Twin Peaks: The Return ★★★★★

Absurd as it is that this has occupied the top rated spot on this site for about two years now, no other work in recent memory has bridged the gaps between serial narrative drama and experimental shorts, the standard cinematic look and wild amateur energy, 'TV' and 'cinema' with such cool assurance. There are endless cliffhanging threads of mystery to hook the casual tv viewer who just wants 'an immersive story', there is expansive 'world building' for those types who consider themselves nerds because they watch marvel movies, dream logic for those who have watched Mulholland Dr for the umpteenth time but have yet to dive into pre-90s cinema, nostalgic moments for uber-fans of the original series, deep lore for Fire Walk With Me defenders, ample extracurricular research opportunities for occult-heads, and the first legitimate peer of 2001's 'star gate' sequence (at least in the full context of a narrative film that I am aware of, please let me know if there are others which go about this so fearlessly in this type of context). Oh and an impossible-to-see-it-coming finale for everyone which proves once and for all that Season 2's cliffhanger cannot be 'blamed' on anyone other than Lynch and Frost. Even if they make a Season 4, there is no doubt in my mind that it will only open myriad new mysteries, for that is life whether we accept it or not: the more you know, the more there is to know about which you will never be able to fully understand.

When I first watched it week to week as it released (with the tantalizing two-week wait after part 8), it was great to get wrapped up in the mysteries of a single episode for so long, to ruminate before the next clues rolled around. Yet re-watching it now in the span of 5 or 6 binge days within 3 weeks (I know this will be nothing for some people, but most of my film binge-watching happens at festivals, where I am removed from the context of daily life activities) certainly brought about a much stronger feeling of coherence and cogency. It was difficult to remember all of the new names and fleeting character appearances the first time around, though I was appreciative of Lynch & Frost's scope here: Twin Peaks, while always primarily about Cooper & Laura is about something bigger than people, and all of the mysterious forces beyond our comprehension; the evil lurking in the light breeze of a forest twilight, the inter-dimensional rip provoked by the atom bomb, the unthinkable forces that invoke sexual trauma.

There is the idea of ending your story without tying everything into a neat little bow, and then there is Twin Peaks Season 3 (or The Return or 'A Limited Series Event' or whatever you want to call it), where the entirety of the story revolves around the inevitability of the unknown and an irresolute loop of a fragmented multiverse. We will never know.

This is truly an 18 hour lesson in "it's about the journey, not the destination" -- a fact that even the final episode drives home in a borderline hyperbolic amount of time spent on the road. I remember following the reddit theories and reactions as week after week people would post about their frustrations at not yet seeing Dale Cooper; would he ever actually RETURN?, 'the cast lists Kyle MacLachlan as Cooper! DOUGIE JONES IS NOT COOPER!', etc. Dougie Jones is the ultimate lesson in patience. He's not what we thought we wanted, yet the rewards are vast once you can set aside your trivial demands and instead give in to the gift of his presence. He is like humanity's greatest hits in a play full of David Lynch's greatest hits. If you really can't enjoy Dougie's screen time, then you my friend need to get yourself out of the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit, pronto!

And while we're on the topic of Lynch's greatest hits, I would like to devote a moment to something 'new' which he incorporated many times here to great effect: that shaking camera. In the behind the scenes footage you can see Lynch on the ground, personally filming real fire up-close while vigorously shaking a low-consumer-grade outdated digital photography camera which happens to have a video function. It's this kind of avant-garde-adjacent amateur-edge brilliance that makes an already great series stand out artistically in an ocean of visual noise copycats. Series like Stranger Things and True Detective are so obsessed with the superficial thrills of work like Twin Peaks without being able to tap into what makes it truly great, and 'risks' like these are some of the best examples of what is not being copied that makes all the difference. Sure Lynch himself is 'copying' from other artists, but he's borrowing from a whole heritage of avant-garde visual language and mixing them together in his own unique way, rather than piously tossing a misunderstanding of one director's trademark onto a bunch of noir and thriller tropes like those wannabes do.

But look at the motion tricks from L'ange (letterboxd.com/film/lange/) being re-contextualized here. Lynch uses them with such careful purpose, reflecting alternating and direct currents ("does it have something to do with electricity?") and how motion flows in the different dimensions visited throughout...

And jesus let's just take a moment to remember that this show created a complete other and believable supernatural world from its first season with the simple use of red curtains, a chevron-patterned floor, and reversed soundtrack...

And my god the power of music. Aside from an appearance by a group called Lissie which really felt out of place with literally every other piece on the show, all of the music contributes so powerfully to the tone, and forcing us to sit through a sort-of concert performance at the end of most episodes was just... brilliant? I really was not on board with the idea for the first few episodes. Then I accepted it, then I enjoyed it, and even started looking forward to it. Another great lesson in patience. Not to mention that so many of the lyrics reflect and deepen the narrative. And my god! Slowing down Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to create a signature (and disturbing) track for the woodsmen was nothing short of a stroke of genius.

You want the ultimate 'auteur' film on a big budget? Filled with a signature style, an enticing story, made with love, pulsing with other-worldy energy, experimentation and a personal message?
You'd better watch this.

Just make sure you are ready to receive the message.

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