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Monday, May 22, 2017

DAMN Good Television -- TWIN PEAKS: "The Return, Parts 1 & 2"



It is happening again.

At long last, Twin Peaks is back in all its surreal glory, but are you ready?  If you haven't seen the show's first two episodes yet and you don't want them spoiled for you, then please step back from your computer or whatever electronic device you're reading this on and stop reading now.  If, however, you're wise enough to know that reviews with spoilers are always more interesting than the ones without them...well...LET'S ROCK.

As foretold by Laura Palmer in the original Twin Peaks series finale, David Lynch and Mark Frost's saga of sex, murder and the supernatural returned to television last night, 25 years (and change) since we last saw FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper smashing his forehead into his hotel room bathroom mirror and revealing that he had been possessed by the dark, otherworldly entity known as BOB.  This unresolved cliffhanger (among others) has haunted the souls of many Twin Peaks fans (including myself) for over two and a half decades, and now...now we have a chance for some answers.

Or, as it turns out, a whole bunch of new questions.  

Showtime's revival of the 1990-91 cult classic is pure Lynch, embracing his dark and twisted Eraserhead roots and not anywhere close to phoning it in.  If you expected a standard TV reunion where you get to see your favorite characters again in a simple nostalgia fest, you're in for a rude awakening.  A ton of new characters are introduced, new WTF mysteries are in play, and most importantly, Lynch and Frost don't care if you're a Peaks Noob that needs to be caught up on what happened before.

"The Return" begins with brief flashback teaser where Laura Palmer told Cooper he would see her again in 25 years, and then get the new opening credits.  Because this is 2017, the original two minute, thirty second opening has been chopped in half to one minute fifteen, but the new overhead shot of Snoqualmie Falls looks glorious in HD and Angelo Badalamenti's theme remains untouched.  We see the billowing red curtains from the Black Lodge, followed by a dizzying CGI pan across the zigzag Black Lodge floor that sums up "The Return" perfectly -- familiar, yet different from what you remember, and very disorienting at times.

The tone of the new series is distinctly more serious, along the lines of the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, but there are moments of quirky, offbeat humor that remind you of what made the original series so endearing.  Classic characters Dale Cooper, The Giant, and Dr. Lawrence Jacoby reassure us this is still the same series, and then we get our first new subplot, a strange glass box hooked up to machinery in a top secret facility located in New York.  New character Sam Colby is tasked with constantly watching the box, simply to see if anything appears, which he does until a young woman named Tracy turns up with coffee.  With the security guard missing, Sam invites Tracy in to keep him company which ultimately leads to the two having sex.  The box begins to turn black, however, and a terrifying creature appears inside before breaking free and hacking them to ribbons in a moment of pure, unbridled horror.  Once again, sex leads to terrible violence on Twin Peaks.

More horrible images follow, as a woman named Ruth is found dead in her apartment, her head completely severed and left on the bed pillow, but with a headless man's body placed underneath the covers.  The fingerprints of a local high school principal named Bill Hastings are found all over the room, which leads to his quick arrest.  Placed in a holding cell, Hastings tells his wife he had a dream he killed Ruth, but swears up and down he didn’t do it.  His wife doesn’t believe him, and Bill has the same shaken look Laura Palmer's father Leland had in the original series, so we know how that turned out.

We then catch up with BOB, still joyriding in Dale Cooper's body 25 years later.  BOB, it turns out, has remade Cooper's body in his image -- long hair, tanned skin, etc. -- and has made a life in South Dakota doing all kinds of seedy activities of pain and sorrow.  It turns out that BOB is expected to return to the Black Lodge, but of course, BOB isn't ready to go back just yet and has other plans.

We also catch up with more old friends at the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department, as we learn Andy and Lucy Brennan now have a 24-year-old son named Wally.  Deputy Chief Hawk gets some foreboding warnings about Cooper from the Log Lady, who is heartbreaking as we see actress Catherine Coulson looking frail with an oxygen tube shortly before she passed away in real life.  Hawk goes to Glastonbury Grove, seeing that unsettling circle of sycamore trees and hinting that he may be the one that pieces together what happened to Cooper all those years ago.

Laura makes good on her 25-year promise and sees Cooper once again in the Black Lodge, kissing him and whispering something into his ear in a recreation of the famous dream sequence from Episode 3 of the original series.  Laura tells Cooper it's finally time for him to leave the Black Lodge, then we see Mike the one-armed man introduce Cooper to what I can only described as an electrified tree that Mike calls "the evolution of the Arm", the Man from Another Place from the original series.  Hey, The Man from Another Place did say "When you see me again, it won't be me," right?

Things take an even darker turn when Laura tells Cooper "I am dead...and yet I live" then removes her face briefly to reveal blinding white light.  Suddenly, the Black Lodge begins to shake and tremble, Laura in particular, and it appears as though something came through the roof/ceiling and ripped Laura away.  Leland appears, tasking Cooper to "Find Laura", and then all hell breaks loose when the Electric Tree's doppelganger opens up the Lodge's zigzag floor and flushes Cooper downward into water, ultimately spitting him out in, yes, the mysterious glass box from earlier.  And presumably, this means the creature that hacked Sam and Tracy to bits was the Electric Tree's doppelganger.

As Cooper ends up resuming his descent into wherever on the way out of the Black Lodge, the second episode starts wrapping up with Laura's mother Sarah watching a seriously violent nature show at home, perhaps leading to another of her visions.  This is followed by a return to the Bang Bang Bar, a.k.a. the Roadhouse, where we learn that the bar is now a place where Twin Peaks hipster millennials hang out with their Generation X parents to listen to bands like the Chromatics.  The sole purpose of this scene seems to be to reintroduce classic characters Shelly Johnson and James Hurley, and close out the second episode on a more upbeat note.

But...yeah, all kinds of questions abound.  Who's financing the scientific research into the Black Lodge?  What's happening with Dale Cooper?  What happened to Laura?  What the F#@% were the Electric Tree and its doppelganger?  What's the deal with Bill Hastings? When will the FBI become involved again?  Where's Audrey, Bobby, Big Ed and Norma?  Is Invitation to Love still on?  And when are we finally going to see the White Lodge?  

Sixteen more hours to go.  I can't wait to enjoy the ride.

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