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The new Twin Peaks was all over the place, at least for a week. The first two parts of this 18-hour opus roamed the country, flitting between cities, mysteries and tones, sometimes lingering, sometimes not. The story screeched upward and spiraled downward within the multi-dimensional spaces of its psycho-spiritual world. The narrative played with time, marching forward at a deliberate pace, occasionally flipping backward, perhaps scrambling events out of sequence. The parts were imbued with a knowing, manipulative intelligence, as if possessed; they played with you. You half expected director David Lynch to go full-meta and smash through the screen and punch your brain the way that cosmic horror monstrosity escaped that glass box and furiously shredded those young lover couch potatoes. He certainly wanted to blow your mind, but on his terms, and with a vengeance, too. Did he?
Showtime’s revival of the cult classic created by Lynch and Mark Frost brought us back to the misty mountain lumber town that captured our imagination 27 years ago this spring. Once fringe-cool and freaky with quirks and secrets, Twin Peaks is now a paradox, the same and different, but the dangerous and demented denizens have been tamed or tempered by time. Take scoundrel brothel bros Ben (Richard Beymer) and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly). The former won’t make a move on his new associate Beverly (Ashley Judd) because he’s found R-E-S-P-E-C-T for women, and besides, she’s married; the latter runs a new legal pot farm. The Bang! Bang! Bar is no longer an occult roadside dive. It’s a bumpin’ hangout for those damn millennial hipsters and their nostalgic Gen X parents. To borrow from judgy, prune-faced Buella (Kathleen Deming), it’s a world of truck drivers now, authentic and otherwise.
Yet the dark woods rustled anew with unresolved mystery like a dreamer disturbed by a recurring nightmare. Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), still rocking his 3-D spectacles, opened the series by receiving a delivery of shovels at his trailer abode in the woods. Shovels are for digging up something or burying something. What’s he searching for? What’s he trying to hide? Hawk (Michael Horse), now chief deputy, went searching for Glastonbury Grove, which we know to be the forest entrance to the Black Lodge, a topsy-turvy purgatory of demons and doppelgangers, and saw its signature feature light up the trees like an aurora, the crimson curtains of the Red Room. The piece of psychic timber cradled by the now-ailing Log Lady (the late Catherine Coulson) bleated with alarm. The stars turn, and a time presents itself. It is happening again.
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And it was happening everywhere, all at once. We visited Vegas, but only for a second, to watch the show plant a flag for more story. We stayed longer in Manhattan, for an arc that had a sublime Lynchian progression, moving from oddness to absurdity to sexiness to dread to near-unbearable cover-your-eyes terror. It played like an allegory for modern television and the show’s own anxieties about coming back to it. A big glass box built to recapture old magic? C’mon.
We spent time in the Black Lodge, though how much time we can’t say, because time does not behave properly or politely here. Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), 25 years older than when we last saw him, was still trapped here among backwards-talking spirits, including two talking fir trees crowned with tiny brains, spindly and naked as Spielberg aliens, one kinda “I am Groot” cute, one a cancerous sapling that screamed things like “NON-EXIST-ENCE.” That’s right, folks. Bad twin Brain Trees. That was a thing David Lynch just made you see on your TV. Bravo.
And we parked in Buckhorn, South Dakota for a spell to bear witness to a divorce noir tragedy that seemed to be almost deliberately echoing Lynch’s previous work. The setting was resembled the generic small-town America of Blue Velvet. The themes of tainted love, marital betrayal, and psychotic breaks evoked Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. Like Twin Peaks itself, the plot was catalyzed by the discovery of corpse: the decapitated head of a female librarian had been found in bed, lying on a pillow, just above the bloated body of a man hidden under the sheets. The mystery commenced with electronics on the fritz (see: the detective who cried “Woof” and his flickering flashlight), as all Lynch mysteries must. But it was also a parody of modern soaps and serials – and/or a sincere one, though stripped of “prestige” gravitas – just the way the original Twin Peaks was. With the Fargo-ish Bill and Phyllis Hastings (Matthew Lillard, Cornelia Guest), just an average, ordinary pair of suburban fakes and unhappily married folks, we have a middle-aged man breaking bad and a desperate housewife going femme fatale. Their hate-spewing jail-cell kiss-off – both actors shot in intimate close-up, nose to nose, vibrating with emotional intensity – was over-the-top funny yet intensely real and raw. Lynch put a horror button on it, adding one of his unnerving still-life grotesques. The camera floated away from Bill, accused of killing the beheaded librarian and the headless bloat, to another cell. We saw a bearded man sat on a bunk, covered in soot or mud or something. His eyes were wide and buddy and he appeared frozen in contorted agony. Shades of: the hideous hobo in Mulholland Drive. He turned to vapor and the spectral remains of his head floated away like a balloon. We remember that in Twin Peaks, the evil that people do attracts otherworldly entities like flies to s—.
One such devil had turned South Dakota into his hunting ground. He is the corrupted copy of Agent Cooper, conformed to the image of the unholy ghost inside him, BOB, a fugitive demon of the Black Lodge. Here in the heartland of Twin Peaks Nation, this abominable man in black sows and reaps a pulpy crop of “Garmonbozia” (Black Lodge lingo for “pain and sorrow”), mostly by manipulating and murdering women. (Though in one scene, he rubs out a guy by literally rubbing the man’s face, as if massaging the life out him.) He might make or break your interest in Twin Peaks 2.0. We hate him because he’s loathsome, we hate him for not being the Cooper we want him to be, and we hate him because Lynch has decided to make MacLachlan wear Nicholas Cage-in-Con Air hair.