When David Lynch’s revival of his cultural phenomenon Twin Peaks first premiered back in May, we were taken back to a place both wonderful and strange. Now that the series is over, it’s safe to say that The Return is not only just as groundbreaking as the original series, but it’s also the best television experience of the last ten years. Appropriately described by Showtime president David Nevins as “Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks,” David Lynch and Mark Frost have gone way beyond subverting the medium of television in its current state. Instead, they’ve truly turned it upside down to create a twisted, frustrating, insane, brilliant and thought provoking eighteen hours of television that won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Fans of David Lynch will know that he’s never been one to hold your hand, give easy answers or go with the grain, and that’s really present here. Unlike many recent revivals or reboots, which have been more concerned with fan service or nostalgia, he has refused to pander to audiences from the moment The Return aired to the bold, jaw dropping and Sisyphean finale that has already polarized fans. He rarely uses the old characters we know and love unless they’re important to the plot. He also refuses to be straightforward with answers and resolution, which he really shows off in the amazing Part 8 (which on its own is a grand achievement for modern television) and how he handles Audrey’s character arc. Hell, Lynch doesn’t even completely resolve everything he presents to us. However, for a show like this, it works because not everything in life is perfectly resolved or makes sense, and some things should just remain a mystery.
With that said, this doesn’t mean we don’t get simpler moments at all, as we get closure with Ed and Norma as well as Bobby and Shelly, but besides that, Lynch doesn’t want anything to do with fan service. In fact, one of the few moments of “fan service” lies in Part 13 when James Hurley walks on stage at the Roadhouse to sing Just You and I, an infamous moment from the original run that never really sat well with fans. This proves that Lynch doesn’t really want to pander to the fans at all and instead wants to do his own thing at his own pace. All of this really shows that Lynch is by far more interested in the overall experience the show provides as well as forcing us to think our way through it. His style and approach probably won’t work for every Twin Peaks fan, but for those who are patient, the experience that he presents to us is more than rewarding.
Everything about the experience, like any Lynchian madhouse, feels like a lucid dream, especially on a technical level. From the editing to the music to the cinematography to the tone and to the way characters act, as well as the way situations are resolved, everything feels, as Donna puts it in the original run, “like having the most beautiful dream, and the most terrifying nightmare all at once.” It’s all so fluid yet jarring, simultaneous yet asynchronous. It all happens with, what feels like, no rhyme or reason, much like a dream itself. That said, not only is there a lot of substance to absorb from The Return, but it also adds to the power of the show. We feel like we’re on a ride we can’t escape or control. It also takes us on a very similar trip emotionally. A single hour of the series can be disturbing, hilarious, gruesome, joyous, intense and adorable all at once, taking us up and down a roller coaster of emotions that we, once again, don’t have a control on. Sure it’s not always pleasant, it can be disturbing and sickening at times, but there’s no part of the series that wants you to be comfortable with it. It’s an experience that’s dreamy, horrifying, insane, and can only be conducted by none other than David Lynch.
It’s also amazing how Lynch’s surreal dream-like presentation creates such a unique and unforgettable atmosphere. Any single minute of this series is more terrifying and intense than any horror film in theaters right now. For example, to cite a moment from Part 15, Cooper’s doppelganger (“Booper”) appears at the convenience store to talk to Phillip Jeffries. The way the camera follows Booper to Jeffries alongside mostly silence in a darkly lit hall and stairway is incredibly haunting and atmospheric. It feels like we are being forced into a place of unfamiliarity, which ties into Lynch’s obsession with the unknown. There’s far more instances than that, but that one stands out most prominently. That same terror also comes from Lynch’s insistence on difficult answers, thinking for ourselves and the overall mysterious vibe is also terrifying as well as fascinating. Throughout his whole career, Lynch has been obsessed with the fear of the unknown because it plays with audiences’ minds. The more he plays with our minds by dropping hints and leaving certain things with at least a shred of ambiguity, the more we’re likely to think back at it due to our attempts to rationalize it so it all makes sense. In that sense, The Return is at its most memorable, disturbing and interesting when we’re trying to piece it all together.
So why is it so groundbreaking and amazing to have a surreal experimental series with no easy answers air weekly on television? Well, the last time it happened was when Twin Peaks originally aired back in 1990, because most networks are terrified of the idea due to the risk behind it. The fact that Showtime was willing to give David Lynch total creative control on the project is absolutely insane, especially when the current state of entertainment is more focused on spoon-feeding as opposed to allowing the audience to think for themselves. By allowing us to think about everything we see for ourselves without any authorial intent from Lynch, we see everything from our own unique perspectives. Each interpretation, opinion and emotional response will differ in some way, and that’s the magic of not just The Return, and therefore Lynch’s filmography, but also the magic of art itself. What makes this new run of Twin Peaks even more groundbreaking than it was before is that Lynch has taken the true definition of art and brought it to the small screen once a week. This now makes it one of the most unforgettable moments in television history for those who tuned in full of memorable moments, emotions and feelings that will never be forgotten. For that, it may even have a lot more re-watchability as well compared to more straightforward television. With The Return, David Lynch has shown new possibilities in creating quality television just like he did over two decades ago, and without the full support of Showtime, none of this would be anywhere near possible.
The first few episodes really showed the potential that this had to be an outstanding revival. Now that it’s all said and done, Twin Peaks: The Return is the most subversive, unique, insane and brilliant piece of television of this decade. David Lynch has created something here with Mark Frost that will be remembered forever and truly proves that he’s one of the great living auteur filmmakers. However, credit should also be given to Showtime for having the courage to take such a risk by giving Lynch total creative freedom this time around. This won’t be for everyone, hell this won’t even work for every Twin Peaks fan, but for those with an open mind and a lot of patience, The Return is as rewarding as it sounds.
(Featured Image: Twin Peaks, Showtime)