Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

Returned.

About
the need
to fix
the world...


...you won't be surprised, Twin Peaks makes me want to be poetic. You won't be surprised, I was an absolute gonzo Twin Peaks fan in high school (!) when it first ran. I might still have VHS tapes of the episodes as they aired, with commercials, on WJLA Channel 7 Washington D.C.

I've spent from late November to late January watching David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks: the Return, finally. Finally. Not being able to watch it when it first aired in spring and summer 2017, I later bought the DVD set and waited. Wanted to save it. Wanted to wait.

I went in with a specific suggestion from friends: don't binge it. They did suggest watching the first four hours of the 18-hour miniseries all in one go, and that was a good idea: it helped set my mind to get back into the difficult, beautiful, maddening world of that show. Only once after that in my viewing did I watch two episodes in a day, and I realized that that is...A Lot.* Pacing myself was better. Lynch's work can be fraught. I mean, I knew that, ever since seeing Lynch's The Elephant Man in the early Eighties, but The Return is often fraught even by his standards.

If I have one big criticism, and this was a factor (though not a deal breaker) for me with the original series too, it's that the attempted humor of The Return often fits oddly. Some of it tries too hard for a joke. Some of it tried my patience in ways that the deliberately slow pace of the miniseries usually didn't.

(Reminds me. I wrote an article in my high school newspaper about Twin Peaks. In the final piece I said "the plot moves slowly." The line in my earlier draft was "the plot moves slower than most continents." I wish I'd been able to use that line.)

But I love and appreciate this show, in all its maddening, challenging weirdness. I eventually accepted that much of The Return feels like a series of vignettes, dropping into the characters' lives, and that the story resolutions (if they happened at all) aren't going to be anywhere near standard resolutions. Plenty is left hanging, a bold choice when Lynch and Frost probably knew that any filmed continuation of The Return was unlikely**. The events of Episode 8, "Got a Light?," helped me accept that: Oh, there's no way that these townsfolk in 1956 New Mexico are going to somehow come back and be part of the 2010s-era storyline; we'll just dip into their lives, see them confronted with difficulties and scares, then move on.

Also good, I think: I watched this alone. I could have my own reactions without needing to explain/justify them to anybody, or experiencing other people's reactions. Your mileage will vary with David Lynch, and this time I didn't want that factor.

Part of why I'm drawn to Lynch's work is that, for all its inscrutability, it is deeply emotional. It's willing to be sad, to show grief and pain. It's willing to be raw about it. The original Twin Peaks pilot/TV movie had Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), the late Laura Palmer's mother, screaming with grief, not a common act on television back then. This miniseries has many moments like that. Some of my favorite moments are small emotional ones: Kyle MacLachlan's Dougie Jones (who is, how to explain, in a very difficult mental place) tentatively, uncertainly, starting to reconnect with his son***, or Harry Dean Stanton's Carl giving comfort to a woman who's just suffered a staggering personal loss.

Twin Peaks, especially in The Return, is about a broken world that some are trying to fix. Reality's very foundation seems to have, somehow, cracked: and the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is a symptom of this break. Laura's spirit being preserved in the red-curtained other-realm called the Black Lodge (as the original series suggested, and the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me confirmed) means that maybe, maybe, there is a chance to repair the world enough to bring Laura's spirit back into the world. But the break — which The Return suggests was terribly worsened by the atomic bomb test in 1945 (really; and it's a powerful moment) — allows ever more awful and disturbing other events to happen. Deaths here are often brutal and surreal. Violence looms as a threat over so much of the miniseries. The terrible is too possible. But the better is, still, possible.

The world of Twin Peaks is not quite our world; like our world, it can never be perfect. I would not want to be in the world of Twin Peaks all the time, but I am quietly amazed that it's been imagined and visualized, and at such a level as Lynch and Frost were able to do.

At times during my watch, I wasn't sure if I'd want to rewatch Twin Peaks: the Return. Now, I hope to and plan to. Maybe on a bigger screen than my TV/DVD player's screen.



* When I watched the first two seasons of The Walking Dead several years ago, I watched those too fast. I realized a little more than halfway through Season 2 that the show was negatively affecting my mood.

** Mark Frost wrote the novel Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, which was published after The Return aired. I haven't read it yet.

*** I'll put this out in the world: if there really is any more filmed Twin Peaks after this miniseries, don't do anything to negate the ending Dougie Jones, his wife Janey-E, and their son got.
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