judasbooth wrote:It's awful.
Not just awful compared to the original series, but objectively awful as a piece of TV drama. To be honest, I was hearing alarm bells way before the show started airing. Lynch said that he would be shooting digitally. Uh-oh, I thought. Maybe this is appropriate as an aesthetic choice for something abstract and experimental like Inland Empire, but not for Twin Peaks. Next, they announced the cast list and stated that there were dozens of speaking parts. Really? How would it be possible to fit all them into 18 episodes and still have room for character development? Following that, Showtime announced that the new series would be "the pure heroin version of David Lynch". Hosannas ensued. Finally, a pure artistic statement from Lynch, unfettered by the suits and philistines at the network! Uh-oh, I thought. Did this mean that we would be getting a weekly dose of impenetrable surrealism? Relax, I told myself. Frost is on board. He's a skilled TV dramatist who'll rein in Lynch's more indulgent tendencies. They might be shooting digital, but plenty of other director do this with beautiful results. And then I started watching...
There are so many things wrong with the show that it's actually hard to remember them all. It's not until someone points out some forgotten detail from a previous episode that I think to myself, oh yeah, that was terrible. Remember the caretaker/handyman from the Buckhorn apartment building? Totally pointless, utterly irrelevant, a waste of screen time. The junkie in the Vegas house? Ditto. Dougie's flirtatious young work colleague? Yep. The weird grotesques in Beaula's shack? DING! Beverly's husband? Honestly, who cares? The weird zombie child in the car? Whatever. There are probably tons more that I can't think of right now. I have trouble remembering a lot of the previous episodes, probably because they have been so excruciatingly boring.
My feeling is this: Lynch never wanted to make a new Twin Peaks. He basically made an 18-hour Inland Empire and funded it by slapping the name Twin Peaks on top and shoving in some of the old characters as window dressing. The only thing the returning characters have in common with their former selves is their names. Norma and Ed are made of cardboard, Andy and Lucy are a pair of blank-faced retards, Audrey is a raving harridan, Dr Jacoby is some kind of sub-Alex Jones conspiracy nutter, and Special Agent Dale Cooper, the heart and soul of Twin Peaks has been reduced to a mute, brain-dead zombie, who, so far, has had precisely one line of dialogue.
Visually, it's absolutely appalling. Nasty, brittle, cold digital videography, and badly shot, to boot. Hard to believe that Showtime gave Lynch a big budget, given how cheap it looks (and don't get me started on the shockingly bad CGI). Couple this with the almost complete lack of music and some of the worst acting I've ever seen and what's left is a stagey parody of Twin Peaks shot on an iPhone.
Lynch and Frost have basically taken everything that was good about the original series (old-fashioned things like character development, story, plot, visuals, humour, music, atmosphere) and trashed it, in the pursuit of a story nobody actually cares about. Honestly, does anyone really care where BOB came from? The character was an archetype, a symbol for "the evil that men do". Albert helpfully pointed this out in S2. The real story of Twin Peaks wasn't BOB or even Laura Palmer. It was the hidden lives of the townsfolk and the conflicts between them. Laura Palmer was a classic McGuffin. Her only purpose was to serve as a pretext for the arrival of Special Agent Dale Cooper, and Cooper was the protagonist through whose eyes we would discover the mysteries of the town. The original series had a strong protagonist. This series has no protagonist whatsoever. We are adrift in a sea of...stuff.
The tone is unremittingly bleak and misanthropic with virtually no human warmth to balance it out or give it context. Weirdly, despite the graphic nature of the violence this time around, it's nowhere near as frightening or disturbing as Maddy Ferguson's murder was. So what's the point? The characters that are killed are completely undeveloped, so when they finally get stabbed/decapitated/shot the reaction from the audience is one of "meh". The only truly upsetting moment was Richard running over the little boy, and that just felt like tawdry gratuitous shock tactics for the sake of it.
Ah, they say, what about Episode 8, one of the most ground-breaking pieces of visual art ever made, they say. I respectfully disagree. All I saw was a rather bad rehash of the stargate sequence of 2001 bolted on to Night of the Living Dead. Oh, and by the way, I was a teenager in the nineties, and "the" Nine Inch Nails were always nothing more than a joke band fronted by a man who took himself way too seriously and who made crappy sub-industrial electro-rock for white middle-class suburban goths. I know that he's Lynch's pal, but Trent Reznor belongs back in 1997, along with Marilyn Manson, Balthazar Getty's soul patch and Patricia Arquette's stripper heels.
As a Lynch fan, I've defended him many times when people who don't like his films dismiss him as a self-indulgent piss-taker and his fans as pretentious pseuds. Blue Velvet, to me, is a masterpiece. Mulholland Drive is one of my favourite films of all time. And yet, as I watch this new "Twin Peaks", I can't shake the feeling that Lynch is conforming to every negative stereotype that has ever been pinned on him; glacial pacing, bad acting, baffling non-sequitors, wilful obscurantism, meaningless symbolism masquerading as profundity, gratuitous and pointless violence, leery misogyny, and an antagonistic contempt for his audience. I can't tell you how sad this makes me.
And yet, and yet... I'll be here until the bitter end. I'm resigned to the fact that the show will go out with a whimper. Even if, in the unlikely event that the remaining five episodes turn out to be flawless, they still won't make up for what has everything that preceded them. We're at the point when we can stop kidding ourselves that it's going to get better.
Profoundly disappointed? Yep.
Some things I'd like to contest here:
It being "ugly" cinematographically: well yes, it looks nowhere near as cinematic or polished as shows like Fargo or True Detective etc. But from the early 00s forward Lynch has embraced the very raw look of digital, dating right back to its consumer beginnings. And complaints about bad CGI are imo completely worthless ones, because he's using CGI in exactly the same way he's used practical effects and paint and clay right back from Eraserhead through into the terrible composite face shots in the Twin Peaks pilot into Robert Blake in Lost Highway into the jitterbug in MD... it's just done digitally instead. When Dougie's melted into the little gold ball it is meant to look as crude and ridiculous as it does.
Some of the throwaway characters you mention are possibly valid criticisms, but I disagree about a few. Beverly's husband is important. It informs her relationship with Ben completely; it humanises her and explains her behaviour beyond being a simple TV trope. The zombie child in the car is an extremely memorable moment for me. It tops off a great sequence of sound and energy. Whether it returns or not I don't know but I don't really care if it doesn't.
Now, crucially: I think David Lynch DID want to continue Twin Peaks, but he had little interest in many of the characters that he left 25 years ago. I think it was telling when he referred to the "world" of Twin Peaks as being the thing that he loved, and it's the idea of taking a world that's been broken and depraved and potentially seeing it reborn (through Coop) that is the root interest in the story. Lynch (and Frost, judging from his Twitter) are very pessimistic about the state of culture and humanity today and it shows. For some this may not be justifiable enough to warrant the application of such an idea over a show that they loved, but for me it is. In a blanket kind of way it is pretty misanthropic, but there are beacons of hope and humanity dotted throughout. I've been touched many times over the hours we've had so far.
I don't want to try to turn everything back into a "Well, but like, that's the point, man!" thing but I really think a lot of the new show's portrayals of violence have to be seen in the context of the above too. When Ike the Spike stabs the woman to death, it's intentionally gratuitous in a way I can't remember seeing Lynch go for before. The casual treatment of murder, corruption, all forms of violence are symptomatic of a greater cultural problem. Something's bad wrong.
Some people just don't buy that I guess, or they feel it's heavy-handed or unwarranted... and that's fine. But I really feel it. And I'm glad Lynch & Frost decided to tell this story in this particular way.