When it debuted on ABC in April of 1990, network TV had yet to present anything like Twin Peaks. Ostensibly a murder-mystery, this drama from the fertile (furtive? fetid?) imaginations of David Lynch and Mark Frost exploded with the force of a nitro-filled vial. The breathtaking northwest setting played host to a Log Lady, a dancing dwarf, a menacing spirit named Bob, cherry pie and coffee (both deemed damned fine).
This short-lived sensation spurred viewing parties across the country, books and, after its cancellation following Season 2, a big-screen prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, as well as a raft of less strange imitators. The series has lived on in cult status for 26 years, unforgotten by fans or anyone old enough to have been caught up in its early idiosyncrasies, before things got truly bizarre. Its haunting theme, like the music from most Lynch productions (Blue Velvet, Eraserhead), was rich with late 1950s dolorousness, wafting as would a ghost, much like the ephemera the series itself would prove to be. It was a completely fascinating show.
Laura Palmer, a small Washington town’s homecoming queen, was found dead. A sheriff named Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) and FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), in the midst of wacky characters and supernatural circumstances, searched in vain for her murderer. Cooper was a straight-arrow fed, but eccentric, probably too much for the real-life bureau. (Perhaps an equally fictional president might refer to him as a “Nut Job,” and be taken seriously.)
After a quarter-century, a sequel is finally here. Twin Peaks: The Return premiered on Showtime, and started streaming May 21. The debut was even more murky and mysterious than the original series. One had to ask, “What wonders will occur, free of network standards and practices? How insane will things get on platforms that generate more talk, in person and over social media, than actual viewers?” The answer is, strap yourself in, don’t let anything stronger than some pie and damned fine hot coffee pass through your lips, have some patience, and get ready for the weirdness.
Spoiler alert: If you missed the first two episodes, their function is to take you where Agent Cooper has been for 25 years, and set up a new, grotesque set of murders that link New York City; Buck Horn, South Dakota; Las Vegas and the Log Lady’s psychic cord of wood in Twin Peaks. My suggestion, if you have the time or inclination, is to view a few episodes from the end of the series’ original run. Agent Cooper had been trapped behind red curtains at the Black Lodge, after his body was snatched by Bob, and escaped out into the world, as a doppelganger of sheer venom-filled id.
There are a few outrageous laughs that fight through the surreal peculiarity. As 16 more episodes air, there may be more. But mark me well: If you’re intent on a nostalgic trip to Twin Peaks, don’t bring shades — it’s plenty dark already.
Twin Peaks: The Return airs on Showtime on Sundays at 9 p.m. and also streams on Showtime On Demand.
Out of the Box is a semi-regular column by VCReporter staff and contributors about television and streaming content.