Warning: Major spoilers for the original Twin Peaks and minor ones for the new series follow (but don’t worry, the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer is not one of them).
There are two great, lifelong loves that I have to thank my Aunt Bobbi for bringing into my life. One is Stephen R. Donaldson (specifically, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). The other is Twin Peaks.
When Twin Peaks premiered I was 13 years old, a creature brimming with awkward shyness, fanatical but erratic religious faith, and passion for the horrific and bizarre. Twin Peaks scratched all those itches and then some. I was a fan from the first episode. Every character dripped with melodrama or eccentricities. Intimations of terror threatened from just beneath many of the scenes, especially those featuring Laura’s mother and her heart-stopping visions of BOB lurking behind the furniture in her house. My first exposure to the Black Lodge (as Cooper’s dreamworld in episode 3) hooked me for life. The night I learned who killed Laura Palmer became the first of several sleepless nights to follow. I watched it all — yes, even the “bad” season 2 — and loved it. The ending, with Agent Cooper seemingly succumbing to possession by the evil BOB, left me devastated and enthralled. Long before Firefly or Dead Like Me, Twin Peaks taught me the bittersweet pain of a fan deprived of the source of their joy before its time. The film prequel, Fire Walk With Me, did little to soothe this pain, instead leaving me raw and filled with longing.
For years afterward, rumors of a third season swirled. I was too young and too naive to understand that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, and was disappointed again and again. I was forced to console myself by hunting down rare editions of the original pilot and the then-elusive second season on VHS, doing my best to spread the gospel by subjecting my friends and family to weekend-long marathon viewings, and incorporating the best of Agent Cooper’s lines into my daily lexicon to ensure their well-deserved immortality (“This is — excuse me — a DAMN fine [insert name of food product here]”). I became a ravenous fan of David Lynch, watching everything he’d done from the utterly bizarre Eraserhead to, years later, Mulholland Drive.
Awfully, the cast started to die, beginning with Frank A. Silva — BOB himself. One by one, my hopes died with them. In my twenties I was finally able to watch season 2 and see the flaws critics had been harping on since the beginning, finding a way to embrace the good but acknowledge the bad. Twin Peaks had been a phenomenon, something fantastic and flawed and unique that I’d had the incredible privilege of experiencing as it happened. I made my peace with it. Life went on.
And then, a couple years ago, long after I’d given up, the rumors started up again. A third season. Mark Frost and David Lynch collaborating. Kyle Maclachlan signed on.
I didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t let myself believe it.
But it was true. And the weekend before last, I got to watch the first four episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks.
My wife watched with me, god bless her, even though my showing of Eraserhead on our first date nearly short-circuited our relationship before it even started. She knew what it meant to me, how long I’d been waiting for it. But as always when I watch Twin Peaks with a person whose opinion I care about, her presence added a layer of trepidation, an extra hurdle for the show to clear. I was nervous, and the first episode proved my nerves out.
It barely touched the town of Twin Peaks, and the characters it did show had aged so much they were nearly unrecognizable. The plot was thin on the ground, inasmuch as it existed at all. It was largely a collage of disassociated scenes, and while I could glimpse a bit of where it might be going, it was disappointing. The original Twin Peaks was clear out of the gates as to the stakes and the setup: “Who killed Laura Palmer?” This had nothing like that, no clear theme to grasp and carry the viewer forward — and even worse, it had a predictable horror-cliché scene wherein teens got slaughtered for getting too horny and having sex at the wrong time.
But Agent Cooper was there. Hawk and Lucy were there. Albert (talk about a bittersweet appearance — RIP Miguel Ferrer) was there. The Black Lodge — oh the Black Lodge, that magnificent, sober acid trip nightmare — was there, and so was Cooper’s BOB-possessed doppelganger, the bastard. And so we watched another episode, and then another, and then the last of the four in the initial batch.
And — Hello-o-o!! — god help me if I wasn’t in love all over again.
The show is about Cooper now, I realized — as it always had been. I had sort of expected him to just return quickly, to get the show back to whatever passed for “normal,” but thankfully I was completely wrong. The rest of the characters are put on a slow-burn ramp up while his bizarre journey back takes center stage. It is a fantastic, meandering course through the best of David Lynch’s star-flung imagination, and I relished every second of it, every scene, clinging to them with all the fervor of that long-gone 13-year-old. And when Cooper at last escapes the Black Lodge, he can’t help continuing to interpret every mundane event and bit of throwaway dialog as an omen, because he has spent TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN THE BLACK LODGE and how can he even remember how to hear anything else? As I write these words, I realize David Lynch’s genius in this — Cooper post-Black Lodge is every 27-year Peaks fan, certain that every scene and utterance holds hidden meaning for them. And even that realization plays into the very conceit it uncovers, hunting for symbolism where there may be none.
No, this is not the original Twin Peaks. This has far more Blue Velvet and Lost Highway in its DNA than the original series ever had, but there are hints of the original show’s idiosyncrasies here, getting excavated slowly like artifacts at a dig site: chocolate bunnies and hot coffee (Is it the bunny?). It’s almost as if Lynch is teasing me, doling it out slowly to keep me on the hook — but I’ll be damned if it’s not working. If it had met my expectations, if it had been just what I’d hoped for, it would’ve been a failure.
Instead it is glorious. It is funny. It is perfect. I love it.
Welcome back, Mr. Jackpots. I missed you so, so much.