Directed by: David Lynch | 1014 minutes | crime, drama | Actors: Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Michael Horse, David Lynch, Chrysta Bell, Miguel Ferrer, Robert Forster, Kimmy Robertson, Naomi Watts, Laura Dern, Harry Goaz, Al Strobel, Pierce Gagnon, John Pirruccello, Don Murray, Tim Roth, Dana Ashbrook, Mädchen Amick, Jim Belushi, Richard Beymer, Robert Knepper, Grace Zabriskie, Tom Sizemore, James Marshall, Peggy Lipton, Harry Dean Stanton, Ashley Judd, Amanda Seyfried, Everett McGill
With ‘Twin Peaks’, creative minds David Lynch and David Frost were responsible for one of the most influential monuments in modern television history in the early 1990s. The atmospheric setting, balanced mix of thriller, murder mystery, humor and (light) horror and the spectrum of eccentric and memorable characters gave the series a true cult status in no time. With ‘Twin Peaks’ filmmaker Lynch succeeded wonderfully in translating his typical style, which often effortlessly combines surrealism with pure human drama, to the small screen.
A quarter of a century after the original ‘Twin Peaks’, the epic finally got a sequel. Reactions to the arrival of a new series have been mixed; on the one hand, many fans were of course eagerly awaiting the new creation of Lynch and Frost, but on the other hand there was also some skepticism. Could the new ‘Twin Peaks’ match the quality of the original or would we be served a far cry from the monumental cult series? Even after the release of the new series, the viewership landscape remained divided. Many speak of a masterpiece, but qualifications such as ‘incoherent shoddy work’ and variants thereof are also not lacking on various internet forums.
Now ‘Twin Peaks’ (and much of Lynch’s work in general) has never been a narration for people who like a linear plot and ready-made answers. Playing with the viewer’s imagination to fill in certain parts of the story is precisely one of the elements that give the series its strength and charm. However, the new series takes that approach a lot further, even to the extreme. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that this time David Lynch has been given complete creative freedom from the channel bosses and producers of pay channel Showtime. This move produces an almost comprehensible combination of circumstances and an extremely high level of abstraction.
Twin Peaks: The Return opens with the Season 2 scene where Laura Palmer turns to the amiable FBI agent and main protagonist Dale Cooper in the dream room of the Black Lodge. After the sentence ‘I’ll see you again in 25 years’ we do indeed make that leap in time. Cooper is still trapped in the limbo that is the black lodge, while his evil alter ego (identified by its longer hair and leather jacket), possessed by the sardonic ghost Bob, is now causing death and destruction in the real world. . This overture marks the start of a bizarre journey that takes us through different parts of the United States (including Las Vegas, New York, South Dakota). In this third season, Lynch and Frost thus paint with a broader brush – both geographically and narratively – than in the original. The number of storylines has expanded, while more characters appear on the scene. They are partly played by big Hollywood names such as Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Tom Sizemore and Jim Belushi.
This broadening of the epic has advantages and disadvantages. Some storylines and subplots, especially those in which the dark forces of the past and dry humor play a role, deliver undeniably fascinating television with eternal value. These moments of glory effectively bring elements of the old series back to the modern television era. The penetrating score of Angelo Badalamenti, the distinctive dialogues, the forests and patches of fog – which again put their visual stamp on the whole and symbolize the contrast between pleasant places or persons and the ugliness and depravity that lurks beneath the surface – or the hallucinatory thrips and visions; they are unmistakable echoes from the Twin Peaks past that still work very well today.
Despite those ironclad moments, the third act of ‘Twin Peaks’ sometimes suffers from serious imbalance. Lynch occasionally goes too far in his penchant for abstraction, surrealism and absurdity. The middle part of episode 8, in which we are drawn into the eye of a nuclear explosion, among other things, is the low point in that respect and quickly turns into a visual and auditory torture. Some storylines also lack any relevance, do nothing at all for the plot and only seem to be designed to give certain characters from the first hour a modest stage. In addition, ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ is a lot killer, more sterile and less atmospheric than the original series due to the digital look that the whole takes on.
Despite the fact that ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ at first glance looks like an unstructured cabinet of curiosities, there is indeed an underlying message to be discerned. It seems to revolve mainly around decay and loss, a fact that fits well with the fact that various actors who play in the series (Miguel Ferrer, Harry Dean Stanton, the ‘log lady’ Catherine E. Coulson) before the premiere or not died a long time after. The final apotheosis clearly exudes this theme, which in a sense also applies to the prominent storyline around the insurance agent Dougie, whose body is taken over by the amnesiac ‘good Cooper’. The way in which Dougie / Cooper stumbles through life like a disguised zombie is not just a melancholy parody of conformist petty bourgeoisism:
In ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’, Lynch and Frost open up all registers and the two create a rich and pitch-dark fairy tale, a labyrinthine mystery game that combines the fantastic with the banality of the everyday and ultimately raises more questions than answers. It leads to a series that provides moments of ecstatic viewing pleasure, but occasionally loses itself in its own pretensions. As a result, ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’ just a little too often takes the form of a random collage of abstract and surrealistic visual elements.