Note: This post contains spoilers for the new season of Twin Peaks as well as the first 2 seasons. I recommend reading it after watching the first 2 parts of the new season.
Premiere Date: May 21, 2017
The word “cult” is one that gets thrown around a bit too often today when describing certain films or television series with a minimal, but passionate fan base. However, I can think of no film or TV series to which that term applies more appropriately than Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s ABC drama of the early 1990s. When it premiered with an 8 episode first season in 1990, Twin Peaks was an unlikely smash hit. Millions were drawn to its offbeat humor, quirky characters, and compelling central mystery, namely who in the sleepy small town of Twin Peaks, Washington killed troubled teen Laura Palmer. A 22 episode 2nd season was quickly ordered and quickly sunk the show’s popularity, as Lynch gave in more and more to the surreal, often deliberately bizarre tendencies that characterize so much of his work. Twin Peaks was cancelled after only 30 episodes, but its legacy has never stopped living on. Many still consider it Lynch’s greatest achievement, even above classic films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that Twin Peaks was due a revival, especially given the cryptic message Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) gave Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the Black Lodge during the original series: “I’ll see you in 25 years.” Yet the development of this new season of Twin Peaks was surrounded by questions. What would be the plot? What characters would return? And what would David Lynch’s involvement be? At one point, Lynch actually dropped out of the development process altogether, but he later returned to write and direct every episode of this new season. And I say “new season” for a reason. This isn’t a reboot. It’s a direct continuation of the series. So if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks before, don’t expect that you can jump right in to this new season cold and pick up on what is happening. Heck, I’ve seen every episode of the original series and I was still occasionally befuddled in the first two hours of the new season. That’s just the way Lynch rolls.
He does, however, manage to answer perhaps the most pressing question fans had after the end of the 2nd season: what exactly happened to Agent Dale Cooper? No one will, of course, forget the show’s infamous final moments, when Cooper, upon supposedly escaping from the Black Lodge, looks into a mirror only to see Bob (Frank Silva), the parasitic killer responsible for Laura Palmer’s murder, staring back at him. Fans were left wondering if Cooper had been possessed by Bob, or whether he was still stuck in the Black Lodge. Lynch resolves this question in the first two episodes of the new season, but, because he’s David Lynch, he does so at his own pace. The explanation, as many fans believed, is that the real Cooper is still stuck in the Black Lodge while his doppelganger, acting as a host for Bob, is out roaming the real world.
We pick up with the real Cooper confined to his famous seat in the Black Lodge. In a sequence that will bring back plenty of nostalgia for all Twin Peaks fans, he is visited by Laura Palmer, an almost identical scene to Cooper’s first visit to the Black Lodge in Season 1. She tells Cooper that he can leave the Black Lodge, but this isn’t exactly the truth. Cooper later learns from a bizarre creature that looks like some sort of floating brain with tentacles, one of the many visually arresting images in the pilot, that if he wants to leave the Black Lodge for good he must find his doppelganger and substitute him in his place. He also comes across Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) who mysteriously tells Cooper to “find Laura.”
Meanwhile, we meet Cooper’s doppelganger, who is roaming the real world. He seems to be somehow involved with the murder of a high school librarian in an unspecified town. Don (Bailey Chase) and Dave (Brent Briscoe) have their sights set on the school principal (the always watchable Matthew Lillard) as the culprit, but Lynch loves a good murder mystery and this one may end up having as many twists and turns as Laura Palmer’s case. At the same time, the doppelganger himself finds himself the target of a murder plot that seems to be spearheaded by Philip Jeffries, who devotees will know as the missing FBI agent played by David Bowie in Fire Walk With Me, Lynch’s 1992 prequel to the series.
There’s a lot of new ground for Lynch to cover in the opening two hours, but he makes sure to work in enough familiar material to please fans of the original series. The great bromance between Ben (Richard Beymer) and Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) has lost none of its humor in the last 25 years. Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) are together and happy, parents of a 24 year old boy (though thankfully their screen time is minimal). And the pilot’s final scene, which sees Shelley (Madchen Amick) and James (James Marshall) lock eyes across the renovated Roadhouse is perhaps the most nostalgic moment of the entire two part episode. Certainly, all of these characters will have roles to play in what follows.
Most prominently, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse, quietly commanding as ever) is contacted by Margaret the Log Lady (the late Catherine E. Coulson) with information about the whereabouts of Cooper, who the residents of Twin Peaks believe to have been missing for the last 25 years.
Certainly, this new Twin Peaks is slicker and more visually adventurous, but Lynch hasn’t lost what made the original so compelling: mystery, humor, horror, and a touch of the surreal. I think this new season is going to find success like it couldn’t have in 1991. There’s simply nothing else like it on TV today. To be sure, some of Lynch’s more irritating habits are there: deliberate pacing, sometimes maddening obscurity. But it wouldn’t be Twin Peaks without those. I, for one, can’t wait to see where Lynch takes us from here and I think most Twin Peaks fans will feel the same. Buckle up.