Much about The Return is undoubtedly unique. Uniquely bad, uniquely contemptuous, uniquely ambitious, take your pick.
As others have been saying, and for the reasons detailed throughout this thread, it really is one of the worst dramas ever aired. The clinchers were the random “resolution” of the Dougie “plot”, Killer BOB being dispatched by ruddy good WHACK from a Mockney pisstake, the “it was all a dream” cop-out (i.e. everything you ever cared about in TP and FWWM erased) and above all the retcon of Laura’s murder at the hands of Leland, the heart of the entire mythos. That last one in particular really hurt, as it was meant to.
Next time you watch the Giant say “It is happening again” you’ll think “No it isn’t. It never happened in the first place.” Next time you watch Maddie’s murder, Killer BOB might look scary, but then you’ll remember the cheeky chappie who finally dispatched him, and how. Next time you watch BOB hack at Laura in the train car, you’ll chill out a bit because, you know…
But these didn’t just clinch the show’s historic (biblical) awfulness and audience antagonism. They also confirmed a sense that’s been simmering away all summer and then grew this final week, which is that we were always meant to find this awful. We were never meant to enjoy or appreciate it, just as no one was meant to enjoy or appreciate Metal Machine Music. The awfulness was too extreme, too out-there, to be explained just by a loss of ability from the creators. One last time: it was systematically awful.
Meaning that the one group of viewers who have undoubtedly shat the bed, critically speaking, are those posting so rapturously about their investment in the “characters” and “storylines”. Just as they were never meant to warm to the Diane tulpa, never mind hit anyone who criticised her with risible defences about her “womanly strength in a man’s world” etc, so they were never meant to warm to this show. As with that tulpa, their defend-Lynch-at-all-costs blindness means they’ve gloriously missed the point.
Which is that this series was never meant to be enjoyed or appreciated. Appreciation implies a handing over of some kind, a giving from artist to audience, and The Return was never about giving the audience anything at all (except maybe one thing; see below). Instead it was about stripping everything away: expectations/hopes of resolution, of beauty or significance or coherence, meaning, purpose, value, suspension of disbelief, even basic interest and engagement, the murder of Laura Palmer (Who killed Laura Palmer? No one did, sucker), the very existence of all these characters we cared about, etc. If you produced a list of what viewers most value in filmed drama, you’d find that this show tried to strip almost every one of them away. Hence those hundreds of flaws examined so forensically in this thread, and the likelihood that the stuff from months ago about deliberate “shoddiness”, or something very like it, explains them all.
There’s an expression in Advaita Vedanta, neti-neti, the nearest translation of which is ‘not this, not that.’ It’s one of the primary tools (‘anti-tool’ might be better) employed in this strain of Hinduism to help people strip away illusions and attain enlightenment/nirvana. And what does nirvana actually mean? A ‘snuffing out’. Annihilation. Ultimate desolation (in the nicest possible sense). And so the need for neti-neti to strip everything away, such as the illusions of individuality, good vs bad, value in general, time, space, meaning, purpose, coherence, any and all concepts and categories, language itself, existence itself, the lot. Anyone who’s ever gone through this process (‘anti-process’ might be better) will tell you it can be pretty harrowing. Just like watching The Return.
No need to say much more, other than The Return, at least in the creators’ imaginations, may have been a deliberately harrowing stripping away of everything from the audience – the audience’s illusions, as they’d see it – with the aim of priming them for that ultimate desolation, blastedness, bereftness, nothingness (no-thing-ness) so valued in Eastern thought and practice. And there’s something admirably ambitious about trying this through a telly drama.
This series may well have been the worst viewing experience of my lifetime, unprecedentedly bad, uniquely bad, but if some guru told you or I to sit in a pitch-black cave for eighteen hours, we might find that a pretty bad experience too. The guru may still be on the side of the angels, though, in his/her eyes at least.
Now all we need is for our two gurus to drop in to check fans’ reactions.
“Let’s see, the Profoundly Disappointed Support Group has four thousand posts, while the Profoundly Satisfied Support Group has thirty-two. High-five, Mark! We pulled it off.”
Lights snuffed out. Darkness. Nothing.
Lynch on Trump, mid-2018: "He could go down as one of the greatest presidents in history."