“Should we watch Twin Peaks: The Return?”
Now that all 18 episodes of David Lynch’s long-awaited television series are available for binge-viewing on Showtime, I’m fumbling with insufficient answers to this question. As I formulate replies, I feel myself fracture into three distinct personalities:
(1) The Twin Peaks fanboy who spent a quarter of a century dreaming of new episodes.
(2) The film student who finds Lynch’s movies and television difficult to parse.
(3) The Christian whose conscience is troubled, because the show’s imaginative brilliance is tainted by graphic scenes of violence—particularly sexual violence.
There’s no easy answer.
David Lynch doesn’t mean for this to be a comfortable ride. Twin Peaks: The Return is, in fact, about a man split into three personas—possibly more. While the original 1990–91 series began by whispering “Who killed Laura Palmer?” and then asked “Can law enforcement stop an evil spirit?” this sequel series asks “Can multiple manifestations of an FBI agent be reconciled into one human being, healed and whole?”
This theme won’t surprise Lynch’s fans. In his book of reflections on creativity, Catching the Big Fish, Lynch expresses his desire to see human beings overcome divided minds and pursue lives of integrity. (He prefers the word “unity.”)
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For those who need it, here’s a quick review of what preceded The Return.
The Story So Far
It begins: In the first episode of the original Twin Peaks, a fisherman discovers a popular high school girl dead on the riverbank behind his Eastern Washington home. The resulting investigation leads FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) to uncover connections between Laura Palmer’s murder and other unsolved mysteries, thus exposing drug dealers, a prostitution ring, corrupt politicians, and—worst of all—demonic forces.
Along the way, Cooper develops complicated relationships with local eccentrics, law enforcement, a supernatural giant, and an infatuated high school girl. His colleagues discover that he’s more than just a detective—his bureau division focuses on paranormal “Blue Rose” cases. (What could be more unnatural than a blue rose?)
When Lynch took a mid-series hiatus, the show fell into mediocrity. But many viewers had already bailed, preferring the security of formulaic crime shows. This was not a world of “happily ever after” or cases closed. Every question answered raised several more. And it demanded that audiences entertain the possibility that, as Hamlet said to Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and Earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
The finale presented us with two especially maddening riddles. One transformed the nature of our beloved Agent Cooper; the other involved something like a dream, in which Laura Palmer promised Cooper she’d see him “in 25 years.” Prophecy!
Then, a feature film: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, a big-screen sequel, catapulted audiences beyond TV’s boundaries. It provided more background on the FBI’s Blue Rose investigations but also dramatized evils that Lynch had previously left to our imagination. They were worse than we’d thought.
Now… The Return!
The new Showtime series settles the old debate about whether that feature-length horror movie was really necessary: It was.