Warning: This contains spoilers for the five to seven episodes of Twin Peaks’ return. Rather than review the show as a conventional series, we’ll be following the example of the season’s premiere, diving into Twin Peaks every few episodes throughout Season 3.
We’re up to Episode 7 of 18 in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s revival of the mighty Twin Peaks – just over 1/3 of the way through. The series has been as divisive as expected. It has fuelled plenty of dissent among those frustrated by its apparent lack of forward momentum and absence of cosy nostalgia. Yet it also provides endless scope for analysis amongst the core of Lynch acolytes, for whom this is increasingly amongst the finest work he’s ever done.
So, where are we up to? Episode 7 features a long sequence of a Roadhouse employee sweeping up the detritus of the evening’s entertainment. It’s practically a commentary on how to watch the series: slowly and patiently. There’s no doubt a tale behind each random object on the floor and probably the odd bit of treasure in the pile – just as every scene of this series is, in isolation, a marvel of craft, texture, symbolism and emotion. And, gradually, these fragments are being shaped into something cohesive, a sprawling narrative tapestry whose reach and ambition look increasingly remarkable.
Interestingly, some plot strands that seemed to be vital during the opening weeks have been left to dangle. The series hasn’t revisited Matthew Lillard’s murder suspect or the terrifying box in the New York apartment. Other threads are only getting more tangled – why exactly are Major Briggs’ fingerprints on the headless, much younger corpse in South Dakota?
Rather than answer these questions, Lynch continues to throw in more and more characters – some old, some new. The newcomers include Amanda Seyfried and Caleb Landry Jones as a pair of drugged-up lovers. The sight of the wide-eyed Seyfried, blissed out and looking heavenward as her beau drives her through Twin Peaks, provides a signature note of Lynch’s uncanny wonder. And Eamon Farren has brought substantial menace as Richard Horne. There are already worrying hints about his parentage, but he’s already freaked us out enough by mowing down a child in a hit-and-run, arguably (against stiff competition) the new series’ most horrifying moment.
Welcome appearances by older characters include Dr Jacoby, who has become an online shock jock and conspiracy theorist, shilling gold-plated shovels to make a living out of people’s gullibility. (Ironically, of course, that’s what Lynch’s critics are accusing him of doing to the Peaks fanbase.) And who is listening to his broadcasts? Why, none other than eye-patched queen of kook, Nadine Hurley!
The core of sadness so prevalent in the series continues with a lovely cameo by the late Warren (father of Mark) Frost as Dr Heyward – another Peaks stalwart for whom this has become a posthumous performance. There’s even room for the nonagenarian Harry Dean Stanton, providing the much-need conscience in the aftermath of that hit-and-run. Stanton reprises his character from the prequel movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, one of many references to that movie, which highlight how far Lynch has come from the relatively mainstream TV show it began as. The critical re-evaluation of that flawed, fascinating but undeniably underrated film will certainly continue apace.
The main attraction of these latest episodes, though, is a character who was introduced in the very first episode – and yet who has never been seen until now. That is, of course, Diane, Dale Cooper’s secretary and the recipient of all those voice memos in the original series.
This choice role goes to none other than Laura Dern, a Lynch veteran who first shared the screen with Kyle McLachlan in Blue Velvet. Diane couldn’t be more different from the virginal Sandy in that film, though. Diane is a fierce, foul-mouthed “tough cookie” in a platinum bob, and one of the new series’ most effective surprises. Like the equally formidable Naomi Watts, whose explosions of righteous anger are driving some of the series’ funniest scenes, Dern’s presence is proof of Lynch’s way with actors.
Even so, McLachlan continues to rule the revival, despite the Coop we know still not having fully returned – notwithstanding his prowess for defeating dwarf assassins. ‘Good Coop’ is still locked inside the child-like Dougie Jones, whose hilarious, heartbreaking journey lies at the heart of the series. Lynch is in no hurry to reach Dougie’s moment of Epiphany, allowing the character to become an acerbic (if warm-hearted) critique of American manners and morals. Just as the original series played like a warped soap opera, so Dougie’s misadventures at Lucky 7 Insurance are an absurdist parody of every workplace drama you’ve ever had to sit through.
Set against that, Bad Coop conjures mysterious powers from his prison cell and holds a scintillating stare-down with Diane during their anxious reunion. It’s the series’ finest scene to date, creating something elemental and mythic from the interplay of light and shadow against McLachlan and Dern’s worn, world-weary faces. And now Bad Coop is out of prison! With another 11 episodes to go, there are many more pieces to be swept into place, but Lynch is clearly in absolute control of his artistic broom.
Twin Peaks: The Return is available on-demand through Sky Atlantic. Don’t have Sky? You can stream the whole thing legally on NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, with no contract.
Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME