It’s doubtful that you’ve missed the news that “Twin Peaks” has now officially made its big splashy return to television, over two decades after its initial cancelation, and Showtime’s unique release strategy meant that the truly committed fan would be able to watch Episodes 3 and 4 of the series just as soon as they finished the first two.
Here’s the thing: I am not going to tell you exactly what happened in “Twin Peaks” Season 3, Episodes 3 and 4. And here’s the reason why: If you’re reading this as a fan of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surreal drama, then you probably don’t want me to.
After all, the hallmark of the series has always been more about what you discover for yourself, than what people tell you to understand about it. As critics, we can — and will — offer up our reviews and additional commentary, but the show’s power has always been driven by whether or not Lynch and Frost’s unique, organic approach to storytelling hooks you in or alienates you. Every choice “Twin Peaks” makes is deliberately geared towards maintaining the show’s singular point of view. And you’re either in, or you’re out.
One of the notable things about the first two episodes of “Twin Peaks” Season 3 (or “Twin Peaks: The Return,” as Showtime is billing it) is that there was a certain logical consistency to the on-screen action — at least, more than we were initially expecting. A lot of different elements were thrown at the wall, but by and large it wasn’t all too hard to understand what was happening (well, to whatever degree Lynch and Frost might allow).
That said, while the first two episodes of Season 3 did not by any means sidestep the show’s supernatural roots, it’s Episode 3 which really challenges the show’s link to what we consider normality — the first half hour especially proves to be intense. For those who want nothing more than to delve into the mysteries of the Black Lodge and whatever happened to Agent Cooper, these sequences are exhilarating. But they provide little respite for fans in search of solid ground.
With Episode 4, some equilibrium is regained, along with more plot movement from the first two episodes. In addition, the series continues to roll out some of its more famous guest stars… Again, you wouldn’t want me to spoil the surprise. But at least one announced actor, playing an unannounced character, is featured in a scene which is either one of the most bizarre, deliberately surrealist or worst-executed scenes of the series. And it’s technically grounded 100 percent in the real world — as much as you can say that about anything that happens on “Twin Peaks.” Watch out for Wally Brando, is all I’m saying. Remember the name.
When it comes to the acting, there are a few performers who acquit themselves extremely well — MacLachlan is very much consumed by the supernatural plotlines, but he remains incredibly watchable and relatable, even when trapped in the most absurd of moments. But at least two of the big-name guest stars to drop by in Episode 4 are awkward to the point of inspiring outright laughter.
Right now, the show’s biggest balancing act is managing the need to move this narrative forward into new territory, while also dipping occasionally back to pre-established characters and their lives. So far, the emphasis is more towards the former than the latter, though when we’re reunited with characters like Hawk or Cole or Doc, the familiarity those faces bring with them is something to relish. To put it like Lynch himself might, a scent of pine seems to drift into the air, whenever we see them again.
It’s almost a relief at times, when these familiar faces reappear, because it’s something to which you can tether, while attempting to decode everything that’s happening not just to Dale Cooper, but to us as an audience. What we’re saying is that the descent into madness is real, as of Episode 3, and while we’re only 22 percent through the season, it seems likely that this level of weirdness is likely to be maintained — if not escalated.
Technically, having seen what we have thus far, that level of escalation feels impossible… but look, even just the basic fact that a new season of “Twin Peaks” exists in the year 2017 defies explanation. If you can believe that, you can believe anything — though expect Lynch and Frost to push what exactly that means to the brink of human endurance.
The first four episodes of “Twin Peaks” Season 3 are streaming now on the Showtime app and Showtime.com. Episodes 3 and 4 will also air on the Showtime network Sunday, March 28 at 9 p.m.