Twin Peaks: The Return – Series Reviewed
Throughout watching this season, I felt like I was absorbed in a dream. However, that all abruptly ended with Twin Peaks’ shocking ending and I was brought back to reality.
I’ve been binge watching Twin Peaks throughout its entirety for the last few weeks. But this series in particular was hard to put down and I felt compelled to find out what would happen in each new episode. It speaks to the mastery of David Lynch in creating a new Twin Peaks that is relevant to the modern world.
This review will focus on the shift in tone from the prior seasons and in brief explain why the Dougie storyline worked. Furthermore, this article should be read in conjunction with my analysis of the finale.
Tone of the Original Twin Peaks
In all honesty, the first two seasons had a tone that can only be characterised as Lynchian. Ultimately they were a blend of horror, crime, comedy and quirkiness that only David Lynch can create. Those categories shouldn’t be able to blend together but here they did which is why the series was ground breaking. This takes special precedence when you consider that the series revolved around a murdered girl who was raped by her father whilst being possessed by an evil entity.
The particular attention and drastic consequences that follow Laura Palmer’s murder within the town highlighted both the good nature of the community but also its heavy impact. Although, Laura’s involvement and appearances within the show are very brief, there is significant character development. Laura’s death is stressed throughout as the catalyst for determining everyone’s path and she is the main character.
This Twin Peaks’ personality is defined by each individual’s story, alongside the underlying sinister nature that haunts this town. In short, while the mystery of the murder captivated people, each character arc was unique and interesting. It speaks volumes as to the development of each character in creating a unique community that the viewer cared about.
Overall, the first two seasons are characterised by a warmth and innocence of a bygone era with the values of this old rustic town, despite the tragic events that followed. This is displayed in the curiosity of Audrey Horne, the friendship of Coop and Sheriff Truman, the quirky relationship between Andy and Lucy, the teenage romance of James and Donna and Coop’s unwavering positivity in the face of unrelenting odds.
Tone of Twin Peaks: The Return
The new Twin Peaks’ tone is something far more sinister and although there are a few quirky comedic moments (the Mitchum brothers, Wally Brando, Mr C’s arm wrestling triumph and Coop’s Dougie state) and nostalgia driven segments which are rich in charm (any instance of Gordon Cole’s deafness and Albert’s sarcasm), it undoubtedly loses the innocent warmth of the old series.
It is essential to address that two things likely altered the direction the show went in. Firstly, how the original cast had noticeably aged after a 25-year gap and secondly, how some of the old cast had passed away before production of this new series (Major Briggs (Don S.Davis) and Philip Jeffries (David Bowie)).
Michael Ontkean not reprising the role of Sheriff Harry Truman almost felt appropriate. The original Sheriff Truman was seen as the viewer’s guide to associate with on this journey, supported by Coop’s superior intellect. Consequently, under the new Sherriff we see the show with new eyes that require greater explanation of the story. The absence of the original Sheriff Truman further helps to signify the loss of warmth in the series due to the loss of his friendship with Coop.
Particular attention should be shown to the scene with Norma and her boyfriend Walter Lawford, regarding changing her diner franchise to improve “marketability” and “profits.” This is likely an actual conversation discussed before this series with the networks and Lynch.
In the show, the changes to Norma’s homely franchise in using inferior ingredients to improve profits, doesn’t create a taste as good as the original. This eventually leads to Norma’s decision to sell those franchises, return to her old lover and maintain the original RR. Ultimately, I would state the “ingredients” of the show are just as good as the original but they are different. Significantly, this series is not an inferior version but altered for modern times.
The violent direction and tone of the show is displayed immediately through the opening scene with the assumed evil entity Judy/Jaio De literally ripping the skin off an innocent couple. This is followed by unease and discomfort at the graphic murders and actions of Richard Horne and Mr.C (Evil Coop).
25 years since the original Twin Peaks, we are blessed with an ever-increasing saturated market for quality programming with Netflix, the Internet, cable and satellite television. Consequently, we have shorter attention spans and are quicker to dismiss things. This colder, higher resolution, violent and serious Twin Peaks, engages us through breath-taking cinematography, a dark soundtrack and shocking moments that are more reflective of modern programming.
Special credit must be given to how much of a visual experience this series is, with any scene involving the Black Lodge looking sensational. The surrealism and cinematography can best be expressed in Part 8 or the episode known as “Gotta Light,” which can only be compared as a more extreme version of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” This episode alone is breath taking and contains elements of the old show’s unique oddity and improves on it. It is incredible and I’d like to thank the network for giving David Lynch such creative freedom.
These “different ingredients” for modern times are displayed with the focus on showcasing bands in the Twin Peaks bar and while I personally felt that viewing an entire performance was excessive, it does an excellent job in setting the tone and shifting the perception of the show from old to new.
Comparing it to the previous series, this tone change can be contrasted by the relationship dynamic of Shelly’s daughter and her boyfriend with the romance of James and Donna in the prior season. Here, the young couple are consumed with violent disagreements and drug taking. There is very little innocence or likable elements in their relationship and its purpose is to highlight that this is a different more sinister Twin Peaks.
The inclusion of newer characters to progress the plot is necessary as it changes the identity of this close-knit town. A shift can be shown in past relationships, where the quirky dynamics of Andy and Lucy transcended from quirky to just annoying, in order to shift this focus from the past. Consequently, we can no longer associate with everyone and their own trials.
In return we are introduced to how Twin Peaks has continued to suffer, through how unlikeable a lot of these new characters are with Richard Horne, Red, Chad Broxford, Becky and Steven (Becky’s husband). While it could be argued that the side stories in the old series were more engaging than the actual mystery, through the unpleasantness of these new characters, it creates greater focus on the main characters and underpins that the future is still doomed in Twin Peaks.
Whereas, the old Twin Peaks could be regarded as sometimes “goofy,” this Twin Peaks appeals more as a stand-alone production rather than a direct sequel. The ingredients have changed to implement curiosity and shock without the comfort of the Twin Peaks community we fell in love with. Instead, our attention is divided between fear and a lack of hope for the future of Twin Peaks and its characters.
Why the Dougie Storyline worked
The potential frustration shown to Coop’s Dougie state and how long viewers were made to wait for the eventual heavy emotional pay off was evidence of Lynch’s skill. Additionally, much curiosity and intrigue was created by the uncomfortable transformation of an iconic character into essentially a comatose vessel. This character development and slow grind is unlike most modern programming and can only be compared to Game of Thrones in creating a long story arc with a worthy pay off.
It made sense as Mr C was the leading character of the series and it would have been difficult to maintain significant interest, whilst these two were conversing in separate scenes. Therefore, despite the temptation to have Agent Cooper back on the mystery trail being high, I can see why it was important to go in a different direction. Furthermore, the intelligent detective trope is somewhat overplayed to the point of exhaustion (e.g. Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock). Consequently, this angle at least kept the character fresh and it was hard not to smile when he did transform, while stating, “I am the FBI.”
Special credit should also go to Kyle Maclachlan for his superb role in playing multiple characters in this series.
David Lynch displayed his skill in that each episode created an emotional feeling that was indescribable. This was even true of the episodes where not a lot happened, which left a significant empty feeling.
The many deaths that occurred during this series and apologies if I did miss anyone out, including Doc Hayward (Warren Frost), the Log Lady (Catherine E Coulson), Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), unintentionally gave this series a haunting vibe.
Twin Peaks the original series was engaging and quirky but I was able to switch off and leave a few days before the next one. This new series is so dark in its tone that it is like a mesmerising dream. Every episode makes you feel something and although this is not necessarily a good feeling, the fact that the show can convey such emotion highlights why Twin Peaks is still ground breaking.
I believe this darker, more violent and surreal Twin Peaks is the only version that can exist in modern times. It is why it’s a series dedicated to hardcore fans, whilst still retaining some semblance of those old homely “ingredients.”