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‘Twin Peaks’ Premiere: Debating Whether the Return Lived Up to Expectations, and What David Lynch Is Trying to Say

IndieWire critics discuss that freaky scene, a sweet moment and how or if "Twin Peaks" has changed in its return.

Madchen Amick and Peggy Lipton, "Twin Peaks"

Madchen Amick and Peggy Lipton, “Twin Peaks”

Showtime

IndieWire’s Liz Shannon Miller, Hanh Nguyen and Michael Nordine trade notes after watching the two-part “Twin Peaks” world premiere at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. [Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the first two episodes.]

Hanh Nguyen: When the original “Twin Peaks” signed off after two seasons, the character of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) had promised cryptically to Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” At the time, no one really knew what to make of that line, since the show was full of confounding dialogue anyway. I certainly didn’t take it literally. It was a show like no other when it premiered in 1990, and there’s still nothing like it… until now, perhaps.

True to their word, David Lynch and Mark Frost teamed with Showtime to reveal 25 years later that “Twin Peaks” was indeed coming back. It took more than two years to get all of it together, but at long last “Twin Peaks” returned with the first two parts of an 18-hour order on Sunday night. Did this first taste of the revival live up to the hype and your own expectations?

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’ Premiere and After Party Photos: See David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern and More

Michael Nordine: I tried not to even have expectations, since similar revivals in the past have been letdowns and I simply had no idea what Lynch was up to with this, but I absolutely loved it. I’ll admit to not being fully onboard until *that* scene ~25 minutes in, though — from that point on I was utterly enthralled. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like it on TV before, including the original series.

Liz Shannon Miller: Are you referring to our second look at the literal mystery box? Because I can definitely see why that would be the case. The way the show opens, acknowledging right away the mysteries of the Black Lodge, was appreciated — I could have seen Lynch and Frost choosing to avoid any mention of Dale Cooper for several scenes. But yeah, I feel like introducing this hapless young man played by Ben Rosenfield and his lady friend gave the show an immediate freshness, something that pushed the episode beyond the realm of nostalgia into discovering what, exactly, “Twin Peaks” looks like in the year 2017.

Michael: I’m referring to the glass box that the pale, faceless monster emerges from before killing the fuck out of those two lovers who have apparently never seen a slasher movie before, aye.

Liz: Yeah, when that happened, I maybe made a noise loud enough for “Leftovers” creator Damon Lindelof, who was sitting in front of me during the screening, to hear. Well, I say “a noise” — he said I screamed.

Michael: The woman sitting next to me, whom I’d never met, looked over and said, “Holy shit.” There was a collective gasp from the entire audience, it seemed.

Ben Rosenfield, "Twin Peaks"

Ben Rosenfield, “Twin Peaks”

Showtime

Liz: Which is fascinating, because in some ways that sort of scene is the classic horror film scenario, the building of ominous dread — it honestly felt so familiar that it surprised me, how much it surprised me. You see this horrifying creature, you immediately assume no good will come of this, the suspense builds — and Lynch still manages to freak you out. Above all else, that’s the mark of a consummate director.

Hanh: Strangely, I didn’t initially think I was going to feel so connected. Although I watched the original series when it aired, attended viewing parties and much later in life I dressed up as the Log Lady for a skit, I thought that was all just for fun. But I was all in as soon as I saw the woman running with her hands over her face with the sound of distant screaming. That set the foreboding tone, and then when the main titles played with Angelo Badalamenti’s theme song, I was a mess. I got chills and maybe got a little verklempt. I really did feel like I was going to see old friends again.

So when Tracy with the Lattes (Madeline Zima) and Camera Memory Changer Dude (Ben Rosenfield) got faced, I was so ready and yet dreading it at the same time. Excellent use of slow pacing, almost no noise, and humor to draw out the tension. Having seen that in a room full of people sharing my horror was great since I am a big chicken. I don’t know how I’ll fare alone at home.

READ MORE: ‘Twin Peaks’: 7 Damn Fine TV Homages to David Lynch’s Influential Series

Michael: It seems we’re in agreement, then, which is actually kind of surprising. I can see *a lot* of people hating this, especially fans of the original show who aren’t into Lynch’s more recent films. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything this avant-garde on television. I know the “it’s like an 18-hour movie” cliche is, well, a cliche, but this is just so diffuse in its approach to narrative that it only seems like a TV series in the most technical sense of the term. Am I being hyperbolic here?

Liz: I don’t want to say you are, because I mean, some weird shit happened here. But at the same time, I think celebrating the weirdness of “Twin Peaks” doesn’t give due credit to its more prosaic qualities. I honestly felt like a lot of what I saw made more sense than I was anticipating. At least on a scene-by-scene basis, there was a fair amount of cohesiveness, and if you just look at Dale Cooper/Evil Dale as a storyline, it’s quite clear. Good Dale is trapped in the Black Lodge. Evil Dale has to go back in order for him to leave, but Evil Dale doesn’t want to. Where exactly Good Dale is at the end of Episode 2 is a question we have no answers for, but as a narrative the goals and wants are pretty well laid out.

I mean, there’s so much more going on than just Cooper’s entrapment — and Lynch throws out plenty of wild card moments that may or may not blossom into major plot points down the line, in the first two hours. But it’s fascinating, how something so complicated and dense can also feel so simple.

"Twin Peaks"

“Twin Peaks”

Showtime

Michael: That’s true. I wonder how people will react to the fact that maybe 20 percent of the first two hours is in Twin Peaks itself.

Liz: It speaks to the dilemma of the show itself, not that David Lynch necessarily cares about it : Can you watch the new “Twin Peaks” without ever watching the original series? Because introducing so many new characters and elements seems to be the argument for, “Sure, why not?”

Michael: That’s a good point. None of what we’ve seen so far directly refers to anything beyond the pilot and finale, really. There’s so much that doesn’t make sense yet that even rewatching the entire series immediately beforehand (like I did) won’t fully prepare you for it.

Hanh: Sure, someone could step right into this story. They’ll be just as confused as we are about the overall mystery, which seems to be about two major storylines. Agent Cooper and his doppelgänger is one plot that dovetails into the other, more far-flung stories: in the glass box room in New York, the librarian’s murder in South Dakota and whatever is going on in Las Vegas. I think what catching up with the OG “Twin Peaks” gives you is an appreciation for the cameos and a sort of grounding in the style. Maybe newbies are appreciating it on another level, not knowing what to expect. Oh and non-sequitur, but Doppelgänger Cooper looks like young Johnny Cash to me.

Liz: I was definitely glad I studied up on Wikipedia on the bus ride to the theater. For one thing, I totally forgot about Carel Struycken as The Giant — um, I mean, “??????,” as he is officially listed in the credits.

Hanh: Great credits Easter egg. Staying true through the end!

Continue for Lynch’s evolution, Cooper’s superhero origin story and more

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