I’m an enormous fan of David Lynch’s work. His movies, tv series, paintings, and even his music. His new work, a tv series called Twin Peaks, The Return, may be my favorite. The series title feels like a bit of a misnomer. It isn’t a reboot, or a reimagining. It’s more like season 3 to the original run, which ended 25 years ago. I would argue it’s the longest gap between tv seasons ever, and likely ever will be. It isn’t the same as the original series. Four episodes in and it’s still unclear what the plot is, or even if there will be a plot. It doesn’t follow the structure of a traditional dramatic series. Most of the time shows like this start with a dramatic event. In the original series it was the death of a high school girl named Laura Palmer. Another example would be Six Feet Under, where the death of the family patriarch starts the plot. There was no inciting event to trigger this series. It was simply time for it to continue.
That change is emblematic of the differences between the first two seasons of the show and the third. The first two had some elements of the bizarre, but it was mostly a straightforward soap opera. This new season is pure Lynch. So far, it’s definitely my favorite. Why is that? Why is such a bizarre, surreal experience that barely tries to have any part of it connected to anything I can relate to so appealing to me? There are a number of reasons. David Lynch was a great writer and director 25 years ago, and he has gotten better since. But the real changes, I think, are on my end. You see, David Lynch does some of his best work when he is recreating the feeling that nightmares give. 10 year old me hated nightmares. Adult me loves them.
One thing that the new season keeps doing again and again is building tension, but not the way you usually think of as tension. In a Quentin Tarantino film you will slowly watch an interaction between characters build and build, putting off the final resolution until the suspense is a palpable feeling, but in his movies you know that an interaction can only end a few ways. If you have an Ally spy trying to fool a Nazi soldier, you know it will either end in the spy successfully fooling the Nazi and getting away, or violence breaking out and people getting injured or killed. If David Lynch was shooting that scene, you’d have no idea of whether it would end as one of the obvious endings, or if a one armed man will walk in and begin talking backwards to a pale horse that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. It’s that feeling of having no idea what will happen next that gives Lynchian tension a very different feeling from Tarantino or David Fincher.
My nightmares feel the same. When I’m having a nightmare, which is all too rare these days, I have no idea what I will see when I walk through the next door. Will I see my mother calmly sitting in a rocking chair, or Siamese triplets trying to figure out how to sit on the couch? These dreams have the exact same feeling they do when I was a kid. I dread waking up, because it will be dark. I dread having to get out of bed, even to empty my bladder, and I’m afraid to fall asleep, because I know the dream will pick up right where I left off. The difference is I kind of like them now. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just as simple as most of my life is pretty predictable. Even Trump winning the presidency was a disappointing event, but not a surprising one.
I have no idea how Twin Peaks, The Return will go. I have no idea if we will find out what the place with red drapes really is, why it’s there, or who put it there. I have no idea if we will find out why BOB is such a murderous monster. If the owls are not what they seem, what are they? There are so many questions that this show has raised. And I don’t particularly care if it answers them. I would be happy if the show continued it’s pattern of barely connected, largely disjointed surreal scenes that are beautiful and horrible in and of themselves, but without any real relation to anything else, even within the series. I would also be happy if there was a plot, but it was buried beneath layer after layer of symbols and subtle hints. The only way this series could really let me down is if it ends up being a traditional dramatic soap opera. I don’t care how it ends. Just surprise me.