Or, The Owls Have Had It With Your Shit, Bro.
Last time, I wrote about how Kyle Maclachlan looks really good in tight black clothing, how great characters with great writing made silly soap opera tropes truly amazing, and how the darkness is only as scary as the light is beautiful. You can find that post here:
This time, I’d like to dig in to my thoughts and feelings regarding Twin Peaks: The Return.
Beyond my wildest dreams, and against all odds, it was announced that David Lynch was going to start up a third season of Twin Peaks. Having gone more than 20 years wishing to know more about what happened after the original series finale, I was far more excited than I was afraid. However, in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think about discussions that I had with the friend who really got me in to the show, where she theorized that David Lynch was the best and the worst thing to happen to the show.
True, he started it all up with Mark Frost. True, the way he wrote dialogue, the way he directed it as well as the way the cast and other directors took cues from him made the show what it was. It was also true that he abandoned the show at a certain point, leaving the cast and crew high and dry, and it was also true that when he did come back for the finale, he pulled some really weird stuff out of nowhere. Yes, the final episode is intense, and interesting, but it couldn’t hold up a whole show. Unfortunately, that’s what he’s doing now.
I believe that there are two types of Twin Peaks fans.The first being fans of Twin Peaks because of David Lynch, and the second being fans of Twin Peaks.
I am a fan of Twin Peaks.
Look, I get it, nothing that comes back after 20+ years is going to be the same. I also understand that everywhere I go, people are loving the new show. I’m seeing articles about how amazing it’s frustrating pacing is, how David Lynch is breaking boundaries and giving us something truly original. It’s high art. I get it. (All of these weird spirits and how they interact with the normal world is pretty well established in paranormal/cryptozoological circles. Don’t think he’s special because he’s showing apparitions alongside weird electricity sounds.)
The new show is frustrating in ways that the original wasn’t. The new show is not as interested in telling a story as the previous one was.
Twin Peaks was a narrative, it was a paranormal drama masquerading as a murder mystery. We cared about the characters and their situations because we got to see them as good people, or even bad people. We haven’t gotten that with the new show as it seems to want to jump from vignette to vignette. We catch up with old characters who have nothing to do with the plot, we’re introduced to a bunch of characters who are all assholes that we don’t want to spend any time with
Really the only original character we spend any time with is “Agent Cooper.” I did not expect him to be okay after being in the Black Lodge for so long, it would feel cheap if he came back without some lasting trauma. What I did not expect was to see the character constantly humiliated in various comedic ways. He’s become the butt of so many jokes, a parody of everything I loved about Coop. He pathetically follows coffee around, small slivers of his off the cuff, cerebral deductions appear in small ways. But none of it amounts to anything. Perhaps this same kind of plot could of worked in a few episodes, but now that we’re 12 or so episodes in, it’s still same old same old.
Worse still is the disrespect that some original characters have been given. I was enraged to see how poorly Hawk, Andy and Lucy were all treated. They’re all bumbling idiots now, being replaced and scorned by normal (boring) police people. Everyone else is relegated to large cameos so that we can spend more time with new characters who don’t have strong enough plots or personality to care about.
On the subject of the treatment of characters. The original show admittedly had a problem with sexualizing the female characters, even the teenagers. There was always a sort of 50s glam pin up feel to all of them, Audrey’s saddle shoe-toe point introduction, Donna’s tense smoking and James (The Worst) finger biting. Through all of this though, the characters had motivation, they had personality. We were rarely shown real violence enacted upon them unless it was A Big Deal. We didn’t need to see them truly hurt because we cared about them, and seeing them afraid was enough. Not so with the new series.
I read an article lists 22 of the author’s favorite new characters, and among those 22 (all white, cause of fucking course) 6 are women. Of these 6 women, one is the objectified by some of the male characters as a “joke”, one is a nagging wife trope, one was possibly sexually assaulted, one was beaten into a coma, and one was a crazy woman until she was saved by a male character. The 6th, the Coroner is actually my favorite of the new characters. Too bad we spend no time with her.
The old show wasn’t great at diversity, but it at least didn’t treat it’s women like objects.
I remember being happy that David Lynch was going to be directing all of the episodes, I was especially happy that he was given the time that he needed to work on it. As I recall, it went from 6 episodes, to 12 episodes, and finally settling on 18.
Careful what you wish for, I suppose. Now I am faced with a series that I’ve wanted to return to for over 20 years, only to find an over blown, elongated serial that doesn’t seem to have much to say. It makes me wonder if David Lynch was even interested in Twin Peaks, so much as just making another project about lost identity and terrible people.
In the end, I’m not here to tell you how to feel about the show. Or even to tell you that you’re wrong for liking it. If you’re getting in to it, and you’re excited to see more, then great! More power to you. I wish I was in your camp.
For me Twin Peaks wasn’t just a show. It was a place I could turn to. I could immerse myself in it’s faux Americana vibe, this old timey utopia that never actually existed. I fell in love with Special Agent Dale Cooper, I wanted Ed and Norma to be together so badly I could taste it, and I could grieve with Twin Peaks as the reality that Laura is gone set in. It felt like a home away from home. As if I was transported to another place, full of magic in a mundane world. Finishing the show returned me to reality, where I could look back on it like a wonderful vacation. It’s easy to remember the good times, and even the scary times with fondness because I shared them with people I cared for, and we all got through it together. That was the true nature of Twin Peaks for me. It’s soul, even.
Twin Peaks: The Return has no soul. It’s trapped in The Black Lodge with Agent Cooper.