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Week by Week TV: Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1 and 2

Twin Peaks is one of the most influential series ever made. Most of our modern TV shows share some DNA with it; Lost‘s strange conspiracies, Life on Mars’ surreal take on police procedural stories and Fargo‘s dark and ridiculous sense of humour all come from the example set by Twin Peaks. Broadchurch shares so much with it (tight-knit rural community, one embedded police officer, another quirkier detective brought in), it’s almost a remake! Therefore this new series has a lot to live up to. Written again by Mark Frost, and David Lynch and with all eighteen episodes directed by Lynch, this series looks to return Twin Peaks to the form it had in its first series. This is my most anticipated series of the year, so I’ll be giving my thoughts as it unfolds. Spoilers ahead.

The opening two parts of the series were aired as a two-hour feature on Sky Atlantic in the UK, and Showtime in the US. I watched the series on Now TV without adverts, which I feel has helped my immersion in the narrative. The first two parts of the series strike me as being more in the style of the Twin Peaks film Fire Walk With Me, rather than the first two series: there isn’t a story as such, more a series of ideas, moods and nostalgia. To recap the story of the original series, it followed FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) as they attempted to solve the murder of prom queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the strange town of Twin Peaks. The second series ended with Cooper possessed by the evil spirit of Killer Bob, one of the most terrifying characters put on TV. He was trapped in the Black Lodge, the series’ version of purgatory, where Cooper communed with Laura’s soul.

As the series returns, Cooper is still trapped inside the Black Lodge, whilst his doppelganger is wreaking havoc through our world. New ‘Evil Cooper’ has long hair, a fake tan and a leather jacket to match his leathery face. This story is the best one of the opener, as Good Cooper has always been such a positive and chipper character that it is interesting to see his dark side brought out, even if it isn’t really him. It was also nice to see MacLachlan playing Cooper again, as he really is the best thing about the original, bringing a warmth and charm to a series which could get extremely dark. He was always kind and was the one character who you were always drawn to. If you look at Cooper compared to David, the lead character of Legion, there is no contest. I lost patience with Legion early on. I can handle all the surreal strangeness if I have someone to care about. No one in Legion was interesting enough to invest in, whereas Cooper was always sweet in his oddness, never curmudgeonly and smug like Sherlock or Hardy in Broadchurch. He took joy in the world and we took joy in him. It was great to see him back.

However, the first half an hour of this new series is almost impenetrable. There is a storyline about a man who has to watch a glass box. There is hardly any dialogue, no appearances by the original cast and no answers. It’s almost too much, but it has one heck of an ending. If you can ride out the slow, languorous pacing of this opening, then the rest is pure brilliance. Old characters reappear to confirm that this is indeed a Twin Peaks series. Log Lady, Deputy Hawk, James Hurley, Lucy the receptionist and Shelly Johnson all pop up. There is a murder mystery in North Dakota very reminiscent of Fargo, a strange interlude in Las Vegas, and of course Evil Cooper and his silent menace.

Overall, if you can stand the first half an hour, then this opening salvo bodes well for the series as a whole. Hopefully this will be the Twin Peaks for our generation, rather than the sad, strange X-Files series which came out last year. Join me next week when I look at Part 3 of Twin Peaks Season 3.

Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1 and 2 aired on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday 23rd May. Image source: IGN.com