Guess this is as good a place as any for a mini-review. Very mild references to specific things may follow. I was late to the party, waiting to watch the first four parts until I had finished re-watching the original show and movie on Blu-ray, and reading Frost's book (I also went to the movie in a theater via BD projection on Monday). I watched them Monday and Tuesday, and have re-watched 1 and 2. Some background -- I call Lynch my "sentimental favorite" filmmaker because of the long association, but I have no trouble calling him out. My feelings on this show have gone back and forth, but sadly they're trending towards the negative. Considering the (unprecedented?) structure of this show, it's difficult for any of us to offer a full appraisal. At the moment, things aren't looking good.
Even the most ardent supporters of this new series have to admit that expectations factor in. "TP", at its best, probably had the most distinctive style/rhythm/look of any TV show in history. It's hard to let go of that style in your mind when looking at this new show, even though we all expected that it would be different and were okay with the idea in theory. Just how different it is, is what's shocking, so much so that I don't know why the original theme in the same form is even used. Lynch's second season episodes, and of course the movie, showed him kind of throwing out the established conventions of previous episodes. It's clear he has no interest in continuing what others or even he had done (and that was exhilarating; perhaps my favorite episode is number 8 where he totally changed the rhythms of the first season). It feels like Lynch is challenging us more than ever with this new show (at least I hope it is a conscious challenge on his part) to let go. I'm hoping that at some point (perhaps when a certain character "comes back") we're meant to feel the passage of time (the one scene so far like that, in the police station in 4, fell flat and felt artificial).
Even getting past the expectations game (which is easy; you can't fight with it too much), what's on the screen has to work. To me, it largely hasn't so far. It's absurdist, traditional Lynch subject matter, but it's not very funny, not scary (no, the NYC scene wasn't scary), not terribly involving, and most glaring of all, not emotional or introspective. Some of this does go back to expectations, but this is beyond just what you'd expect from Lynch or "TP"; much of it isn't working on any level. Where's the emotion, the feeling? Even though "Inland" is a great movie, its greatest flaw is the blank that is Dern's character. This show makes that look like a deep character study. The new characters so far are fluff, nothing, just tools. One of the greatest characters in TV history is also just
. Will the show turn a corner and gel when he returns? I don't know. The rhythms are off. Lynch uses music and sound better than perhaps any other director, and he's not afraid to use them as equal to anything happening on screen, not to overpower it, but as drivers. So much of this show is silent, particularly the sheriff's station stuff, which is just dreadful (I wanted to kill myself during a scene with a former child actor). Again, it's not just that it's different, but that it doesn't work in and of itself. It feels energy-less, rushed, rusty. The episode dividers are hipster bands playing largely uninspired music in a stiff fashion (one miming without its main instrument, the synth). Did hipster bands apply to be on this show or something?
Topping my list of issues is the look of the show. The digital cinematography and lighting are dreadful. Clarity is the enemy of the absurd and surreal. The whole thing is too clean looking and sharp. It should have been shot on film or, barring that, a MiniDV camcorder like "Inland". I suspected that the length of it would lead to rushed set-ups, and it feels like that's the case.
So I don't know, guys. This is the piece of filmed (or I guess "recorded") entertainment that has made me the most anxious of anything for the past few years, and I desperately want it to be great. I re-watched some pieces of parts 3 and 4 this morning and felt more positive, and could easily watch them again and have a different feeling. Lynch's stuff is sometimes like that -- you have up-and-down relationships with it. Sometimes I'll be able to get into stuff he does, and other times it leaves me cold, even movies I've watched multiple times. I've fought with "FWWM" for 25 years, but re-watching it recently after several years, I have turned a corner with it and like many aspects of that very flawed work. I liked "Inland", previously his most experimental work, instantly, but it took two viewings for "Lost Highway", and I still don't much like the film version of "Mulholland" and feel it's flawed and perhaps his worst movie, although I have had times where I liked aspects of it. This new thing doesn't feel even as good as what I previously considered his worst work, and if it doesn't improve, will be the worst.