Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks: The Return ★★★★★

Now that we've won the "Twin Peaks on Letterboxd" fight, here's what I have to say three months later, after dwelling on the lessons learned from this new odyssey of surprises and shocks.

"The new “Twin Peaks” box set ... gives fans a chance to pay closer attention to the amazingly filigreed performance of Kyle MacLachlan. He clocks in no fewer than six different variants of his iconic Agent Cooper, each with its own identity: OG Coop (chipper, patient, eager as an Eagle Scout); but also, his evil doppelganger Mr. C (clipped monotones, a face and jacket with the hardened texture of basalt); the manufactured, paunchy sop Douglas Jones (deep in gambling debt, a lover of lime green and orange suits); “Comatose Coop” (a lobotomized Preston Sturges wacko, he’s called “Dougie Jones” by most fans and critics, because everyone in Las Vegas calls him that, but he is more exactly Agent Cooper confused as Dougie — Coop, dazed and zombie-like from his 25 years of confinement in the Red Room); Dougie Jones (a copy of Comatose Coop made in Part 17 to keep the Jones family safe and sound); and, in the final episode, Richard, (who, again, is conveniently known as Agent Cooper, but who is really a sinister mix of the efficient Coop and the aggressive Mr. C). Whatever weight awards like the Golden Globes and Emmys carry, they ought to be showered on MacLachlan. He is able to shift among all these gravely different personae with extraordinary ease." More here.

This summer, I was recapping Twin Peaks: The Return for the San Francisco Chronicle every Tuesday. With morbid aptness, my first recap job was the behemoth now infamously known as "Part 8" (a.k.a., "Gotta Light?")

I'm posting all my Twin Peaks pieces here.

I consider the piece called "No one named Palmer ever lived there: The 'Peaks' finale" (original title: "Coffee's Off") as my "review"/overview for the whole series in September.

Part 17/18: "Coffee's Off"
Part 16: "The coffee and pie return in 'Twin Peaks, Pt. 16'
Part 15: There's always death in the air in 'Twin Peaks, Pt. 15'
Part 14: In dreamy 'Part 14,' Lynch says 'No' to Nolan
Part 13: Here's to you, Mrs. Palmer
Part 12: In divisive 'Pt. 12,' Lynch raises his horn to Richard (Lester) and Jerry (Lewis)
Part 11: In emotional 'Twin Peaks, Pt. 11,' fear has a happy ending
Part 10: Trauma and pain make 'Twin Peaks, Pt. 10' a brutal watch
Part 9: Time is funny
Part 8: 'Mind-blowing'


To follow Lynch’s life story through “Twin Peaks,” old and new — to explore his mind’s dreams and fears — is to recognize the courage of someone who puts the darkest of humanity up on the screen for folks to contemplate. Atomic annihilation, the fear of losing that girl or guy to forces of evil, the body revolting against its master mind: Lynch lays it all bare, in the only moral way available. —Part 8

Punk CHAD has had a cruel disregard for the rules of TP morality: laughing at the suicide of Frank Truman’s veteran son, eating non-donuts and non-coffee in the conference room, mocking Truman and Hawk for taking the Log Lady seriously. But it’s exactly this kind of interloper that gives us justifiable tension in the 2017 moment: will the forces that Chad stands for (callousness, rudeness, a refusal to learn about the rich traditions and history of your home) win out in the end? What the H-bomb test of 1945 created was a poisonous American amnesia, where lessons are perpetually forgotten with each new generational turn, innocents left to rot in obscurity. We can’t all be saved like Laura.—Part 10

Grace Zabriskie as Mrs. Palmer is part of a great tradition of cinema’s ennui-drenched, wandering women: Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson, Delphine Seyrig’s Jeanne Dielman, Barbara Loden’s Wanda. Sarah’s post-Laura, post-Leland life has been reduced to watching violent TV all day (cougar fights in “Part 2,” boxing matches in “Part 13”), drinking herself to death on the couch, like Mrs. Robinson. There’s a similar “Graduate” stillness in Lynch’s widescreen shot of Sarah, who sighs, walks around, and sips vodka with a dismalness that was always there in Bancroft’s, Buck Henry’s and Mike Nichols’ subtly drawn character.—Part 13

This episode has dream sequences a-plenty, and it’s helpful to compare their goals with those of the self-appointed master of modern movie dreams, Christopher Nolan. His “Inception” is gloriously kidded in Gordon’s Monica Bellucci dream, which evokes Nolan’s colorless and odorless Paris, non-romance and waif-like and vaguely European ingénues who are made to spout off faux-profound talk. But Lynch’s version refuses Nolan’s mechanical sleekness, his Barnum-and-Bailey world immersion which swallows and cocoons but never involves the spectator in the scene. Whereas Nolan’s art is burdened with elephant heaviness, Lynch verges on light, nimble, yet serious parody. See, for instance, Monica Bellucci’s topper “But who is the dreamer?”, or Gordon hilariously repeating back all her lines after they have been said. Lynch’s “Inception” is anti-spectacle, anti-puzzle. It is ultimately anti-Nolan, for it rejects Nolan’s simplifications of D.W. Griffith and Alain Resnais’, Agnès Varda’s, and Chris Marker’s experimental narrative films. The mysteries set up in Lynch’s films have always been more concerned with surreal sensations over trying to find a dutiful, still-logic-bound end-point to them.—Part 14

It takes me back to the beginning of the episode, where I had a violent revelation: Next week will be the last chance to see and hear those opening credits for the first time. Until this week, I’ve become so impatient to see what happens in the episode that I haven’t been paying attention to that crucial opening, to which I used to religiously pay attention all the way through. Even the credits tell the story of absence and decay that is “The Return.” The “Falling” theme is truncated. What used to be a long list of characters (ah, the days of Jack Nance, Ray Wise, and Piper Laurie as “K”atherine Martell) is now an impersonal, clipped brief of the most important creators. The new opening credits have a rushed helicopter-like weightlessness, nothing like the 3-minute-long slowness of the birds, buzz-saws, and waterfalls that patiently distilled “Twin Peaks” to its essence.—Part 16

“Twin Peaks: The Return” was more than a simple re-do or reboot. It was a wind-down and a start-up, prologue and epitaph, waiting to begin and already finished (and dead), resurrecting and killing itself at the same time. It was a study of absence, an abstract sensation even more profound than the question of who killed Laura Palmer. It showed nothing less than the decimation of the “Twin Peaks” universe. It confirmed that this special kook’s world revolved around the toot-toot, Eagle Scout spirit of Dale Cooper, David Lynch’s tulpa. Once he is shown as lost and bumbling, the illusion shatters. —Part 17/18