“It is happening again.” You’ve seen the phrase bandied about pretty much everywhere in recent weeks (and yes, a lot on this website.) Twin Peaks is back after 25 years, and everyone who was a devotee of the show in its initial run back in 1990, plus the legion of fans it’s accumulated in the years since, is very, very excited.
But what is happening again? Let’s think for a minute about what that phrase refers to in the original series: not damn good coffee or cherry pie, that’s for sure. It presages what’s surely one of the most brutal sequences ever seen on network television, a sequence wherein (spoiler alert!) Leland Palmer, possessed by BOB, the living symbol of the atavistic evils of child abuse and molestation that lives inside him, beats his daughter’s cousin to death while his own wife, drugged into unconsciousness, lies on the floor. It’s as far as one could possibly get from the cutesy image that the show has acquired over the years (and, in fairness, went some way to cultivating itself.) It is horrifying.
This is something that Lynch seems determined to remind us in the new series, as quickly and unrelentingly as possible. So by the time the credits roll on the first episode of season three, we’ve seen a headless body (lain in bed in the company of a bodiless head), a hapless young couple slaughtered by a weird amorphous spirit, a terrifying ghost that resembles the Mulholland Drive scary homeless person and has a head that can apparently levitate on its own, and a whole lot of other stuff that’s less graphically horrific but just as indescribably creepy. Coffee, pie and donuts? They are yet to be seen.
As has been widely predicted, the new series — on this evidence, anyway — shares a great deal with Fire Walk With Me, the widely maligned (although perhaps deserving of re-evaluation?) celluloid coda to the original series. The difference is, these new episodes are good. They really are. I’ll admit that I was amongst those who was pessimistic about this revival — Lynch, after all, has been more interested in painting, making music, and designing furniture for the last decade or so than he has in directing. But deep down, I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised. We all were, I think.
The new series starts with the image from the original show of Laura Palmer telling Agent Cooper that she’ll see him again in 25 years. So maybe this has been Lynch’s intention all along — only he knows that, and he’s not telling. But whatever the case, the sense of time having passed dominates these new episodes. The first time we see Agent Cooper this time around, he’s sitting in the Red Room where we left him 25 years ago. Time passes differently there, of course, and perhaps to him it only seems like the blink of an eye. But he’s older, and he looks fragile, vulnerable, lost.
Out in the real world, everyone’s worst fears from the conclusion of Season 2 are realized — Cooper is trapped, and his evil doppelganger, possessed by the spirit of BOB, is out in the real world wreaking havoc. The plot, such as it is — because these episodes are cryptic as hell — is that he is soon to be drawn back into the Black Lodge, and he doesn’t want to go. Why would he? He’s having a whole lot of fun on the outside. His plan to avoid such return seems to involve a murder committed, or apparently committed, by high school principal Bill Hastings, who insists that — despite his prints being all over the room that housed the aforementioned headless body/bodiless head combo — he only dreamed about committing the murder. This narrative recalls Lost Highway, as does the image of Bill sitting in a jail cell, clutching his head as if something is about to burst out of it.
Lynch being Lynch, these horrors are intercut with comic relief, and it’s in this context that many of the regulars return: Lucy and Andy (who apparently now have a child), Ben Horne and his loose cannon brother Jerry (who apparently now has a medical marijuana business), etc. There’s also the comically absent-minded neighbor who first tips off police in South Dakota to the murder committed by Hastings. The most poignant return, though, is of the Log Lady — Catherine E. Coulson, who played the character in the original series, returns here, clearly suffering awfully from the cancer that would kill her in 2015. Her log has one last thing to say, and it may yet free Cooper from the Black Lodge.
That might take some time, though. So far, the plot has unfolded at a glacial pace, which I expect might put off some viewers, but Lynch has said that he sees this entire series as one 18-hour-long movie, so why hurry? The first two episodes ask many, many more questions than they answer: Who’s set up the weird apparatus in New York City, which seems to function as a window into the alternate dimension that houses the Black Lodge? What is the… thing that slaughters the unfortunate young man assigned to watch said apparatus, along with his girlfriend? How is evil Cooper involved with the Hastings subplot? (It’s implied that he committed the murder himself, but there’s no indication of why he might have done so.) And so on.
No doubt some of these questions will be answered in the coming weeks, and a lot of them won’t. Such is the way of David Lynch. But so long as the series remains this gripping, this terrifying, this fascinating, no-one will complain. It’s good to be back in Twin Peaks.