Season Three, Episodes One & Two — “The Return, Part 1”, “The Return, Part 2”
By Brad Sun. It’s hard to think of a recent work in any medium that has been cloaked in as much secrecy as Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks. Trailers were kept to seconds-long snippets and even cast members seemed unsure of what exactly to expect. Two hours in, Twin Peaks: The Return is, unsurprisingly, still very much a mystery.
If the original Twin Peaks was structured as a small town crime procedural that expanded to an otherworldly cosmic scale, this newest incarnation works as something of an inverse of that formula. Rapidly introducing us to an inter-dimensional array of characters and settings, it leaves us searching for the connective tissue that unites these disparate scenarios. It’s an intentionally opaque and disorienting approach to storytelling.
Holding together this labyrinthine storytelling endeavor is poor Special Agent Dale Cooper, who we learn is still trapped in the Waiting Room of the nightmarish dimension known as the Black Lodge, 25 years after he first arrived. (It also appears that he accidentally unleashed his demonic doppelganger into our world during that time.) The town of Twin Peaks, Washington has moved on since then, but without Cooper’s wide-eyed innocence — or the good-natured earnestness of notably absent Sheriff Truman — Twin Peaks has become a quieter, more mournful place.
“Something is missing,” says the prophetic Log Lady Margaret Lanterman to the now white haired Deputy Chief Hawk, charging him with a quest that ultimately leads right to the entrance of the Black Lodge and, we hope, Coop’s long overdue rescue.
Across the country, in New York City, a young man silently monitors an enigmatic glass cube, his monotonous task broken only by periodic visits from a woman named Tracey, who seems a little too interested in finding out what exactly his work entails. One suspicious disappearance of a security guard later, and Tracey has flirted her way into the surveillance room, only to be massacred by a faceless demonic figure in a crimson spray of grindhouse gore.
Meanwhile, in Buckhorn, South Dakota, the discovery of a gruesome double homicide leads to the arrest of high school principal Bill Hastings, the adulterous husband of an adulterous wife, who somehow figures into Doppelganger Cooper’s plan to avoid returning to the Black Lodge — which, by the way, is Real Cooper’s only chance of ever escaping.
And on and on it goes. Each scene introduces more characters and more plotlines in an increasingly complicated mix of metaphysical musings and self-aware melodrama. But if all this plotting seems too dense to allow room for thoughtful experimentation and artistry, fret not. Despite all the stage setting and character introductions, Twin Peaks‘ first two episodes somehow manage to embrace a deliberately slow, tension-building pace that heightens both the anticipation and dread of what’s to come.
As for Lynch himself, he directs at a fearlessly patient speed, holding shots just long enough to make certain viewers uncomfortably aware of his unflinching camera, as well as the weirdo behind the lens. Scenes often play out in real time, awkward silences and all. One can imagine Lynch getting a voyeuristic thrill at watching both his onscreen characters and his captive viewing audience squirm. It’s riveting.
“I am dead, yet I live.” – Laura Palmer, keeping her promise to reappear 25 years later.
“Uh-oh.” – Buckhorn police officer, upon discovering a woman’s decapitated head has been placed on the body of a hairy naked fat man.
BEST MOMENT: Lynch embraces his lecherous side, gratuitously framing Tracey’s posterior during an extended striptease, only to have her gruesomely ripped to shreds moments later. It’s a gloriously shocking burst of violence in an otherwise slow burn of a premiere. It’s also a reminder that Twin Peaks has never been afraid to mash up genre tropes in bold and unexpected ways, jumping from art house experimentation to trashy slasher flick for maximum effect. That the setup for the scene is a bored guy sitting on a couch staring at a glass box is the icing on the delicious postmodern cake.
EPISODES’ MVP: The late Catherine Coulson brings a painful vulnerability to her brief scenes as the Log Lady. With oxygen tubes in her nose and much of her hair missing, she is an emotional reminder of the fleeting mortality that has always lingered just below the surface of Twin Peaks. When she tells Hawk, “I’m too weak to go with you,” your heart will break.
SLICES OF PIE:
– The Giant gives Cooper the following clues: “Remember… 430… Richard and Linda… Two birds with one stone…”
– In the final episode of season 2, MIKE’s Arm, otherwise known as the Man From Another Place, tells Cooper, “When you see me again, it won’t be me.” Sure enough, he now appears in an “evolved” form: a swaying tree topped with what looks like a talking wad of gum.
– The Evolved Arm gives another mysterious numerical clue: “253… time and time again.”
– Buella, one of Doppelganger Cooper’s associates, says, “It’s a world of truck drivers,” bringing to mind that drug dealing, wife beating, all around lowlife Leo Johnson from the original series.
– Dr. Jacoby is working alone on something in the woods that involves a lot of shovels.
– Lucy’s nameplate reveals she’s married to Andy.
– Shelly mentions that James was in a motorcycle accident. Could this explain Donna’s absence?
– Cooper is revealed to have appeared in the glass cube shortly before the faceless demon broke out. Could he have unwittingly released yet another Black Lodge creature into our dimension?
– Hastings mentions his secretary Betty, who is presumably the same assistant Ray was collecting the coordinates from for Doppelganger Cooper.
– Besides Betty, many other characters are mentioned but not seen: Barney, the apartment landlord who is in the hospital (not the normal hospital); Harvey and Chip, who are involved in something shady with Hank; Phillip Jeffries, an FBI agent that disappeared under mysterious circumstances in Fire Walk With Me (and played by David Bowie); Major Garland Briggs, who was studying the White and Black Lodges in the original Twin Peaks; and finally a sinister unnamed “him” during a brief scene in Las Vegas.
– Episode One is dedicated to Catherine Coulson (Margaret). Episode Two is dedicated to Frank Silva (BOB). Sadly, there will be a lot more dedications to come.
8 out of 10
Next: “The Return, Part 3”, “The Return, Part 4”