TWIN PEAKS – still freshly squeezed?

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I’m still blurry of eye and I wasn’t one of the hardcore Twin Peaks fans who stayed up til 2am to watch the new series premiere. Simulcast with the USA showing, the two-hour double-strength hit of weirdness was one of the most hyped television events of the decade. Having been obsessed with the original, and its spin-off movie, as a teenager/young adult you’d expect that I would be glued to the box at 2am but alas no. I opted to wake up with a hot cafetiere of damn fine coffee and usher in Monday morning in the company of one Special Agent Dale Cooper. Instead I got two Dale Coopers. And then three…

So was it worth the wait? Did it live up to the hype? I can tell you this spoiler-free. Yes it absolutely did. But whenever David Lynch is concerned you can always be sure of one thing – BE SURE OF NOTHING. Billboards, magazine covers, teasers online, all built this return up to be one massive nostalgia trip. But what you get instead is something closer to a David Lynch feature film.

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Film noir, hard-boiled crime, surreal horror, slapstick comedy, these are the words I’d use to sum up the opening episodes. Now it’s been said that Lynch would rather not refer to this as Season 3 and instead he sees it as one 18 hour block of story cut into chunks. He has a point because I sat through the first four episodes in one sitting and I now can’t remember what happened in which episode. It all felt like one long glorious movie, without chapters as we all know Mr Lynch doesn’t like his DVD chapters. You get on at the beginning and you stay on, fingers gripped to the arm-rest, staring slack-jawed at what’s in front of you until it’s over. I’m so happy that this won’t be over for another 14 instalments.

Now don’t get me wrong, if you came here for the nostalgia it’s in there. Deputy Andy and Lucy are as sweet and goofy as ever. Shelly Johnson seems to have had kids but that hasn’t stopped her hanging out at the Road House. That goes for James Hurley too, who as Shelly so eloquently puts it, is ‘still cool’. He’s still a hunk of cherry pie dreamboat too. But those snippets of familiarity are spliced sparingly across the first four episodes. Benjamin Horne and his irritant lunatic brother Jerry, Deputy Hawk out in the woods with his flashlight, and if you think Dr Jacoby was weird the first time around wait ‘til you see him with four shovels and a can of spray paint. The gang is mostly all here, although my hopes for the romance of Ed and Norma were put on hold for this four hour stint. The old town is being drip-fed back in at a leisurely pace that seems random and precise in equal measure.

SPOILERS BELOW

That’s not to say things haven’t changed. Bobby Briggs is now on the right side of the law – and has the uniform to prove it.

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Sheriff Truman? Which one? Michael Ontkean is nowhere to be seen but Harry’s brother played by the wonderful Robert Forster has taken his place. Lucy and Andy have gone and got themselves a quirky, nerdy son by the name of Wally, introduced in a scene that’s as painfully awkward as it is hilarious (how they ever got through a take of it without cracking up is beyond me).

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The Log Lady is at death’s door, bald from I’m guessing chemo, and is a frail shadow of her former self – but her log still has a hell of a lot of messages, thank god.

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I’ve seen some reviews mention the lack of the emotional hook that was so strong in the original. I get that, but I will say what I felt seeing the characters I love so much older, in some cases tragically withered by life, was pure emotion. The Log Lady broke my heart a little, and I’m sure the more I see what time has done to my beloved quirky residents of Twin Peaks, the more that ache will hum. But true to form the town in many ways is still what it was when we left it 25 years ago. The buzz of the streetlights just covers the sound of a rustling underbelly – reports of a kid overdosing at the high school filter through as the episodes progress, to let us know that drug problem is still there. Well Jacques Renault is still behind the bar at the Road House, what do you expect? But it’s still the kind of place where a yellow light means speed up, not slow down.

Another thing that hasn’t changed in 25 years is, of course, Dale Cooper. He’s been rooted to the spot in the Black Lodge, playing out bizarre conversations with Laura Palmer and the One Armed Man, whilst out in the real world his evil doppelganger is living a life of gun-toting crime with a mane of hair to his shoulders and a constant sneer. Told by a tree with an Eraser-head glob of talking goo atop it (obviously) that the only way he’ll get out of the Black Lodge is when his Doppelganger returns to the red-curtain purgatory, Cooper has to fight to escape. But there’s one more complication. There’s a third Cooper out there, living Vegas, dallying with hookers behind the back of his wife (Naomi Watts, no less). How? I hear you ask. Good question. Needless to say things get messy, with some slapstick humour, some hideous violence, and an upsetting amount of vomit. Kyle McLachlan plays everything perfection, and when the real Dale Cooper is left staggering through a Vegas casino after 25 years of not walking, talking or being himself, it’s both hilarious and sad.

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Throw in the return of Denise, now a high flying trans woman in the FBI, Gordon Cole, Albert, and the rather hilariously preening FBI hottie Tammy, and the worlds of Twin Peaks s2 and Fire Walk With Me come crashing together in a way that shouldn’t really work but it does. It should be noted that the Gordon/Denise scene comes with a touching moment that brings the show bang up to date, where Gordon recalls the time when Dennis became Denise, and Gordon took her bullying colleagues to task with the warning, “Change your hearts or die.” It’s a little bit beautiful.

What the opening episodes achieve is intrigue and the promise that this series could take us literally anywhere. Matthew Lilard pops up as a headteacher in the town of Buckhorn who may or may not have murdered a local librarian – echoes of Leland Palmer and the presence of the Doppelganger Cooper hint that this will be picked up in future episodes. There are also nods towards a subplot in Vegas with shady underground dealings, hitmen and hookers. And then one particular scene involving a glass box in a New York skyscraper is so utterly terrifying that it gives me hope that the new darker, badder vision of Twin Peaks will bring the horror in spades.

The classic theme is still there, and Laura’s Theme finally pops up in a scene with Bobby Briggs that will have longterm fans rejoicing that there’s still a heart beating in there somewhere. Sad to see Julee Cruise is gone, replaced by a band-of-the-week gimmick where each episode appears to end with a different hipster synth group at the Road House. Reminiscent of Beverly Hills 90210, I’m not sure how well this is going to fit as the series continues but one thing I’ve learned in my relationship with David Lynch? The key thing is trust. Just go with him. It’s a wild ride, it could give you nightmares, and you might end it scratching your head but for the whole time you follow his vision you will not be bored.

For that I’m hugely thankful. Now I think I’ll watch them all over again…

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