Hello, Diane. The owls are not what they seem. And David Bowie’s a kettle.
UK Broadcast Sky Atlantic, finished US Broadcast Showtime, finished Episodes Reviewed 3.01-3.18
There’s a moment in the penultimate episode of Twin Peaks: The Return where FBI agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) turns to Gordon Cole (show co-creator David Lynch) and says, “You’ve gone soft.” “Not where it counts, buddy,” is Cole’s rapid response. It’s a laugh, a dirty joke playing on Cole’s reputation as a silver-haired horndog, and about as close to a statement of intent as you’re ever likely to get from the famously oblique auteur.
This sequel to Lynch and Mark Frost’s beloved Dadaist murder mystery picks up, as promised, 25 years later. Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still trapped in the otherworldly Black Lodge while his evil, long-haired doppelganger, “Mr C”, is leaving a trail of carnage in the “real” world. Coop must return and put him back in the Lodge. Of course, things are never that simple...
With a cast of hundreds and a plot that takes in New York and South Dakota as well as the titular town, this is Twin Peaks on a much grander scale. What’s also surprising is that the show’s stylistic trademark, Angelo Badalamenti’s beautiful score, gets only minimal use, replaced for the most part by some supremely eerie sound design.
The result is a show that feels like Twin Peaks seen through the distorting lens of its prequel, Fire Walk With Me. The Return is warmer and funnier than that movie, but it also feels darker, sadder, older. Time has passed and while it’s been kind to some – Andy and Lucy are happily settled down with not a Dick Tremayne in sight; Bobby Briggs has become a kind, responsible man – for others, Sarah Palmer especially, life has curdled. “Is it future or is it past?” is a question that recurs throughout the show, and many of the characters here are trapped inside their bad histories.
You’re also always aware that there are faces missing. David Bowie died before he could reprise
The show throws into doubt the nature of our own reality
his vital role as Phillip Jeffries (he’s replaced by an enormous kettle). A visibly frail Catherine E Coulson could only film a few scenes before she passed away, and we’ve since lost Miguel Ferrer, Warren Frost and Harry Dean Stanton. This show feels haunted as well as haunting.
All of which probably makes The Return sound terribly dour when the truth is, it’s delightful. Michael Cera delivering a four-minute monologue to Robert Forster, while dressed as Marlon Brando, is unexpectedly hilarious. Likewise, the saga of Dougie Jones is a broadly comic shaggy dog story. And, in the Woodsman, The Return has a memorable new monster. Expect to see many bearded dudes in lumberjack shirts slurring “Gotta light?” at Halloween parties this year.
Frost and Lynch also know precisely when to deploy moments of warm nostalgia in a show that’s otherwise defiantly modern and bracingly avant-garde. The payoff to a romantic subplot from 25 years ago is punch-the-air joyful, while the heroic return of a character feels both corny and moving.
It will infuriate and alienate some, of course – Lynch hasn’t gone soft, remember. The Return is packed with subplots, narrative blind alleys and weird adjuncts that sometimes tie up, but more often don’t. There is closure here, but the final episode throws many things into doubt, including the nature of our own reality. You could read it as crushingly depressing, but Lynch, Frost and MacLachlan – in the best performance of his career – find hope in the darkness. They leave Twin Peaks (the town and the show) in an ambiguous state but the story goes on, forever, in our dreams and nightmares. Will Salmon
Let’s just admit that Laura Dern’s wigs were the best things about the show.
“Hands off the leather, fella.”
Isn’t it time to update the Lodge’s decor?