It could be David Lynch’s honorary Academy Award at the Governor’s Ball. Or maybe it’s the release of so many best of the decades lists in circulation? Twin Peaks: The Return has been mentioned a lot lately and not favorably. This makes me wonder, what’s with these homies dissin’ my show?
I think I understand. After having been subjected to a heart stopping cliffhanger at the end of season two, we needed to see our hero return from the Black Lodge. We needed to know the state of Annie. We needed to see the Twin Peaks we were introduced to – “a place both wonderful and strange.”
Many first came to know Twin Peaks when it originally debuted in 1989 and some were exposed to it in syndication or on Netflix. It really doesn’t matter how it happened. If you watched it, you were charmed by the good nature of the townspeople, beguiled by the odd yet affable Log Lady, taken in by Agent Cooper’s Boy Scout code of conduct and perfectly straight smile.
The citizens of Twin Peaks, for the most part, led good well- meaning lives. The town met for meetings, went fishing, and ate a lot of pie. Yet there was a sinister side, an underlying darkness lurking in the town. All the secret lives and crimes culminated in the main mystery. Who killed Laura Palmer? Our epic hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper, solved the mystery through dreams and deductive reasoning. He then did something unimaginable. He crossed into another dimension, but alas, he did not return. An evil doppelgänger emerged leaving us with thousands of questions.
Decades later, we watched. The opening was slightly changed, but the familiar song “Falling” played over the opening credits. Then the familiarity stopped. The first episode features a scene in New York with characters we never met before and the time is very clearly 2016. The original series, while taking place in 1989 has a timeless quality to it. The diner, the music, the fashion, and characters seem to come out of the 1950’s. Bobby Briggs punches a jukebox and music plays as he makes an exit. And of course we can’t forget sensitive greaser James Hurley and his weirdo teen angel performance of “Just You. ” In essence, we’ve all been stuck in the black lodge waiting for continuity, for closure.
And yet, sometimes in life we don’t get either. Things don’t always make sense and our heroes are lost and our questions go unanswered. The place both wonderful and strange becomes a place of discomfort and the seediness that once lay dormant under the surface runs rampant across the face of the Twin Peaks we get in The Return. Twin Peaks: the Return holds a mirror up to the ever increasing horrors of our real world and makes us realize that “the good ol’ days” are long gone and not to be revisited.
We hear a lot of the same arguments and complaints over the past few years and they are the same complaints that have been around for ages. Kids are ungrateful, kids are entitled. Everyone claims they were able to sleep with the doors unlocked. But these complaints are true of every generation. So when were the good old days? And how were they good?
Twin Peaks reflects this. Laura Palmer never seemed to have a simpler time, as shown in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. The bad kids, the ungrateful kids, the entitled kids, were few in the original series. In The Return, Richard Horne seems to be the embodiment of all this sentiment. Richard Horne is privileged, a child murderer, and he has no remorse. He is like Bob, who only lives for his own gratification.
The woodsmen, nondescript men, who appear to look like any American, filter in and out of places unseen by many. Angry and vengeful, they want people to suffer and know of their existence. Their hostility, which spills onto the airwaves can be viewed as metaphorical for all the hatred incited by fact that in 2016, everyone has a platform to be heard. We see people like this is society and we see that danger is always present. Nuclear bomb drills gave way to fire drills. Fire drills take backseat to active shooter drills. The world is not the way it was in 1989. And 1989 was not the world it was in 1959.
Twin Peaks: The Return, takes a cynical but ultimately hopeful approach. Nothing comes easy. We watched Ed and Norma pine for each other in the first two seasons then our hearts broke when it seemed she would no longer accept him. But didn’t your heart grow twenty sizes as Norma and Ed finally got together? Wasn’t some hope restored? Shelly Johnson might still be into dangerous men and sets a horrible example for her daughter. But for every Shelly there’s a Bobby Briggs, a bad kid who turned into a good man.
There is no instant hero. They each need a journey and we have to see it. Each time, Dougie takes a sip of coffee, gives a thumbs up, sees the statue in front of his work, these are all teases to show that a hero is there. If you made it to the end of the season, you were rewarded. There is not a more satisfying moment in television than when Dougie wakes up in the hospital and says “I am the F.B.I.” There are good things awaiting in the present, but not if we keep clinging to the past. The finale will mess you up, but ultimately there is good. You can defeat evil, sometimes bad guys get what’s coming to them, and sometimes you might even get the love of your life if you’re patient like Ed. We, like Nadine Hurley, need to shovel ourselves out of the s--t and appreciate when a television series takes decades to reward you with masterful imagery, an expansive lore, and characters we will root for forever.
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