Twin Peaks: The Return – Episode 1 Breakdown, Thoughts, and Analysis

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Note: Due to the density of the material in the two-hour premiere, I’ll be reviewing each part separately. Look for Episode 2 tomorrow, Episode 3 on Wednesday, and Episode 4 on Thursday.

Episode 1

Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

twin peaks hawk

First, let’s just think about the fact that we have new episodes of Twin Peaks on the air. I never imagined this would ever actually happen, so just that alone is worth celebrating. I will admit I wept three times during the premiere. As the Season 2 finale wrapped up on Showtime, I began to realize that I was about to see new Twin Peaks. I started to think about being nine years old and watching what was, up until last night, the last episode of the series. The next time the show got to me was Catherine Coulson’s appearance as The Log Lady and the return of Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer.

My initial feelings are that I love what I have seen so far. This is David Lynch working at the peak of his skills as a director and visual artist. The use of color is so overwhelmingly good, Twin Peaks is bathed in warmth while darker corners are washed out.The sound design, which Lynch is credited with, is spectacular. There is an ever-present electronic droning hum, and I suspect that is building to something. Absent almost entirely is Angelo Badalamenti score, but I think it will resurface in full once the story reaches a critical place. Lynch allows scenes to unfold in their own time and forces us to slow down and experience each moment.

Let’s get into the episode:

Lynch wasted no time in starting the story with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) who is still stuck inside the Black Lodge. He is visited by The Giant (Carel Struycken) in a black and white space, very reminiscent of Eraserhead. The Giant delivers a series of cryptic clues that he tells Cooper to remember. Then Cooper vanished in an almost electrical distortion.

I surprised to see Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) who is living in a trailer in the woods outside Twin Peak. A delivery truck drops off a surprisingly large order of shovels. This is all we get with Jacoby for now, and I am wondering what he plans on digging up. The delivery man asks if he needs a hand and the doctor replies that he is fine to work alone.

The show shifts to New York City, a jump I wasn’t too surprised about. Hints from Lynch and others involved were that the series would take a much larger scope. We enter a building in the middle of the city with a large glass case that extends outside the wall. Inside David (Ben Rosenfield), a young man sits watching the case. The structure is surrounded by lights and cameras. He occasionally switches out SD cards on the cameras when needed. His vigil is interrupted by the arrival of Tracy (Madeline Zima), an apparent friend who has brought coffee and shows an intense curiosity about the nature of David’s work. He rebuffs her claiming he’s not allowed to let her inside. In a later scene, she returns with coffee during another night’s vigil. However, this time the security has up and vanished. David decides to let Tracy in, and the two quickly undress and begin to have sex. Suddenly, the case dims and distorted creature appears. It has the body of a woman but a head that could be described as bird-like. The couple stops their coitus and recoil in terror as the entity smashes the glass of the case and proceeds to almost peck their faces apart.

I was shocked at first because the entity that appeared in the box immediately reminded me of The Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead. This was likely intentional, and I enjoy the fact that Lynch is bringing in all the elements of his previous work. The world of Eraserhead seems like it would be a perfect layer to the Black Lodge universe. The brutality of David and Tracy’s death reminded me of the extreme violence of Wild at Heart and Lost Highway.

We briefly glimpse Ben and Jerry Horne. I enjoyed the fact that Jerry has entered into the marijuana grow business. He’s morphed from a typical 1980s yuppie into a washed up granola hippie. I also got the sense that the Great Northern Hotel is not doing as well as it once was. Ashley Judd made a blink, and you’ll miss her appearance as Ben’s new secretary. I think Lynch may not spend much time with these returning characters and just give us little vignettes to see what they are up to. I can’t imagine Ben Horne being critical to the larger story, but this scene or others with him may have thematic importance.

Then we catch up with Bob, still possessing the form of Dale Cooper’s doppelganger. He shows up at a dilapidated building in the badlands, possibly a brothel, demanding “Ray and Daria.” These two are handed over to Bob, and there’s a whole strange dark tone going on here. I wasn’t very surprised to see Bob in this condition 25 years down the road. I assumed he wouldn’t hang around Twin Peaks for long. Later comments by Lucy reveal that after the events of the season 2 finale, Coop flew the coop. I found Bob was incredibly reminiscent of Frank from Blue Velvet, this powerful sociopathic presence.

In moments very reminiscent of the opening scenes of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With me, we cut to Buckhorn, South Dakota where a murder has occurred. Ruth Davenport is found in bed with her left eye gored out. Upon further investigation, it’s discovered that this is just her head and body of a large male is under the blankets. The local PD are baffled but after checking up on some fingerprints find Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard), a high school principal was in this apartment. Bill claims he barely knows Ruth and was nowhere near her apartment. The police don’t buy it and find a piece of human flesh in Bill’s car trunk. I found this whole sequence to resemble Mulholland Drive in a lot of ways, particularly the personalities of the police detectives. My suspicions are that this murder mystery will prove to be one of the driving plots. I think Bill Hastings may be possessed in the same way Leland Palmer was, introducing a larger body of Black Lodge entities into the narrative. The being that appears in the New York sequence came to mind when Ruth Davenport’s decapitation was revealed. Connection?

The Twin Peaks police department is still a quiet place, Lucy manning the front desk. Her dialogue with an insurance salesman reveals that there are now two Sheriff Trumans, and that one is sick while the other is out fishing. Later, The Log Lady phones Chief Deputy Hawk to tell him something has gone missing in regards to the Agent Cooper case. Hawk reopens the files with help from Andy and Lucy, who spend a bit of time gushing over their 24-year-old son Wally. I really loved the warmth and humor of these scenes. Andy and Lucy haven’t missed a beat, and I hope we get to learn a lot more about their lives in the intervening 25 years. It was heartbreaking to see Catherine Coulson, vulnerable and sick with cancer, making some of her final appearances as The Log Lady. I really loved the mutual respect between her and Hawk that there were seeds of in the original series. As Lucy points out though, the only thing missing in the Agent Cooper case is Cooper. My guess is that the diary of Laura Palmer recovered from Harold Smith’s house in season 2 has the message from Annie that Laura was told to write down in Fire Walk With Me. Upon discovering this, they’ll know the Cooper out wandering the Earth is, in fact, an evil double and not the Cooper they remember.

The final shot of this first part is The Giant sitting in the black and white space from the opening watching a record skip. In Season 1, the Little Man told us that where he was from the “birds sang a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.” So we have to wonder where did the music go?

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