshall) still is, as the band Chromatics plays “Shadow,” a haunting Julee Cruise-type song. This could be any little town in America with teenage kids that have grown up and are parents now themselves, but this is Twin Peaks, where supernatural doings are happening, and I couldn’t be more pleased. If Lynch and Frost can keep this quality up over the next sixteen episodes, we will be witnessing one of the most amazing resurrections in television history.
There are 18 scheduled episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, with a few two-episode weeks like this one. Join me next week for a review of Parts 3 and 4, then every three weeks for a batch review—leading up to an exciting two-part finale!
David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.