We’ll see you again in…another 25 years?
Warning: Full spoilers for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival follows.
It might be safe to assume that many ardent Twin Peaks fans, if asked to choose between the tone of the original ground-breaking ABC series and the more disturbing “Rated M for Mature” vibe of David Lynch’s Fire Walk with Me, would side with the TV show.
Not that Peaks fanatics can’t, or don’t, love and appreciate both, but when Showtime announced that Peaks was coming back, two and a half decades after it left us all hanging from a pretty steep cliff, the underlying and unspoken want was that we’d be getting more “show” and less Fire Walk with Me. Despite co-creator/directorDavid Lynch telling us all ahead of time that the Fire Walk with Me prequel film, and the happenings within it, would be crucial to understanding (hah!) the new series.
What we got, aside from a healthy stretch of Dougie Jones lunacy, was a macabre experimental dive into Lynch’s mad dreamscape – akin to films of his like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Projects with themes of dark doubles, shadow realms, surreal visuals, metaphysical breakdowns, and mirror worlds. There was little in place to mark the separate “Parts” (of most) of the new Twin Peaks as actual episodes save for most of them ending with a trippy musical performance at the Roadhouse (featuring everyone from Eddie Vedder to Rebekah del Rio to original breathy Peaks crooner Julee Cruise). For the most part, this revival season blended together into one long fascinating and hypnotically confounding Lynch movie.
But, true to form, Twin Peaks came back and did something completely unlike anything else on television. Just as the original 1990 series took primetime by storm and showed viewers something they’d actually never seen before on TV, the new Peaks did the same. Honestly too, it wouldn’t have done that if we’d just gotten, basically, the old show. We’d have enjoyed it, but it wouldn’t have done what the original Peaks did as far as breaking the mold. This summer’s Twin Peaks was deep and rich and frustrating and, unlike most TV nowadays (even as good as a lot of it is), it required a few days of “processing” after the fact. Many times we were left in a stupor, needing time to fully digest what it was we’d actually seen.
Whether or not that creates a rewarding experience for you as a viewer is going to be up to the individual. Polarizing was a generous term thrown around with regards to the new Peaks. Some were tantalized by the constant teasing and contempt while others were put off and pushed away by the uncrackable madness and mayhem. Also, whether you loved the ending or hated it, you couldn’t argue that in the end Peaks gave us all something memorable to experience. And yes, it’s okay to fall somewhere in between. That’s where I comfortably reside. I didn’t love it or hate it. In fact, weeks later I’m still – I guess – processing.
Showtime’s Peaks was a mesmerizing blend of fan service and fan denial. Of meeting expectations and shunning them. For every Norma and Ed love connection there was a “Wait, now we’re even more confused about Audrey!” For each sweet redemption of Bobby Briggs, who turned into a caring local cop, there was a “Why again are we following his crazy drug-addled son-in-law?” Needless to say, Cooper and Laura being trapped in an alternate realm (or year, or both) aside, there was enough left unanswered and unaddressed to warrant more Peaks. Was that the intention though? We all went into this expecting these 18 episodes to close the book on everything, right? But now not only is there another giant “WTF?” cliffhanger, but there are a dozen other threads that need to be snipped too.
There are no renewal answers at this point, but something else to consider too is Showtime’s actual frustrating M.O. as a premium cable network. Showtime, bless them, never met a hit show they didn’t want more of. Even to the point where they don’t even really like giving proper endings. Yes, I’m looking directly at you Dexter and Penny Dreadful – both of which were purposefully, the detriment of the series, left somewhat open in case characters needed to be around for a spinoff and/or continuation. Showtime wanting more Peaks would not be a surprise at all and it just stands out to me so much, right now, that the final two episodes that aired together, went in two different directions.
The first was very tethered to the main plot and worked to sweep up a ton of story involving Coop’s doppelgänger and the final destruction of BOB. The second one, “Part 18,” took us into an element and world of the show that was never really discussed other than the word “electricity” and worked to try and bring Laura Palmer home – something that I didn’t necessarily crave as closure. Laura was killed and I wanted her to be at peace (and not trapped for eternity in some trippy supernatural/alien prison), but I didn’t need her resurrected. There was nothing in the DNA of Peaks that made me want her entire murder erased so that she could live again in the real world.
But there “Part 18” was, setting us up for an entirely new and different adventure. One that could possibly span an entire new season. It was a cliffhanger of a different breed. It wasn’t just a cracked mirror and a “How’s Annie?” tag at the end, it was a full on re-morphing of the show using elements already planted within Sarah Palmer’s story. I’m just saying that the original show felt like it was cancelled on regular cliffhanger, like many other shows over the years have been. The ending here, and Coop’s healthy spell over in Odessa on the other side, surely felt like it was meant to take us into a new season.
And if it doesn’t, though there’s no reason Showtime would want this show “canceled,” it can fall back on, if need be, Lynch’s trademark proclivity to baffle and bemuse. There’s certainly enough there for reddit threads to feast on for a few months, and people have already drawn up their own theories based on their assumption that the show won’t be coming back.
Discouraging elements (purposeful or not) aside, there was a ton to love in this new Peaks – and yes, there’s even room to appreciate the quiet majesty of something like a wonderful seven-minute floor sweep or a great five-minute shovel spray-painting. Fire Walk with Me was a massive part of this new series, connecting to everything from the Fat Trout trailer park to the Blue Rose case files to David Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries (who returned as, or inside, a giant tea kettle type object). We learned about “Judy” (sort of), but mysteries still remain there about “her” and about who it was that was pretending to be Jeffries while ordering the hits on Evil Coop.
Outside of the Fire Walk with Me stories and the main FBI through line (which included the fun reveal of Laura Dern as Diane!), the show delicately dipped its toe into some really soft and sentimental things. Aside from the aforementioned Norma/Ed kiss and Bobby’s redemption, the new Peaks acted as a wonderful swan song for actors Miguel Ferrer and Catherine E. Coulson, both of whom died after completing production. Coleson’s death, as she was so noticeably physically ill while shooting, was actually written into the story and made for a very moving phone conversation between the Log Lady and Hawk.
Likewise, James’ Roadhouse rendition of “Just You and I,” along with Audrey’s dance, created some awesome and emotional callbacks – each tainted with a little darkness too as Audrey may be in an asylum and James came into the new series sporting a “head injury” of some sort. It wouldn’t be the only time Peaks got drunk off its own nostalgia either as both pie and coffee became huge parts of the series once again. The two of them even acting as little pop-up reminders for Coop while he was still learning how to be human inside of Dougie.
Okay, so Dougie. There were many things throughout this summer run that could put someone off. A major sticking point was probably how much Dougie Jones we got. Meaning, how long Cooper was actually trapped inside Douglas Jones’ body (the bulk of the season, in fact) mixed with the absurdity that was Dougie – a barely functioning man who clearly needed medical help but who everyone just more or less treated normally. Maybe they thought he was acting strange or off, but nothing about Dougie’s ridiculous non-speaking nature sounded any alarms. It was played for comedy. Lynch’s version of befuddlement comedy, of course. The funniest aspect of it overall, of course, was how angry it made everyone. Which is a form of trolling, I guess, but even now I think back at how much we were all over Dougie by – let’s say – “Part 6.” And he’s makes it all the way to “Part 16.” We had no idea what was in store for us and there’s perverse value in that.
I can’t close things out without mentioning my favorite episode though: “Part 8.” There were many strong chapters during this return run, and many extended scenes featuring eerie and evil things, but the eighth episode took us on an exploration of invading cosmic entities. From the heart of an atom bomb came an onslaught of malicious magicians and marauders who created a crack in our world’s subatomic shell. “This is the water, and this is the well…”