It is unusual for a writer to revisit his work after such an extended period of time away, and stranger still for him to successfully gather almost all of the original cast for the return. The only comparable example that comes to mind is the recent Harper Lee sequel to the acclaimed To Kill A Mockingbird entitled Go Set A Watchman, which was published, the year before the author’s death, in 2015 with an impressive 55-year gap between the two novels!
1989’s Twin Peaks was ground-breaking on several fronts, not least for its reticence to be shoehorned into any one genre. Lynch and his writing partner Mark Frost created something that was on the surface a crime drama, this morphed into something more like a soap opera, as the show became as much about the subplots of the inhabitants lives as the murder. Add to this mix quick-witted humour, sharp dialogue, cleverly drawn characters and increasing elements of horror and the absurd, and you have recipe that shouldn’t work on paper but which realises itself beautifully in practice. This is not to mention the show’s compelling dream-like soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti. Lynch is also one of the pioneers of cinematic television, taking a broad arc rather than episodic approach to the series and incorporating extended establishing shots of the North American landscape.
Did we want a new series? We hoped for it, but we were equally concerned that a new incarnation could tarnish the legacy of the original. Did we expect it? Most didn’t. Twin Peaks seemed so rooted in its particular time and place that it was hard to imagine the small-town charms breaking through into the 21st century. Yet there was always a sincerity in the prophecies of the original that made it hard to ignore Special Agent Dale Cooper’s final threat of “I’ll see you in 25 years” in the concluding episode.
Instead of the microcosm of 1989, Lynch presents an American odyssey grounded in 2017. Unbound by the constraints of a network he is free to indulge in what is almost painfully slow and intricate pacing. The iconography of the original is persistent, and the motifs recurring – Lynch, so it seems, is ultimately the show’s biggest fan. There are moments of genius (episode eight in particular) but whoever embarks upon this mammoth voyage must be warned that these instances of ecstasy come at the cost of hours of borderline tedium. The viewer, as much as the director, must suffer for his art.