Twin Peaks “The Return, Part 1”

Surprise, surprise! The new Twin Peaks will be getting my Better Call Saul treatment for all 18 episodes. Expect big breakdowns in each coming week as I attempt to give my best reaction/analysis to the unfolding mystery and abstract form of storytelling that David Lynch will offer in this completely reinvented revival.

After having seen the 2 hour premiere, I can confidently tell you that in our current time of various reboots and continuations across all various mediums and platforms, Twin Peaks not only manages to avoid the usual traps, but it outperforms itself as a bold piece of art. This isn’t a case of Chris Carter not having the slightest grasp on what to do with a tenth season of The X-Files. Instead, this is something huge. This is a Lynch project that will essentially play out like an 18 hour film spawning from one of the most innovative, influential, and timelessly captivating shows to this day. One that has all the reason in the world to continue its story. We’ve been in an age since The Sopranos where episodic storytelling has been revolutionized where you can deliver story in a continuing manner yet allow it to play like a film every week. David Lynch takes advantage of this marvelously booming era and quite passionately so. A quote from Lynch in a recent Rolling Stone interview:

“Feature films are not having a great time right now – at least the kind of feature films that I would want to see or make. Theaters want money, so they put in films that are going to generate a big audience. But the art houses are mostly gone. I say the new art house is cable television.”

I must say, even though I knew this was going to be something very special, I don’t think I was prepared for how absolutely stunned I was going to be. This was a premiere that made you feel the passage of time. The wonderful dream and terrible nightmare all at once that is Twin Peaks, has remained an abundantly pulsating creature, flourishing for 25 years without our viewership. It’s a world that has not stopped. In fact it has evolved. Closer to Fire Walk With Me, the element of mock-soap is completely non-existent, yet the classic charm and humor of faces, old and new, still triumph amidst a rather darker adaptation of this universe. Conceptually, the show has reinvented itself. You may notice it used very little of Angelo Badalamenti’s familiar score throughout compared to how his music used to dominate, quite stylistically, nearly every moment back in the run of 1990-1991 (and this is not a criticism). We’re in a different wheelhouse now in terms of style. One consisting of a universe which was always so rich and accomplished among its own merits, being too much of a large, qualitative entity to now limit the creative boundaries of where it can go just for the sake of maintaining the former feel of its broadcast origins.

“The Return, Part 1”

First off, the intro:

The manner in which the premiere begins with an original shot, being a first-person sweeping trance across the red room, and then cuts to the season 2 finale scene from 25 years ago, to me, gave this impossible impression that Laura and Cooper may break from their long-existing footage in their current state of time and just continue the show from there. There’s an inevitable sadness when the screen starts to fade on Laura’s “Meanwhile”, as if we should expect Lynch to reach back into the past and operate at own will. Much like Laura’s final pose, the scene is set in stone, and the following passage of time that occurs didn’t just affect fiction, but we underwent those 25 years as well. To follow it up with a fog cast over the woods, and then iconic settings like the mill and the high school, provided a grand sense of nostalgia that was then met with a new opening title. It still has its same adored theme (as well as same font), but that new marvelous shot over the waterfall, dancing red drapes and the dizzying spin upon the red room’s floor offered such a great sense of depth, visually, and suggested that change, while scary, is also a very beautiful thing as we go forward.

Hints from the giant:

– Listen to the sounds (scratching noise from a phonograph)
– It is in our house now
– Remember 430
– Richard and Linda
– Two birds with one stone
– You are far away

Back in season 2, the giant’s hints came to pass sooner than you thought but since Lynch is set to direct all 18 episodes I have a feeling that this is going to play a part all the way into the end (“you are far away”). Of course I reserve the right to be wrong on that (since we could easily not get a precise answer at all), but the fact that it’s in black and white seems to suggest we aren’t anywhere close to what’s being referred to. Also, the giant! I try to put the math out of my head when it comes to how old these actors are now but I’m impressed with who’s managing to show up so far. As we transition to color with those brilliant daytime mountain shots and the fade into the woods, the reveal of Dr. Jacoby taking off his sun-glasses to show off his second, more recognized pair of eyewear, made for such a great introduction. Whatever project he has in store with all those shovels, which he insists on doing alone, is curious as well.

I love that the show is in no rush to explain anything. A fine example of that is the introduction of Sam assigned to stare at the mysterious glass box, almost monolithic in its nature, as he’s set to wait in the event that something appears inside. The prolonged amount of silence and patience that goes into this premise is exactly what makes it so gripping. Before I even continue on that, can we talk about that New York City reveal? Because within the first frame of that, I was in absolute awe. This is unlike anything you would expect to see in Twin Peaks, yet the establishing shot pushing in to the actual building Sam is in, was right at home. It was the first thing I thought of and mentioned at a diner with friends immediately after it aired (each of us ordering a slice of cherry pie), mainly due to being in New York myself, and always being aware of how it’s portrayed in film/television. Not getting the episodes in advance like a professional reviewer (or being one), I wish I could have beaten Alan Sepinwall to the punch, but alas he described it better than I would have in his review:

“There should be no new way to film Manhattan anymore, and no need for anyone to bother for the sake of an establishing shot. But Lynch and his collaborators somehow made it look terrifying and alien, as if they had photographed the city, then traced over it, then did a computer modeling of what they had traced.” – A.S.

The fact that we are bouncing between Twin Peaks, New York, and South Dakota exercises a great level of scope and proves that the story of Bob, the red room, the lodges, and everything else spans beyond the borders of just Twin Peaks. It’s a worldly phenomenon. This has always been implied since the original series to the extent of space and other planets, but with the show being unafraid to explore these new regions with new characters, we’re getting a better sense of just how serious the impact of Twin Peaks’ mysteries has on the outside world.

An anonymous billionaire in New York with incredible resources, no doubt provided by more higher-ups, seem to know exactly of the other dimensions that are the lodges and red room. The first visual connection that I noted is how the lights around the box seem to feature red room-like cloths. So what appeared? As Sam and Tracey engaged in sex, the box goes eerily dark and a blurry human creature is shown which ends up utterly ripping them to pieces. Was the security guard absent because the billionaire knew this after-school employee would provoke the creature’s arrival by inviting Tracey in? Was it a coincidence that they were attacked under fear or under the act of sex? I’ll get more into this in part 2, but for now, I’ll just say I liked how you could feel the cue that something was going to go wrong when Sam and Tracey were getting into it. Those shots of the camera lens’ pulled off the feeling of an imminent arrival in their obliviousness and that something unknown was aware of their actions. Those two were perfectly cast by the way, and the way they delivered their lines was classic Lynch.

^ I’m still reeling over how great this was. Again, it’s so unlike Twin Peaks to traverse the woods and not have Angelo Badalamenti’s usual creeping score to go along with it. Evil Cooper or Bob would be the subject for such a moment with such intense, over-bearing music playing, because he’s a predator in these woods and couldn’t care less of how things should sound. It’s necessarily evil too that he’s driving a Mercedes-Benz, appeasing his every appetite as long as he lives and breathes, in a world he seems to have become way more comfortable in compared to the shorter amount of time he used Leland as a host. Almost too comfortable, as if he’s bored, but he’ll continue to kill and milk it for as long as possible. Man, that reveal of Evil Cooper though really threw me off and I love how they play it up at 1:11 with those reverberations. Kyle Maclachlan is such a menacing presence on screen and I hope Emmy voters are keeping an eye on him. Wow, Bob, wow.

It’s right around the time that Sam and Tracey met their end when we cut to South Dakota where a grisly murder of Ruth the librarian and a John Doe have taken place. I was thrilled with how David Lynch played with pacing, frustrating the audience in such a comedic manner over getting inside the apartment. I love how the lady who called the police, nearly forgot for a moment why she called, when she was more focused on recounting how funny it is that she couldn’t remember her own address. Great actress. I love her “Ohh” when one of the officers puts on his plastic gloves, as if she’s experiencing a police procedural before her eyes. As for the principal being the lead suspect, it’s very compelling how this is all set up, especially for a story that’s revolving around all these new characters. The line between how innocent and how guilty the guy is remains very blurry, which makes the ending of Part 1 an absolute hook as we’re shown a piece of flesh in the trunk of his Volvo. I also appreciated the flashlight blinking for dramatic effect, yet humorously called attention to, much like the morgue scene in the pilot, with the guy apologizing for the blinking lights. In a nutshell, this is the charm that made Twin Peaks so successful to begin with.

Final remains:

– It looks like Deputy Chief Hawk is going to play an important role in getting closer to the mystery behind Cooper’s absence. The phone call with Margaret (the log lady) was very touching. It’s incredible how the original characters feel like a guest to the overall story now, yet they effortlessly fit in, (plot-wise, tonally) and will definitely become more prominent (although I can’t speak for the late Catherine Coulson) as the narrative progresses.

– Before it aired, I realized that Lucy and Andy’s kid is going to be 24 or 25 now and I’m glad on the lighter side of things that their son Wallie was mentioned (born on the same day as Marlon Brando). I’m glad the quirkiness of these characters still remains and Lucy’s confusion over using Sheriff Truman’s excuses for his absence (depending on who needs him) was delightfully fun. I haven’t looked into it in a long time, but I’m forgetting if Michael Ontkean said if he’ll be returning or not. Or whether it’s being kept hush-hush. I feel like the scene with Lucy is kind of a joke on that.

– Ben and Jerry! I like that we’re seeing a more mature Ben who knows better not to sleep with his married secretary, Beverly. Unless, he’s just not revealing this scandal to Jerry considering his defensive reaction citing R-E-S-P-E-C-T could be a possible way to distract his brother’s notion from the truth. If he is being honest, it would follow the theme of how he was trying to do what’s right after his Civil War phase.  Other than that, I enjoyed the entire scene ending with”…is that mother’s hat?”

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