TV REVIEW: ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’

The highly anticipated return of the 90s classic leaves a lot to be desired even with its many groundbreaking qualities.

| September 5, 2017

Spoiler Warning for all 18 parts of “Twin Peaks: The Return,” as well as all episodes of the original series.

David Lynch as Gordon Cole and Laura Dern as Diane Evans. (Photo courtesy of SHOWTIME)

In May of 2017, television viewers were left stunned and bewildered when the cult phenomenon that is “Twin Peaks” made its return to the small screen after more than 25 years. With an all-star cast, freedom on a premium cable network and mixes of nostalgia and brand new material, “The Return” started off exceptionally strong with its first four parts that released almost simultaneously. However, over the course of the season, some of the magic started to fade away and the overly-complicated material began to feel more like nonsense than genuine story. Sure, this season has plenty of incredible moments within some absolutely spectacular episodes, but it is more clear than ever, “Twin Peaks” is dead and David Lynch has created something new and this something is just not for everyone.

To start off, I have to say that I do not consider myself a Lynch fan, nor have I seen any of his films other than “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.” That being said, I certainly appreciate his surrealist style and his ability to make mundane things feel downright frightening. From 1990 to 1991, ABC was gifted the chance to air this unique series and while it definitely broke new ground (I honestly can’t see the original series airing on network television today), it was clear that Lynch’s original vision was somewhat stifled due to the network’s decision to speed up and wrap up plots prematurely. Showtime, on the other hand, has given Lynch the freedom to fully bring his vision to life without the ridiculous censors and regulations, allowing for viewers to witness something they have never seen before…and will probably never see again.

Everett McGill as Ed Hurley and Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings. (Photo courtesy of SHOWTIME)

Going into the revival, I knew that Lynch wasn’t going to present the audience with a simple conclusion that “wraps everything into a nice bow,” like some fans believed. That being said, I had hoped there would be some sort of resolution to the many storylines that were left unfinished at the end of Season 2, as well as the dozens that were introduced this season; alas, by the end of Part 18, essentially nothing was concluded and that is probably the most problematic aspect of “The Return.” Taking viewers on an 18 hour trip that ultimately goes nowhere other than an artsy finale that leaves all the room for interpretation makes it seem as though Lynch was simply trolling his audience (this is probably not the case, but my anger surrounding the finale leads me to that conclusion). I realize that it isn’t that simple and that the ending does have plenty of depth, but the lack of some semblance of clarity makes the meandering plots and countless minutes of characters staring at each other feel empty and pointless. Yes, this series is about the journey and not the end result, but a story does need some type of ending and we just didn’t get one.

With the ending out of the way, let’s go back and try to discuss what “Twin Peaks: The Return” was. With the exception of a few scenes here and there, this revival feels more like a brand new story with cameos of some of the original characters. The long cast list both helps and hurts the series as it definitely feels overcrowded at points; certain characters receive far less screen-time than they should while others are on the screen for far too long and waste the precious runtime. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) is a prime example of a character who is completely underutilized; with the exception of her final scene, the material given to the character is godawful and makes me wish they left her out of the revival altogether. In the 18-hour runtime, an overwhelming amount of time is spent with Dougie Jones aka Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) who stumbles around for a huge portion of the episodes. The breakdown in amount of time spent with each character is another reason why this revival doesn’t live up to its full potential; if there was more of a balance, scenes would feel fuller and less like wasted screen time.

Harry Goaz as Andy Brennan. (Photo credit: SHOWTIME)

It’s quite difficult to judge the overall story of “Twin Peaks: The Return,” especially after seeing the finale, as the narrative doesn’t follow any particular structure. This limited series is billed as being an 18-hour film, something that is problematic for the sake that it is still a television show, yet the viewer is expected to treat it as a movie. There is no real episodic feel to it and each part feels different from the last, unlike the original series, which flowed fairly well. There is certainly story progression, but most of it is painfully slow and doesn’t really begin to take shape until the final few episodes. Most of the story is characters interacting with one another and the environments, trying to figure out what is happening in their world, but a lot of the material feels rather stagnant. Dougie/Cooper is the most clear case of this and while his eventual return to his normal self is certainly rewarding, much of the time spent with him is infuriating.

Also lacking in Season 3 is any real character development, aside from a few cases such as Dougie/Cooper. Characters such as Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), Andy (Harry Goaz), Gordon (David Lynch) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) feel like updated versions of their original selves, while others have drastically changed over the years; Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), Ben (Richard Beymer), Nadine (Wendy Robie) and Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) are examples of this. Over the 18 episodes, most of the characters remain the same and don’t really evolve aside from their gaining of knowledge. The character development is so lacking that you could probably watch certain episodes out of chronological order and you likely wouldn’t even notice. From the originals, those that stand out most are probably Bobby, Ed and Norma who are great examples of old elements being perfectly blended with the new.

Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper and Naomi Watts as Janey-E Jones. (Photo courtesy of SHOWTIME)

“Twin Peaks: The Return” boasts an impressive list of newcomers that really make the world feel full of life and wackier than ever before. Janey-E Jones (Naomi Watts), the wife of Dougie is one of the highlights, even if the character itself is completely dense like everyone else that interacts with Dougie. Another standout is Diane Evans (Laura Dern), who is major mystery in the original; the revival features this character heavily and her many conversations with Gordon, Albert and other prominent newbie Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell) are absolutely hilarious, but also incredibly heartfelt and emotional. Bradley (Jim Belushi) and Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper), Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray), William Hastings (Matthew Lillard) and Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried) are others that really positioned themselves as being on the same level as the originals.

To me, “Twin Peaks” is over and I really don’t want another season of more new characters and confusing subplots. While the ultimate ending feels like a slap in the face to the fans, the overall journey is entertaining to watch and has plenty of strong moments that make the revival feel somewhat worthwhile. There’s plenty to ponder and theorize about what exactly this series is and that sometimes gets in the way of allowing the story and characters to naturally progress and develop. Spectacle and surrealism take the front seat in this revival, while other elements that make the original so great are left behind as an afterthought. Kyle MacLachlan’s performance from start to finish deserves complete praise as he really gives his all as he essentially plays three different characters; it would be criminal if he doesn’t win an Emmy next year as this is one of the finest performances on television as of late. While this expansion of the “Twin Peaks” story may have been enough to satisfy some fans (mostly hardcore Lynch fans), I am left mostly disappointed; the story could have ended with the original Season 2 cliffhanger and I would have been far more content. Maybe Lynch’s style isn’t for me and maybe I didn’t completely understand the complexities of what was happening…and that is okay, because I will always have the original series to fulfill my desire for a story that mixes zaniness with cheesy nostalgia.

The entire series, including “Twin Peaks: The Return” is available to stream with a Showtime subscription. 

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

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Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”

Twitter