|As weird as ever.|
Twin Peaks is back for a third season, a whopping twenty-five years after the conclusion of Season 2. David Lynch and Mark Frost are again at the helm, most of the original cast are back to reprise their roles, and the ensemble is bolstered by the talent of Hollywood heavy hitters such as Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, and Amanda Seyfried. It has benefited from a long development cycle, having been in production for at least three years. It also boasts eighteen hour-long episodes (full hours, without commercials). This, my friends, is as authentically Twin Peaks as it gets. It broke records for signups to Showtime’s streaming service, for good reason.
Twin Peaks' return also coincides auspiciously with one of the lines spoken by Laura Palmer at the end of Season 2, wherein her spectre tells Agent Cooper that she will see him “again in twenty-five years”. And indeed, she does return. She certainly looks older, but she can still rock a black dress and speak in creepy backward-talk just as well as she did in the 90s. Her appearance is somewhat limited, however, to a sort of angel who tries to deliver Agent Cooper from his imprisonment within the stygian Black Lodge. As we learned from Fire Walk With Me, Cooper’s soul had essentially been split into two halves – the “good” half becoming trapped in the Black Lodge, while his evil doppelganger escaped into the real word, achieving symbiosis with the evil entity known only as “Bob”.
The resultant character is a fusion of Bob’s chaotic evilness with Cooper’s calm and ordered mind; a zen master and serial killer rolled into one. That might sound cool on paper, but it’s actually rather strange and awkward to watch. Kyle MacLachlan looks absolutely ridiculous sporting Bob’s leather jacket and hairstyle, and his calmly delivered lines, juxtaposed against Bob’s cruel and infantile actions, is enough to make the brain do a double-take. This character would make no sense in any other context, but because this is Twin Peaks, David Lynch somehow makes it work.
So, Cooper – or rather, evil Cooper and Bob – have been missing since the conclusion of Season 2, and haven’t been seen by anyone in Twin Peaks since. They have ostensibly been wreaking their own brand of havoc across America for twenty-five years without ever getting caught. Drug dealing, murder, rape, and everything you’d expect a nasty critter like Bob to be up to are on their laundry list of dirty deeds. All of these crimes, of course, eventually become attributed to one of the best and brightest agents the FBI ever had.
However, the stars have aligned again – much in the same way that they did at the end of Season 2 – and the veil between the real world and the Black Lodge has grown thin again. Bob is due to return back to where he belongs, but the wrinkle is that he doesn’t want to go back – probably because he’s having too much fun. Thus, he’s going to make everyone’s lives, including the FBI (who finally manage to track him down) utterly miserable in the process.
This is not acceptable to the denizens of the Black Lodge, however. In a remarkable twist, they collude to help the “good” Cooper return back to the real world. I guess after seeing him sit in that same chair for twenty-five years they decided that enough was enough. So, along with Laura Palmer, we get to see familiar faces from the Lodge, such as the Giant and One-Armed Mike, working toward this task. We also meet new characters, such as the “The Arm”, a creature that resembles an electrified tree with a fleshy knobule for a head. Yep. Shit is just as weird as it ever was in Twin Peaks, or perhaps even more so.
We also get to see new frontiers within the Black Lodge, including a strange realm where a lonely tower stands in a vast and endless pink sea. Is this, perhaps, the fabled White Lodge? Who knows! Part of the fun of Twin Peaks is figuring out this stuff out on your own. In fact, you can take a lot of my analysis as conjecture, as David Lynch never really offers solid answers to most of Twin Peaks’ puzzles. He does trickle some explanations here and there as things go along, but he certainly does not hold the audience’s hand at all. Die-hard fans of the series will certainly appreciate this. The good news is that we do get some follow-up on some of the series’ lingering questions, such as what the “Blue Rose” is, and what the deal was with that weird green ring that Mike gave to Laura at the end of Fire Walk With Me.
I haven’t watched through the entire season yet, but I don’t have a lot to criticize so far. The writing is sharp, the characterizations are near-flawless, and Lynch’s direction gets the right shot every time. The tone of Season 3 is much closer to what we saw in Fire Walk With Me, however, so you can expect plenty of depictions of violence, sex, nudity, coarse language and some truly grotesque scenes of horror. Unconstrained by the standards of mainstream cable television, David Lynch is doing whatever the hell he wants. That’s not a bad thing; it's just a thing. Suffice to say, if you preferred the original seasons over Fire Walk With Me, you’re probably not going to like Season 3. It is not nearly as lighthearted or silly, though it still offers some absolutely brilliant moments of comic relief in-between.
It could be argued that Season 3 feels a little bit dated, though. It feels, at times, like it was directly revived out of the 1990s, despite Lynch's attempts to get with the times. It is mentioned that Jerry Horne is making a tidy living off the legalization of marijuana in the state of Washington, for instance. Dr. Jacoby has become a conspiracy theorist who lives in a trailer in the woods and runs a webcast. Lucy Brennan, who still works as the dispatcher at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office, struggles with the ubiquity of cellphones. None of this really affects the story much, though, and the ad hoc injection of modernity into the show sometimes feels forced. Lynch appears to be somewhat aware of this, though; he’s not afraid to portray his characters as doddering old fossils who must endure the disparaging attitudes of the younger characters.
Another potential criticism is the fact that some of the episodes feel a little too drawn out. Setting Lynch loose to do whatever he wants for 18 hours straight might sound great on paper, but by the middle of the season, you will realize that Showtime might have given him a little too much time to tell his tale. Some sequences seem to exist only to take up space and waste our time, such a scene at the Roadhouse where we get to watch an extra sweep up dust and cigarette butts for two and a half minutes. Later, the story devolves into full-bore David Lynch abstract storytelling, which can be a bit grating on the nerves (if you want to challenge yourself, try watching this clip from the nuclear bomb sequence. That’s right, it’s just a clip. The entire thing lasts about 15 minutes).
However, despite its few weak points, Season 3 remains an interesting, unique and absurdly entertaining piece of filmmaking. If you’re worried that I’ve provided too many spoilers here, don’t worry – I’ve barely scratched the surface. Shit gets exponentially weird as things go along, with countless twists and turns as the story evolves. By around the middle of the season – just as you start to think you're beginning to understand what's going on – Lynch throws curveball after curveball at you to keep you guessing. If you are a fan of the series, or even remotely liked watching it back in the day, you owe it to yourself to give Season 3 a look.
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