There was a story to be found threaded into the eerie-weird revival of Twin Peaks, though it proved exhausting to figure out, and sometimes it was downright Lynchian incomprehensible.
Showtime premiered the first two episodes last night, then made the next two available on its streaming site; but watching all four hours in one long binge is not recommended. Because this isn’t the sort of revival you can understand all at once; you need to watch an episode, digest a bit, then hop online and read everything you can find about it to try to piece together what the fuck just happened, and figure out what you maybe missed or didn’t understand or something in the mythology you’d forgotten.
The question for old school fans is, can you handle spending a lot of downtime in the malevolent extradimensional Black Lodge? (Windam Earle once described it as “a place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets.”) Because that’s where Agent Cooper has been marooned since his final clash with Bob, and you’ll be stuck there cooling your heels with him and his grave, near-expressionless countenance in the Waiting Room (the place of red curtains and zig-zag striped floors), being reintroduced to familiar characters (both dead and otherworldly), who speak in backwards talk and deliver cryptic clues (“Is this the future, or the past?”). You’ll meet freaky new entities, too, like the Arm (“I am the arm, and I sound like this”), except it’s not the Arm you know and love—the Man from Another Place with his red-suited shimmy—but a skeleton tree with a talking head/brain and a voice that sounds like something you never wanted to hear.
And whoever Agent Cooper was once, he’s definitely not the same. In fact, he’s not even a single entity anymore—he’s been split into parts. There’s his doppelganger—his body as inhabited by the spirit of Bob, who roams the “real” world with a dark mane of wild hair, face dirty with the dark deeds he’s committed, and leaving a trail of brutalized bodies in his wake. There’s his “real” spirit, trapped in the Black Lodge for the past 24 years, losing bits of himself the longer he remains. And then there’s a third Cooper, aka Dougie Jones, who maybe never really existed, but maybe did, actually, as he’s lingered long enough to build a bizarre suburban life with a wife and kid.
Let’s not even get into Cooper’s exit of the Lodge, all the vomiting, radio transportation, how the “real” Cooper arrives to replace Dougie Jones, but comes off more like he’s brain damaged or a stroke victim. Is it because he isn’t in his own body? Is he real? What the fuck is happening?
It feels like David Lynch out-Lynched even himself.
As far as the plot goes, there are three murders, none of which actually happen in Twin Peaks. The first is a librarian, Ruth, whose decapitated head (which has been shot through the eye) is found in her bed and positioned above a posed decaying body that may or may not be hers, while the fingerprints of the town’s high school principal (played by an aged Matthew Lillard) are smudged all over her apartment.
The second happens in a secret room holding a big glass box that seems to open into the Black Lodge and is being videotaped and documented—later we learn that the guy tasked with the videotaping is supposed to watch the box to see if anything appears (it’s mostly inactive but there’ve been a few flutters). Left inexplicably alone one night, the guy brings a lady friend into the secret room and they begin making out (she gets bare-ass naked only moments into the sesh and with little ceremony), when the box darkens, a figure appears, and as it becomes more and more clear, a face of nightmares comes into view, the amorous couple beholding its nightmarish countenance and freakishly nude form with shock, then screaming horror as it rips them to bloody death, face first.
The scenes that actually take place in Twin Peaks feel awkward and disjointed, almost as if the Black Lodge has seeped into the real world and colored it in a similar shade of strange... but this also is where you find glimmers of the old show, in the hapless characters who can’t help being helpless, although, in the case of Lucy and Andy, it feels relentlessly overwrought. There are also nods to the past, like a sheriff’s blinking flashlight (mimicking the flickering light in the autopsy room of 25 years ago), and glimpses of others we remember from the Twin Peaks of old, like a glimpse of James in a club, or Bobby who’s now a Twin Peaks cop, and Deputy Hawk, who gets a phone call from a cancer-ridden Log Lady and is told: “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.”
Unfortunately, the things that made the show familiar and beloved to me seemed to be missing, like the cohesive parts tying all the weird shit together, and the ubiquitous music that signaled playfulness, doom or hope. Not much remains that you can feel attached to, not in the characters or the story, and not much remains that makes you want to come back to it. The weird shit added supernatural color to the drama, whereas in the revival, it’s all weird shit, littered with moments of a storyline.
For me, it feels like David Lynch out-Lynched even himself. Sure, I’ll continue watching it due to a sense of Lynchian/Twin Peaks obligation, in the small hope that the jagged bizarreness will iron itself out into something a bit more linear. But it’s going to be hard to finish the season since I’m pretty sure I’m not going to feel any relief or sense of closure when it’s done.