Season one of Twin Peaks is a soap opera that was terrifying to live in. Season three of Twin Peaks is a terrifying horror show that you’ll settle into and that’ll be that. Whether that is good or bad is something I will deliberate.
On both occasions (season one and season three; we don’t count season two, for universally agreed reasons) David Lynch experimented freely with the art of televised audio/visual; in the first round he hit hard at home and unnerved audiences with the constant threat of impending doom, by scattering the strangulation of fearsome nightmares into the playful daytime TV dreamscape. Season one denies viewers the safety of the most recognised, safest TV genre – the soap opera. Now, Season three denies you the light comfort of that particular genre, and sacrifices this fear with the comfort of it being of a singular genre – in other words, season three has the safety of a Ronseal horror show. The return to Twin Peaks omits the terror of having your comfort zone turned into a haunted mansion; sadly the pilot episode remains to the end exactly as it begins, a monorail of surrealism and horror.
This lack of the manipulated experience on the act of watching television itself removes the personability of the show; the purpose of it being a TV show is missing without the uncanny displacement of the genre. This chiasmus of genre hybridisation makes for an emotional storm of horror and fear, one that turns our familiarity with TV genre in on itself. Explicitly in regard to audience-genre relationships, season three episodes one and two is simplistic and monotone in execution.
That said, Twin Peaks: The Return is a welcome reinstatement to its glorious, previous standard. I don’t consider it to be as intricately intelligent as its origins, but the dial for experimental surrealist cinema has been cranked to and beyond breaking point.
With his bravado approach to new introductions, oftentimes it feels like Lynch is taunting other showmakers, a kind of “How about that, let me see what you got”, “This is how it’s supposed to be done”. So, mind the underlying ego-stroking (rightfully earned, mostly), and be cautiously aware of what you’re getting yourself in for – this is Lynchian in its densest form, but not necessarily “Twin Peaks” in any form other than the returning characters.
At his most audacious, Lynch communicates directly to his audience, well, not his audience exactly, but the viewer, the more casually inclined eyegazer: “watch this show and pay attention, you will miss something if you are distracted by anything beyond this box, DO NOT MISS A SECOND… OR ELSE”. And he’s right, if not slightly paradoxical too.
By positioning the audience as Sam Colby, the college student who endlessly watches an empty glass box, here, Lynch puts us in a position of waiting for something to happen, all the while nothing happens. One could argue that the black monster attack is symbolic of season three itself, that this is the ‘something’ happening to TV-land itself (though I’d argue: this show makes no difference or impact in the world of TV. This definitely is not THE thing that TV audiences have been waiting for – from my standpoint, this is non-revolutionary, unless you mean ‘revolutionary’ as in the wheel keeps on turning, then yes, it’s exactly that).
In reality, I think the audience may feel more inclined to align with the Colby’s experience to their own, where they too watch the show, waiting for the good stuff in between the nothing, emptiness. Though, within his fear, there is an uncanny perspective taken from our being characterised as Colby.
Ironic, everything else in the show is pretty spectacular entertainment, but the most slumber-some scene the majority of people will find they’re treading through is this one.
On one hand, these scenes symbolise Lynch saying “go fuck yourself” directly at those not paying the show enough attention; on the other, they signal a want for attention, despite assuming that much of what your experience could consist of is you waiting idly for something interesting to happen (as subjective as that experience can be – it’s worth noting that 1hr50mins is a lengthy engagement for any TV show, and not everyone is going to love everything) – but I think that’s a reasonable request. Personally, I think it’s worth it – if you only enjoy a slither of The Return, I am assured that those small moments will negate any unfavourable scenes, it’s the only show capable of overwhelming, grandiose artistic enlightenment.
There’s a semblance of self awareness in the glass box narrative. Paradoxical for sure, but short and sweet, a compromise I’m happy to endure for the intelligent position it creates – a scene of and for the audience. Perhaps: ‘Lynch’s Gogglebox, of many interpretations’.
However, in the end, this scene feels reductive to the contemporary appreciation of television. Now, more than ever, we are giving our fullest attention to the small screen, and a scene critical of the audience giving anything less is wasted since it couldn’t be farther from the truth.
But wait, let’s stop the negativity for a moment, for many moments. This show was great! And sometimes, I forget to mention that.
David Lynch is an incredible experimental filmmaker. I personally have never been infatuated in him the same way some others are, though I do understand the appeal. I have liked Lynch fondly, but I am more than aware where my limits with him end and begin.
For reference (of what I have seen (not including shorts etc.)): Blue Velvet > Wild At Heart > Eraserhead > Mulholland Dr > Elephant Man > Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me > (in the pits of hell->)Inland Empire
Although a detachment from the original seasons’ mostly classical mode of shooting TV, this season’s camerawork is devilishly great in a blocky, chunkier way. Lynch has taken the DV-esque (Digital Video) quality of Inland Empire and puts a plentitude of gusto and heft into the editing and staging that the product becomes indistinguishable from a dream made from broken reality – a palpable lucidity.
Knowing Lynch’s filmography, I had an easier time being agreeable with his decisions to switch between the tones of Lost Highway to Inland Empire to Eraserhead and wherever else he felt like. Although I watched this on my laptop (quite possibly the worst platform to enjoy the array of visual delights), I couldn’t help but admire the texture and atmosphere of the different worlds herein, all which feast on the wealth of his mostly successful 40 years of experimental filmmaking. Some may see these tonal changes as confusing, especially by the way Lynch merges Wild At Heart (a clear and heavy influence for Doppelganger Cooper’s bit) with Eraserhead puppetry (the tree brain thing), or with the Inland Empire / Fire Walk With Me world of Bill Hasting (Matthew Lillard (my favourite part of the episode, much to my surprise)); some may call it part of the experimental arthouse territory – most who are familiar with Lynch’s work will likely find no fault at all with him attempting to best his previously best tricks. Either way, I find this works to good purpose (which I will get to soon enough – and yes, it’s kinda the point of the show).
I hear a lot of people saying that this feels like a re-run of Lynch’s films, and I half agree, but saying so would diminish the great new lengths he’s going to surprise and be creative with the scenery that dominates each scene – just look to the Black Lodge (zig zag floor, for the unfamiliar) for new examples of his foray into environmental de/re-construction. Clearly, Lynch works best when he’s reinventing old toys. At sporadic moments, he throws the camera around the room to reinvent it entirely. He doesn’t shoot this room like before, this is a spacier, loopier, destructible room. There’s an air of a theatre environment whenever Dale sits to listen to the old talkee-reversee people. The room stays the same (for the most part), but by the change in shooting style he creates the room anew – and that is the magic of cinema (or in this case, TV). His control of storytelling technique reconstructs our experience of the same room from 25 years ago.
Much of what shines in this pilot episode/s is how much of ‘Lynch’ Lynch is remixing; as though he is competing with himself, he is reconstructing his filmic history into a new, self composed compilation swan song. The Return feels like a strange goodbye – sincerely full of best intentions to finish in a sweat of effort where he gives himself entirely to his audience. So, to go re-evaluate, these tonal changes aren’t really changes per se, I would argue that they’re parts of the whole that is David Keith Lynch, superb film author. And watching the rest of the season will gradually break my heart the truer that goodbye becomes.
Until the finale arrives, it is exciting to see the convergence of his worlds brewing in one pot, under one roof, additionally so as the world of Twin Peaks expands further into unknown territory. While I care deeply about the lack of uncanny in regards to our relationship with watching TV, Lynch still continues to push the concept into unexplored territory. Despite how Lynch’s world feels very separate from ours, seeing the mysterious entities of the Black Lodge hit the streets of America is a frightfully nightmarish aspect of the uncanny. I felt safe watching the insanity take place in Twin Peaks, having it become a reality in New York creates real world implications, and I don’t think a 2017, mid Trump climate can handle that kind of Pandora’s box anarchy.
That said, I could have done without the specificity of the locations. For someone so enigmatic about the meaning of content, the clear labelling of the locations seems like something born of conscious choice. You have the entire world, why choose New York, Las Vegas etc.? Something more ambiguous is the obvious fit. Without making a point of where these stories take place, we are engaged in a guessing game to determine our own answers concerning the whereabouts of these tales in our world. The streets become anywhere that they feel similar to; not that this ruins the point of the show, but, when expanding the scope of the Twin Peaks tale, labelling the locations becomes redundant.
However, you could argue that his specificity is the point, that it establishes paranormal clearly in our world, it becomes undeniably a reality. Either way, I have my preferences, and I prefer the idea that it’s in our reality, and that we never know where exactly.
At first, I was dismayed by the lack of innovation with the concept of distorting the connections between the show and its medium, and I still am. Considering the platform’s big changes in the last 25 years, I expected a bit more in the self awareness department. With the return of the show that redefined TV and TV genre, I’d hoped Lynch would’ve given some kind of keen, intelligent insight that manipulative our experience of watching TV in the modern day. But Lynch has never been about that kind of filmmaking, that was only a feature of Twin Peaks, a feature I loved, but not necessarily a feature of the creator himself. In a world full of studio rejections to artists visions, and despite my dismays, I abide wholehearted by the show that openly endorses the freedom of uncensored imagination.
I take back (only a little) about what I said about it contributing nothing to the world of TV; there is now a show in the air that is helmed by a director with a philosophy aside from other producers; Lynch is a man fascinated by infinite experience in the universe, and Twin Peaks: The Return is a show reborn by that philosophy of ignoring the norms of standard TV entertainment and instead baptises the audience with potent magic, dispersing a mass delirium of joyful catharsis.
However, I am in a terrible position to be reviewing the show so far; Lynch has been extraordinarily secretive and that means anything could be in store next week; how about I just shut my mouth and see what happens. After all, isn’t that what TV is all about? The excitement for what is to come, next time on Twin Peaks…
Thanks for reading. See you soon.
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