After a 26-year absence, David Lynch revives his touchstone 'Twin Peaks' series for Showtime

The revival will unfold over 18 episodes sans a streaming-style show dump, ensuring the return of the dreamy slow teases that have been a staple of Lynchian storytelling.

May 17, 2017 at 11:52 am

click to enlarge Kyle MacLachlan is back for the Twin Peaks revival that starts Sunday. - Photo: Suzanne Tenner / Courtesy of Showtime
Photo: Suzanne Tenner / Courtesy of Showtime
Kyle MacLachlan is back for the Twin Peaks revival that starts Sunday.
In dreams, David Lynch walks with us. In dreams, he talks with us. In dreams, we’re his, all the time. And here’s a little Lynchian secret — you can’t binge-watch dreams.

That’s why filmmaker Lynch (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive) and his production partner Mark Frost have refused to sign with Netflix or Amazon to revive Lynch’s classic 1990-91 Twin Peaks cult television series. A singular mix of murder mystery and surreal journey into the subconscious, the original required that viewers experience it slowly. So, too, will the new series. 

The show’s long-awaited revival begins 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime, with a special two-hour episode. Lynch will be allowed to carefully let Twin Peaks unfold over the course of its 18 episodes — no streaming-style episode dump; not even preview episodes for critics. Like before, it is all about those dreamy slow teases that have been a staple of Lynchian storytelling from the beginning. We do know that certain cast members are returning — Kyle MacLachlan, crucially, is again FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper in this Washington town, and Angelo Badalamenti is once more providing the unforgettably eerie music. 

Lynch wants us to sit with his stories wafting ghost-like through our subconscious. Approximating the science of dreams, these narrative fragments stain the blank canvas of our brains as we drift off into sleep, mixing with the random and fleeting synaptic bursts that fire just before we go under. What remains becomes the framework for the dreams and nightmares that bedevil us throughout the night.

Ever the genius within this realm, Lynch makes us all seekers on a journey, but the goal is not merely to reach the end as quickly as possible. Instead, he wants us to embrace each step of the journey, to dive deeply into the unfolding mysteries. In this way, we are similar to Jeffrey Beaumont, MacLachlan’s character in 1986’s Blue Velvet, as well as his Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks

Despite the fact that Blue Velvet is a narrative feature, time stretches in it. There is none of the fevered rush we typically feel in more traditional thrillers. Lynch slows things down, twisting our conception of time and its relation to the obvious tension he creates in certain moments. We hold our breath as Jeffrey watches Frank (Dennis Hopper) engage in his psychosexual games with Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), but those anxious beats seem disconnected from the normal passage of time. 

This is what Lynch desired from the viewing experience in his first Twin Peaks series, which ran on ABC. To binge-watch, now that such an option is increasingly available, would break that psychological control, that willingness to exist in a cocoon of experience that can extend over the course of a week, until the next episode. To him, a TV series is about truly living in a narrative landscape, not greedily staying attached to a device that allows for a download of data.

Of course, the debate here goes far beyond the notion of the delivery device hooking us up to the storytelling matrix. Binging is ideally suited to plot-driven procedural shows (think of the CSICriminal Minds or Law & Order franchises with their multitude of spinoffs) where the hunt for clues is paramount. Better still, a series like 24, during its initial run where the ticking clock counted down to a terroristic Armageddon, would be suitable for binging. We used to laugh at the absurdity of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) constantly racing around the globe without stopping for food or drink or to even satisfy his basic bodily functions.

The typical viewing experience, now dominated by binging, involves a headlong rush to answer questions, to solve problems through the acquisition of information/data. We are plot-driven and under the belief that the answers are (or should be) immediately available. 

For Lynch, there is no imperative to force us to rush through Twin Peaks and then move on. There’s no hurry — we’ve already been waiting 26 years after all. There is an invitation to come and stay awhile. With Twin Peaks, Lynch is whispering, “Let’s Get Lost” — a reference to Bruce Weber’s documentary of Chet Baker, the cool Jazz icon who looked like a wandering soul untethered from some forgotten Lynchian dreamscape. This continuation of Twin Peaks is an antidote to the immediacy of film and streaming formats.

Twin Peaks was a singular and quite bizarre series, both during its initial two-season run and the subsequent “prequel” film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that was released in 1992. Yet an argument can be made that it inspired others to dabble in surreal psycho-thrills. Quite possibly, the best example might be the first season of the HBO series True Detective, which brought together Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), former detectives, to finally close out the investigation into a serial killer whose capture somehow eluded them. 

Walking with them on that journey required jumping into the same fire, enduring the heat so that your vision sharpened. Like classic wanderers in Lynchian dreamscapes, Cohle and Hart had to willingly tap into and embrace their subconscious senses in order to solve their case. It will be interesting to see if that series influences the new Twin Peaks, just as the first Twin Peaks influenced True Detective.

So, after all this time, the return of Agent Cooper to a Twin Peaks still populated with some of the original characters will have us on edge. We wonder to what extent the story will reference the original one wherein a homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, had been murdered. We don’t know yet, but the very existence of a revived Twin Peaks lets us conjure images of the first — a slice of cherry pie, the love of a damn fine cup of coffee, Bob, the log lady. Lynch beckons both Cooper and us back to savor the trippy sensations only he can create. It’s hard to tell how we’ll respond, but it will be an experience best left un-binged. 

The TWIN PEAKS revival begins 9 p.m. Sunday on Showtime.