Tonight, Sunday, May 21, 2017, Twin Peaks returns, just as Laura Palmer (may have) predicted it would twenty-five years ago, give or take. Eighteen one-hour episodes, all directed by David Lynch and cowritten with the show’s original co-creator, Mark Frost. In a cover story for Variety, Maureen Ryan tells us how this has come to pass, but more to the point here: New York magazine TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz is worried that many of us may not be prepared for what we’re in for:
I fear that a good number of viewers are going to watch the new Twin Peaks eagerly anticipating the charming, consumable, GIF-able, and meme-able elements: the comedy, the flirtations, the quizzical reaction shots, and dry banter; the ritual consumption of coffee, donuts, and pie; Agent Dale Cooper with his big grin and Audrey with her saddle shoes and skirts; the dancing dwarf, Angelo Badalamenti’s funky lounge music cues, and so on.
That’s Twin Peaks, of course. But it’s not all that Twin Peaks was. And it’s not all that the new Twin Peaks will likely be.
I should emphasize that Seitz proceeds to argue that that’s a good thing, that this is precisely why so many of us are keenly anticipating what starts happening (again) tonight: “If you look at David Lynch’s post–Twin Peaks work you see a decisive progression toward abstraction, meta-narratives, and challenges to the audience’s preconceptions.”
This entry will not track blow-by-blow, episode-by-episode reaction to the new season; although, if I do see some fine recapping going on, I’ll make note of it. Instead, the idea here is to gather reading (and other work) that’ll stand up before, during, and after this chapter airs. And it could well be that the entry goes dormant for quite a while until some serious processing of the return of Twin Peaks begins in earnest.
Let’s start with a package in the Village Voice. Bilge Ebiri takes a quote from Lynch—“The Fifties are still here”—as a catalyst for a piece on nostalgia both in and for Lynch’s work. Melissa Anderson predicts that the new season will return to a theme that’s a constant throughout Lynch’s work: “a woman in trouble.” And Danny King talks with Dennis Lim, director of programming at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and author of David Lynch: The Man from Another Place.
“Whatever else its sociopathic-soap vision of smalltown meta-America may or may not be, Twin Peaks could once again serve as the gateway drug to the less civilized regions of Lynchistan,” suggests Michael Atkinson, writing for Rolling Stone. For those already so inclined, and who want to delve deeper, see:
- The Critics Round Up entries on Eraserhead (1977) and The Elephant Man (1980)
- Daniel D. Snyder for the Atlantic on the “Messy, Misunderstood Glory” of Dune (1984)
- Catherine Grant’s excellent roundup on Blue Velvet (1986) at Film Studies for Free and, via FSFF, video and audio recordings of a 2009 symposium at the Tate Modern, Mapping the Lost Highway: New Perspectives on David Lynch
- Randolph Jordan for Offscreen on Wild at Heart (1990)
- Jordan Cronk for Cinema Scope on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
- In 2009, Scott Tobias inducted Lost Highway (1997) into his “New Cult Canon”
- Tim Kreider’s essay for Film Quarterly on The Straight Story (1999)
- When Mulholland Dr. opened in 2001, Bill Wyman, Max Garrone, and Andy Klein began an epic journey into the universe of the film at Salon. See, too, Lili Anolik’s piece for Vanity Fair on the film’s making
- In 2009, Offscreen hosted a roundtable on Inland Empire (2006)
And in the Notebook:
- Christopher Small’s essays on the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 2015 series, Lynch/Rivette
- Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin’s audiovisual essay, Short-Circuit: A “Twin Peaks” System
- And an excerpt from Clare Nina Norelli’s book, Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from “Twin Peaks”
“David Lynch is an artist who happens to make film as part of his expression,” writes Robert Cozzolino in an excerpt from David Lynch: The Unified Field now up at the TIFF Review.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Nick Schager argues that “the airwaves are now awash in shows that are spiritually, if not literally, indebted to Lynch’s TV masterpiece.” More in the same vein from James Parker in the Atlantic: “Without Twin Peaks, and its big-bang expansion of the possibilities of television, half your favorite shows wouldn’t exist.”
At desistfilm, Karla Loncar traces “Twin Peaks’ origins in surrealism.”
For the New York Times, Gilbert Cruz, Jeremy Egner, Margaret Lyons and Rumsey Taylor have put together a Twin Peaks glossary with illustrations by Jason Logan. And Finn Cohen talks with just about everyone involved with the new season.
“Do you find it frustrating to be asked questions about Twin Peaks?” asks David Marchese at Vulture. David Lynch: “Nothing bothers me about it. People want to know. I just can’t tell them.”
Update, 5/22: Alison Herman and Rob Harvilla have put together a “David Lynch Syllabus” at the Ringer.
Updates, 5/23: Tom Sakic reminds us that Issue 79 of Senses of Cinema, posted last summer, includes a dossier, “‘I’ll See You in 25 Years’: The Return of Twin Peaks and Television Aesthetics,” five articles and an introduction, offering “a re-examination of the earlier seasons of the show, but in the light of its re-emergence into [the current] transformed televisual environment.”
For the New Yorker’s Richard Brody, the original two series “seemed to deepen and broaden, to extend and plumb the cinematic universe of Blue Velvet, making use of the devices of serial television as a source of invention—until it fell into the narrative lockstep of serial television. The inventions became devices, and then self-clichés, and I stopped watching. The first two episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, broadcast on Showtime [Sunday] night, offer only slight reassurance. Though they’re directed by Lynch, they play mainly as Lynchoid, like the work of a skilled and dutiful imitator of Lynch, who borrows elements of the original series and has also, in the meantime, attentively watched the Coen brothers’ Fargo (1996) but hasn’t thought much about renewing the art of directing.”
Again, I won’t be doing this every week, but a few more first impressions can’t hurt:
- Daniel D’Addario (Time): “Twin Peaks season 3 foregrounds the insanity but loses the resonance.”
- Laura Miller (Slate): “Above all, the new Twin Peaks is gloriously trippy.”
- Noel Murray (New York Times): “Two hours in, the third season is already perplexing, unsettling and potentially addicting.”
- James Poniewozik (NYT): “To watch its new iteration is to be reminded of what TV has done in its absence.”
- Nick Schager (Daily Beast): “An inimitable stew of the romantic and the demonic, the cartoonish and the crazy, it is, in the purest sense of the term, Lynchian.”
- Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture): “This is Lynch the experimental filmmaker—the filmmaker Lynch has always been.”
- Keith Uhlich (Notebook): “It’s alright to slow down. It’s perfectly fine to be still and to wait. . . . There's no netherworld of nonexistence in which I'd rather spend a summer.”
- Budd Wilkins (House Next Door): “Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost somehow manage to evoke moments from Lost Highway and, in particular, Mulholland Drive at least as often as they do the original TV series.”
Although all of the selected essays are related to David Lynch, they address a wide range of topics reflecting the rich detail and aesthetic complexity of Lynch's work. For example, Timothy Holland uses the music video for "Crazy Clown Time" as a starting point to analyze the role of the party motif in Lynch's work. In contrast, Lynne Layton discusses Blue Velvet as a parable of male development. Meanwhile, by exploring Laura Dern's performance in Inland Empire (2006), Jennifer Pranolo investigates the relationship between Lynch's embrace of digital filmmaking, the feminine, and death. In the final essay of this virtual issue, Robert Sinnerbrink uses Mulholland Drive as a key example to explore what he refers to as the aesthetics of mood.
Phaidon presents a briefly annotated list of influences Lynch has mentioned over the years: Francis Bacon, photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, William Eggleston, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Diane Arbus, and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright Jr.
At the Literary Hub, Emily Temple presents “An Incomplete Guide to Literary References in Twin Peaks.”
Update, 5/25: There’s a spoiler warning at the top of Vadim Rizov’s piece now up at Filmmaker, but this much is perfectly safe: “Lynch has said that he thinks of this new ‘season’ as an 18-hour movie ‘shown not in a big theater, but it’s shown as cinema on television.’ Having slammed through four episodes in one night, I’d take him at his word: the tonal transition he accomplishes in that time is super-impactful when absorbed as one unit, and I suspect the final unveiled product will benefit from being viewed in as close to one single dose as practicality and comfort permits.”
In a travel piece for the Baffler, Bethany Jean Clement heads northwest, where “fans are already returning to the scenes of the crimes, reinvigorating a dormant mini–tourism industry serving a peculiar version of Lynch’s signature brand of nostalgia.”
As it happens, Portland’s Northwest Film Center has just announced that it’ll be presenting David Lynch: A Retrospective from July 7 through September 2.
Updates, 5/27: “This is a new hard and cold modern Twin Peaks without much humor or eroticism but lots of sleek fear and dread,” writes Dan Callahan for Nylon. “It feels as if Lynch is like the punishing God of the Old Testament here, exercising his spleen and wrath and indulging only a distant and aesthetic curiosity about people.”
“Lynch, notoriously tight-lipped and spoiler-phobic, was true to form when we met up with him the morning after the premiere for coffee and a brief chat before he departed for the Cannes Film Festival,” writes Jeff Jensen for Entertainment Weekly. “‘The story is the thing,’ he said when asked about why he’d rather not explain or frame things for viewers. ‘When it’s finished, that’s it. Nothing should be added to it. All the rest is baloney.’ Still, the director, 71, indulged our curiosity about what we’ve seen and teased the journey to come. He even drew us a picture.”
Update, 5/31: “In many ways,” writes Andreas Halskov, going long for 16:9, “the new Twin Peaks is about returning, about going back, re(dis)covering or even recreating a town and a mythology from the scattered fragments of familiar faces, vague memories and incompatible or even incoherent sources. ‘What we observe is not nature itself,’ as Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) said to Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in the original series, quoting Werner Heisenberg, ‘but nature exposed to our method of questioning.’ That line might hold a deeper truth in the world of Twin Peaks than we had previously thought: Perhaps there is no one Twin Peaks, just as there is not one Laura Palmer or only one Dale Cooper.”
Updates, 6/2: “David Lynch is, intentionally or otherwise, a queer artist worthy of being in the ranks of folks like Todd Haynes, Kenneth Anger, the Wachowskis and Cheryl Dunye.” Writing for Paste, Kyle Turner elaborates.
David Cairns looks at “recurring images from Lynch’s earlier works which find their way into Twin Peaks: The Return in modified form. Some of these images are, arguably, spoilers.”
Updates, 6/5: The character Jade, played by Nafessa Williams, has brought Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul (1974) to the mind of Niela Orr, writing for the Baffler:
You might reasonably think that Lynch’s expanded world would open new possibilities for storytelling and characterization. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case—at least not so far, and not in terms of its rote depiction of a lone black character. As it happens, Jade serves to do little more than recall Jenny from Horne’s Department Store, who doubled as a prostitute at One Eyed Jack’s. And this alone is enough to render Jade a version of Fassbinder’s Ali: a black symbol in a white world, meant to communicate a vague if deep truth about the world its characters inhabit. Sure, Jade probably has more agency and upward mobility than Ali, constrained as he was by the strictures of postwar German hostility. Nevertheless, her time onscreen is purely—even literally—transactional.
For Brea Grant, writing for the Talkhouse Film, “with the advent of not just binge-watching acceptance but almost binge-watching expectancy, I can’t imagine a better time for Lynch. . . . We will watch a guy paint a bunch of shovels gold. We will watch a room float around in space. We will expect no quick reveals. Why? Because we have so much more to watch. We are trained to have patience. And Lynch has prepared us for this with his years and years of demanding patience from his viewers.”
Update, 6/11: Twin Peaks: The Return “is every bit as—unconsciously (in every sense)—reflective of the first moments of the Trump era as Blue Velvet shoved its speculum into the twilight of the Reagan years,” argues Matthew Wilder at the Talkhouse Film.
Updates, 6/12: IndieWire’s Michael Nordine tells the story of how COOP (Citizens Opposed to the Offing of Peaks), a group that included IndieWire co-founder and current deputy director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Eugene Hernandez, played a major role in saving the last six episodes of the second season of Twin Peaks back in 1991. Embedded in the story is a video of Lynch and a good handful of the series’ stars thanking everyone who participated in the letter-writing campaign.
Updates, 6/15: “Mysterious numbers are scattered across the first four episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return: 253, 119, 15, 3, 315.” Andrew Whalen for iDigitalTimes: “Perhaps with the help of long dead mystics and mathematician David Wells’ fascinating book The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers we can uncover some of these hidden dimensions.”
For Little White Lies, Alex Denney looks back to On the Air, “the ill-fated sitcom Lynch and Mark Frost conceived as a follow-up to Twin Peaks. Dumped by ABC just three weeks into its seven-episode run in 1992 (it aired in full in the UK), the comedy follows the cast and crew of a ’50s light-entertainment show that becomes a hit though a series of happy calamities on-set—parallels definitely intended.”
Update, 6/19: “There are early indications this series could prove to be David Lynch’s masterwork, and one reason for this is because he is committed to operating in a register of atmospherics and affect rather than plot,” writes Michael Sicinski for Filmmaker. He’s been following “five threads that I have found wending their way through the show thus far, recognizing full well that some of them may turn out to be dead ends, and others will very likely expand their trajectories as the series continues.”
Update, 6/20: Who’s the series’ MVP so far? Adam Nayman’s “vote goes to [Naomi] Watts, who has taken the epitome of a thankless part and turned it into the stuff of great, desperate, unfathomable comedy.” He argues his case at the Ringer.
Updates, 6/24: “For me, the key to why Twin Peaks changed television is because we see it as a film, not a TV show,” David Lynch told an audience in Lucca, Italy the other day. “One film broken into 18 parts. . . . A beautiful picture and beautiful sound. . . . I recommend getting whatever screen you’re looking at as close to your eyes as you can get, and use headphones. Turn the lights down. And then you have a chance of getting into a new world.” Pieter Dom reports for Welcome to Twin Peaks.
For the LA Weekly, photographer Jared Cowan revisits some of the Los Angeles locations of Eraserhead, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, and the original Twin Peaks.
Update, 6/27: “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to ‘avant-garde art’ than normal TV to meet the word count,” writes Vadim Rizov at Filmmaker. “But it won’t do to simply say that Lynch is operating in an experimental lineage, because the money matters; alongside his usual lo-fi jags, you can see it here, the same way you can hear the difference between a 4-track demo and something mixed over 128 channels. VFX on the new Twin Peaks are credited to BUF, which is not a small-time company: upcoming credits include Blade Runner 2049, current credits American Gods and Independence Day: Resurgence.” And he has a couple of points to make about how Lynch is making use of this opportunity.
Update, 6/28: At the Awl, John Dziuban considers the appearance of Nine Inch Nails in Episode 8: “Trent Reznor, better known in the last decade for scoring films than making records, looks like a proper Lynchian villain in leather jacket and gloves, stalking around the roadhouse stage, screaming digitally fucked up, demonic laughter. . . . Lynch and Reznor make so much sense as a collaborative duo, it’s hard to imagine why they don’t do it more often (Reznor previously contributed music to Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway). Lynch, the auteur (if we must) and Reznor, the producer/multi-instrumentalist/only continuous member of NIN, share many of the same aesthetic predilections that make both of their outputs so often scary and unsettling.”
Update, 6/30: “One obvious difference between the original show and its 2017 redux is that Lynch ratchets up the violence substantially, most likely to satisfy audience expectations in the era of Game of Thrones and Sony Playstations,” writes Saul Anton for frieze. “Yet one can argue that it’s the times that have finally caught up with Lynch, not the other way around. Twin Peaks was first and always a Western—or, as André Bazin put it, a self-reflexive superwestern—about the ways in which America’s founding violence is repressed and desublimated, how it always returns to indiscriminately destroy the innocent and the guilty, the old and the young.”
Update, 7/1: Poster Boys Brandon Schaefer and Sam Smith “discuss how Lynch’s unique cinematic vision has been marketed both in the U.S. and abroad since 1977 while looking at the role a one-sheet plays in honoring a filmmaker’s work.” (151’59”).
Update, 7/4: “I wish I could be interested in Lynch’s fiddling with CGI, his overworking of his actors’ glottal stops, and his evocation of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the symptomology of Alzheimer’s disease, and, more generally, castration anxiety,” writes Amy Taubin in Film Comment. “But I’m not.”
Updates, 7/8: Noel Murray, who’s been recapping Twin Peaks for the New York Times, offers a brief history of the practice and notes on its usefulness and limitations, particularly in the case of this show. Even so, “I think there’s value to approaching Twin Peaks in much the same way that I used to approach Lost. . . . Without a firm grounding in the tangibles, insight into any art tends not to stick. There’s still something to be said for the ‘who-what-where,’ even when evaluating something like Twin Peaks, where the best qualities are ineffable. Be like the show’s version of the FBI, and write down all the facts of the case, while everything’s still fresh. And once that’s done, feel free to follow the investigation into dreamland.”
And we return to Matt Zoller Seitz, now announcing that Vulture deems Twin Peaks: The Return to be the best show of the year. He recently asked David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, “if he was watching the new Peaks and whether he thought it was as good as the original. ‘I think it’s greater,’ he said, with the uninflected certainty of a man noting that the sky is blue. The sky is blue. Twin Peaks: The Return is a masterpiece.”
Updates, 7/12: “Part 8 actually grounds the mythology instead of confounding it,” writes Michael Sicinski in a piece for Filmmaker on the past few episodes.
“Twin Peaks foregrounds a kind of American emptiness of the soul that is filled by violence,” writes A. S. Hamrah in the new issue of n+1. “The show, hopscotching between its original locations and South Dakota, New York, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia, places this evil in the whole country now, not just in a single town.”
The new issue of Cahiers Du Cinéma features a cover package on Twin Peaks: The Return.
My first remark after watching the first two episodes was that I’d never seen anything that seemed to so fully and innately understand what it feels like to be living in 2017 and, even more so, how it feels to live in 2017 compared to how it felt to live in 1990. It’s embedded in so many of the elements of the show, the most monumental being the image. In slightly over 25 years we’ve gone from the softness of youth captured on the softness of film and viewed on textured and fuzzy CRTs to the harshness of old age captured digitally in all of its horrific honesty and seen on computer and LCD screens, many of which are likely set to the overly bright sports mode (whether on purpose or accidentally).
In that way, and more, Twin Peaks: The Return is foundationally about (the often shushed) process of aging and of dying.
“The images, textures and moods in Mr. Lynch’s work are derived from his personal experiences,” writes Glenn Kenny in the New York Times. “But while he never makes film references with a wink to his cleverness or erudition, his work is influenced by other movies, or perhaps his memories of other movies, sometimes dim, sometimes sharp.” Suggestions for further viewing follow.
Update, 7/16: I’ve only just now seen that Niles Schwartz is writing regularly about the series for L'étoile Magazine. A sample observation from his latest entry: “Dougie Jones reduces the world to its absurd banalities while amplifying the miracle of sensation, flat existence arcing skyward and flickering with an electric burn. A key touchstone model for David Lynch in these scenes, affecting the whole sense of Twin Peaks: The Return, is the French mime and director Jacques Tati, one of Lynch’s heroes.”
Update, 7/18: “Art in which you have faith can do extraordinary things that other art cannot,” writes Andrew Bujalski for Filmmaker. “Many a great religious artist has understood this, and I suppose the Marvel people do too. When you have already banked your audience’s spiritual fealty before they walk in the door, merely by sharing their belief as you create, you can navigate a path to their euphoria. So it has been for me and Twin Peaks so far.”
Update, 7/25: “For David Lynch, the punctuation of a sentence is every bit as important as the words,” writes IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, “and The Return has done more than any of his previous work to emphasize how such narrative virtuosity isn’t a byproduct of his genius, but rather one of its most fundamental means of expression.” And another thing. “[O]f all the actors who are giving career-best performances in this new season (shout out to Jim Belushi!), none of the actors, save for Kyle MacLachlan, has been more crucial to the season’s brilliance than David Lynch, himself.”
Update, 7/28: For Vulture, Paula Mejia talks with music supervisor Dean Hurley, who tells her that Lynch “was, definitely, from the get-go, reaching and asking for much more soundscape-y kind of abstract, atmospheric things.”
Update, 8/4: Simon Howell and Kate Rennebohm, hosts of The Lodgers, a podcast dedicated to The Return, talk with Glenn Kenny about “the upside of frustration, as well as many, many other tangents, including the show’s possible riffing on Lynch’s real-life persona and the new series’ sneaky ties to soap-opera aesthetics.” (70’08”).
Update, 8/7: “The first Twin Peaks iteration was in one obvious sense a far more disconcertingly original, revolutionary alternative to series television’s state-of-affairs as it existed then in the early ’90s than Twin Peaks: The Return is now,” writes Larry Gross for Filmmaker. “And in another sense, the first Twin Peaks—in the superb two-hour pilot that Lynch wrote and directed—perhaps was Lynch’s last partly successful attempt to reconcile his modernist artistic ambitions with the project of mainstream commercial success. And whatever else, for better or for worse, Twin Peaks: The Return is, it does not offer any hope of such reconciliation.”
Update, 8/8: “‘It was always intended to be one season,’ Showtime president and CEO David Nevins told Deadline at the Showtime TCA party,” report Nellie Andreeva and Amanda N’Duka. “‘A lot of people are speculating but there’s been zero contemplation, zero discussions other than fans asking me about it.’ That said, ‘the door’s always open to David Lynch, whether that would lead to another season, I don’t know if he wants to do it,’ said Showtime programming president Gary Levine, who was ABC’s executive on the original Twin Peaks series and played a key role in bringing the revival to Showtime.”
Update, 8/19: “Since the days of his early short films and his midnight classic Eraserhead, Mr. Lynch has pushed the boundaries of motion picture sound design, mixing mechanical clanks, distorted wails, whistling winds and pretty music into evocative soundscapes,” writes Noel Murray for the New York Times. “With Twin Peaks: The Return, in which he is credited as the sound designer, he has reunited with the composer Angelo Badalamenti to create a memorably atmospheric soundtrack. Mr. Lynch generally prefers not to discuss what his work is ‘about,’ but on Monday, he hopped on the phone to talk about his passion for sound design, and to describe the philosophy and process behind the new show’s audio.”
Update, 8/21: “One of the things The Return is explicitly about is how to watch it,” writes Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov before segueing into another point: “Acknowledging the late Catherine Coulson’s death by having her Log Lady die as well is predictably moving and entirely characteristic of Lynch’s work. Two of his films—The Elephant Man and The Straight Story—are explicitly about approaching and accepting death, both bookended by a camera moving towards or away from an extended view of stars and the night sky. Here, it’s clouds passing over the moon, nicely rhyming with Big Ed’s skies. Closer to the end of his life than the beginning, Lynch’s recurring preoccupation has become turbo-charged by the active aging and death of significant members of his cast, one of his recurring subjects now made sorrowfully real.”
Update, 8/29: “Earlier this year, in an essay called ‘Death Stars,’ I described the year 2016 as a hyperobject—a massive living thing, an obscure but powerful super-entity given life by our very relationship to it,” writes Jeff Wood at 3:AM. And “I briefly speculated that the return of Twin Peaks might prove to function not only as a sequel to Twin Peaks itself, but also as a sequel to the year 2016, if such a thing is possible—a subterranean simulcast, a cultural counter-narrative to the American identity crisis currently playing out as play-by-play catastrophe . . . That speculation is now playing out in spectacular fashion, and in Lynch’s signature flavor—uncanny—as if The Return were a foreshadow concurrent with its future, informed by clairvoyant dream or in waking, nightmarish observation of our own collective circumstances.”
Updates, 8/31: “While Lynch is largely regarded as patron saint of the weird, his nearly ecclesiastical approach to the supposed aberrance of bodies, erotic desires, sexual orientations, abilities and races undermines the supposed weirdness he depicts,” argues James Rushing Daniel at 3:AM. “For these elements to appear exceptional, there must be a presumptive normal against which the weird is measured. For Lynch, such normalcy ultimately looks a lot like conservative, middle-class American life. To his credit, he often suggests that suburban America is not as innocent as it seems, but he nevertheless continually establishes a dichotomy between good, minimally kooky, salt of the earth folks—Alvin (Richard Farnsworth) in The Straight Story, Sheriff Harry Truman in Twin Peaks (1991)—and deviants. The hostility with which Lynch regards nonconformity, then, ultimately suggests a profound resentment of ‘the weird.’”
At Vulture, Devon Ivie rounds up “five of the most prevalent theories gaining traction about The Return.”
Updates, 9/2: Lynch and Kafka “share a gloriously freewheeling style that encourages multiple interpretations, offering up powerful artistic moments that add up to many possible wholes,” writes Tim Burrows for the Guardian. “Echoes abound. The plight of Agent Cooper mirrors that of insurance salesman Gregor Samsa in Metamorphosis. He re-enters the world after years of exile in the Black Lodge, not as a ‘monstrous insect; but in the guise of the Nevadan Dougie Jones, who also works as an insurance salesman. Despite the fact Jones seems unable to perform many of his daily tasks due to diminished cognitive and physical functions, he is expected to go to work as usual just like Samsa. As with Kafka, Twin Peaks has always been concerned with doubles and duality: the clue is in the show’s title.”
“I’m not the first person to write about Lynch’s genius at casting, but I specifically want to look at how he uses the extratextuality of classic Hollywood stars to inform his films,” announces Gillian Wallace Horvat at Filmmaker.
“Even the faces of mid-career actors such as Laura Dern, Harry Goaz, Naomi Watts, and Kyle MacLachlan appear unaltered by excessive digital ‘beauty work,’ allowing for an expressionistic style of acting that permits the face itself—without words or dialog—to convey meaning,” writes Nicholas Rombes at 3:AM.
David Ehrlich “thought it would be fun—and potentially revealing—to have IndieWire’s film and television critics get together and compare notes. Are we having remotely similar experiences? We all seem to be at least somewhat smitten with Lynch’s magnum opus (our TV team’s episode reviews have been overwhelmingly positive), but does how we watch Twin Peaks fundamentally change what we see in it? With the end in sight, IndieWire’s biggest Twin Peaks fans traded some thoughts about those potent questions, and many others.”
Update, 9/3: New York Times critics Manohla Dargis and James Poniewozik discuss The Return as it draws to a close. Poniewozik: “Of course I love the original series and the characters. But what I’ve enjoyed most is not when The Return made me say, ‘Aw, it’s so nice to see that/him/her again.’ It’s when the show made me say—as it has, over and over—‘Wow, I’ve never seen that before.’” Dargis: “I love that [Lynch] and Mr. Frost assumed we would go along for the ride, no matter what the detours. What I especially love is that they assumed that we would (could) be open to the ineffable, something that seems rare in a brand-driven, franchise-happy entertainment world. If the first two seasons ostensibly hinged on the question of who killed Laura Palmer (answered again in Mr. Lynch’s brilliant 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), this season the mystery shifted to the series itself: What’s going on here and why? What is this world, inside the box and out?”
Updates, 9/6: “Lynch, in the final pair of episodes, delivers a series of coups de théâtre that, with an extraordinarily audacious sense of purpose, leave most of the show suspended and unresolved, burning the entire enterprise down to its elemental drama,” writes the New Yorker’s Richard Brody.
“Twin Peaks: The Return ended with the most maddening, brain-meltingly brilliant final scene of any television program since The Sopranos,” argues Sean Burns, writing for WBUR.
“As it turned out,” adds Adam Nayman at the Ringer, “all roads in Twin Peaks: The Return—every overgrown forest path and headlight-lit lost highway—led to the house at 708 33rd Street all along. After taking the action of their sprawling, unwieldy, and altogether extraordinary sequel everywhere from New York to Las Vegas to New Mexico to multiple, intersecting higher planes of time and space, David Lynch and Mark Frost staked everything on a pilgrimage back to the primal scene.”
Tyler Coates interviews MacLachlan for Esquire.
Updates, 9/10: “For its big finish on Sunday night, Twin Peaks wrote itself out of existence,” writes Buzzfeed’s Alison Willmore. The ending “didn't just refuse to put a bow on the show's return—it tugged at the threads of its entire premise until the whole thing unraveled. . . . Unlike every other revival in this revival happy time in which no intellectual property is ever dead and buried, Twin Peaks: The Return was fiercely disinterested in fan service, to the point of obstinance.”
On the latest episode of The Cinephiliacs (94’20”), Peter Labuza “invites a Roadhouse worthy group of guests—Alison Herman of The Ringer, Scott Nye of Battleship Pretension and Criterion Cast, and Nate Fisher of Mubi Notebook—to dissect the show’s use of nostalgic devices, moral dichotomies, and employment of experimental cinema techniques.”
Updates, 9/15: “Twin Peaks is a game, and I mean this in two ways,” writes David Phelps in the Notebook. “First, it’s a game for the detective-like audience, as we try to tease narratives from puzzle pieces through elaborate, case-file analysis on Facebook and Reddit forums. The question in season three is no longer ‘Who Killed Laura Palmer?’ but rather, ‘Who dreamed this world, and what are its rules?’” . . . Twin Peaks is a game, second, for its characters, most of whom seem to be attempting the same work we are of determining what world they’re in, what the rules are that govern it, and what game-pieces they need to win. Within this dreamscape, the characters are obsessed with the rational order of numbers to guide them in space and time.”
Well, prompted by a Reddit poster’s “key observation that the alternate world of episode 18 was created not by negative entity Judy, but by the White Lodge itself as a trap for Judy,” David Auerbach outlines his “best guess at the plan to deal with Judy, and the terrible costs associated with it. None of this is meant to be definitive, just an approximation of something I find compelling, and perhaps an approximation of what Frost in particular had in mind before Lynch started improvising over it.”
“All of Lynch’s main characters are white,” notes Frank Guan at Vulture. “As far as American directors go, this is unexceptional, and it may well be the most normal thing about him. What is abnormal about Lynch’s films is the way he makes whiteness speak and turn its gaze upon itself. Very often, the crises that force his pale-faced leads to reveal their true nature are subtly and indelibly linked to the violence and discrimination that created and sustains their power, or in other words, whiteness.”
“Lynch hasn’t necessarily ruled out another return to his world of alternate selves, delicious baked goods, and mysterious, David Bowie-containing objects.” William Hughes elaborates at the A.V. Club.
On Episode 13 of All Things Streaming (88’59”), Paul McGuire Grimes, Dawn McClain, and Niles Schwartz “look back at the final six episodes.”
Update, 9/19: Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, J. D. Connor argues that “mere extremity isn’t enough to make a show significant. . . . Nevertheless, we might put it this way: together, the twin Twin Peaks enclose, as if in parentheses, the constellation of forces that would foster and exhaust one particular model of quality television.”
At Pitchfork, Daniel Dylan Wray introduces an interview: “Primary composer Angelo Badalamenti, sound supervisor Dean Hurley, and others involved in the soundtrack recently spoke to us about the process of creating music for the series. And now, the creator, writer, director, sound designer, producer, and overall series architect, David Lynch, adds his wisdom about the sound world of The Return, including insights on David Bowie’s involvement and why we many never hear the show the way it’s meant to be heard.”
Update, 9/21: On the new Film Comment Podcast, Violet Lucca talks with Dennis Lim about these past eighteen episodes (40’25”).
Update, 10/7: “With its ruthlessly consumable twists and turns, prestige TV could also be said to resemble the 24-hour news cycle, where information lines up to be processed as fast as it can be absorbed,” writes Alexandra Kleeman in the New York Times Magazine. “At a moment when both fact and fiction seem to have accelerated, the dark and entrancing slowness of Twin Peaks offers a counterintuitive mode of recalibration. The pace invites a sort of viewership that feels familiar, nostalgic even: For once, there is ample time to analyze the event as it unfolds. It is possible to stare into an abyss and feel an odd kind of peace.”
Update, 10/16: “In this series,” writes Greil Marcus in the Village Voice, “people live parallel lives: two, three, or more, sometimes simultaneously, that can begin before they were born and continue after they die. These other lives are forms of energy, generated by the last flash of thought before death, by the fantasies we entertain for ourselves or that others harbor about us, and by certain cultural eidolons—a song, perhaps, like the Platters’ ‘My Prayer,’ or an image of a place that may not have ever existed, but which seems right, a place where parallel lives go to find out where the next turn might be, like an old gas station.”
Updates, 10/26: “The concept of a ‘primitive’ or ‘infantile’ approach to filmmaking has marked much of Lynch Studies since its ignition in the 1990s,” writes Elsa Court for the Los Angeles Review of Books. “The return of Twin Peaks has given new life to Lynch’s ‘naïve genius’ persona, which has lived through a number of variations in Lynch’s work, from awkward Henry in Eraserhead to Mulholland Drive’s ingénue heroine, Betty.”
Guest co-hosts Christine Makepeace and John Walker join Mike White in the Projection Booth to discuss Fire Walk With Me (1992), the Teresa Banks and the Last Seven Days of Laura Palmer fan edit, Mark Frost’s book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, and The Return with Chrysta Bell, who played Agent Tammy Preston, and Claire Nina Norelli, author of the 33 1/3 book Angelo Badalamenti's Soundtrack from Twin Peaks (207’58”).
Update, 10/27: Niles Schwartz for The Point: “Catching the Big Fish, Lynch’s book on creativity, quotes the Upanishads: ‘Know that all of nature is but a magic theatre, that the great Mother is the master magician, and that this whole world is peopled by her many parts.’ In his films, pivotal scenes take place in theaters. In Mulholland Dr.’s Club Silencio, we hear the mantra ‘No hay banda’—there is no band, it’s all an illusion, which results in the despairing downfall of the main character, an actress (Naomi Watts). In that film’s follow-up, Inland Empire, another actress (Laura Dern) finds herself in another theater, projected on screen, leading to her rhapsodic absorption in the plentiful forms of a great Absolute. The world-play is a world at play, a rapturous masque performance going from tragedy to divine comedy as the performer defers to a Oneness, Lynch’s Vedic idea of a ‘Unified Field,’ manifested in ever changing forms.”
Update, 10/30: “I often wonder,” writes Adam Thirlwell for the New York Review of Books, “if Lynch is the era’s most original artist, or at least the creator of its most haunting images—the severed ear in Blue Velvet, the Red Room in Twin Peaks, the Mystery Man in Lost Highway—but his works feel too schlocky, seedy, tearful, too male, too white for me to want to say this often in conversation. His cinema is disreputably baroque, brimming with meaning that it seems to disavow. He’s of the same generation as Terrence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese, but where they now seem historical, Lynch still has the fragility of the contemporary. The greatness of his art seems directly linked to the kitsch of his materials, all the B-movie unheimlich maneuvers: doppelgängers, prosthetics, recurring numbers, dream sequences, animated corpses. And this, I think, is an enigma worth pursuing.”
Update, 11/1: “Fans have been speculating about the last few spooky minutes of the Twin Peaks: The Return finale since it aired in September,” writes Devon Ivie at Vulture. Noting that “there are a lot of theories” as to what actually happened, Ivie tells us that the show’s co-creator, Mark Frost, confirms one—and only one—in his new book, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier. Don’t look unless you want to know. And Ivie has more gleaned from the book, too, namely, what happened to eleven notable characters in the twenty-five years between the end of the second season and the beginning of The Return.
Update, 11/3: “The return of Twin Peaks in 2017 came like a Taser shock to the ‘golden age of television,’ overturning audience expectations for what Twin Peaks—and TV—could encompass, both in narrative and form,” writes Aliza Ma in the new issue of Film Comment. “With its narrative fissures and variety of abstract mise en scène, The Return has blown established forms of television wide open and generated some of the most sublime digital artwork of all time.”
In a companion piece, Violet Lucca notes that David Lynch’s “initial foray into filmmaking—1967’s Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times), made while he was still a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts—was the result of his desire to make his paintings move. Why his cross-media output isn’t usually considered as a whole speaks to the richness of his films, the isolated nature of the art world, and the lack of film writers who are familiar or comfortable enough with art to think that way.”
Updates, 11/11: “The murder of Laura Palmer has its roots in the creation of American evil, the development of atomic weapons,” argues Walter Metz in a piece for Film Criticism.
Update, 11/12: Jonathan Foltz, writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, argues that “no work of Lynch’s has been so gloriously digressive as Twin Peaks: The Return, nor has any work of his been so elliptical or so unforgivingly distracted by the characters, images, and scenes that seem to exist to the side of its story line. In this, the series embraces a narrative style that is arguably even more inventive and jarring than the narrative itself, with its baroque mythology of lodges, personified evil, and interdimensional rabbit holes. . . . What [Adorno’s] concept of ‘late style’ allows us to see in the new Twin Peaks is the sense in which the show’s unresolved, intransigent style stems from a feeling of disappointment with the notion of the well-made work of art. . . . When The Return does offer us a classical, almost Aristotelian scene of resolution (with all the characters from the season’s various strands congregated into a single room), Lynch shows us just how unreal and unsatisfying such narrative resolution can feel.”
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