‘Who will be the new Peakies?’
Watching the highly improbable return of the genuinely groundbreaking 1990 TV phenomenon Twin Peaks is an odd experience, and this coming from a dedicated obsessive who saw the show in America on its Sunday-night debut episode some 27 years ago. It’s almost impossible that anything could measure up to the expectations and desire to somehow repeat that experience. I was already a big fan of David Lynch and therefore had an idea of how Twin Peaks might look and the themes it would take but never did I expect it to be the enduring, massive hit it became. The first two episodes of the new, 18 episode show with every single frame directed by Lynch initially bewildered and exhausted me. The first two seasons combined had maybe 90 minutes maximum of what the fuck moments, something that’s often misunderstood about the show, but this was a constant two hours of them.
The tone and the mood of the Twin Peaks first season, and around a quarter of the second, was far more important than the show’s narrative or structure. It was soapy but genuinely moving, funny, utterly unexpected, terrifying and suddenly, wonderfully surreal. But it the was the feel of the show that hooked America so tightly along with, of course, the desire to uncover the show’s central mystery, who had killed Laura Palmer? Once this was revealed partway through the second series, unwillingly by David Lynch it must be stressed, then the show quickly became formulaic and failed to engage with even the most ardent fans. That mood was almost gone. But then David Lynch returned to direct the final episode, brought back Laura Palmer and shockingly sent saintly Special Agent Dale Cooper back out into Twin Peaks as his own doppelgänger, possessed by the evil soul of killer Bob.
The new return opens in the Black Lodge, ‘a way out out between two worlds’, where many of the dead and undead hang out in a kind of purgatory which is overseen by Bob, the embodiment of evil and who possessed Leland Palmer and made him rape and murder his daughter. Dale Cooper, the good one who is not dead, has been trapped behind the sycamore trees and red curtains for a quarter of a century, but Laura Palmer, keeping her promise that she will see him again after 25 years, tells him he is free to leave. Following this, a painful force-field violently flings her out of the red room and she is replaced by the one-armed man who, along with his arm which was once a dancing midget but is a now a talking tree, informs him there are conditions to his release. This is, I hasten to add, the one segment that does make sense in context to the original show at least, but how it will play to viewers completely new to Twin Peak I cannot imagine.
The new strands, and for a show called Twin Peaks please don’t expect any of it to take place there just yet, are multitude and seemingly unconnected to the show’s original premise. The most chilling and instantly riveting strand takes place in New York where a young guy is hired by an unknown employer, a billionaire supposedly, to constantly watch a large, empty glass cube which is already surrounding by cameras. When he invites a woman to sit with him, expressly forbidden, they watch the box together and then start to make out, this turns out to be a very big mistake. The box fills with a dark smoke and there is a small, quivering hologram of, well, something inside that smashes free and swoops down on the couple and seemingly pecks them to a bloody death. It’s horror-show Lynch at his very best, certainly, but what does it have to do with Twin Peaks?
The bad Dale Cooper, Mr C, is in South Dakota. Kyle MacLachlan in a greasy, long wig with a leathery complexion and black eyes is in the image of Bob. He isn’t wearing his black suit and tie and says to Jennifer Jason Leigh ‘you’re nice and wet’ – it’s disconcerting. He kills two women in half an hour and is looking for information that is connected with the FBI and involves land coordinates. He is on the run from the Black Lodge as he knows he is due to ‘go back in’ and then the good Coop can leave.
Another dead body – or is it two? – is found in an apartment block, that of Rita Davenport. When she is revealed to us, it’s the decapitated head we see first – her eye has been shot. Her body, placed a few inches beneath her head, doesn’t appear to her body at all and a local headmaster is arrested as his prints are found in the apartment.
The show ends with the good Dale Cooper leaving the Black Lodge accidentally, finding a way out between the red curtains which was previously not accessible and giving him a view of the outside world and South Dakota where his doppelgänger is on the motorway. As he slips through the vibrating, zig-zagging floor and begins to fall into a traumatic black void, the arm which is now a tree is not happy and screams ‘non-exist-ent!’.
Cooper briefly appears floating in the glass cube and there was been a rupture in time as the guard is seen outside of the room collecting coffee, a scene we saw earlier on. Floating Cooper disappears just before the couple enter the room and meet their deaths several moments later. How are these things connected? But Lynch has now told us that somehow, they are.
The viewing figures are in for the season’s premiere and are shockingly low. It begs the question, will there be a new generation of Peakies? So far the return of Twin Peaks has played like a David Lynch greatest hits: Erasurehead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and in respect to the New York scenes, Lost Highway, are all heavily referenced. Long-term fans of the show will, I suspect, enjoy elements of the new series. Reassuring characters like the Log Lady do make brief but essential appearances, but so much new information crammed into two hours feels hectic and that Twin Peaks tone and mood is amorphous and hard to trace. Having already seen the third and fourth episodes I can confirm with some relief that this feature-length first episode may indeed serve as the prologue to a return to the a more familiar territory. At this point though it’s impossible to really know where we’re heading, and I can’t wait to find out.