Twin Peaks Pt. 8. Yes, THAT episode.

Everyone’s written about episode 8 of the Twin Peaks revival.  So what the heck, I’ll throw in my two bits.

As I previously expressed, I was concerned at the outset of the series that it would be both worthy of the original, and up to David Lynch’s lofty mindset.  I considered a series of three escalating mile-markers:

(1)  Is it passable?  Does it meet the bare minimum?  Does it reach the standards of contemporary TV drama set down by, say, the last couple seasons of Fargo, or other of the better TV dramas out there?  Lynch was to direct the entire series, all 18 episodes — something he did not come close to doing with the original.  After not directing film since Inland Empire (2006).  Directing is a lot of work, especially considering the scale of Twin Peaks.  And after all, Lynch is no spring chicken.  That enormous cast list, all those moving parts.  A lot to juggle.

So my biggest concern was that the show would be any good at all.  Not a total embarrassment.  Though a little skeptical at first, that threshold was attained early on.

(2)  Now that it’s passable, is it good?  Is it excellent, even?  Does it reach that tier set by the best of Breaking Bad or Fargo season 1?  Can we hope that it ascends to the level of Mad Men or Better Call Saul?  As I said in my prior post, “Lynch’s mojo is solidly in place, and bright, novel storytelling abounds.”

After the first 4 hours and into episodes 5, 6 and 7, we knew it was good.  Real good.  So warp-factor 2 achieved!

(3)  Episode 8 brought things to a new level: the highest stratosphere of entertainment and art ever presented on television.  This 3rd level is a level, we know, beyond the first two, but also in the realm of the unknown.  As in, we have no f-ing idea what it’s going to be.  Safe to say no one saw Part 8 coming.  That complete unpredictability is thrilling to behold.  Having no idea what’s coming next, but that it’s gonna be good, something ‘wonderful and strange’ — is the ultimate promise of Twin Peaks, a promise more than fulfilled.

Reaching this third tier is more than I could have ever hoped for.

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The most cogent analysis and succinct recaps have been told by Noel Murray of the Times.  I highly recommend you read his episode 8 recap;:

There’s nothing to point to in the history of television that helps describe exactly what this episode attempts.

Considered that way — as something to see and hear, and to react to on a primal level — this hour was phenomenal.

Esquire‘s Corey Atad wrote in his recap titled “Last Night’s Terrifying Twin Peaks Will Be Remembered as One of the Best Episodes of Television Ever” — also highly recommended as further explanation of ep. 8:

David Lynch has unearthed something—unlocked it. He’s devoted his entire career to exploring the roots of evil in men, in both the real world and the unreal. His films are often terrifying. Twin Peaks has been terrifying. Still, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like what Lynch gave us in “Part 8” of The Return.

From its long drive through the night, to its cascade of blotches and sparkles and flames, to its flickering store lights, to its silent expressionism, to its 1950s utopian hellscape of crushed skulls, cigarette-toting vagrants, and bug-frogs, “Part 8” brought to television screens a work of art that escapes narrative confines. Where other shows—and films, too—have used the weird and surreal as window dressing for straightforward storytelling, The Return brings the true avant-garde to bear on a story where clarity is beside the point, and perhaps impossible.

By “clarity,” think “obviousness”.

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Lynch has surpassed all expectations that I may have had.  He hit Twin Peaks full-stride, and is delivering some of his best stuff ever.  I think he’s had a lot of unfinished business stewing in him all these years, because I can’t believe all this material is spontaneous.

The Times post touches on something else: Lynch is turning out to be a great humanitarian.  Twin Peaks is more than entertainment; it serves a higher purpose in benefit to mankind.  Picasso — and many other artists — did this too.  Episode 8 brings to mind Guernica.

Return to Twin Peaks

I’m pretty much loving the new Twin Peaks on Showtime.  There are some bits here and there that seem awkwardly implemented or haphazardly introduced, but overall I’ve been very pleasantly surprised.  My fear was that David Lynch, having been out of the filmmaking game for so long, would have lost his mojo.  More specifically, that the series would have been little more than a re-tread of the original.  No fear: his mojo is solidly in place, and bright, novel storytelling abounds.

The New York Times has written a lot on the return of Twin Peaks, including a good amount of favorable criticism.  On episode (“Part”) 3:

Mostly though, this hour is pure, magnificent abstraction, right down to the unexplained few minutes of Dr. Jacoby’s spray-painting a rack of shovels. The rest of the series could be nothing but Kyle MacLachlan shouting “Hell-ooo-ooo!” at slot machines and this episode alone will have justified the entire “Twin Peaks” revival.

Thankfully, the other 3 hours have been equally worthwhile, which portends well for the remainder of the series: an auspicious beginning to be sure.

I’m really looking forward to this…

Seasons of Spring 3 by 3

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“She’s dead.  Wrapped in plastic…wrap.”

Three television series will see a Season 3 premiere this Spring: the Showtime redux of Twin Peaks — god I hope it’s good, Fargo on FX, and Better Call Saul on AMC.  Dates:

Twin Peaks: Sunday, May 21

Fargo: “sometime in mid-April”

Better Call Saul: Monday, April 10

Fargo will feature Ewan McGregor and be the most modern Fargo yet, set in 2010.  I hope it’s good in spite of McGregor’s presence.  Same goes for the Trainspotting sequel set to release next month (egad!).

Season 2 was entertaining, though not up to Season 1 form.  There was so much violence that the National Guard would have been called in by about episode 5, so my incredulity will be alleviated if they dial it back a bit.

If previous patterns hold, AMC will air the first two seasons of Better Call Saul in marathon style leading up to the premiere.  That same pattern dictates availability of Season 2 on Netflix one week prior to the premiere; Season 1 is available now.  Certainly hoping it continues to be (among) the most entertaining shows ever aired.  Gus Fring will be part of the story, and I’d be surprised if we don’t at some point see Walter White, as the inevitable crossover into the Breaking Bad era takes place.

As for Twin Peaks.  Without going into it, let’s just say that Twin Peaks was a revelation when it first aired.  Not only did I think it was an incredibly great, ground-breaking show, but it made a significant cultural impact on my life ever since.  The cast list is 200 miles long, including Kyle MacLachlan and a number of other original cast members, and newcomers Michael Cera, longtime Lynchite Laura Dern, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Matthew Lillard, rock frontmen Trent Reznor and Eddie Vedder, Naomi Watts, and A-Lister Amanda Seyfried.

Such a massive cast is a lot to juggle, so I hope this doesn’t become another Dune.  David Lynch and Mark Frost are producing and writing, as they did originally, and Lynch will be directing.  My concern is that Lynch hasn’t made a film since Inland Empire, and was seemingly retired from dramatic presentation, content to make damn fine coffee and avant-garde music.

Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and Fargo have set a new standard in television.  I hope Twin Peaks can live up to that standard while capturing the spirit, and the spirits, of the original series.

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Twin Peaks Revival

Twin Peaks stairsThis is old news by now for fans, but Showtime is slated to run nine new episodes of Twin Peaks.  From the Times blurb:

These episodes will be written and produced by Mr. Lynch and Mr. Frost, and will be directed by Mr. Lynch. Showtime also said it will re-air the original seasons of “Twin Peaks” before broadcasting the new episodes.

I was skeptical until seeing that David Lynch and Mark Frost, the original creators, will be making the new episodes.  I’m still skeptical, because Twin Peaks was so much a product of its age, and so completely saturated in pure magic that will be hard to recapture 25 years later.  The first season still ranks to me as among the best stuff ever put on television.  The Fargo series does give me a lot of hope that something great can be accomplished.

I’m also surprised, as I was under the impression that David Lynch had forsworn any further movie (or TV) making, having switched full time to music and generally disappointing his fans by not making anything else.  I am more hopeful now that he will become involved in another movie project; I’ve got this feeling there are still some great stories running around in his demented mind.

I’ve always disliked HBO, Showtime, etc., because for so much of their history they’ve been about charging viewers monthly for a lot of crappy, very un-curated movies.  They still do that, but it’s become a lot better now with quality original productions — a trend that is ever increasing.  And being on the “premium” pay network will have its advantages; again from the Times:

Regarding the original ABC run of “Twin Peaks,” Mr. Frost said: “There was always a sense that we were slightly handcuffed by the network restrictions of the time and place. Obviously, all that will be gone. We’re really free to do and go wherever we see fit.”

Looks like I’ll be subscribing to Showtime on a temporary basis when the show hits.  There is no way I am missing this.

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BONUS!  For the fans: “A Ranking of All 118 Sweaters Seen on Twin Peaks”, which includes perhaps unnecessarily acrid captions:

Donna - sweater

Click for Slideshow