There we go. Eighteen weeks have now passed and we have seen the return of one of the most original and strangely influential cult television shows ever seen. Did you watch it?
We have had around a twenty five year gap since the show was last on tv and this actually has clever significance in the storyline. When it had finally been confirmed that this show was due to return after a number of years of rumours all kinds of thoughts came to mind. Which actors would or even could return? How could the story continue? Was it actually a good idea to bring it back at all?
Famously, the show ended with a highly dramatic final episode closing series 2 (spoiler) as Agent Cooper seemed to have been possessed by the evil spirit Bob. So what did happen next?
Back in the early 90’s this was a show which divided opinion-unlike practically any tv show we had ever seen before thanks to auteur film director David Lynch who had previously made such surreal and often disturbing dream-like films including Eraserhead and Blue Velvet. Along with writer Mark Frost they set out to offer a detective drama show that would confound our expectations and make us work to find the story and possible logic among the long takes, unusual scenes and increasingly bizarre imagery every so often. Starting out like a regular whodunit but with extremely emotional reactions to the death of local girl Laura Palmer, Agent Cooper and the law enforcement came up against often highly strange clues and signs leading them and the audience somewhere-although we regularly were not too sure exactly where.
All these years later and when it seemed like Lynch was even giving up on making another feature film or similar work, he and Frost united again and it was confirmed a number of the key cast would be along for the ride. Needless to say expectations were so high for whatever would eventually be on our small screens this time. While David Lynch does have his own regular recurring themes and motifs I don’t think most of us expected even half as much as what we did get.
The new series started off frustratingly slow and that did seem very Lynch. While this did test some people we knew we had many weeks to go but surprisingly episode two went pretty darn crazy. The hardcore Lynch fan got a load of mad Lynch world sooner than hoped for. From this point on the story was set up and it moved along with (spoilers) two Agent Coopers. We got ‘evil’ Cooper and some kind of dazed Cooper who now resided in the new identity of Dougie Jones who is a regular family guy who works in insurance. This dazed Cooper we watch for what feels at times like years as he ambles around barely able to put a sentence together or walk in a straight line by himself. Meanwhile ‘evil’ Cooper knows that the Black Lodge is calling him back after twenty five years but he has other plans.
So how different is Twin Peaks this time around? Some of the things which made it such an iconic show first time around are not entirely there-the well known musical score and atmospheric themes are only at the beginning and end of the show for almost the entire series, and this kind of makes sense as the show has a very different focus and feel. As we stay with Dougie Cooper for a long while he is often much like some silent movie comedy actor or mime, his dialogue almost zero and all just about his bumbling movement and dazed perception of the world. This is not at all the confident and highly perceptive Agent Cooper we are familiar with. We see ‘evil’ Cooper off and on along his devious journey but these scenes are often very tense or even highly violent. The original series all those years ago had neither of these qualities to such great extents and so the music and atmosphere is much different this time.
Not all of the main cast of actors did return-some opted out, some had passed away in real life, a few passing after completing their scenes such as Albert and the Log Lady. The show could not have returned without Kyle MacLachlan and we really should offer much well deserved praise for his dual performances of three characters all through the new series.
Was this series too long? Initially Lynch was offered around six or eight episodes. He soon after suddenly went of strike or almost walked from the project with many of the cast supporting him. Not too long after, the network or producers made their changes and the series almost doubled in length with director and cast all back again.
There were a number of guest actors and well known Hollywood actors involved this time, and while I might have expect bigger performance from some of them I think Lynch reigned them in or they held themselves back possibly knowing that it was more about this big special storyline than any one performance.
Did we get the answers we had been waiting twenty five years for? Well…yes and no. in some ways Lynch gave us more than we usually get from him in terms of narrative explanation but then of course with the last couple of episodes he threw us a bunch of new twists and clues to argue over for years to come. That is probably how we real Lynch fans want it anyway to be honest.
So the show is not the same show many of us first saw when we were younger viewers but we have aged, time has moved on, David Lynch and Mark frost have aged and changed. I have known for a long time that Lynch has been practising Transcendental Meditation for decades now, almost right from the start of his filmmaking career and I think through the first two series of Twin Peaks. The influence of this may actually be much more obvious in this new series than in any of his other work with the notions of Bob the ancient evil Earth spirit and Laura Palmer as a positive energy spirit force in some sense and the powerful influence of both on the many character in the show. This I can handle and I am fine with even if it was not so prominent in the original show.
Some last questions-what the heck happened to Audrey and Laura’s mother? What really was Judy (Jowday) ? Was Bob really killed? Is Cooper really Agent Cooper? When the heck have Cooper and Laura ended up in the last episode?
Overall while it have been just a few hours too long, I think we got a really great return from Lynch and Frost and the influential show which changed television history.
James E. Parsons is author of the SF books Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available now from all good bookshops and online shops. His new horror novel Northern Souls is due to be published late September/early October.