Twin Peaks: The Return, initial reaction

Having watched the first three episodes of the Twin Peaks return late last night, I feel compelled to record my reaction before being exposed to anyone else’s thoughts.  I am saving the fourth episode for late tonight (the first four episodes are currently available on the showtime anytime app.  I guess that means I’ll have to wait two weeks for more?).  There are no major spoilers and I barely mention any details or particulars, but I personally wouldn’t want to read what follows before seeing at least the first two episodes for myself.

First, my expectations:

To borrow Alexander Nehamas’ metaphor, if the new Fast and Furious movie is the aesthetic equivalent of a one night stand, the recent work of Refn is casual dating, and Claire Denis is a long term relationship, then David Lynch is a marriage.  There are few artists whose work I’ve engaged with so extensively.  I remember well obsessing over Lost Highway with my brother Josh for pretty much the entirety of 1997.  Two of the most memorable cinematic experiences of my life were attending an early viewing of Mulholland Drive at Cornell Cinema with all my friends in a theater totally packed with people who could not fucking  handle it and seeing Inland Empire on Christmas day sitting between the illustrious Jacob Collins and the even more illustrious Wallace Shawn.  I couldn’t count how many times I’ve revisited his major works.  And if there’s one thing I know about David Lynch, it’s that he wouldn’t have done this if he didn’t have totally new ways of combining image and sound locked and loaded.  He is not an artist who repeats himself.  We all thought he was done after Inland Empire.  My sense was that he always felt restrained by the limitations and expenses of film and the studio production system, and that once he was finally liberated by digital video, this freedom enabled him to price himself out of the market.  That is, he was finally able to put down a totally unadulterated, uncompromised rendering of his vision, and it left him with nowhere to go.  UNTIL NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS!

What I expect to be the most remarkable about the Twin Peaks return is the scope.  We’ve always heard how he wanted Dune and Fire Walk With Me to each be 4+ hours long but the studio interfered.  With Inland Empire we finally got to see what he could do with a long running time, and it’s staggering.  I can’t even conceive of what 18 hours is going to look like.

There are three basic Lynch tones: weird fun, blissful serenity, and visceral nightmare.  His aesthetic depends on the juxtaposition and intermingling of the three.   The original Twin Peaks series was like 80% weird fun, 10% blissful serenity and 10% visceral nightmare.   I expect an inversion to 10% weird fun, 10% blissful serenity and 80% visceral nightmare.  I expect that viewers who like the original Twin Peaks series and Mulholland Drive but can’t handle Fire Walk With Me and Inland Empire are going to struggle.  And by “struggle” I mean they are going to have the inside of their skulls rearranged and wake up with night terrors.  I expect hard surrealist horror.

AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I GOT.  It would be impossible to overstate how much I liked those first three episodes.  I arrived home from a conference in SLC having not gotten a decent night’s sleep in 5 days and totally strung out on strenuous mental activity and more socializing than I’ve done over the rest of my sabbatical combined (which was awesome, in case any of my aesthetic normativity peeps are reading this).  I saw my spacey, vaguely depressed mental state as more of an asset than a liability for approaching these episodes.  Lynch demands to be watched in the dark.  I decided to wait till the middle of the night, drink coffee, and pro-actively court delirium.  I wanted to experience these episodes like nightmares.  I wanted them to bleed into actual nightmares once I finally went to bed.  It was exactly the right thing to do.  I was up till 4am.  I got 5 hours of fitful sleep.  I had nightmares.  I kept waking up to vivid memories of some of the new images I had seen.  It was fantastic.

This is straight David Lynch black tar heroin.  I wasn’t in any way concerned that he’d let me down.  What would have been bad, and what I definitely didn’t think he’d do, is a nostalgia bomb.  I really, really, really did not want to see an easy lapse into the damn fine coffee/cherry pie routine.  I certainly did not want to hear about a fish in a percolator.  My confidence was rewarded when I heard the gloriously stilted Inland Empire-style dialogue between Andy and Lucy. And the fucking evolution of The Arm! Good god.

I am going to stop there and let this soak in further as I eagerly anticipate getting back into Lynch’s universe with the fourth episode late tonight.  I plan to blog about the Twin Peaks return throughout the season.  Stay tuned.

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