Sometimes an unexpected combination can make a great dish. Chili peppers and chocolate. Potato chips and ice cream. Bleu cheese on a burger. Twin Peaks was my introduction to primetime soap operas and supernatural horror. I was nine years old at the time, so a lot of it went way over my head. But it was enough to hook me and to later explore other unconventional shows like Dark Shadows. I rewatched Twin Peaks in the past month with new eyes, so I had high hopes for season three. The original series ending, like so many shows, left viewers with a handful of cliffhangers. The most troubling of which was what a vengeful spirit/alien soul/killer of homecoming queens was doing inside the protagonist’s body.
Some things change, while others stay wonderful and strange
The first two seasons of Twin Peaks defy easy description. The murder of beloved homecoming queen Laura Palmer brings FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper to the small, quirky town of Twin Peaks, Washington. Cooper is our point of entry into plots that ultimately cover corporate espionage and invasion by extra-dimensional aliens. Viewers wouldn’t see a show like this again until “The X-Files” came out two years later. And like The X-Files before it, the new season of Twin Peaks brings back the same characters in a new adventure.
Expectations are high for a series with so much buzz and a cast that includes Hollywood A-listers (Ashley Judd, Michael Cera), musicians (Trent Reznor, Eddie Vedder), and MMA fighters (Michael Bisping). Most of the original cast, like Kyle MacLachlan and David Duchovny are back in roles that helped make them stars.
The series that launched careers and catchphrases is back and in high-definition. Is this a satisfying comeback? Yes. The magic is back. The mystery is back. The coffee and donuts are still damn good and “the owls are not what they seem.” The long and beautiful atmospheric shots without any action are back. And the general sense of “what am I watching?” and “what just happened?” is back. (In case you were wondering, the lady who talks to a log is and The Man From Another Place are back too).
Waiting for signs from a glass box
One downside is that all those quirky characters and situations make it difficult for viewers to connect with the characters. Season three begins in the middle of the action and many of scenes take place outside of familiar Twin Peaks. One new character’s job involves watching an empty glass box for signs to appear within. The audience is much the same way, waiting for clarity inside something that should be transparent and familiar. And those signs may never come, no matter how long you watch.
In the end, that’s what you need to know: This is still a show that most people will not understand without assistance from the internet. No individual scene is likely to make sense on first viewing. For good or for ill, there is no casually watching this series without a guidebook of theories; you have to commit (and possibly obsess). So far, 25 years of waiting for new episodes seem to be worth it. Watch carefully.