RUFFLES TALKS TV: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1&2

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25 years is a long fucking time.

and throughout that time, from Twin Peaks’ humble beginnings to its grand finale, we (the audience) could limn together a coherent picture of Lynch’s gradual transition from his disdain for network television (evinced by the smashing of the tv at the beginning of Fire: Walk With Me) to network television being our only hope to seeing Lynch return to cinema. in truth, we have this past decade’s (and more) worth of television to thank for the return to Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks initial birth and subsequent rebirth sort of work hand in hand: TP paved the way for intricate storylines and continuity to find it’s place network television, and the path that it laid out resulted either directly or indirectly in the birth of shows like Breaking Bad and Mad Men, and it was through those shows where Lynch’s passion for cinema was rekindled. Lynch himself stated that the art house was coming to television, and these new episodes of Twin Peaks are an incredibly lucid indication that Lynch meant that wholeheartedly.

Lynch does not give a single fuck. this is not to imply that he ever did, but i mean he really does not give a fuck. even with all eyes on Lynch by virtue of Showtime’s incessant campaigning, after over a decade’s absence from cinema, we see Lynch’s esotericism in it’s purest form (albeit still not being as raw as Inland Empire by the ostensible virtue of the complete absence/abandonment of his beloved DSLR). and with Lynch’s inhibition, we’re also seeing Lynch at his most tantalizing and cautelous.  a simultaneous inundation of familiar motifs and images and entirely new and wholly unfamiliar ideas–the familiarity of the Twin Peaks cast and town often being teasingly curtated by new characters. the iconic Twin Peaks theme is the first thing we see, accompanied by the ubiquitous firs and fluminous falls, but rather than the industrial splendour, we get the dizzying undulation of the iconic vermillion drapes and the strobic rotation of the unceasing zig-zagged black lodge floors. this is an important distinction when we consider what the following episodes primarily consist of. the perils of the Peaks universe are consistent not with that of corporeal or business conflicts but evil of galactic proportion. there will be no subplots concerning conspiratorial environmental development plans or the burning of mills or adolescent angst (not saying that none of those things didn’t contain merit in their own right). Twin Peaks has gone global, and most importantly, spiritual, or even multi-dimensional.

Lynch does not rush into getting coop the hell out of the lodge. rather, in the same manner that invokes the spirit of the show’s season two finale, Lynch opts to drag out scenes through largely unbroken long shots–some scenes as simple as a character sitting down taking as long as one to two minutes. and yet, despite this patience, there’s still tons of shit to unpack here. entirely new motifs which are totally unbeknownst to even the most seasoned of TP fans, much more it’s casual observers and entirely newfound viewing demographic. the bucolic serenity of Twin Peaks is often followed up by the industrial stoicism and urban feculence of Manhattan. the first two episodes do not only act as follow-ups for Twin Peaks, but also inexplicably act as a sort of indicator to the audience that this is the final chapter in Lynch’s career as a filmmaker. a sort of impenetrably strange but apt send off. while being completely unlike anything we’ve seen from Lynch thus far, it also paradoxically touches upon some of Lynch’s most seminal works: Eraserhead (the scene with cooper and the giant, where the both of them sit, the screen colorlesss), Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire (the way in which the episodes manically career from ostensibly tangential, disjointed storylines–the scenes being largely smaller pieces of a greater whole; inutile until their relevance is inevitably revealed).

the filmic warmth of the original series is replaced by the frigidity and visual lucidity of digital filmmaking. the greater budget is apparent, the series now heavily relying on cgi for the more abstract sequences. but despite the presence of cgi, the way in which it’s used is, too, unconventional. instead of striving for realism, Lynch opts to do what got him into filmmaking in the first place: make his paintings move–Mike’s “evolved arm” invoking the spirit of Lynch’s artwork. none of it looks particularly realistic, but gritty realism would be antithetical to what Lynch is trying to accomplish here (it looks great anyway). the narrative concinnity of the show’s pilot contrasts starkly with the first part of this revival series. Twin Peaks‘ pilots very much what i consider to be the “perfect pilot”; what all pilots should strive to be. the narrative perfection of the pilot is also accompanied by imperturbably perfect filmmaking Lynch’s behalf. it’s perfection feels intricate and calculated. however, the direction which this series has taken is perfect when the series’ season two finale is taken into account. there is no narrative throughline in the black lodge. there is no cherry pie and coffee. and there shouldn’t be. a mere recreation of the pilot’s perfection would be antithetical to what the original intent of the pilot was: to introduce a world and mood and culmination of flawless technique which was previously unbeknownst to network television programming. to put shit on there which no one saw before. and in a sea of continuity-driven, narratively concise television dramas–a type of televised cinema which was birthed by the likes of Twin Peaks–Lynch seems to have noticed a complete and total dearth of the abstract. the weird. the avant-garde. 26 years later, Twin Peaks has returned to do what it did all those years ago: revolutionize and reinvent the way we think about television and narrative.

the concurrent usage of digital and cgi is profoundly unapologetic. we are shown the mind-bending internal logic of the enigmatic black lodge rather than told. it does things which were previously unbeknownst to us. we see how the black lodge literally follows its own rules, casually ripping entire entities from the fabric of its own reality. cooper returns in two forms, although whether or not “bad” cooper is his doppelganger or cooper’s original body being inhabited by bob is unclear to me. bob’s jovial decrepitude is nowhere to be found here. both cooper’s we see share a trait in which the both of them exhibit a sort of unyielding stoicism (“good” cooper’s subtrist indifference is probably apt for the situation that he’s been stuck in for the past 2+ decades. i wouldn’t be smiling either.) however, it seems that a perplexing distinction between the doppelgangers and the bob has been made–the implication being that the two are separate entities, as evinced by the fact that “Phillip Jefferies” (who may very well not be jefferies at all) says he will be “meeting with bob” as opposed to him acknowledging “bad” cooper as bob. the obvious teleportation device that is the box in New York, in addition to an event that occurs in the following episode, raises an interesting conceit that the location of the black lodge is not merely exclusive to Twin Peaks. i’m thinking that this specific location acted as a sort of gateway in the same manner as the gateway in Twin Peaks–the building’s owner having noticed and capitalizing on this gateway he found in an attempt to document the black lodge’s ineluctable palpability. doc hayward’s involvement in the narrative remains delectably elusive, however, the appearance of the horne brothers, while enjoyable on an intuitive level, seemed more like fan service than an intrinsic contribution to the unfolding plot.

we receive some Lynchian humor both outside and inside of Twin Peaks, which is always welcomed, for what makes Lynch’s work so compelling is not merely it’s abstractness but also it’s aching humanity and strange sense of humor. Lynch’s funniness is kafkaesque not necessarily in execution, but similar in that it’s a thoroughly underlooked aspect of his style. one of the least talked about elements of Lynch’s work is how Lynch can be and often is fucking hilarious, and we see traces of that jocularity among the sea of weird. but in addition to that, we also receive some of the show’s most brilliantly scary moments yet, namely in the faceless wraith that perfunctorily breaks through the box and kill the box’s observers. at the end of part 2, we see some familiar faces, and Shelly’s hilarious, somewhat metatextual remark about how james has supposedly “always been cool”. i can’t help but feel as if this was a sort of counterpoint to the yieldless hate that james’ character has recieved since the series’ end–some fans going as far as placing the entirety of the show’s decline into mediocrity wholly on james. the evolution of the roadhouse into a sort of hipster hive makes perfect sense, but i also hope to see that Julee Cruise does eventually return with cooper’s inevitable return to Twin Peaks. there’s just something so nostalgic about this ending sequence, and the show’s initial tonal verve is revitalized even in this brief moment as james stares longingly towards shelly’s table, his iconic perpetual pout still intact even after his disastrous motorcycle accident. despite the appearance of New York city and glimpses at the occasional iphone, the roadhouse scene, for me, was the most lucid reminder of the unavoidable passage of time–the obvious increase in population and early twenties crowd simply hammering that fact home. and yes, every scene with the log lady was heartbreaking.

this is Twin Peaks at it’s most enigmatic, visceral and cataphysical. it was beyond anything anyone could’ve possibly anticipated, and i hope that it continues on that path.

(yeah, yeah, yeah, i know i said elephant man was next but this was just too good to not talk about. i will be doing the david lynch retrospective in concurrence with these episode by episode reviews.)

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