We don’t know much about the new “Twin Peaks,” but we know this: It will be weird. Lynch’s cult classic always felt weird, toeing the line between ‘80s kitsch and ‘90s grunge in the year that bridged the two decades. Plus, you know, it was weird. The series’ dreamy sensibilities — and actual dreams, set in red rooms with dancing, mumbling, dead people — made for a uniquely provocative effect, often blending the hilarious and horrific.
Despite the onslaught of recent TV revivals, we’re still not used to the strange effect of seeing old faces become new with the click of a button. So long have the “series finales” been engrained in our minds, it’s odd to skip past decades of narrative time and launch back into the high definition lives of our formerly 4:3-framed characters. Be it “The X-Files,” “Arrested Development,” “Gilmore Girls” or any series that took significant — once thought permanent — time off, revisiting our favorite characters is equal parts sentimental and jarring.
But if one things bears out from our time assessing the zombie-like transition from watching dead shows be brought back to life, it’s this: The pilot matters. And it will definitely matter for “Twin Peaks.”
For one, we need to consider the time – both when and actual length. When “Twin Peaks” premiered on ABC on April 8, 1990, it did so as a two-hour pilot, not as a two-episode premiere event. That kind of mumbo jumbo is reserved for modern times, not David Lynch’s original auteur approach to broadcast television. In 2017, we’re getting an updated version of the original style: a two-hour, two-episode televised premiere paired with two more episodes available online immediately after the airing.
That’s twice as much time in “Twin Peaks,” but a fitting unfurling for 2017’s binge culture and a comparable immersive experience to the original pilot. You need to spend a good chunk of time in Lynch’s world to get used to its particular peculiarities, and fans will need time to adjust all over again. Even those well-versed in the “Twin Peaks” universe will need to come to terms with however the series has developed since we were last in it. Lynch has changed, as has Frost, so it’s fair to expect “Twin Peaks” to be different, as well.
Watching the pilot today, it’s clear that Lynch and Frost’s rhythms were in tune with their audience. It’s a bit slow, a bit blunt, and a whole lot of fun — even as we watch anguished characters cope with the death of Laura Palmer. The structure of the episode slowly unveils a tone that cannot be copied, just as it introduces the large and ever-growing cast, methodically moving from one strange, suspicious, or simple individual to another. Altogether, the pilot builds a contained, “10 Little Indians”-esque setting; It’s as if Lynch and Frost are saying, “This murder mystery will be solved right here, in this town, so pay close attention to its citizens,” and the hypnotizing nature of Lynch’s direction makes it easy to comply.
Whether or not the new season will mimic such a structure is, of course, yet to be determined, but re-watching the pilot should serve as solid prep no matter what. Even if Lynch totally upends expectations and crafts a fresh “Twin Peaks” experience from scratch, there’s still the obvious connections: We know how many of the original cast members are returning, and many of them were featured in the 1990 premiere. Everyone from Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper to Catherine E. Coulson’s infamous “Log Lady” are officially part of the revival, and one would think we’d see them in the first four hours.
And then there are the fan favorite moments, bound to be referenced or recreated in one way or another. We all remember Agent Cooper’s “damn fine cup of coffee” line, but his introduction, speaking to Diane while driving into Twin Peaks, first referenced the “damn good food,” instructing Diane to grab a slice of pie if she ever comes up this way. Moreover, his monologue was bookended by a fascination with the local trees — Douglas Firs, he later discovers.
Details like this fill the first two hours, and casual fans would be wise to revisit the pilot (at least) to enhance their enjoyment of what’s to come. One would hope the revival’s nostalgic appeal isn’t its most admirable attribute, but we’ve come to rely on sentimentality to carry us through other recent revivals — we’re looking right at ya, Mulder and Scully — so it’s probably best to protect yourself. Worst case, you get a few chuckles out of an impenetrable David Lynch disaster. Best case, you get a few extra laughs during his glorious return.
There may be callbacks. There might be similarities in structure and tone. But it will be weird. And you need to prepare.
Happy “Twin Peaks” week, everyone.