“I’ll see you again in twenty five years.” Those words were spoken by someone who looked very much like Laura Palmer to FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper in a dream in the early morning of Monday 27th February 1989, as shown in the episode of Twin Peaks broadcast on Thursday 19th April 1990, sometimes referred to as Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer. While Laura’s timing may have been slightly out, her prescience is remarkable, for on Sunday 21st May 2017 Twin Peaks returned to the airwaves for an unprecedented third season.
From an astonishing 34.6 million viewers for the pilot episode on its original American broadcast through a constant decline across two seasons, that the challenging and often obtuse show was cancelled was not a surprise, nor was the subsequent feature film Fire Walk With Me well received having been booed at the Cannes Festival, a response which has also fallen back into vogue this season, yet a core audience have remained loyal to the show and the vision of creators David Lynch and Mark Frost who have both returned to script the eighteen episodes of this revival.
Rather than examining what the returning show is, it is easier to describe what it is not, the uncompromising two hour premiere immediately stripping out the casual viewers from the die-hard fans with an opening black and white scene which confirms that the weirdness which enraptured some viewers and infuriated others a generation back has not been dialled down in an effort to appease the expectation of the wider audience.
Eschewing the warm but slightly fuzzy texture of the original series, Ron Garcia serving as director of photography on the pilot followed by Frank Byers for the subsequent twenty nine episodes, director Lynch has engaged his collaborator on Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive Peter Deming, giving the new episodes a crisper and starker look, unforgiving as it chronicles the mundane procedures of life which continue to obsess Lynch.
Twin Peaks is the name under which it has been sold but it resides in the wider world of Lynch, the ambience and style of his cinematic oeuvre apparent as in a New York City loft Sam Colby (Boardwalk Empire‘s Benjamin Rosenfield) has been engaged to wait and watch an empty glass box in anticipation of change, reflecting the patient curiosity of the viewers; visited by Tracey (Californication‘s Madeline Zima) bearing lattes, he breaks protocol and allows her into the chamber, but as their attention drifts to each other something within the box observes them.
Unfolding using empty space and unfilled time, Lynch uses both but they should never be dismissed as unimportant, scenes structured with no regard to exposition, the audience walking into lives in progress populated by a broad variety of new characters replete with quirks and dysfunctional behaviour, nor are the returning characters given any form of fanfare, Doctor Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) a recluse in the woods, Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) back on the cigars while his brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) has become considerably more laidback in his comfortable middle age.
Receptionist at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, Lucy Brennan, née Moran (Kimmy Robertson) is unchanged, her presence a bubbly reassurance of continuity, while the appearance of Margaret Lanterman (Catherine Coulson), the semi-mythical Log Lady, is shocking even with the foreknowledge that she died during production; her comforting voice unchanged, her participation is a testament to her determination and her friendship with Lynch which lasted through his entire film career.
“Something is missing and you have to find it. It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper. The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This is a message from the log.” As cryptic as ever as she interprets for Deputy Chief Tommy “Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse), that path will lead him to Glastonbury Grove, location of the final episode Beyond Life and Death.
And what of Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)? Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) once had a vision which warned her, “The good Dale is trapped in the Lodge,” and that strange place is home to Lynch’s oddest and most inexplicable offerings since Eraserhead or possibly his Playstation commercials, though for all its obscurity it is apparent there is a price to pay for those who do not play by the rules.
Instead, ask “Who is Mister C?” Raven haired, sinister, ruthless, he has a purpose which requires him to kill without remorse, but even as he removes the pieces from the board which stand in his way or simply have served their purpose, there are forces unseen who also wish him disposed off.
As indicated in Mark Frost’s recently published novel The Secret History of Twin Peaks what is seen is only a fraction of a wider story, and expanding the canvas across the wider continental United States it is apparent that there are patterns, a plan, systematic action undertaken not only in Twin Peaks, Washington State, but in Las Vegas, Nevada, in Buckhorn South Dakota, where a decapitated head is found next to a body to which it did not belong.
That investigation assigned to Special Agent Tamara Preston (Lynch’s recent musical muse Chrysta Bell playing the previously unseen annotator of The Secret History) there are many performers drawn from Lynch’s established players, Lost Highway‘s Balthazar Getty, Mulholland Drive‘s Patrick Fischler and Scott Coffey, while still to be seen are Inland Empire‘s Laura Dern and Mulholland Drive‘s Naomi Watts.
In all this the unexpected comfort of even a glimpse of a friendly familiar face is disproportionate, Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) smiling at James Hurley (James Marshall) across the crowded floor of the Roadhouse, forensic analyst Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) and Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (Lynch) surrounded by accumulated evidence; for all the madness, it was the love of these characters that engendered the love the series still enjoys.
Pacing never a consideration for Lynch, lines delivered as though they were slowly ripening fruit, the episodes disregard traditional narrative conceits or accepted television dramatic structure as though it was intended that they should be viewed in one continuous sequence unbroken by commercials or credits, a persistent dream whose tenuous logic gives way to bouts of nightmare, physical deformities, the fear of being trapped, of being helpless and overpowered, the inevitability of inescapable violence.
For all the memories of pie and pines and pleasantly odd people, Twin Peaks was not a safe place, each examination revealing further horrors festering beneath the public facade of the murdered prom queen and her court, and that duality persists in the arboreal ground zero of Twin Peaks and the industrial bare brick of New York, in the faces of Dale Cooper, in the hidden truths and the lies expressed.
Twin Peaks was unlike anything on broadcast television on its first airing and remains so, and while Lynch has always expected patience there persistent fear that he is teasing, an awareness that he has made no promise this will ever cohere into a semblance of sense yet it remains mesmerising, and after so long a trip back to this town guided by the maverick genius who conceived it is sufficient reward in and of itself, though equally it will challenge and repel those who are unprepared.