What is happening in our world? Who is doing what? what is going on now? These are questions that will be answered. Enjoy.
One Year Later, I Can’t Stop Thinking About Twin Peaks: The Return
There have been many great series in this past decade of “peak TV,” but there’s only ever been one Twin Peaks. As the pre-Sopranos granddaddy who changed the state of television forever, David Lynch had his work cut out for him, returning to a show that may very well be one of the most beloved live-action series of all time.
But after 16 hours and 25 minutes of some of the most ambitious, soul-searching, spiritual storytelling that I have ever seen, I still can’t believe what David Lynch with his return to the 1990 ABC series achieved, and I simply cannot get it off my mind.
Like many of the devoted fans of America’s weirdest auteur, I found Twin Peaks: The Return completely bewildering, but not because it confuses me—rather, because it convinces me. Through a series of sounds, images, time-shifts, and long character meditations, Lynch was able to elucidate something deeply painful and true and allow it to resonate at the subconscious level, where it hurts the most.
As the mysterious Giant tells Agent Cooper in the 2017 reboot’s opening scene, “It is in our house now.” One doesn’t need to know the complicated, multi-dimension-spanning history of Twin Peaks’ two original seasons, spinoff film, and novelizations to understand this very simple, primal message: “That hurt you felt? It’s back.”
David Lynch is a filmmaker whose entire legacy may be defined by his strikingly intimate elucidation of emotional trauma. Charting the career of the elusive director, one can see the soul-searching trajectory of an artist obsessed with humanizing torment.
From the experimentally furious Erasherhead, which delved into the chaos of the mind in times of great responsibility, to the brain-crushing Lost Highway, a film devoted to exploring the terror of human identity, Lynch has always portrayed the world of agony that exists within the human soul. And while the original Twin Peaks gave him a larger canvas and a broader audience to communicate those traumatic themes, The Return opened the floodgates, allowing the arthouse master to finally go “full-heroin Lynch,” as a Showtime executive described it.
This complete creative freedom allowed Lynch to achieve his greatest and perhaps final stroke of genius; not only did Lynch complete the story he began over almost 30 years ago, he also completely rewrote it—and in effect rewrote the medium of television itself.
Not only did Lynch complete the story he began almost 30 years ago, he also completely rewrote it—and in effect rewrote the medium of television itself.
As series heavyweights such as Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, and Lynch himself gather a year later to promote the show for Emmy consideration, fans of the show still haven’t quite gotten over the heartbreak of it all. Before Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost decided to return to Twin Peaks, the tragic fate of Laura Palmer’s brutal rape and murder hung above our heads for more than two decades, like a dead relative’s spirit wandering adrift from an empty grave. Many of us hoped that perhaps Laura and her ferociously tormented soul could finally find peace after all these years. But I guess that’s our own fault; expecting Lynch to do anything other than the unexpected was foolish. The ending to Laura Palmer’s story would naturally unravel more layers of tragedy than ever before.
Evil exists in the world, this much is true. But to David Lynch, it is a creation of man, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. In the series’ greatest and most voraciously examined episode, Episode Eight—”Gotta Light?”—saw the test explosion of the atom bomb, and the onslaught of violence and terror that it inflicted upon our world. Told in a completely unprecedented black-and-white flashback, this hour of cinema is spectacular enough to justify such enormous claims as “Twin Peaks rewrote the medium of television.”
Effectively recontextualizing the series overall, this episode morphs the main thesis of Twin Peaks from “good people can become corrupted by bad intentions” to “all evil is the fault of man and man alone.” The demon BOB—who inflicted Laura Palmer, her father, and, in the new series, Agent Dale Cooper—was originally portrayed as a being from another world, something unprecedented that was stumbled upon by mere chance.
But Episode Eight seemed to tell us that BOB, and the hellish world of the Black Lodge entirely, were unleashed from our own efforts to hurt each other—lest we forget the atom bomb was meticulously planned and manufactured by a species who desired doom for one another. And to David Lynch, doom is what we got. Perhaps a level of doom far deeper than any of us ever imagined.
As the series drifted towards its long-awaited finale, it became evident that Lynch was just as interested in portraying the trauma of human-made evil that he was showing the deep, seemingly unstoppable power of love. Duality has always been an important theme in Twin Peaks–there’s a Black Lodge and a White Lodge, Sheryl Lee played both Laura Palmer and her lookalike cousin Maddy Ferguson in the original series, and even the title itself seems to refer to the twoness of things. But in The Return, duality is a source of constant tragedy and turmoil.
Kyle MacLachlan took the mantle of multi-billed star this time around, as he portrayed the brutal, demon-fueled Mr. C while also embodying the playful, lovable buffoon Dougie Jones. As Mr. C, or “Dirty Cooper,” as some fans have come to refer to him, MacLachlan murdered his way from South Dakota to the small Washington town. As the idiotic man-baby Dougie Jones, MacLachlan inspired love and kindness from everyone around him, showing that, with a little bit of listening and respect, you can really make a positive difference in the world.
But the other deities and spirits of the Red Room knew something was wrong, having these two doppelgangers walking the earth concurrently—which allowed for Lynch to expound upon one of his biggest and most significant themes: the inevitability of nature.
Seen through all aspects of Lynch’s work—from his paintings, to his short films, his movies, and everything in between—this theme of unshakeable destiny has always cut to the core. Just as Lynch allows ants to fester and run their natural course on the canvases of his artwork (Lynch famously loves ants), his storytelling has always said that, no matter how much you avoid it, deny it, or reject it at all costs, the truth will always comes home.
That’s why, when dealing with a director who is exploring the inner world of human trauma, the ending of Twin Peaks is so unfathomably sad. The series may resemble an 18-part horror movie, but not because there’s jump scares or spooky monsters. The Return is terrifying because it is true. Shows like Stranger Things could benefit from this kind of honesty.
Twenty-seven years ago, Dale Cooper travelled to the Black Lodge to finally solve the murder of Laura Palmer and to put an end to the demonic powers that inflicted the town of Twin Peaks. There, he found Laura’s soul, trapped in a state of anguish, unable to rest for all eternity. When he is finally freed at the end of The Return, he travels again to another world, hoping to finish the quest that he started.
Arriving back in time at the momentous nexus of interdimensional torment where Laura Palmer first ventured into the woods to meet her untimely end, Cooper offers a helping hand to stop her from ever being killed, effectively halting the entire series of Twin Peaks from happening.
But, through a series of strange and implausible events, Cooper finds himself someplace else, with a different Laura Palmer entirely. After a very long, mostly silent drive back to the town of Twin Peaks in this new, disparate dimension, Laura and Cooper find themselves back at the house where the tortured woman was first raped by her demon-possessed father over 25 years ago.
Laura doesn’t recognize the place and something feels off about the entire scene. Maybe it’s a different world, a different time, or different dimension entirely, but we don’t quite know where we are. Cooper finally says, in a hushed, chilling tone, “What year is it?” That’s when Lynch offers his most painstakingly earned lesson on the truth of trauma from his entire career: Laura, realizing all at once the entire terror of her multidimensional self, lets out into the night a furious red scream as the show cuts to a harsh black.
According to Lynch, trauma doesn’t ever leave you. You can hide it or suppress it. You can even pretend it’s not there. But travel between universes and skip through as many timelines as you want—the truth of who you are, and your past, will stay with you forever. Rest assured, though. If we are to trust the wisdom of perhaps America’s last great auteur, then there’s another power at play here, one that’s equally powerful and everlasting. It’s the other “peak”: love.