Twin Peaks is back! The return should give me cause for celebration, but Twin Peaks never felt like a particularly celebratory show. Riddled with empty air and small-town spooks, the David Lynch show is a museum of curiosities and artefacts — no touching allowed, and no speaking above a whisper.
Nevertheless, the sound of the synth chords heralding the arrival of Twin Peaks twenty-five years later is pretty damn exciting. A few of the familiar characters are there — most notably, Laura Palmer appears in a less-than-elucidating opening sequence — but the main aspect that remains the same from the 1990s iteration to this sparkly 2017 showboat is the tone. This reboot is quiet. Television today is pretty loud and fast, but Twin Peaks thrived on silence and wandering, pointless creeping. Watching the show, your ears become more familiar with the hum of the atmosphere than the action.
This new guy in town is no different. The very first scene takes us into the Red Room (the main part of the Black Lodge) with Special Agent Cooper, Laura Palmer and The Giant — by my calculations, they appear to have been here for the past 25 years. This is according to an aged Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson), who seems perturbed that she hasn’t seen Agent Cooper in 25 years. (Her son is 24 years old, and Cooper never even told her congratulations on the baby, she claims.)
The goings-on of Agent Cooper are but one seed in the plentiful premiere, though. For starters, it takes us to New York City, which seems a little antithetical to the small-town appeal of Twin Peaks. But New York City here is claustrophobic; we’re hanging out in a nearly empty warehouse with a college student played by Boardwalk Empire’s Ben Rosenfield. He’s nameless for now, but the woman desperately trying to gain his affection is Tracy. The student spends his hours in the warehouse watching a glass box — he’s instructed to let the higher-ups know if he sees anything. This means we will see something in the glass box. (I’ll say it again: We will see something in the glass box. New York City is just as spooky as Twin Peaks.) Tracy brings him coffee and pleads with him to let her inside the warehouse. Only, no one is allowed inside.
“You’re a bad girl, Tracy,” the box-watcher warns.
“Try me,” she says, flirting with the very fibre of her being. Their dialogue is sparse and direct (e.g. “Do you wanna make out a little?”) which indicates their disposability. These kids are here to serve a purpose.
Question — What’s more spooky, a diaphanous otherworldly being feasting on two naked college students or Special Agent Dale Cooper with long, shaggy hair and wearing a leather jacket? I’ll let you think on that.
The being-creature-guy comes courtesy of that spooky glass box in New York City. Remind me never to take a job watching a glass box in a warehouse. As Tracy — who, by the way, charmed her way into the warehouse — gets hot and heavy with the idiot who decided to neglect his duty, the creature hums into being. And then gnaws their faces off. Like I said, these kids were disposable. Welcome back to Twin Peaks!
But Agent Cooper’s return is just as creepy, albeit not as bloody. He forces his way into a home, seemingly in the town of Twin Peaks, to visit a man named Otis. He seems to be on a mission to collect a girl named Darya, who begrudgingly joins Cooper. So, Cooper’s been gone for 25 years. Has he been going around, making sure that all girls find a safer home? Growing out his hair in the meantime? Learning how to manhandle a rifle? One thing’s certain: He’s not the tidy FBI agent we first met.
Margaret Lanterman has some thoughts on the matter, though. She calls the local sheriff’s office, cradling her log, claiming that the log has a message from Special Agent Cooper. This all seems to indicate that Cooper’s tucked away in another realm, no? Theories are welcome, but, as with all things Twin Peaks, they may not be entirely useful.
It wouldn’t be Twin Peaks without a dead body. I mean, besides the idiotic college student. In place of Laura Palmer, we have Ruth Davenport, a librarian. Ruth Davenport is in a bad way — she’s got a hole burned in her eye as if a tiny meteor made landing in her cornea. Even worse, the police can’t find her body. They find her head atop a pillow and, when they draw back the duvet, a pillowy body that doesn’t belong to Ruth Davenport.
I enjoyed a moment of nostalgia when I first saw Ruth — the face and body have a similar grey sheen to Laura Palmer’s body from that very first episode. To boot, this storyline is perhaps the least creepy of all the ones presented in the first episode. It seems straightforward. There’s a dead body. There are fingerprints all over the room that being to Will Hastings (who gets arrested, despite the fact that he’s having guests over for dinner later).
Of course, it’s not straightforward. There’s a bloated body that doesn’t belong to Ruth. Hastings is suspicious, and that little crater in Ruth’s face doesn’t look like anything a human could do. (We don’t know that much yet, but I’m already blaming dumb fucking college kid and Tracy for Ruth’s death.)
For a show that promises legions of guest stars, very few big ones appeared in the first episode. I jumped a little in my seat when I recognized Constance the Coroner as Jane Adams from Hung. Beyond that, though, it hovered in the banal-bizarre realm that Twin Peaks does best. This is good — reboots run the risk of becoming “special appearance” vaudeville.
The premiere planted seeds: There’s the quarter century absence of Special Agent Cooper. There’s that glass box in New York City summoning slasher demons. And there’s the death of Ruth Davenport, presumably a version of Laura Palmer 2.0.
And, of course, there’s The Giant, who makes one last appearance before the credits roll. A side note: In the credits, the actor Carel Struycken is listed only as “?????” He plays The Giant in the show. So, even the filmmakers don’t know what to make of the somber fellow. Or perhaps they think he’s better off unlabelled. It’s Twin Peaks, so we’ll never really know.