Long-time lurker, second-time poster…
I don’t know if there’s been another show that changed as much during its run as Twin Peaks. Go back and watch that first season, the one that made most fans fall in love. There’s just the right amount of Lynchian weirdness and unpredictability, with plenty of leisurely scenes that focus on developing the characters, but it never lost momentum. The stakes are clear, every character is vivid, almost every line is crisp and memorable, and despite the fact that we’re watching the investigation of a brutal murder, there’s this almost omnipresent warmth: Cooper’s enthusiasm and fascination, Audrey’s infatuation, the goofy-good-heartedness of the entire sheriff’s department and the romances – James and Donna, Bobby and Shelley, Ed and Norma.
That warmth is the element most glaringly missing from The Return; I don’t know what’s happened with Lynch and Frost to make them portray their once-beloved town and characters so darkly, but it’s stark and off-putting. Sure, there’s humor of a sort, but it’s this cold, absurdist slapstick, where a man-child in the form of Kyle MacLachlan, the previous heart of the show, stumbles around like a stroke victim and everyone around him acts like it’s normal, even a doctor.
We learned from the casino scene early on that the Lodge was somehow guiding him to good fortune with the image over the slot machines, which means we know, deep down, nothing all that bad will happen to Dougie. It’s anti-drama, anti-tension. Every episode or two, some bad guy will plot Dougie’s demise, and he’ll obliviously escape the danger, like the Roadrunner escaping the coyote.
Think about it, in the original series, there was this constant sense of tension and potential danger: Leo beating Shelley, Bobby and Mike are out to get James, Hank beating up Leo, the masked man attacks Jacoby, Shelley and Catherine are trapped in the burning mill, Harold Smith is vaguely menacing to Donna… and as demonstrated with Maddy’s murder, almost anybody could die. It was a big cast, almost anybody was expendable!
We’ve coalesced into three separate storylines: Las Vegas, the FBI team, and back in town. Las Vegas feels like this entirely separate Lynch idea that has been reworked around Cooper and shoehorned into a series titled “Twin Peaks.” Does Dougie feel love to his family? Maybe, kinda, sorta? Does Janey-E love Dougie? Apparently, although she doesn't seem worried at all that he's been mute for several days.
The FBI team disappears for episodes at a time, and there’s a strange coldness to Cole and Albert. Coop was once very close to both; you would think Cooper’s disappearance would really haunt them, and they would feel this intense need to know what happened to him. The Lynchian pacing just doesn't fit here; we're watching a top FBI team drink leisurely and hang out with French babes in a South Dakotan hotel while a maniacal killer is on the loose.
And the show “Twin Peaks” has only an intermittent interest in the characters in town in the title. We’ve got 18 one-hour episodes with no commercials, but the show can’t seem to check in on any particular townsfolk regularly. Sarah Palmer’s scenes are great, but we ignored her for eight or nine episodes.
As some others have said, the show has some strong scenes and some fine performances, but they rarely add up to a satisfying episode. Sometimes chilling, occasionally intriguing, often bewildering… but rarely if ever particularly enjoyable or fun to watch. In all likelihood, this is our last visit to this unparalleled fictional town, and it just feels like there were so many other possibilities ignored…