Sunday 20 May 2018

Twin Peaks - The Limited Event Series 3

A Prayer For The Diane

Twin Peaks - The Limited Event Series 3
2017 USA Directed by David Lynch
Blu Ray Zone B

Warning: I guess there are spoilers.

So finally... finally... we come to the part of the process that my Twin Peaks rewatch has been leading up to. Namely, I get to see the latest series that aired last year for the first time.

Now, I’m not sure quite what I was expecting here but the one thing I do know for sure is... it wasn’t this.

I remember a couple of years ago that David Lynch and co-writer/co-producer Mark Frost started tweet hinting that the new series of Twin Peaks was on the cards. I also remember Showtime putting the money up for it and then, all of a sudden, David Lynch backed away because he wasn’t being given final cut (if memory serves). Well, I don’t believe he totally had that on the first two series but I couldn’t imagine him doing anything these days unless he has the final say on it and I suspect a lot of people are of a similar opinion because... well, I remember the supporting tweets flying around fast and furious.

However, in the end, Showtime somehow managed to do the right thing and granted Lynch final say and it was all back on again... with twice the number of episodes than originally planned, too.

Honestly, I believe it was absolutely the right thing for Lynch to dig his heels in like that because, having now watched all 18 episodes of this new television odyssey, I can say that I personally don’t believe he would have gotten away with doing a fair amount of what he’s accomplished here on commercial television if he hadn’t stuck to his guns in those early negotiations. Although the ‘brand’ of Twin Peaks has always been synonymous with the auteur David Lynch, I’d have to say that this new incarnation of the show is, if anything, more Lynch-like than anything else we’ve seen made for television... and that includes both his original seasons of the show and another programme I used to like by him called On The Air.

This version of the series feels like an artist at the peak of his powers (which is no mean feat for someone of Lynch’s age) but it also, in many ways, harkens back to his much earlier work and I personally felt that this series was a lot more like the first thing I saw by him many years ago and which has, throughout his interesting career, always been my favourite work of his... Eraserhead.

Certainly the timing and pacing of Eraserhead is all over this thing. People will walk around or sit around and sometimes they will say something and sometimes they won’t say anything but they will, without fail, take their own time about anything they do and this laid back sense of ‘not getting on with things’ permeates the new show in every episode... which is kinda refreshing, actually. When I said, you’d never get away with something like this on television normally I wasn’t referring to the occasional nudity and quite hard violence on display in some of the episodes... the pacing is beyond leisurely but that’s no bad thing.

I mentioned in a previous review that the last time the dead Laura Palmer saw Agent Cooper in the The Black Lodge, where he too was trapped, she told him that the next time she would see him would be in 25 years time and... that’s more or less what it turned out to be, both in real time and also in the time that has passed in the chronology of various characters in the show. This carries on some quarter of a century later and we are reunited, over the weeks, with many of the old cast members (some of them didn’t return)... a number of whom died after finishing their filming. So  characters like Catherine E. Coulson’s The Log Lady, Miguel Ferrer’s FBI agent Albert and Harry Dean Stanton (reprising his role from Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me) are all in here but, alas, the actors playing them are sadly no longer with us. Many of the old cast returned though, with some notable exceptions. However, there’s also another generation of the families inhabiting the town highlighted in one or two cases so... lots of characters turn up and there are also a fair number of A list movie stars who seemed to have just turned up for the odd episode or two. Some of them, like Michael Cera, are quite unusual and just one offs. Monica Bellucci, for example, turns up as herself in FBI Director Gordon Cole’s dream about her. Others, like Amanda Seyfried, Caleb Landry Jones, Tim Roth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, James Belushi and Tom Sizemore have more substantial roles.

The old gang that do return are, in some cases, significantly moved on from their previous characters. For example, Dana Ashbrook’s Bobby Briggs character, who was a real hooliganistic, murdering brat in the original show, has made good and joined the police force. He’s actually, along with Michael Horse’s good old Deputy Hawk, one of the most trusty and reliable characters in the whole town now... which surprised me. Other returners, like Andy and Lucy, haven’t changed that much... they are still as entertaining to watch as they always were, though.

We also have some replacements for characters who Lynch obviously needed back to make his story work where they’ve passed on in the years between series. So the late Don S. Davis character Major Garland Briggs is found as a non-aged headless corpse (with someone else’s head placed above his in the aftermath of a murder) but that doesn’t stop his head from floating around an alternative dimension and speaking to Agent Cooper, courtesy of CGI effects. Similarly, David Bowie’s character from the prequel film has been replaced by what I can only describe as a sort of giant tea pot that speaks and spells out things with its steam.Didn't see that one coming.

Then there’s Agent Cooper himself, played once more by Kyle MacLachlan. This gets complicated...

There are at least three versions of Cooper to start with. We have the evil version of him who replaced him from The Black Lodge at the end of the last series and he’s the villainous Cooper who has been active in the last 25 years in our world. We also have a kind of stand in duplicate of Cooper called Dougie Jones, made by Bob as a dupe to replace him when he is supposed to return to The Black Lodge. When Bob fools the people in the other dimension by sending Dougie back... Dougie’s arm shrinks and his head explodes into black fire. However, the real Agent Cooper, after a bit of a surrealistic odyssey, manages to get out of the other dimension, escaping back into our world via an electrical socket. Alas, although he is mistaken for Dougie by all... including Dougie’s wife, son and employer... it would be true that he’s not in charge of his faculties and for most of the entire series he pretty much gets handed around by people in the same kind of way that Peter Sellers’ character did in the movie Being There. He’s operating at just one stage past vegetable but, somehow, he accomplishes so much by accident while he’s in this state. It’s actually not until a couple of episodes towards the end until Coop finally returns to us properly.

A significant new cast member is Robert Forster... who was supposed to play Sherif Harry Truman the first time around but had scheduling conflicts. So instead, he’s now playing Truman’s brother and is the sheriff in Harry’s absence (the character is off sick and, apparently, the actor wasn’t asked to return this time around... which is kind of a shame, actually).

Another interesting cast member is Lynch regular Laura Dern as... wait for it... Cooper’s faceless secretary Diane. We’ve heard ‘of’ her so many times over the years but now we get to meet what is actually a quite iconic feeling character in the flesh. Or do we? Well, it’s complicated but... let’s just say that there’s at least as many Dianes running around as there are Agent Coopers in this series and leave it at that. It was just a pleasure to see her interacting with Lynch, Ferrer and newcomer Chrysta Bell as Special Agent Tammy Preston.

What can I say more about this?

Well, it’s a long series and quite a lot of it doesn’t even take place in Twin Peaks but one strand of the story does and it all leads back there and comes together for the end. My favourite installment was episode eight where the second half of the episode goes ‘full tilt Lynch’ as we hurtle back to the first atomic bomb test and a load of surrealist imagery, much of it in monochrome, much of it set to Penderecki’s Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima. This includes lots of groovy imagery including a kind of flying frog thing which crawls into the mouth of a girl at the end of the episode. Personally, although we’re given absolutely no context or answers to a lot of the things we see on screen, I believe the girl might have been a young Sarah Palmer (Laura’s mother) and that would maybe explain why, in a later episode when Grace Zabriskie’s character is being harassed by someone in a bar, she is able to unhinge her face to reveal a monster on a screen which then lashes out to bite a guy's neck off. At least, that’s the way I figured it.

The series is chock full of cool stuff and, although slow, the experience of watching and wondering how it’s all going to end up is quite an addictive process to be fair. It’s interesting because Lynch does kind of tie most of the things together in the penultimate episode, to the point where I was able to predict a lot of what was going to happen in it and... I did wonder where the heck else he could go in the final episode. Well, after bringing things to a mostly natural conclusion, he then goes one further and messes things up good and proper... at least as far as the clarity of the story goes. I’m not 100% sure of what went down at the end of the final one, although I do have my theories and it’s clear that, although Cooper is put in a bad spot, he also knew most of what was going to happen (if, indeed, it was Cooper). The universe is pretty much reset slightly differently but that doesn’t stop the forces of evil coming for Laura Palmer... or at least the person she has ended up kinda being (or not, depending on your point of view).

A couple of things I didn’t understand were... and if you have seen this series and have any answers then please feel free to leave a comment... just who the heck the ‘glass box’ killer entity was supposed to be. Also, since Audrey’s vision of dancing at the Bang Bang Bar was clearly an illusion from her coma induced insanity (or some such), does that mean the interminable episode endings, where almost every installment finishes with a group performing a song in the bar, are also just a part of Audrey’s nightmare? I don’t know but, in some ways I’m kinda glad I don’t know too... after all, it’s David Lynch we’re talking about here.

Now, I can’t see us returning to the sleepy town of Twin Peaks anytime soon but the possibility is certainly there and, though he seems somewhat less interested than co-creator Mark Frost, Lynch hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a fourth series entirely, so, you never know. Either way, I really enjoyed this third season and would definitely recommend it if you liked the first two series and the movie, with the caveat that it all feels a little less diluted than you’ve seen it before. Approach with a delightful shiver of apprehension.

Twin Peaks at NUTS4R2

Twin Peaks Series One
Twin Peaks Series Two
Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks Series Three - Limited Event Series

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