CAPSULE: TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (2017)

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , , Miguel Ferrer, Chrysta Bell, James Belushi, Robert Knepper, , , , , , Al Strobel, Carel Struycken, , David Lynch

PLOT: Picking up twenty-five years after the events of “Twin Peaks” and Fire Walk with Me, life has continued for most of the small town’s residents; but things are afoot which once again will involve the FBI and Agent Cooper and a mystery involving “the strange forces of existence.”

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: As noted in the earlier capsule on Twin Peaks, “it’s a TV series“. However, I’d like to put forth the case that the entire Twin Peaks universe—the original 90’s series, the feature Fire Walk With Me, and “The Return”—should be treated as one whole project instead of as separate entities and as such, should be considered as a contender for the List.

COMMENTS: In uncertain times, audiences and institutions like to choose the familiar, which may account for the numerous remakes and “reboots” of successful material from the past (witness the return of “X-Files” and “Will & Grace,” to name just a couple). Most of these are obvious cash grabs, empty and unrepentant. When it was announced in late 2014 that David Lynch and Mark Frost would be bringing “Twin Peaks” back to television, however, speculation was wild and expectation high on what that result would be, especially as it went from a proposed nine episodes to an eighteen-hour “feature film” and Showtime gave Lynch and Frost complete creative control.

It’s evident now that “Twin Peaks: The Return” (Showtime’s marketing title; Lynch and Frost have made it clear that they consider this “Season 3”) was in every way the Major Event that fans and critics had hoped it would be—but it was in no way what anyone expected. As the head of Showtime, David Nevins, told the press in early 2017, it was the “pure heroin version of David Lynch.” We had no idea.

Unfettered by the constraints of network television, instead of bringing fuzzy warm nostalgic memories of the original 90’s show to the forefront, Lynch and Frost opted for a true continuation, and also made it very contemporary to the current times (there is a small amount of nostalgia indulged in as things converge at the end, but it’s very brief). Going even further than he did with Fire Walk With Me, “The Return” is a culmination of tropes Lynch has employed throughout his career, but with an emphasis on his aesthetic post-Lost Highway/Mulholland Drive. Those who were expecting a straight return to the world of “damn good coffee” and doughnuts were thrown immediately, and it drove almost everyone watching from May to September crazy in attempts to “figure out” where the show was heading.

It’s twenty-five years later and characters have aged, and changed. Usually in revivals, there’s some lip service paid towards time’s changes, but writers recognize the success of the endeavor is tied to the characters staying basically the same as during the original run. In “The Return,” characters have evolved far past the point at which we last saw them—in particular, Agent Dale Cooper, whose return is the season’s main plot element.

One other notable aspect is how the specter of Death is present, in a very real way. Obviously, death is an inherent part of drama, but “The Return” foregrounds the fact that a good portion of its important actors have passed on (even during or shortly after production). There are some very clever workarounds employed, but in one case, the death of a major character/actor is not shied away from. There’s a melancholy that hovers at certain times, but tinged with affection, noted by the many “In Memory Of” notices in the credits.

Also notable are the performances, great all around from the returning cast members, especially Kyle McLachlan juggling several different character aspects at various times in the story, and Miguel Ferrer. There are also many surprises found from actors new to the Twin Peaks universe (Matthew Lillard, James Belushi, Tom Sizemore), as well as Lynch veterans Laura Dern and Naomi Watts.

If there’s only one thing to take away from “The Return”– only one—it’s this: You Can’t Go Home Again. But, that’s not always a bad thing.

For those wanting to enhance their “Twin Peaks” experience, co-creator Mark Frost wrote two books that fill in some—but not all—of the cracks.  The Secret History of Twin Peaks: A Novel, released in late 2016, covers the background of the town, and provides some framework for “The Return;” Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier is a wrap-up of the events in “The Return,” giving some insight on incidents and characters that weren’t directly addressed and providing some clue, but no clear answers, to the climatic events of Season 3.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…Lynch at his most Lynchian: eerie silences, idiosyncratic exchanges, languid shots of trees, and multiple plots strands that were maddeningly opaque at times. From the first twang of Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting theme music, it was as if Lynch was determined to remind all those shows indebted to Twin Peaks – True Detective and Fargo, for example – that no one does weird quite like him.”–Patrick Smith, The Telegraph (contemporaneous)

4 thoughts on “CAPSULE: TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN (2017)”

    1. Curiously, Cahiers du Cinéma considered “The Return” the best film of 2017. Others have included individual episodes in their top 10 lists.

      So, we’re not alone in being confused by the format!

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