Long-time lurker here. I just want to thank everyone for the wonderful discussions that took place here during the run!
When The Return started I was hopeful, because David Lynch is one of my all-time favorite directors (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are my favorite films of his, I do regard Inland Empire as his worst). He always has been an inconsistent director so I thought after the mess that was IE he might redeem himself. In the beginning I was quite enthusiastic and really into it. But more and more during the running I felt something was off. One of the first real disappointments was revealing Diane. This thread helped me in articulating this nagging feeling that increased until finally, after the finale (which ironically contained the best part of the whole Return) I concluded this is one of the most disastrous pieces of art I've ever seen and in terms of 'having your head up your ass' to paraphrase Tarantino it's up there or even surpassing the excrement that is Godard's Week-End.
Ultimately there is nothing in The Return that is worth understanding. Narratively, it's a vacuous mess. It's a collection of vignettes seemingly connected. However, in actuality it's a hodgepodge of ideas that Frost/Lynch have had over the years (such as the Dougie plot being based on an old screenplay they wrote). Add to this that Gordon Cole, a once quirky side-character reliant on a limited number of jokes, is suddenly being elevated to main character status. Exemplary is the scene where he looks back over his shoulder at Lynch's own art exhibition in Paris: it's clear that there is an element of narcissism involved. In the end the exploding television in the opening of FWWM (a film I wasn't too fond of either, because the murder of Laura should never have been put on film) is a nice symbol of how Lynch didn't like the collaborative effort that was the original run. He has staged a coup and deconstructed Twin Peaks for the advancement of a vanity project. Visually, it's lazily composed (especially the mise-en-scene) and appalling. The same shock effects Lynch has always used, but to lesser impact.
Although the finale had some arresting moments, it's the Lost Highway idea repeated for the fourth time in a row. What made that film and Mulholland Drive work was that on an intuitive level, the mysteries made sense. The point of a mystery is that one has the feeling it is solvable somehow. Mulholland Drive can be understood, even though it might be difficult to put in words. When a mystery becomes mere obfuscation with random unrelated tangents anything goes: a story of incoherent gibberish is not a story. Any meaning derived is arbitrary. This is one of the big problems of The Return.
As I said earlier, Twin Peaks was a collaborative effort from the beginning, with contributions from Peyton and Engels for instance. Lynch was kept on a leash and his contribution was just one amongst many. Frost seemed to have exercised more control over the series then. This was something I had forgotten when The Return was first announced, giving too much credit to Lynch only. The praise he gets showered with for this is utterly baffling to me. Besides a textbook example of the emperor's new clothes, it shows how pervasive and detrimental the myth of the artistic genius is. As Brian Eno once stated, it's more apt to speak of a 'scenius', someone who can only thrive because he is part of a larger community. In film, too much importance is placed on the auteur theory as well, giving all credit to the director (meaning that Frost sometimes doesn't get enough credit for The Return). What is a director without good people to work with (what is Bergman without Nykvist, or Ozu without Noda)? We see the answer here. Film is the ultimate democratic artform, an amalgamation of the ideas of many people culminating in magic on the screen, which my favorite director John Cassavetes understood like no other.
In the end, how The Return might have been worthwhile was with 9 episodes, Lynch directing on film instead of digital, Frost/Peyton/Engels writing.