I would dare say that almost everybody in my generation has some sort of relationship to the original “Twin Peaks” saga, released 1990 – 91. A television series that forever changed our perception of what kind of stories could be broadcasted to the general public, as well as integrating the elaborate aesthetics used by the creators David Lynch and Mark Frost into the mainstream.
The characters of the original series were complex and flawed individuals, while archetypical somehow still intensely human. Special Agent Dale Cooper of the FBI being a grown up, turbo-charged and glorified version of Kyle MacLachlan´s character in Lynch´s movie “Blue Velvet”. A performance impossible to forget. Many others turned into instant stars by their participation, and in most cases regrettably never reaching the same heights again. The mass of talent and beauty coming forth in this TV-series was simply stunning.
The juxtapositioning of life in an idealized American small town with badness going from petty crime to the darkest of the dark, as well as a generous dollop of plain, surrealistic weirdness, is what gave the show both its edge and allure. It should really have been a hard sell, but at the time everybody was watching. I´ve lost count on how many times I´ve gone through the two seasons of the original series (first through a pretty low quality Spanish DVD-edition, and later with various official DVD and Blu-ray releases). The numbers of films and television shows echoing themes and artistry of the original Twin Peaks are too many to be mentioned. In a remarkable career in film, I would still say that this was at the time the crowning achievment of director David Lynch.
The accompanying feature “Fire walk with me”, released in 1992 was lambasted by critics and greeted with boos from the audience at the Cannes Film Festival. Actually a prequel to the first series, I today see it as a necessary addition to the saga, and in my opinion not even nearly as bad as it was regarded upon release. If you don´t believe me, go back and watch it again. You might just be surprised, or at least less confused about the original storyline.
22 years later, when the first chatter about a follow-up to the series started floating on the net, the excitement was palpable. First David Lynch was in, then he was not, then ultimately in again. My first reaction to the news was a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I´ve written about before here (https://danolofohman.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/its-happening-again-will-twin-peaks-continue-to-blow-our-minds/), the cultural importance could almost be likened to a new album by the original Beatles (ok, slight exaggeration there, but you get my drift). The feeling was very similar to holding the brand new first New Order single in my hand, in the wake of the impact made by Joy Division on my musical tastes so many years ago. What if it sucked, big time? I still remember the relief, and most of all bliss, as the stylus hit the 7″ vinyl and “Ceremony” blasted out of the speakers.
When “Twin Peaks: The return” appeared on network television in 2017 it felt like a daunting task to watch it. So much expectation and so many possibilities to fail. First I waited until all 18 episodes were available, and then I waited even longer to acquire the time and courage to go through them at a reasonable pace. And what a ride it proved to be.
Beginning with a time-lapse of 25 years many of the original characters has aged considerably, and parts of the main story circulates around their kids, no less messed-up than their parents in the original series. Expect heart-wrenching depictions of misguided parental care of off-spring careening towards disaster, just like in the original show. The development of this part of the series is enhanced by the large number of new episodes, which takes it time to develop the sprawling storyline into something quite unique.
While watching the first episode I very soon had to hit pause and catch my breath a little. Beginning with a red curtain scene on steroids, (mystically interrupted by a short and strangely unsettling sequence of a girl filmed through a window, seemingly running across a schoolyard screaming), we jump straight into at least nominally recognizable reality, watching the earlier character Dr Jacoby receiving a shipment of shovels. From that we´re thrown into New York City and an anonymous brick building housing some sort of sequestered laboratory-like space, where a young man is watching an empty glass cage which is simultaneously filmed by several cameras. As soon as an SD-card is full it´s archived in small slots in what seems like endless cabinets, and exchanged for a new one. There´s a certain amount of X-files associations here.
While pausing and reflecting on the footage this might well be the best 15 minutes of television I´ve ever watched. And it just keeps on getting better. A corpse with the body of a woman and the head of a man that should have been long dead. Special Agent Cooper in a deranged and bad version let loose in present time, superpowers and all. Interplay between the Black Lodge and what we consider reality. The considerable humour and heartbreak of Dougie Jones and his hard pressed wife. The mixture of hyperreality and sheer weirdness. I don´t think I´ve ever watched a television series or movie with such an amount of totally surrealistic and bizarre imagery.
That said, “Twin Peaks: The return” manages to keep you absolutely captivated with a storyline that builds on the original series, but takes it so much further out there without ever losing it´s grip. It accomplishes this while still avoiding all the obvious traps that makes so many restarts/remakes/updates of older stories so bad (the return of the X-files, anyone?). As the bright red cherry on top you get enough weirdness for a lifetime, with almost entire episodes consisting of dream-like, surrealistic tableaux unfolding on your screen like some visual stream-of-consciousness.
Lynch and Frost has done it again, taking an iconic TV-series into the new millenium and adding both depth and excitement to something many of us thought was impossible to improve. The return of Twin Peaks balances pitch perfect between nostalgia and the new. If you haven´t already, watch it and be prepared to be blown away.