‘Twin Peaks:’ Still a Damn Fine Cup of Joe---and Hot

By Deirdre Fanzo

Title card from “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

“I’ll see you again in 25 years,” said Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) to Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in a bizarre dream shared between the two characters. The ominous phrase kept fans of “Twin Peaks,” David Lynch and Mark Frost’s cult television series, hoping she was right. 

Now Palmer’s words have proven true. The show returned in May of 2017, airing Sunday nights on Showtime at 9 p.m. Directed in its entirety by David Lynch, “The Return” has a far darker vibe than the original run. 

As computer science major Carlos Perez put it, “it’s a completely different show with a completely different tone.” 

When “Twin Peaks” originally ran on ABC on Thursday nights in 1990-91, it was a quirky combination of paranormal detective mystery and soap opera. The plot followed Special Agent Dale Cooper on his investigation into the murder of local sweetheart Laura Palmer. There were funny scenes, touching moments, bizarre happenings, and an abundance of donuts, black coffee, and cherry pie. But as Agent Cooper uncovered Palmer’s dark secrets, the darker side of the town was revealed as well. 

With the inclusion of alternate dimensions, malevolent spirits, and doppelgangers, the show presented to its audience something entirely new that paved the way for future programs like “The X-Files,” “Fringe,” and “Stranger Things.” But in 1991, network producers ordered Lynch and Frost to do what they had never intended---to reveal Palmer’s killer. Ratings plummeted after the big reveal and the show was cancelled, leaving angry viewers with a cliffhanger that seemed as though it would never be resolved. 

Then, in 2014, Lynch and Frost were picked up by Showtime and given a platform to bring back their cult sensation in the form of “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Running “The Return” on Showtime allowed Lynch and Frost to bring in darker and scarier elements this time around. MacLachlan returns to the series as the show’s forerunner, this time taking on two different roles---the separate sides of Cooper. The show follows both Cooper’s horrifying and evil doppelganger, known as Mr. C, and the good, but infantile, Dougie Jones, who, unbeknownst to him, is actually the benevolent Dale Cooper. 

There are moments where the show meanders. While Jones is funny, there are moments where his presence is excruciating. Cooper was the heart of “Twin Peaks” when it originally ran, and in “The Return,” the audience sits through roughly 15 hours of the clueless Jones before the true Cooper returns. When he does return, though, it is incredibly satisfying. This plot evolution makes it clear that the title “The Return” has two meanings---the return of the show itself and the return of Special Agent Dale Cooper.

True to the style of David Lynch, more questions are asked before the season comes to a close. “Part 17” can be considered the true ending of the season, while “Part 18” feels more like an epilogue, which ends on another confounding cliffhanger. Since a fourth season has not yet been confirmed, audiences can only hope that the show doesn’t end for good on yet another suspenseful shocker.