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Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks Premiere Recap: 'The Return: Parts 1 and 2'

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Twin Peaks Premiere
Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

The new Twin Peaks was all over the place, at least for a week. The first two parts of this 18-hour opus roamed the country, flitting among cities, mysteries and tones, sometimes lingering, sometimes not. The story screeched upward and spiraled downward within the multi-dimensional spaces of its psycho-quantum world. The narrative played with time, marching forward at a deliberate pace, occasionally flipping backward, perhaps scrambling events out of sequence. The parts were imbued a knowing, manipulative intelligence, as if possessed; they played with you. You half expected director David Lynch to go full-meta and smash through the screen and punch your brain the way that cosmic horror nimbus escaped that glass box and furiously shredded the eyeballs of those young lover couch potatoes. He certainly wanted to blow your mind, but on his terms, and with a vengeance, too. Did he?

Showtime’s revival of the cult classic created by Lynch and Mark Frost brought us back to the titular misty mountain lumber town that first captured our imagination 27 years ago this spring at the advent of the alt-culture ’90s. They were also possessed with an ironic self-consciousness that winked at itself and its legacy. Once fringe-cool and freaky with quirks and secrets, Twin Peaks is a paradox, the same and different, but the dangerous and demented denizens novel have been tempered by grief, time, domesticity, and discovery. Bad boy brothel bros Ben (Richard Beymer) and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) speak to the taming. The former won’t make a move on his new associate Beverly (Ashley Judd) because he’s found R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women, and besides, she’s married; the latter runs a new legal pot farm. The Bang! Bang! Bar is no longer an occult roadside dive. It’s a bumpin’ hangout for those damn millennial hipsters and their nostalgic Gen X parents. To borrow from judgy, prune-faced Buella (Kathleen Deming), it’s a world of truck drivers now, authentic and otherwise.

Subscribe to A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts – to unwrap the mysteries in EW’s after-show every Monday during the Showtime revival.

Yet the dark woods rustled anew with unresolved mystery like a dreamer disturbed by a recurring nightmare. Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), still rocking his 3-D spectacles, now living in a trailer in the forest, received a delivery of shovels to either dig something up or bury something. Hawk (Michael Horse), now chief deputy, went searching for Glastonbury Grove and saw an aurora of billowing crimson curtains in the trees. The psychic timber of our dear, ailing Log Lady (the late Catherine Coulson) bleated with alarm. The stars turn, and a time presents itself. Yep, it is happening again.

And it was happening everywhere, all at once. We visited Vegas, but only for a second, to watch the show plant a flag for more story in a two-hour premiere that was crowded with flag-plants. We stayed longer in Manhattan, for an arc that had a sublime Lynchian progression, moving from oddness to absurdity to sexiness to dread to near-unbearable cover-your-eyes terror. It was also an allegory for modern television and the show’s own anxieties about coming back to it. A big glass box built to recapture old magic? C’mon.

We spent time in the Black Lodge, the topsy-turvy limbo of Twin Peaks, though how much time we can’t say, because time does not behave properly or politely here. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), 25 years older than when we last saw him, was still trapped here among backwards-talking spirits, demons, and doppelgänger, including two talking fir trees crowned with tiny brains, spindly and naked as Spielberg aliens, one kinda “I am Groot” cute, one a cancerous sapling that screams things like “NON-EXISTENCE.” That’s right, folks. Bad twin Brain Trees. That was a thing David Lynch just made you see on your TV. Bravo.

FROM PEN: Get a Behind The Scenes Look at The Casting Of Twin Peaks

And we parked in South Dakota to bear witness to a divorce noir tragedy with so many echoes to Lynch’s previous work. The generic small-town America (and a severed fleshy appendage) of Blue Velvet, the tainted love, betrayed relationships, and psychotic breaks of Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. The whole yarn is a warped version of Twin Peaks itself, a mystery catalyzed by the discovery of murdered woman. It commenced with electronics on the fritz (see: Detective “Woof” and his flickering flashlight), as all Lynch mysteries must. But it was also a parody of modern serialized soap forms – and/or a sincere one, though stripped of “prestige” gravitas – just the way the original Twin Peaks was. With the Fargo-ish Bill and Phyllis Hastings (Matthew Lillard, Cornelia Guest), just an average, ordinary pair of suburban fakes and unhappily married folks, we have a middle-aged man breaking bad and a desperate housewife going femme fatale. Their hate-spewing jail-cell kiss-off – both actors shot in intimate close-up, nose to nose, vibrating with emotional intensity – was simultaneously over-the-top silly and intensely raw. Lynch put a horror button on it, adding one of his unnerving still-life grotesques. The camera dollied away from death row-bound Bill to another cell, where a bearded man sat on a bunk, painted black, eyed bugged, frozen in contorted agony. Shades of: the hideous hobo in Mulholland Drive. He turned to vapor and the spectral remains of his head floated away like a balloon. And we remember that in Twin Peaks, the evil that people do attracts otherworldly entities like flies to s—.

One such devil had turned South Dakota into his hunting ground. He is a corrupted copy of Agent Cooper, conformed to the image of the unholy spirit inside him, BOB. Here in the heartland of Twin Peaks Nation, this abominable man in black sows and reaps a pulpy-corny crop of pain and sorrow, mostly by manipulating and murdering women. (Though in one scene, he rubs out a guy by literally rubbing the man’s face, as if massaging the life out him.) He might make or break your interest in Twin Peaks 2.0. We hate him because he’s loathsome, we hate him for not being the Cooper we want him to be, and we hate him because Lynch has decided to make MacLachlan wear Nicholas Cage-in-Con Air hair.

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