Sunday 21 January 2018

New Twin Peaks is just like second season which everyone was baffled by, and quite a few fed up with

Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper
Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Dale Cooper

Pat Stacey

Dark is the new light, black is the new white, complex is the new simple and weird is the new normal. That’s the way television is these days.

Few adult-themed dramas, whether they’re from America, Britain or mainland Europe (Irish broadcasters tend to serve up more linear, conventional fare), are rarely more than a short walk away from a gruesome crime scene, a severed body, a naked murder victim — regrettably, almost always a woman — on a mortuary slab, or an unexplained supernatural phenomenon.

True Detective’s first season finale featured Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle being granted a vision (or maybe just experiencing a hallucination) of a spiralling galaxy. In the second season of Fargo, an important gunfight was interrupted by an alien spaceship hovering overhead.

Neither viewers nor critics batted an eyelid over these. Neither, for that matter, did the characters on screen. So how must all this feel for David Lynch, returning to television with Twin Peaks after an absence of 26 years?

Searching for answers: Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer
Searching for answers: Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer

What is the warlock of weirdness, the prince of perversity, to do when he discovers he’s in danger of being rendered a mere member of the common herd? Simple, really: just out-weird everything and everyone else on TV.

Lynch told an interviewer recently that he’d only answer questions with more questions. After the two-hour Twin Peaks premiere on Tuesday (or 2am on Monday if you were dedicated/daft enough to sit up to catch the simulcast with the US), it’s obvious he meant it.

If newbies bothered to watch, they’ll have been baffled — so baffled, they might not bother to tune in for any more, figuring that if they need abstruse storytelling that moves in zigzags, there’s plenty of it to be found in something like Legion.

As for fans from the first time around, they’ll have been... well, baffled! At least some of the time. But maybe that’s fine. Everyone was baffled by, and quite a few fed up with, the original series for much of the second season anyway.

A state of mind: Killer Bob and Agent Cooper in the 1990s' TV series Twin Peaks
A state of mind: Killer Bob and Agent Cooper in the 1990s' TV series Twin Peaks

This is more like Twin Peaks at that point, when the general opinion was the series had become madder than a bag of laboratory rats, than at the start.

Actual zigzags introduce us to new series of 18 episodes: the zigzags on the carpet of the Red Room in the Black Lodge, the inter-dimensional purgatory where FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is still trapped.

This is good Dale. Bad Dale, the one possessed by BOB at the end of the original series, is out in the wide world, murdering people and sporting a new, longer hairstyle.

Good Dale is not alone in the Lodge. Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose murder formed the spine of the first series, until original broadcaster ABC persuaded Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost to snap it by solving the mystery, is there too.

Fire walk with me: Laura (Sherilyn Fenn) and Cooper (Kyle Mac-Lachlan) in Twin Peaks
Fire walk with me: Laura (Sherilyn Fenn) and Cooper (Kyle Mac-Lachlan) in Twin Peaks

At one point, she peels off her face to reveal white light. This is Lynch, unencumbered by budget restrictions and always obsessed with the visuals, having some fun with modern CGI.

Also freed from network censorship (the US broadcaster this time is cable outfit Showtime), he ups the graphic nature of the content.

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Playing with our expectations as usual, much of the action in this extended opener takes place away from the titular town we love so well, which is why we’re in South Dakota, where the torso of a man is found in a bed; the killer has placed the decapitated head of a female victim at the top.

Fingerprints at the scene belong to a local high-school principal and more body parts are found in the boot of his car. But is he connected to a second mutilated body, found in a hotel room in Las Vegas?

There’s a quite extraordinary, very scary scene involving a monster emerging from a glass cube that I won’t spoil too much if you haven't watched it already.

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Plenty of other familiar characters are back, including the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson, who sadly died after filming) and Deputy Sheriff Tommy “Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse), whose Native American ancestry might hold significance.

There are stretches where boredom creeps in, such as when the camera lingers interminably on someone doing mundane things very, very slowly.

You wouldn’t judge a painting by focusing on a corner and ignoring the rest of the canvas, so let’s see what the next two or three episodes hold.

Twin Peaks Twin Peaks airs on Sky Atlantic on Monday at 2am, the same time as America, or 9pm on Tuesday.


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