'Twin Peaks' is coming back? Doc Jensen's all in
Last week, when word broke that David Lynch and Mark Frost might be making more Twin Peaks, I responded with the excitement of the ridiculous Twin Peaks fan I happen to be. “Let’s rock!” I tweeted, quoting The Man From Another Place. (Of course, if I were a real fan, I would have run the line backwards.) The show changed me—then a nerdy wannabe cinephile—the same way that itchanged television, capturing my imagination for ambitious, challenging vision and cultivating both an appreciation of and a desire for auteur storytelling.
But another tweet from another critic, Time’s James Poniewozik, caused me to rethink my enthusiasm.
(Mulholland Drive—which Lynch shot for ABC in 1990—was supposed to be another surreal soap opera, never-ending and never predictable and always nervy with Lynchian absurdity, sexiness, irony and menace, but this time set in the cracked mirror wonderland that is Hollywood. ABC didn’t pick up the series, and Lynch, in a near unprecedented reclamation project, retooled the pilot into a feature film that earned him an Oscar nomination and is now considered a masterpiece.)
I processed the question this way: An opportunity to watch a major artist revisit a world that I love, or an opportunity to watch a major artist tell a new and different story? (It’s not like many people actually saw Mulholland Drive.) Suddenly, I was once again feeling and fighting competing desires. It’s an all too common experience these days, living in a culture that’s so brand-centric, so fanboyish, so problematically weak for nostalgia, so… me. I responded to James’ tweet with this one: “Option 2 would be better, Option 1 is what I can’t resist voting for.”
For the most part, I feel the same way now, knowing that Twin Peaks is indeed coming back to us—in the form of a nine-episode miniseries, set in the present day, written by Frost and Lynch and directed by Lynch. The reboot will air on Showtime in 2016.
It’s exciting to see Lynch embrace the short-form miniseries format that’s brought such energy to the medium over the past few years. (Think Fargo, True Detective, and American Horror Story.) Lynch returning to Twin Peaks immediately gets me thinking about the one thing that could have made Fargo even better: If Joel and Ethan Coen had done it themselves.
Then again, that thought makes me realize why I’m glad they didn’t: I would rather see the Coens make another original film than rehash their previous work. I feel the same way about Lynch. He hasn’t directed a feature since 2006’s Inland Empire, an invigorating, artistically liberating experimental wonder (he shot the film on the fly, almost home-movie style, with conventional digital cameras) that unfortunately didn’t produce much wonder from his fans. I can’t say I enjoyed the movie, but I know I need more of everything it represented: A challenge. A shock of new. A fine, serious artist at play.
And so I come to the thing about the Twin Peaks revival that genuinely excites me. It’s not the chance to revisit one of the most exotic storytelling worlds television has ever given us, or the intriguing idea of falling in love with that world all over again via new characters and conflicts. It isn’t the possibility of seeing my favorite TV protagonist ever, Agent Dale Cooper, back in action. (Rescuing him from the extra-dimensional prison of The Black Lodge strikes me as a potential story for this mini-series to tell.) It isn’t the mysteries that could be answered, or the cliffhangers that could be resolved (see: that last parenthetical).
It isn’t even nostalgia. Twin Peaks belongs to a specific time and place in TV history, in which things like Twin Peaks and filmmakers like Lynch working in TV were uncommon. It belongs to a moment in Lynch’s career where he could not have been more thrilling, coming off both a major comeback and a bona fide masterpiece in the form of Blue Velvet. The film expressed an artistic sensibility that merited its own word—Lynchian—and left us clamoring for more. And he chose the medium of television to give it to us! That was so insanely exciting. For me, at least. But again: That was then. And it is gone. There is no replicating any of that. Not even if it tried.
No, what excites me about Twin Peaks is the treat of more David Lynch. Sure, I would prefer a wholly original series or film—but I will take him in any form, be it home movie experiment or franchise revival. This is a filmmaker utterly inspired in his choices (staging, framing, lighting, sound, editing) and committed to finding the most unique and resonant form a scene or narrative can take, a filmmaker whose work is so wonderfully, weirdly, idiosyncratically, defiantly, infuriatingly personal. And watching him do all that while working within the confines of the episodic TV—within the confines of an established storytelling world—is quite appealing to me. Not to mention that Lynch’s work is often helped, rather than hindered, by colliding and clashing with format, genre, and a medium’s conventions.
I can’t wait for David Lynch to tell me a story again. But what excites me about the prospect is the telling, not the story. If he can reel in a big fish and wow us with a whale of a tale: All the better. !kcor s’teL