It’s happening again. Not only has Twin Peaks returned, but so has the drama, the mystery and the weirdness. If the first two episodes, which aired last night on Showtime, are any indication, David Lynch hasn’t missed a beat. He’s somehow managed to accomplish everything the hype promised. It’s familiar, yet different. It’s nostalgic, yet new. It’s simple, yet complex.
After opening the only way it could, replaying one of the final scenes in the original Twin Peaks television series when Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) tells Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), “I’ll see you in 25 years,” the first thing that struck me was how the scope has expanded. On this plane of existence, the action is not limited to only Twin Peaks; it also takes place in New York City, Las Vegas and Buckhorn, South Dakota. On another plane, there’s not only the Black Lodge, but a similar location I’m sure will come to be known as the “Gray Lodge.”
After this scene, I thought the new story was beginning with a quick glance at some familiar buildings in Twin Peaks. A girl runs in slow motion outside the high school. Inside, the camera zooms in on Laura Palmer’s prom queen picture. Then I realized this was the credit sequence, ending with a dizzying pan across the zig-zag floor of the Black Lodge. It remains to be seen if this will be repeated as the opening credits sequence in future episodes.
Although we don’t know at this early point what the mystery(ies) is(are) going to be, the giant (Carel Struycken) gives Cooper the first clue in the Gray Lodge, “Remember 430… Richard and Linda… two birds and one stone.” We then see our first proper view of Twin Peaks… briefly. A red pickup truck backs into the lot where a dilapidated trailer is parked. The driver delivers two large cardboard boxes to Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn). They unpack nothing but shovels.
This scene may be an indication of how the series is going to treat the original supporting characters of Twin Peaks. Peppered throughout the first two hours are brief scenes that don’t seem to have a lot to do with the primary storyline. We get little check-ins with Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) and his brother, Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), Lucy Moran Brennan (Kimmy Robertson) and Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz), the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) and Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse), and others… but not everyone…yet.
The two main, seemingly disparate, stories converge in the second hour. The first involves a young man, working in a dark brick building set among lit and towering New York skyscrapers. His job is to watch a glass box that opens to the outside through a round vent. Occasionally, a voice sounds over a speaker telling him to change the SIM card in one of the cameras pointed at the box. A woman named Tracy brings him coffee and would love to get a peek behind the locked door if not for the Private Security Officer guarding it.
What you learn about the new Twin Peaks from this scene (and another later) is that without the restrictions of network television, it has more sexual content. Tracy is hot for the young man, stripping in front of him when he asks if she’d like to make out a little. He’s soon shirtless and she mounts him… until they’re interrupted by…The second story involves the grisly murder of the Buckhorn high school librarian, Ruth Davenport. When a dim-witted neighbor in her apartment building reports an unusual smell, police discover (“Uh-oh”) her body in bed. Worse yet, when they pull back the sheets, they learn (“Uh-oh”) she’s been decapitated and, even worse, the male body under the sheets is not hers. They can’t ID the body, but there are fingerprints all over the apartment that belong to the high school principal, William Hastings (Matthew Lillard).
What you learn about the new Twin Peaks from this scene is that some of the characters are going to take some getting used to. Perhaps it’s because I’ve watched so many interviews with cast members lately, but they all talk about how wonderful David Lynch is with actors, making them feel safe to go to dark places. Hence, in the past we’ve witnessed deeply emotional performances from the likes of Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie. However, Lillard doesn’t quite cut it… yet. His performance seems strained.
The common thread between the two stories is someone I’m going to call “Bad Cooper.” It’s Kyle MacLachlan with long hair, beating up on people, able to knock them down with the mere touch of his hand. It’s revealed early that this is indeed Cooper’s doppelganger and “Good Cooper” is indeed trapped in the Black Lodge. (See, the original Twin Peaks was not ambiguous at all!) The time has come for the real Cooper to leave, but not before Bad Cooper returns. Bad Cooper apparently knows his time has come and is taking measures to prevent it.
We first see Bad Cooper driving a Mercedes to the cabin of some… acquaintances: Otis, Beulah, someone sitting in a chair, and someone sitting in a wheelchair. As if saying their final goodbyes to these people, Ray and Darya leave with Bad Cooper. We later learn that Ray is going to retrieve information that will help Bad Cooper avoid the Black Lodge. It’s not information he “needs;” it’s information he “wants.” Apparently, Bad Cooper normally gets what he wants. The woman who has the information is William Hastings’s secretary, with whom he may be having an affair.
Hastings says he drove her home after a meeting at school, but is missing time between 9:30 and 10:15 to 10:20 the night Ruth Davenport was murdered. He swears he was not in her home, but did have a dream that he was. Interestingly, Davenport’s right eye was blown away, just like Darya’s when Bad Cooper discovers she’s betrayed him.
I haven’t decided yet if it’s annoying or fun, but Twin Peaks is apparently going to feature appearances by big-name stars in what are possibly one-time, walk-on scenes. First, Ashley Judd plays Benjamin Horne’s secretary. Then, Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Chantal, a cohort of Bad Cooper. In her sexy scene, the one mentioned above, she straddles Bad Cooper, who marvels, “Oh, you’re nice and wet.”
I was surprised by how much was revealed about Agent Cooper and his doppelganger in the first two episodes. Lucy Brennan reveals that Cooper has been missing since before Wally (her son) was born, “and he’s 24 now.” Who in town knows that Bad Cooper is running around, though? They know about him in Las Vegas, where a man handing someone a stack of money says, “You better hope you never get involved with someone like him.”
Twin Peaks offers a few of the signature David Lynch quirks, but the overall tone is significantly darker than its predecessor. It’s definitely more Twin Peak: Fire Walk with Me than the ABC-TV series. None of the quirks are particularly humorous; they’re just odd. The one exception, the only time I laughed during the two hours, was when Phyllis Hastings stares incredulously at the detectives serving a search warrant at her house and says, “But the Morgans are coming for dinner!”
Although some scenes run long (as you would expect them to), the overall pace of Twin Peaks moves quickly in the first two episodes. More happens than I would have expected. Much more happens than what I have recapped here. I have a feeling the full 18 hours are going to run together like one very long movie. For one reason, I can’t tell where the break would have been between the two episodes. For another, the episode ends not on an exciting cliffhanger (although there is one), but on the ordinary and mundane.
We won’t have to wait long to see what happens next. Episodes three and four, which air next Sunday night, are already available on Showtime On Demand. The final thing I’ll note is that the new Twin Peaks fits perfectly with the quality television we’re getting in the 2000’s. (It perhaps most closely resembles Fargo.) But what’s ironic is that so much of 2000’s quality television was inspired by the original Twin Peaks. That twisty fact already makes the project a success. We’ll see, though, if it proceeds to make a new mark on the entertainment landscape.