When it was announced in October 2014 that David Lynch and Mark Frost were planning a continuation of Twin Peaks, people immediately began speculating what it would be like, who would be cast, and how the town, and the people left living in it, would pick up where they left off. One of the most pressing concerns expressed by fans across the board was that the new season would not be “the same” as the first two.
If you recall, the bulk of the backlash against Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me upon its release in 1992 was that it was so much darker than the original series, and that seemed to bruise a lot of apples left rotting in people’s mental baskets as they waited for this new season, which premiered tonight on Showtime. Having watched the first two out of four parts made available for streaming (we’ll get to Parts Three and Four next Sunday), it’s safe to say that a lot of those worried about the darker elements of Twin Peaks are crying into their cherry pie crumbs right about now because this new season is (some would say delightfully) dark as hell.
In the lead up to the new revival, Lynch has gone on record in several interviews stating that the thrill is gone between him and cinema for the most part. He clarified in a recent Rolling Stone Q&A that he was misquoted in saying that he’ll never make a movie again, but that the kind of films he likes to make are “not having a great time right now,” so he’s wisely not putting himself in a position where his art would come into the hands of pedestrian editing, re-writes, and over marketing.
After all, it’s a tough economy for Lynchian works. This past weekend, Alien: Covenant landed at the top of box office sales, which seems promising, but then right beneath it is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which presents the kind of slimy leaves and bee carcass-strewn pool that Lynch would rather keep his toes out of if he can.
Instead, streaming media, namely streaming television, is where the creativity is now and Lynch, always on top of things, is using that to his full advantage. Armed with years of stockpiled ideas, fantasies, meditations, and well-backed by the studio support and budgeting specifications he had to fight for, this new season may be broken up into chunks but, when pieced together, it may become Lynch’s most effective movie yet.
“Hello, Agent Cooper,” are the first words we hear once the first part of the first re-visiting of Twin Peaks in 25 years fires up. We start out in a flashback of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the Red Room of the Black Lodge, which dissolves into a montage of clips from the original season’s pilot. The first person we encounter in the present-day Black Lodge — which, in this instance is neither black nor white, but purposefully right down the middle — is The Giant (Carel Struycken).
(It’s worth pointing out here that in the end credits of this episode, Struycken’s name doesn’t have “The Giant” after it but a string of question marks. Maybe we’re just assuming this is The Giant?)
Nevertheless, he and Cooper are together again in this new B&W Lodge with an old fashioned Victrola-esque speaker positioned between them. The Giant tells Cooper to “listen to the sounds,” and that “it is in our house now.” The “it” that he’s referring to remains a mystery, as so many other things do. After these initial messages, he then says to “remember 430, and Richard and Linda.” Only minutes in and we’re already presented with enough to chew on for the next 25 years.
Welcome back to Lynch in all his feature film glory. Whereas ’90s Twin Peaks was spooky jazz and saddle shoes, this is pure buzzing anticipation and eerie silence a la Inland Empire and Lost Highway. While we loved the original two seasons’ uncanny ability to charm with its eccentricities and oddities – like two nursing uniform pockets filled with blood, made known only by the faintest stain and trickle — this new stuff is more front and center as if to say, “No, we’re gonna fuck you up for real now.” God bless cable television, am I right?
Before we can even attempt to get our bearings, we’re flip-flopped from new character to old character and back again, and from location to location. We briefly come across Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) as he appears to be receiving a delivery of shovels (never quite trusted the guy), and then leap from the wooded setting of his trailer home to the crisp and blinding New York City skyline. A young man named Sam Colby (Ben Rosenfield) sits on a black loveseat and stares at a large glass box that’s surrounded by cameras. As we watch him oversee the box, and the ever present signature Lynch hum hums, we get the sense that anything could happen at any time, and that’s an exciting feeling that doesn’t come along very often in modern television, even at its most ambitious, where the savvy are usually 25 steps ahead of most story lines.
Back in Twin Peaks proper, we see Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) at his desk with his brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) there with him — still a food obsessive, and newly a weed obsessive — enjoying a single serving of Indica/Sativa-infused banana bread as Ben explains to him that, no, he’s not sleeping with his new secretary (Ashley Judd) because he has R.E.S.P.E.C.T now.
Cooper, who we later learn from Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz), has been missing since before their 24-year-old kid Wally was born, is now tan with chin-length black hair and a black leather jacket, driving a silver Mercedes down a dark wooded stretch of road. He punches a man standing guard outside of a home occupied by a guy named Otis and then goes in to fetch two people named Ray and Daria, who don’t live to see the next hour.
Cooper reeks of pure Frank Booth angry gas here and his emotionless, oil slick eyes let us know that the real Cooper isn’t operating the tank, so to speak, anymore. People who have a known reputation for being mean are scary, sure, but there’s nothing scarier than those people who you don’t see coming. The purest form of rage is the kind that bursts out in tidal waves from deep within an otherwise untaped source. We came to know Cooper as a wooden whistle tooting thumbs-up shooter and that Cooper is far from our reach, at least for now.
A return to the mysterious glass box in New York gets NSFW when Colby allows a beautiful young woman named Nancy (Madeline Zima) inside the room because the security guard outside is suddenly nowhere to be found. He has a menacing cheerfulness when she asks him about the box and tells her that he doesn’t know anything about it other than the fact that he’s supposed to watch it and see if anything appears inside. He abandons his watch for what starts off as hotly tense sex on the black loveseat, which is then interrupted once he looks over Nancy’s shoulder and sees that the glass box is now black. A figure appears in the box that looks like a twitching alien carved out of a cheese stick and it jumps against the glass, shattering it. The mysterious figure then leaps on to the couple and twitches and flails against their faces until they turn to bloody mush. Aside from Cooper punching the guy outside of Otis’ house, this is the first major slab of violence here, and it only gets worse and worse and worse. (Or better and better and better, depending on how you’re coming at this.)
Now, we jump to an apartment building in Buckhorn, South Dakota, where a woman named Marjorie Green and her dog Armstrong smell something strange coming from the apartment next to them. (This is all very Mulholland Drive here, by the way.) The police are called and they go inside and find her neighbor, Ruth Davenport, dead. At first, it appears as though she suffered some sort of trauma to her left eye (as in, it was completed torn out of her head), but then they move the covers back and see that her head has been severed from a body that is not even her body. They don’t know whose body it is, just yet, but they run prints from the room and get a match to the principal of the town’s school, Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard) who, it doesn’t take long to see, is following in Leland Palmer’s “What? No, I Totally Didn’t Brutally Murder a Woman” shoes. The cops later get a warrant to search his home and vehicle and uncover what looks to be a chunk of bloody flesh in the trunk of his car. Long gone are the days of there just being a set of golf clubs and some taxidermy fuzz in there (ahem, Leland killing Maddy callback for those still paying attention.)
Ending with a palate cleanser, we visit the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), who is now heartbreakingly fragile looking with little to no hair and relying on the use of an oxygen tank to breathe. Coulson passed away from cancer on September 28, 2015, which makes her log’s message seem all the more poignant now. In a call to Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) she tells him “something is missing, you have to find it,” and explains that his heritage will be his most useful tool in doing so. He takes her advice to heart, which leads us into Part Two of the season, and closes with “Goodnight, Margaret.” The credits wish her goodnight as well with a tasteful “In memory of Catherine E. Coulson.”
Bill Hastings is Leland-ing it up in jail and has just been told that he won’t be granted bail. His wife Phyllis visits him and we see that their relationship is far from the best. Both of them are cheating on each other, one had a chunk of flesh meat in his trunk, and she exits his cell telling him more or less that she hopes he rots in it. As he sits there miserable, the camera pans down the row of cells to a dark figure sitting on a cot who fades away, leaving only his eyes, which float up to the ceiling. Phyllis is shot in the face by Cooper shortly after this.
A new setting, Las Vegas, Nevada, is introduced and we meet a character played by Mulholland Drive‘s Patrick Fischler, who hands two stacks of cash over to a guy named Roger and says, “Tell her she’s got the job.” Who’s “she?” We don’t know yet. Roger asks him, “Why do you let him make you do these things,” to which he pointedly responds: “Roger, you better hope you never get involved with someone like him.” Is this guy an employee of evil Cooper? Or maybe someone we haven’t been introduced to yet? As this is happening, Cooper is in a diner telling his soon-to-be-dead associate: “If it’s one thing you should know about me, Ray, it’s that I don’t need anything. I want.” As the word “want” growls out from between his hardened lips, you hope to see Cooper’s face flash to that of Bob (Frank Silva) but it doesn’t. It doesn’t need to.
Deputy Hawk has taken to the dark woods to look for the entrance to the Black Lodge and comes across the circle amidst the sycamore trees. The red curtain flutters and we’re inside with Cooper and Mike/The One Armed Man (Al Strobel). Mike asks Cooper, “Is it future, or is it past?” And then … “someone is here” and the moment we’ve all been waiting for happens. Present-day Laura Palmer moves like static electricity towards a seated Cooper and tells him, “You can go out now.” She then whispers something in his ear and is sucked screaming into the air as the Red Room curtains flap around her like flames. It must be in Lee’s contract to scream her face off at least once an hour per show and this terrifyingly checks that box. Cooper sits there stunned by what has happened and then the red curtain disappears and he sees a white horse in the distance.
Curious, Cooper walks towards it, but finds himself back with Mike, who shows him a sculpture, which could have only been designed by Lynch himself, that looks like a chewed up piece of gum on top of a tinsel tree with all the fake needles pulled off. “The evolution of The Arm” is what we’re told this is and where we once saw The Arm, aka The Man From Another Place, as a dancing, backwards-speaking staple, this new incarnation is far less inviting, but just as smooth with the sage wisdom. “I am the arm, and I sound like this,” it calls back, followed by a strange noise from its bubble gum butthole mouth that’s very Naked Lunch a la “rub some of that powder on my lips.” The new Arm explains to Cooper that he can’t go out of the Black Lodge until the bad Cooper comes back in — which, obviously, he does not want to do.
Speaking of which, Evil Cooper, who is now about to kill a woman named Daria (Nicole LaLiberte), shows her an ace of spades with what looks like a mix between the Owl Cave symbol and a black circle with pig ears drawn on the face of it. This is what I want,” he tells her before putting a pillow over her face and shooting her in the temple. He then takes an audio device out of a black case and speaks to the long-lost Phillip Jeffries (or so he thinks), who tells him: “You’re going back in tomorrow, and I will be with Bob again.” Could this be Leland that he was really speaking to? File that away. Shortly after, he heads to the next motel room, where Jennifer Jason Leigh is waiting for him … in what even he thinks is a total pigsty. It would appear that this Cooper has created quite a network of accomplices for himself.
Back in the Black Lodge, The Arm tells Cooper “253, time and time again,” and then repeats Bob’s name three times before shouting at Cooper to “go! go!” Cooper, on edge now, leaves the room and comes across Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), trapped all this while in the Black Lodge and looking as though he’s bursting with pain like a watery blister. “Find Laura,” he says to Cooper. This creates a tickle and we remember something that quickly entered and left our brain from earlier when Laura told Cooper “I am dead, yet I live,” before removing her face and exposing a vacancy of white light. We haven’t seen the last of Laura. We may not even know who “Laura” is anymore. While trying to figure out how to get out (he can’t), Cooper is assaulted by the new Arm’s doppelgänger, who screams “NON-EXIST-ENT!” Cooper gets sucked into black goo and ends up face down on the outside of the glass box back in New York. No, this isn’t his final destination.
We end things with a terrifying visit to Sarah Palmer’s (Grace Zabriskie) house, where she’s chain-smoking and watching a nature program of mountain lions violently eating an ox’s face, and then hop over to the Roadhouse where Shelly (Mädchen Amick) is throwing a few back with her friends and Chromatics play a song called “Shadow” to close things out. (FYI: Lynch has previously stated how this entire new series is built like an 18-hour movie, and it’s apparent that these musical segments will cap each episode off. This also explains why the sprawling cast list that surfaced last year features an array of musicians, from Sky Ferreira to Trent Reznor to Au Revoir Simone. Look for these faces to undoubtedly pop up at the end.) Oh, and how could we forget, James (James Marshall) is also floating about the Roadhouse, but who cares about James.
Okay, does anyone else feel dizzy and scared all of a sudden?
Stay tuned next week for recaps of Parts Three and Four.