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Old and new fuse in ‘Twin Peaks: The Return’

Joe Baverstock-Poppy sees the best of David Lynch at work in the show's revival

As the credits to the premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return rolled, the audience at Cannes arose to unanimous applause. It has been a long 25 years—the 1992 Cannes screening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was met with boos and jeers.

In the second episode of the new Twin Peaks, the vengeful demon, MIKE, asks Dale Cooper “is this future or past?” While this may have a context within the plot, perhaps it is a more self-referential question. Where does the new season of Twin Peaks fit in the history of TV? Will it be a look back to what made the original series so great or will it strike out new and unknown territory?

Much of the new series does look back to the original series but not in a derivative sense. The premiere is sparse in story but this sparseness is filled by our anticipation. Uneventful scenes are given weight by the memories of the original series. The moments with Catherine Coulson (who plays ‘The Log Lady’) are particularly tender considering her passing. Each reveal of an old character is filled with emotion and nostalgia.

Furthermore, Lynch looks to his wider filmography for themes and imagery to reference. The howling soundscape is more similar to Eraserhead than the kitsch lounge music of old Twin Peaks. The Manhattan scenes echo Rabbits in their setting and Lost Highway in their obsession with surveillance. Curiously, actors and even supernatural beings from Mulholland Drive make reappearances.

However, the premiere doesn’t only look back but strikes new ground too. The decision to set much of the story outside of Twin Peaks, with new, seemingly unrelated characters, is a bold one but piques interest. Stark imagery of behemoth skyscrapers reminds viewers that what happens in Twin Peaks is part of a greater world.

The digital effects expand his imagery to new mind-bending levels while remaining as convincing and unsettling as his usual practical effects.

Lynch also gives nods to standout shows from today’s golden age. The goofy and colloquial conversations set in the Midwest seem cut straight out of Fargo. The use of smoke to conjure up spectres reminds one of Lost. The decision of the youths to watch a glass box to “see if anything appears inside” could be Lynch commenting on our generation’s paralysing love for TV boxsets. Lynch may simply be reclaiming the ideas that modern shows took from him, but it is more like he is paying tribute to those who kept the TV warm while he was gone.

Overall, Lynch succeeds in straddling the past and the future. He convincingly reminds us of the original series, giving us our dose of nostalgia and general Twin Peaks plot, whilst offering fans a glimpse into his other films.

Lynch sets out new ideas, stories and imagery without departing from the original themes and feelings too much. Reviving such an old show was always going to be tricky, but artistically Twin Peaks: The Return is a triumph.

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