And there we have it. Just like that, Twin Peaks is back. But like Cooper emerging from the Black Lodge in the final episode of the show’s original run, something isn’t right, and this is not the Twin Peaks we remember.
Without a doubt, this is going to be a contentious topic among Peaks fans for a while. Four episodes into the new season, and we’ve hardly seen much of the actual town of Twin Peaks, and many of the original characters either remain unaccounted for or have been reduced to brief cameos. The dreamy musical score is mostly missing, the warm lighting and woody tones of the old series have been replaced by a slicker and more Kubrickian visual style, and the plot itself is so dense and twisty that unlike the old incarnation of Twin Peaks — whose premise could be easily boiled down to one sentence (“who killed Laura Palmer?”) — it’s not even clear what this new iteration is even about.
So the story as I’m understanding it so far is that Evil Cooper/Mr. C (and his ever rotating gang of criminal connections) has meddled in the life of Bill Hastings, a high school principal from Buckhorn, South Dakota, and needs some pertinent information to which Hastings’ secretary has access. (It’s difficult to imagine what kind of info a school principal has that would be the envy of an evil spirit, but this is Twin Peaks so let’s just roll with it). Hastings may or may not have brutally killed his lover Ruth Davenport, but it seems almost certain that Evil Cooper had a hand in that as well.
Over the last 25 years, Mr. C has either been working with or searching for Phillip Jeffries, and Phillip in turn recently placed a hit on him (at least according to one character). Jeffries also possibly plays some role in whatever is happening in NYC with the glass box, a secret project funded by currently unknown figures, and which is implied to have access to another world.
Evil Coop does not want to go back to the Black Lodge, and something or someone intervenes at the appointed time, swapping in a third person (Las Vegas real estate sleaze Dougie Jones, a womanizing schlub in trouble with the mob) in lieu of Mr. C, and spitting out the real Cooper in Dougie’s place. Dougie was wearing the Lodge ring at the time, so it appears as if he’d been set up for this exact purpose. Cooper is now trapped in Dougie’s suburban life, brain-addled and with no memory of his former self. Meanwhile, Evil Cooper is exactly where he wants to be: at the federal prison which currently holds his former associate Ray, who has the key intel regarding Hastings.
Back in Twin Peaks, Hawk is reviewing the Laura Palmer case after a clue from the Log Lady, who’s informed him that something very important regarding Agent Cooper is missing. Cooper’s evil double went underground 25 years before, after a secretive visit with Major Briggs; the Major died under mysterious circumstances the following day. No one, perhaps other than Jeffries, is apparently aware that Cooper was trapped in the Lodge, and that the Coop at large in the world is Evil Cooper.
Also, Lucy is afraid of cell phones, the Roadhouse seems to be hosting a neverending hipster music festival, and the Little Man From Another Place is now a tree with a talking brain.
Does that about cover it?
It’s almost impossible to know where to start unpacking this. But a path is formed by laying one stone at a time, so let’s pick a stone: the glass box.
This has to be one of the most terrifying scenes ever filmed for Twin Peaks. Though it has all the conventions of a standard horror movie — attractive young people make out, get killed by monster — Lynch gives it a level of extra unsettlingness with his choice of pacing and atmosphere, redolent of a nightmare come to life. And the creature itself, a menacing blur which looks vaguely like a grey alien crossed with a claymated demon, proves more disturbing than your average ghoul from, say, American Horror Story, precisely because the mood of this sequence is both involving (you’re kinda rooting for these two cute kids) and alienating (no one is acting quite like a normal person). An additional sense of unease comes from the glass box itself, and its as-yet unrevealed purpose, further charging the scene with anxiety.
Moving from NYC over to Buckhorn, we have another running plotline, with Bill Hastings being accused of murder. With its quirky cadence and alternatingly humorous and gruesome portrayal of small town crime, the subplot plays like (and is very reminiscent of) an episode of Fargo, if Fargo went a step further in its dark sense of Middle American mysticism. Matthew Lillard, apart from the brief confrontation with mortality my generation is likely to feel when they see he’s now a middle-aged man and looks the part, is simply a revelation in this role. He perfectly conveys Bill’s sense of confusion and being in over his head while also clearly knowing more than he’s willing to say. Like Jerry Lundegaard/Lester Nygaard, he’s a man who’s gotten himself involved in something bigger that he doesn’t really grasp, which is now going to devour him whole.
The character of Mrs. Hastings (Cornelia Guest) manages to possibly usurp Windom Earle’s “I haven’t been this excited since I punctured Caroline’s aorta” with her absolutely amazing delivery of “But the MORGANS are coming for dinner!,” a reaction of hilariously impotent indignation at her husband being arrested. But then she too reveals extra dimensions in the next episode, as we find out she and Bill are miserable together and she is more than happy to see him fester for eternity in prison. This is the exact kind of soap opera bubbling under everyday life that Twin Peaks has made its bread and butter, and even though we’re not fully in Twin Peaks yet, it feels wholly appropriate in the larger context of the series. (And we get another glimpse of the uncanny in the brief appearance of a charred ghost-like figure, displaying a look of sheer stricken terror on its face, who then floats away without explanation).
Running around this part of South Dakota is Cooper’s doppelganger, the second of three roles which Kyle MacLachlan portrays in this new series. While Evil Cooper could have easily expressed his madness by knocking over glasses of milk and giggling maniacally (in the final moment of the series, he seems to relish the freeing sensation of disobedience which Cooper assiduously avoided, reveling in its minutiae), here Mr. C has become a full-fledged combination of Frank Booth and BOB, modeled to slyly evoke the appearance of deceased BOB actor Frank Silva. This version of Cooper is a leather-skinned, sweaty, oily spirit of indulgent malevolence, all guns and drugs and sex and pure unadulterated id. His penchant for shooting women in the face is disturbing to say the least . . . as is his usage of Cooper’s tape recorder to deliver threats, a perversion of Coop’s famous habit of making cassette messages.
The real Cooper, meanwhile, remains trapped in the Lodge for much of the first three episodes, and this is where the new incarnation of Twin Peaks gets weirder than anything ever on television. Starting with a mysterious black-and-white conversation with the Giant (now credited as “???????”) and ending with Cooper in a dreamlike living room where he is subsequently sucked through an electrical spacetime portal and spat through a wall outlet in Vegas, this portion of the series feels like David Lynch threw his memories of Eraserhead and Dune into a mixer and let the very bizarre chips fall where they may. Much of this will inevitably go down as some of the show’s most memorable imagery, particularly as many long-lost characters reappear. A version of Ronette Pulaski shows up to ominously warn Coop “my mother is coming” (is it the thing that ended up in the glass box?). Laura Palmer speaks to Cooper in the Red Room, a recreation of the scene from the original series, but with the much older Laura telling Coop he can leave, before she’s pulled violently into the air by an unseen presence. Leland Palmer later arrives, asking Cooper to find his daughter. A woman with no eyes leads Cooper into outer space, where Major Briggs’ floating visage momentarily appears in the stars and utters “Blue Rose.”
And then we have “the evolution of the Arm,” a creative tactic meant to handle the very public falling out that Little Man/Mike/the Arm actor Michael J. Anderson has had with Lynch and the producers. With Anderson’s absence, the character’s presence is now split between this new form and the One-Armed Man. The reintroduction of the Arm as a bare-limbed tree with a ball of goo acting as a face pretty much sums up this entire endeavor: strange, unexpected, borderline ridiculous, and very disturbing. Ditto its doppelganger, which flails around in the Red Room’s adjacent hallway screaming “NON-EXIST-ENT!” in a moment that can equally induce laughter or terror. (The scene with the Arm was the moment when I firmly gave myself over to the new Twin Peaks, because it could not have any more boldly announced that we were in completely uncharted territory).
Most people predicted that MacLachlan would be playing both Cooper and his doppelganger, but few had any idea he’d actually be embodying three different characters. While Dougie Jones only takes up a few moments of screen time before he’s dismissed by the One-Armed Man as a manufactured persona, it’s nevertheless astounding to see MacLachlan doing so much, when his role on the original series was so precise as to be almost limiting. Here, he’s getting to play practically everything in his range, portraying three very distinct characters and then subverting and reestablishing those characters as we explore them further.
Assuredly, one of the more controversial storylines in these episodes will be Cooper getting zapped into Dougie’s life and then stumbling through Vegas like an easily amused zombie, only able to repeat things other people say. “Call for help.” “Hellooooo.” “Jade give two rides.” (25 years in the Black Lodge will probably do this to you. Also, might I vote here and now for Nafessa Williams’ Jade as one of the most likeable characters in the new series. Her “I don’t need this ffs” attitude while trying to babysit Coop-as-Dougie is priceless). While I can see how this subplot might quickly wear out its welcome, I think it’s a brilliant move. Though Coop has technically exited the Black Lodge, he hasn’t quite left yet, as he’s now wandering around with the mind of a child and easily distracted by shiny things, and you don’t get much more “shiny distraction” than Vegas.
The Lodge directs Cooper to a 100% success rate at the casino slots, literally throwing money at him, where he’s able to make up for all the dough that Dougie probably owes to organized criminals. (Thanks, Black Lodge!). He then returns home to his nice house in the suburbs with his beautiful wife (Janey-E Jones) and adorable kid (Sonny Jim Jones) where he can enjoy pancakes in the morning. This version of Cooper is a weird manbaby who has everything accounted for; Janey’s mothering of her husband seems firmly ingrained and she hardly notices anything is wrong, not exactly a testament to Dougie’s strength of character. However, as alarming as it is to see Cooper not even remotely himself, in some ways he’s been born into the world anew, and his childlike innocence makes this go down a bit easier, as he’s on a journey of rediscovery.
The One-Armed Man tells Cooper he was tricked, and it seems pretty obvious that Coop has been lulled into a diversion and robbed of his personality and memories, in a plan quite possibly orchestrated by Mr. C. This idea of a character getting lost in an illusion, even if not fully fitting into that illusion, is very much in keeping with the sensibilities of both David Lynch (who has a penchant for stories about people who retreat into new lives) and Mark Frost (the devil tempting a hero with banal normalcy is right up his alley), and feels appropriate within the world of Twin Peaks. To quote Dune, Cooper is now the sleeper who must awaken, so that he can recall his true self. Certainly, he’s getting little hints along the way, trying to remind him of that fateful night in Glastonbury Grove: Sycamore St. The red door. The owl. Merlin’s Market. Lancelot Court. (For those concerned that Frost isn’t reflected enough in these new episodes, the Arthurian references here go straight back to his occult and mythical fascinations which colored season two).
But for all this intrigue, so far we’ve spent precious little time in Twin Peaks, and most of it at the sheriff’s station, with some brief asides to the Great Northern (Jerry is now a legal pot seller and Ben is trying not to sleep with his attractive assistant, played by Ashley Judd) and Dr. Jacoby’s trailer in the forest (he’s spray painting shovels gold, because why not). We also glimpse Coachella I mean the Roadhouse, and see a very happy-looking James, a new Renault tending bar (Jean-Michel, according to the credits), and learn that Shelly has a daughter who’s old enough to be dating (we are all going to die as the irreversible march of time moves us towards annihilation). Back at police headquarters, Andy and Lucy and Hawk are exactly the same as we remember, and the new Sheriff Truman (Frank, brother to Harry) has been filling in due to Harry’s unspecified illness. The Brennans’ son Wally Brando shows up, hilariously played by Michael Cera with an enunciated lisp and a flair for the pretentious, imagining himself on a 50s rebel kick. And . . . that’s pretty much it so far.
Lynch and Frost seem well aware of the fact that this is the portion of the series with prime emotional impact, and are thusly delaying a more expansive return to the town until later in the season. I can speak from my own experience watching these episodes that almost every time a character from the original series appeared, there were frissons of pure joy. Just the image of Shelly hanging out with her girlfriends and then James walking into the bar . . . I was dying with happiness. (Yes, I love James. Go away). So it’s somewhat maddening to only be getting teases, but of course, it’s maddening because we care.
I guess I should stop and confess something here. In my eagerness to finally revisit the world of Twin Peaks, I uncharacteristically failed to pay attention to which episode I was selecting on the Showtime app. Long story short, I accidentally watched episode four thinking it was the premiere. I know this would make David Lynch, famously particular about people seeing his work in the right setting, wince in pain like Gordon Cole hearing Albert shuffle his feet, but what’s done is done. Part four was my first experience watching the new Twin Peaks.
Funny enough, if someone were to mistakenly watch the wrong episode first, this is the perfect accidental premiere. The opening with Cooper in the casino is so intriguing, and dotted with so many little references to the past series, that it can totally function as a cold introduction. All you need to know is that something isn’t right with Coop, and boom, you’re involved in the mystery. The rest of the episode then unfolds with the FBI going to visit Mr. C, who they don’t know is Cooper’s doppelganger. We see Gordon, Denise, and Albert again, spend some time with Agent Preston, and then head to the prison. This was my first time with Evil Cooper, and I found it deeply unsettling, with his monotone and unnaturally pitched voice ticking off a mental script like some sinister robot. Seeing how visibly disturbed Gordon is afterwards only compounded the feeling. And then in Twin Peaks, we head straight into meeting the new Sheriff Truman, we get the reveal that Bobby is now a cop, and then Wally arrives. All of this played to me like it was meant to be our introduction to the season, and I was impressed. Whoops.
Even better is that the emotional payoff in this hour is so high. Bobby seeing a picture of Laura for the first time in years, and then trying to play it cool while he fights uncontrollable sobbing, is such a loaded moment that it lands right away, the exact mix of soap opera melodrama and genuine heartbreak which defined the old series. Ditto Lucy and Andy joining hands in that scene, as they vividly remember the trauma of Laura’s murder. And while I don’t automatically equate becoming a police officer with any inherent advancement in life, I felt weirdly proud of Bobby, partially on behalf of Major Briggs. (I’m not crying shut up).
The conversation between Gordon and Denise is also touching, and it’s great knowing that she’s now the Bureau Chief of Staff. I appreciated that this scene takes Denise seriously as a trans woman — inasmuch as a dreamlike and exaggerated work like Twin Peaks takes anyone seriously— and even celebrates that she’s in a position of power. Jokes about hormones and hot flashes aside, it’s a sweet moment, and Gordon’s “change their hearts or die” line about transphobia in the Bureau is a powerful one. Finally, Albert and Gordon seeing their old friend Coop after 25 years, only to realize this is not the same person they remember, proves absolutely heartbreaking, the life just draining from their faces as they realize something is terribly, horribly wrong.
Not that the other episodes lack emotional punch. Our brief glimpse of Sarah Palmer, a lonely alcoholic sitting on her couch and watching a graphically violent nature program, has to rank as one of the saddest images ever on Twin Peaks. And the return of the Log Lady, featuring a visibly ill Catherine Coulson, well . . . I have to say I was not ready for this. Not to get too personal here, but I’ve recently separated from my wife, and our wedding ceremony (not that far in the past) had featured a quote from the Log Lady. On top of that, I’ve also recently lost my mother to cancer. So seeing the terminally sick Margaret was like a punch in the gut, on many different levels. But she’s such a source of light that even her illness can’t dilute the bliss of her gracing the screen again.
In general, there’s a palpable sadness that hangs over this Twin Peaks, which is perhaps fitting, considering the way the original series was so heavily focused on grief and its aftermath. But instead of Laura Palmer, now we’re mourning the passing of so many Peaks actors, either recently (Coulson, David Bowie, Miguel Ferrer, Warren Frost, Michael Parks) or in the further past (Frank Silva, Don Davis, Hank Worden, Jack Nance, Daniel O’Herlihy). Nearly every episode of the new season so far has been dedicated to a departed cast member, and I think that speaks to how this new version contains a sense of looking back at life lived and not lived. After all, once Cooper is himself again, he’ll have to come to terms with having missed 25 years of his existence, no small amount of time. And a new generation is obviously alive in Twin Peaks, meaning the older generations will have to hand over the reins at some point.
So what about the new characters? So far, I’ve found all of them very engaging. The idea of introducing a totally normal, well-adjusted person like Jade into Twin Peaks (and also possibly the most well-adjusted sex worker in the history of TV, which normally portrays sex workers as troubled drug addicts) is so perfect because it allows that person to play off of the ridiculousness of everything transpiring. Cera’s Wally is also a great creation, a wannabe Brando/Dean/Kerouac whose every word is charged with an overbearing amount of self-importance. He’s a parody of the already parodic bikers of Twin Peaks, the joke there being that the assumed tough guys like James, Joey, and Cappie are in actuality all sensitive, poetic types. Wally Brando is doing his impression of an impression, an only child whose parents dote on him and allow him to fantasize himself as anything he wants. (His announcement that he’s returned for the specific reason of letting “these sweet people” know that, yes, they may with full permission turn his childhood bedroom into a study . . . I can’t take it). Naomi Watts, always terrific, makes another welcome new cast member, her Janey-E being a mixture of frustrated put-upon wife with a loser husband, but also rather oblivious herself.
Robert Forster is a natural addition to the show as Frank Truman, and while, like many other people, I’m very sad not to see Michael Ontkean, I immediately bought Forster as the new sheriff. It’s quite easy to see why he was originally cast as Harry in the pilot before Ontkean took over, and I suspect he’ll be a beloved character by the time this season wraps up. (I do however hope that Harry’s illness is addressed more specifically. He deserves more than being treated as an afterthought, regardless of whether or not Ontkean appears again).
Then we have Agent Tamara Preston, played by Chrysta Bell. Most diehard fans are aware that we’ve already met Agent Preston in Mark Frost’s recent novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks, but here she’s finally walking and talking and given full life. Still, it’s hard to get a read on her, as we don’t know her character well at all, and she’s so hyper-stylized in her mannerisms that it’s almost cartoonish. So far, she’s mostly been filtered through how the other characters see her, focusing on her attractiveness. This is especially interesting, as Denise voices this exact concern with Cole early in episode four, only for Cole to dismiss those concerns and insist he’s not interested in Preston as anything other than a good agent. That changes later in the episode, with Agent Preston rather casually waived away by Gordon so he can have some discussion time with Albert. The camera lingers while Cole and Albert creepily leer at Preston as she walks off, making it very certain that despite the good intentions of her superiors, Preston is in a male-dominated world and has an unfair struggle ahead to be taken seriously and not objectified. (Again, going back to Bryson’s very valid concern).
This has always been somewhat of a theme in Twin Peaks, with characters like Cooper being charming and traditionally handsome and noble on the one hand, but also like sanitized versions of Don Draper on the other. See Cooper’s deleted scene with Diane from Fire Walk With Me, where he pretty much tells Diane it’s her job to look beautiful and make coffee for the men. He’s absolutely adorable and even somewhat self-effacing, but the scene is also laughable in its gentle sexism. Meanwhile, Cole’s reputation sounds like it might be well-earned. I doubt that Lynch’s point is that Cooper or Cole are misogynistic pigs, more that they’re almost like living artifacts from a different time, more innocent in some ways, but that innocence hides some problematic things. (“Innocence hides problematic things” could be the tagline of this show). Though I don’t think it’s the right approach to look to Lynch for some kind of feminist meta-commentary — his mind just does not operate in the realm of grand political statements — I’m eager to find out where Tammy goes, as the show wouldn’t have called attention to this issue if it wasn’t part of her story.
Also, I don’t think for a second that Gordon or Albert would act on their attraction to Tammy Preston. And if Frost’s book is any indication, Preston herself is on a trajectory to be a detective of Cooper’s caliber for this new generation. It’s also worth mentioning that Preston is a young agent, and regardless of her sex or gender, Cole would be putting a new agent through the wringer to test their mettle. (He didn’t ask her to leave specifically so he could stare at her ass; he and Albert needed to share top secret information). We’ll just have to wait and see.
Oh and fuck Chad. Chew on that, Chad.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a number of fans are likely alarmed that this isn’t the Twin Peaks they remember. From the get-go with its beautiful new opening credits, we can tell this isn’t going to be a recreation of something that was cancelled in 1991, and from there it only deviates further in style and tone from the ABC version of the show. This is where a particular schism enters the frame, because some people see Twin Peaks as a David Lynch thing, and others view it as separate from his body of work, something to be appreciated on its own. Both of these views are valid. In terms of the former, Lynch co-created the show and is as invested in this world and its characters as anyone. To the latter, he voluntarily walked away from the series at times, leaving other people to steer the ship, and those other people contributed just as much to the show’s identity.
I personally think it’s a legitimate gripe to say “this is not what I expected when I think of Twin Peaks.” Similar to the return of Arrested Development, we’ve had years to distill Twin Peaks down into a particular experience, and what that experience means to us. It’s inevitably going to be jarring seeing it again, particularly when that return is a reinvention and not merely a continuation. Besides, if someone doesn’t like something, they don’t like it. Furthermore, this new series pretty much demands a period of adjustment. It is very much its own thing, and it takes a while to find your footing.
All I’ll add here is that Twin Peaks has reinvented before — the first season is different from the pilot, the second different from the first, the movie different from the show — so these new episodes being another take on the world of the story is not unprecedented. Also, I do think it’s apparent that this new season has been styled as a slow return to Twin Peaks, not just Cooper’s journey there, but our own as well. At some point, this will probably to a certain degree more resemble the show as we remember it, but it might take a while to get there. Patience is pretty much demanded.
Some have theorized that this is Lynch’s way of trolling the audience, him saying “The old Twin Peaks? Forget that shit. This is how it’s REALLY done!” and is now proceeding to mess with us and ruin our memories of the original series. I cannot vehemently disagree with this enough. As an artist, Lynch doesn’t seem to give any forethought to the audience whatsoever. He doesn’t care what’s going on in chat rooms, he’s not reading fan theories, he’s not making artistic choices to conform to the politics of the day or to avoid getting flamed on Twitter. He just cares about making his art, and the practicality of getting it completed as it should be. Though he may playfully nod or sometimes tip his hat to a certain awareness, he’s mostly in it to create and get lost in the act of creation. Maybe Mark Frost is more conscientious of those concerns, but Lynch certainly doesn’t seem to care about them.
The idea that David Lynch is sending the very direct message of “This is MY Twin Peaks, bishes! Genius at work!” just imparts too much specific intention on his behalf. While I suspect he’s somewhat reacting against the things he doesn’t like from the original series, I don’t really think he’s actively trying take those things away from the viewer, or destroy Twin Peaks as-it-was. (Lynch is a largely intuitive artist, in any case, so it would also be unlike him to frontload something with that much specific meaning). The fact is, he’s always talked about wishing he could revisit Peaks, despite his immense disappointment with how it ultimately played out as a series, and he wouldn’t have made an 18-hour Twin Peaks movie if it’s not something he genuinely cared about.
But it’s certainly true that this does function as a very long David Lynch film, more than a nostalgic return to the show. This isn’t Twinner Peaks. Personally, I’m fine with avoiding fan service, but we also haven’t seen this thing as a whole, so it’s a little early to call how well it does or does not capture the spirit of the original. One aspect that feels clear is that this is perhaps the movie Lynch has been trying to make for most of his life. He’s always wished he could create an endlessly long film that just keeps expanding and going down different avenues, and here, he’s doing just that. The delight Lynch is taking in creating again, and on this grand a scale, practically burns off the screen. He no longer has to rush through anything or trim down to an obligatory length. His work can sit and simmer and breathe the way it needs, perhaps fully for the first time.
Lynch’s approach has always been focused on the absurd, and while there have no doubt been complaints about some of the acting or the rough special effects in the new episodes, this is par for the course with him. Without undermining the characters or their predicaments, Lynch deploys sometimes stilted or awkward dialogue (“I’ve known about this affair. I’ve known about this affair all along”), not because to him this is a joke, or because he’s being glib or ironic, but because there’s unintentional absurdity and humor in the way people sometimes interact, even if what’s occurring is deeply serious.
His paintings often have a deliberate crudeness to them, and so much of the new Twin Peaks feels like a Lynch painting come to life. In recent years especially, he’s had a kind of minimalist approach to visual effects, utilizing unpolished images that are forceful and abrasive in their simplicity. Look no further than his animated series Dumbland to see how Lynch enjoys being crude on purpose, or his video for Nine Inch Nails’ “Came Back Haunted” for an example of minimal but effective imagery. But then certain visuals are so gorgeously rendered — Coop looking out over a purple ocean; the NYC skyline; the sci-fi exactness of the camera angles in the glass box scenes — that it’s plain as day Lynch is using almost everything in his bag of tricks.
There’s also an abundance of elements from his past work now alive in Twin Peaks. Moments like “the evolution of the arm” evoke Eraserhead, Mr. C is a variation of Frank Booth and Bobby Peru, Sarah watching animals being torn apart on TV mirrors a similar scene from Wild At Heart, Coop switching with Dougie is straight out of Lost Highway, etc. While it’s been bandied about that Lynch is doing a kind of victory lap, trying to unite all his work under one cosmology and celebrating his oeuvre, I again think this attributes a little too much intellectual and egotistic intent on his part. Artists often reuse and recycle, and are attracted to the same ideas and images and sounds and words over and over again, and that in large part is probably what’s happening here. I’m sure some of the references are intentional, and again I do suspect that this experience is the culmination of his work as a whole, but I’m not convinced it was intricately designed as such. I just can’t see it as David Lynch: A Celebration of Me!
One element that I do find very exciting is that Lynch is revisiting his infamous unproduced screenplay Ronnie Rocket, which would have been his second film. That script featured a handful of elements now directly introduced into the new Twin Peaks: electricity being used to manipulate reality, intimations of doors to other worlds, characters whose identities might be connected, over-the-top slapstick comedy, and strange beings which emanate from another plane. Twin Peaks is almost playing as an unofficial adaptation of Ronnie Rocket, right down to the fact that its initials are suggested in the Rancho Rosa production logo at the beginning of each episode. Albert at one point even quotes the movie’s subtitle: “the absurd mystery of the strange forces of existence.”
Whether consciously or not, Lynch has been appropriating Ronnie Rocket for years, both in Twin Peaks and out. Inland Empire begins with someone called the Phantom who’s searching for a mysterious entryway to an inner domain; RR opens with someone called the Detective who’s looking for something similar. Mulholland Drive ends with an otherworldly blue-haired woman who says “Silencio”; RR ends with an otherworldly blue woman who exclaims “Ronnie Rocket!” The lyrics for “Sycamore Trees” are derived from an early Rocket draft, and the initials RR appear in both the RR Diner and Dougie’s Vegas subdivision. Fire Walk With Me suggests that the Lodge beings use electricity in order to bend time and space and manifest in our world; Ronnie Rocket’s villains are the Donut Men, Men in Black-type thugs who wield electricity as a weapon. (Certain sharp-eyed fans have also noticed a recurring doughnut theme in Twin Peaks).
Ronnie Rocket showcased Lynch’s fascination with worlds within worlds, and his mystical view of the cosmos. Though Twin Peaks has a heavy dose of the paranormal and the occult, David Lynch doesn’t necessarily make films about the supernatural. His work is more often than not a nightmarish existential puzzle box, showing the spiritual states of people in search of (and in need of) some form of redemptive transcendence, with split psyches desperate to be made whole again. His characters are at the mercy of forces they don’t understand, and whether those forces are internal or external is not entirely answerable, because the line between inner and outer becomes blurred.
Mark Frost’s more literal take on the supernatural, and his interest in conspiracy theories and the arcane, creates with Lynch a kind of beautiful union of the abstract and the concrete, where Lynch and Frost are trading in so many strange ideas on multiple levels of interpretation. Indeed, Twin Peaks is something that each of them couldn’t have created without the other, and that is more than apparent in this new version, which really stands as Lynch and Frost operating at 100% of their creative powers, both individually and collectively. The two men also share a deep yearning for some sense of spirituality, which comes across in haunting images such as Laura saying “I am dead . . . yet I live” and then removing her face to reveal a beautiful light glowing within.
The original Twin Peaks caused a ripple effect which permanently changed television, introducing a more cinematic visual style, unconventional stories, art-house surrealism, an unwillingness to stick to one genre, and an overall disregard for the rules of TV. This new series honors that legacy and then one-ups it; there really has never been anything exactly like this on television, and might never be again. I have no idea how Lynch and Frost convinced Showtime to do this, a limited event series that is essentially like getting four or five different TV shows at once. But Twin Peaks is happening . . . not just again, but in some ways, for the first time.
So where is all this going? I have no idea, and don’t even want to know. I have certain suspicions, of course. I’m thinking that Hawk is meant to find Laura’s diary entry from FWWM — “the good Dale is in the Lodge and he can’t leave” — and remember his tribe’s legends about the Black Lodge. This would finally clue someone other than the audience into the fact that the wrong Dale Cooper has been running around for the last 25 years. I think Preston plays a big role in however events unfold, and we’re going to learn a lot more about what happened to Major Briggs. Bobby killed a deputy when he was a teenager and now he is a deputy, so I do wonder if the specter of that will be raised, and if he’s a cop that plays by the rules.
As for Dougie, one can only assume he’s connected to whatever forces are at work in Las Vegas (such as Patrick Fischler’s character), and that this ties into the main story somehow. Is the Black Lodge trying to help Dougie-Coop, or lure him away from the path? Mike appears to be genuinely wanting to assist Cooper (and desperate to reunite with BOB), and it does seem as if Coop’s doppelganger is the one responsible for Cooper’s current stasis. But we’ve also learned never to trust what we see in the Lodge, so it could go any which way. It feels inevitable that Cooper will snap out of it and make his return to Twin Peaks, however. Speaking of returns, there are so many characters we know are still coming, and possibly some surprises as well, and I can’t wait to see any and all of them. And of course, I hope that Angelo Badalamenti’s score makes a direct return front and center, and that we get a little bit of the old magic.
Regarding the major discrepancies from Mark Frost’s book that he swears will be addressed — Ed and Norma and Nadine have totally different backstories from what was presented on the series, Windom Earle never came to Twin Peaks, and most alarmingly, Annie doesn’t seem to exist — I’m still guessing there’s a mirror world or alternate timeline that comes into play here, which would be a cool idea, and pretty appropriate given the recurring idea of duality, twins, and mirrors, and the Lodge’s nonlinear approach to time. Is Cooper even in the correct reality? Until the Las Vegas story intersects with one of the other subplots, we won’t know for sure. It’s possible he may have a huge ordeal ahead of him in order to answer that pointed question, “how’s Annie?”
But this is just speculation. I’m along for the ride, and honestly I don’t want David Lynch or Mark Frost to listen to me. I’m just very excited to return to this wonderful and weird Northwestern noir, and to see those trees again, and wonder what might be in the dark woods.
And to find out if the Morgans ever came for dinner.
More thoughts that happened:
- Someone on the internet came up with the phrase “glassbox and chill.” That person wins the universe(s).
- The glass box sequence reminds me of something out of Monsters, the late 80s anthology spinoff of Tales from the Darkside. For budget reasons, that show tended to take place in claustrophobic settings and have only two or three characters, giving it an accidental surreality. I guess now we know what a David Lynch episode of Monsters would look like.
- I hope the Morgans are Richard and Linda.
- Wally’s mention of Lewis and Clark ties in to Mark Frost’s novel, which tells the story of their visit to the area that would become Twin Peaks.
- There are so many coded references to the original series in the Las Vegas storyline, it’s almost impossible to compile all of them. Cooper at the casino recalls Coop at One-Eyed Jacks. Sonny Jim giving Coop the thumbs-up brings to mind the Great Northern waiter, and Sonny Jim’s red jacket suggests the Little Man’s outfit. Coop also literally has a key to the Great Northern. There’s a cookie jar in the shape of an owl in the Jones’ kitchen. Jade’s name evokes the Lodge ring. Man oh man, Gordon Cole would have a field day with this.
- The image of the recently reincarnated Cooper lying stiffly on the floor, a mostly blank look on his face but also the faintest trace of a smile like a baby who just passed gas, sends me into hysterics.