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Twin Peaks (All of it) Review

(posted in blog)

Prior to a few weeks ago I was aware that Twin Peaks existed, and I knew that David Lynch was at least partially involved, but that was about it. I was only ten years old when it originally aired, so it wasn’t the kind of TV show I would have been into at the time. In the years since it aired, I heard a few bits and pieces about it–mostly through stumbling in on forum discussions or podcast episodes discussing things like alternate realities, questioning whether things are happening in the real world or a dream, and generally speaking in terms that indicated that this was a show that I would really be interested in.

A few years ago I picked up the Blu-ray box set containing the first two seasons and the prequel Fire Walk With Me, and it sat unwatched on the shelf next to the other David Lynch movies that I own. I wanted to watch it badly, but I also wanted to be sure I was in the right mood to give it the full attention I knew it deserved. At the time I’m writing this there’s a worldwide pandemic going on, forcing people around the world to socially isolate themselves to prevent the medical system from becoming overloaded, so I figured while I’m stuck in the house it’s the perfect time to delve into this TV show that I was expecting to be rich with hidden meanings and mysteries to solve.

The first few episodes hooked me big time, and in checking out IMDB for details I discovered that there was a third season a few years ago (25 years after the first two aired), called Twin Peaks: The Return which I immediately ordered online without really knowing anything about it other than David Lynch was still attached and it aired on Showtime.

I’m not going to discuss any spoiler content, or give my own theories on what any of it means. I’m not even sure I have any cogent theories yet–it’s still too fresh in my mind and it leaves so much open to interpretation. What I will do is give my recommendation on how to approach Twin Peaks if, like me, you’ve never seen any of it but are interested enough to invest a few weeks or months into experiencing it.

Watch up to the episode (I think it’s the third or fourth depending on how you count) that ends with Cooper’s dream. If by that point you haven’t been sold, you can probably safely stop watching; the show might not be for you.

Consider the first two seasons to be homework for Fire Walk With Me and The Return. Don’t get me wrong–seasons 1 and 2 are enjoyable TV on their own merit. In particular the first season and first several episodes of the second season, and particularly in particular any episode in which Mark Frost or David Lynch have writer or director credits, are really good. The second season has a string of episodes where it feels directionless that I could only enjoy by taking a so-bad-it’s-good kind of approach. I believe both Frost and Lynch had less to do with the show during this period. You may be tempted to skip some episodes or stop watching altogether, but don’t do it. Grit your teeth if you have to and plough through to the end. The last episode of season 2 is great, and the movie and third season will be a slightly richer experience for you.

Fire Walk With Me didn’t do so well critically when it came out, and I can kind of understand why–it has a different, darker tone than the TV show and very clearly has a much stronger David Lynch influence (I don’t think Mark Frost was involved with the movie at all). I loved it. It drops all of the campy aspects that were weaved throughout the TV show and gives a sobering account of the events that led right up to the opening scenes of the first episode in a way that the show itself, through interweaving of silly characters and quirky humor, never really made viewers come to full terms with until now.

The third season was released and also takes place 25 years after the second season, and is in my opinion the real reason to have watched everything leading up to it. It is a God damn masterpiece and easily the greatest media-consumption experience I have had in my life until now. If you read other reviews, you’ll discover that The Return is highly divisive–people either effuse with praise for its brilliance, or claim that it’s an overly-indulgent and unwatchable waste of time. How you felt about the first and last episodes of season 2 and the movie Fire Walk With Me is probably going to be a good indicator of which side of the fence you’ll fall on with The Return. If you enjoyed the strong David Lynch influences, the third season has that magnified by a million.

Mark Frost and David Lynch are fully aware of what people want and expect in a decades-later follow-up “reunion” to a show like Twin Peaks. This is perfectly clear because they tantalizingly dangle it in front of you in a masterful way–thanks in no small part to the absolutely incredible performance by Kyle MacLaughlan–that is both endlessly frustrating and yet deeply, deeply entertaining and ultimately more satisfying than a more typical approach could have even come remotely close to.

The Return is so good and shocking and different from anything that has ever been on TV before or since. I can’t stop thinking about it and how much I absolutely adored it and how much I want to start all over again with the pilot episode of the first season and see what kind of new emotions and epiphanies and theories it stirs up in me on the second watch. I’m going to wait though. Like good coffee I think Twin Peaks will be better if left to percolate a while before I tackle it again, so long as there aren’t any fish in the percolator.

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