Saturday, June 23, 2018

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series review


    This is a review which is a long time coming and I had a problem coming up with what I thought of the series as a whole. The ending felt unsatisfying to me in many ways, even frustrating, but I was tuned to every episode when they popped up on Showtime until the very end. The original run of Twin Peaks remains my all-time favorite show and I've re-watched it multiple times. I wasn't sure I loved it the first time but it had a way of burying itself deep into my brain before growing into something grandiose.

    Twin Peaks: The Return is a direct sequel to the original series despite it being twenty-five years later. In the finale of the original series, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin) was replaced by an evil doppelganger wearing his face. Dale was trapped in the Black Lodge and the ghost of Laura Palmer, or someone very similar to her, said, "See you in twenty-five years." That is a foresight from David Lynch and Mark Frost or just an incredibly lucky coincidence.

It's time, Cooper.
    Twenty-five years later, Twin Peaks has completely gone to hell and become a crime ridden suburban hellhole. The Black Lodge's residents have decided to help Cooper regain his body and return him to life while drawing the Bad Cooper back. This proves to be a lot harder task than any of them realize as Bad Cooper is a genius. We also follow other personages from Twin Peak's original series and see how they're fairing in the modern day. How are they doing? Usually, the answer isn't well.

    I have to say David Lynch loves toying with his audience as we have to wait a very long time to see Special Agent Dale Cooper return to action. Much of the show has the protagonist of the original run spending his time in a near-catatonic daze, mistaken for a third doppelganger named Dougie Jones. These scenes are both frustrating as well as hilarious with Janey E (Naomi Watts) playing a housewife who doesn't seem to realize (or simply doesn't care) her husband seems to have had a stroke.

I like David Lynch looks to be having fun.
    The actual expected "Agent Cooper" role is mostly played by David Lynch himself with the character of deaf Assistant Director Gordon Cole investigating the supernatural goings-on which link the Bad Cooper, Good Cooper, Dougie Jones, and the town of Twin Peaks. This would be extremely arrogant of most directors but Gordon Cole is a beloved character for a reason and Lynch has the acting chops necessary to lead his own show. He's helped by Miguel Ferrer's Albert Rosenfield and singer Chrysta Bell as FBI Agent Tammy Preston (in-universe author of the The Secret History of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier).

    I admit to a certain level of disappointment with the absense of both Donna Hayward and the somewhat unsatisfying ending to Audrey Horne's story. Lara Flynn Boyle's issues with Twin Peaks meant she was probably never going to show up but the character of Donna not being mentioned is a big issue. It would have been nice to give her an ending of some kind given her role as one of the show's major stars. Sherilyn Fenn doesn't get much of a role either, save at the end, and I hope she'll return in a hypothetical fourth season.
Go ahead, make fun of his mullet.

    Other characters do get an ample amount of screentime with Doctor Jacoby reinvisioned as a Left-wing analog to Alex Jones, Nadine having finally founded her drape store, Ed and Norma still mooning over one another, as well as a Bobby having married (then divorced) Shelly. Indeed, I found the story of Amanda Seyfriend as Becky Burnett with her abusive relationship with Steven Burnett to be one of the highlights of the season. So much so I regretted the show didn't have time to have Bobby and Shelly's reaction to its conclusion.

    The supernatural plays a much bigger role in this season of Twin Peaks than previous ones with the Bad Cooper merged with Bob, the existence of doppelgangers, and the frequent appearance of the White/Black Lodges. We also get introduced to new and confusing characters with the now-supernatural Phillip Jeffries (played the late David Bowie via archived footage and voiced by Nathan Frizzell). The story of Bob's origin is a trippy and surreal take on the atomic bomb, spiritual barriers, and a set up for a possible fourth season.

    The depiction of Twin Peaks as an economically depressed, crime-ridden location where most of the locals are either unemployed or on drugs is something I appreciated. Norma is the most successful of the Twin Peaks residents after the Hornes (and Jerry Horne made a fortune selling marajuana post-legalization--which shows there's no justice in the world). Everyone else is struggling in various ways and I really wish we could have followed the town a bit more since it seemed very relevant for today's climate.

Bobby becoming a cop is weirder than Evil Cooper.
    The music for the third season is beyond beautiful with the score for the actual televsion series being beautiful and subdued. However, after every episode, we also get a band playing at the Bang-Bang Bar which includes Julee Cruise, Chromatics, the Cactus Blossoms, and "The" Nine Inch Nails. I purchased the soundtrack for the season and have listened to its songs constantly.

    So, what is my biggest issue with the third season? Well, unfortunately, David Lynch doesn't bother to tie everything up in a bow as he did before but ends on a note possibly even more frustrating than the original series. On the plus side, it heavily involved Sheryl Lee and I love her as an actress almost as much as I love Sherilyn Fenn. To truly appreciate this work, I think you need to be a super fan of the original or at least watch it before you watch The Return. Thankfully, I am and did.

Love the mother, not so much the son.
     This is a series which raises more questions than it answers. Many characters introduced who feel like they should be important like local crime boss Red or Audrey's "husband" turn out to be just part of the background. There's many vignettes and allusions in the Roadhouse scenes that, ultimately, have nothing to do with the story. This is also the last mystery I ever expected to also be resolved by a magic green glove and punching (it makes sense in context). Would I have had liked more Audrey? You betcha. However, that's just how the cherry pie crumbles sometimes.

    The Blu Ray Special Edition of Twin Peaks: The Return contains an additional six hours of extras from David Lynch and Mark Frost. Sadly, none of them will give the answers people hope for or the commentary I'd have loved to have gotten from the cast. However, it does contain their ComicCon panel as well as many fascinating behind the scenes vignettes.

9/10

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