As foreseen by the enchanting Laura Palmer, “Twin Peaks” is back after nearly 25 years. Kyle MacLachlan (“Portlandia”) returns with some of the original cast: Sheryl Lee (“Winter’s Bone”), Richard Beymer (“West Side Story”) and Al Strobel (“Child of Darkness, Child of Light”) among many others. While many of the faces from the show have returned, the heart of “Twin Peaks” has changed, if only by a small margin. Although a triumph for David Lynch (“Eraserhead”), the Showtime limited release differs in spirit from Seasons One and Two.
Season Three opens with a prophecy from The Giant delivered to Agent Cooper in a dream, or a space like the Black Lodge. The scene proceeds in typical “Twin Peaks” style — patient, eerie and bizarre. Their conversation, cast in black and white, precedes a delivery of shovels to Dr. Jacoby at his idyllic, quiet shack in the woods. After these two scenes, with their intensity juxtaposed, the narrative clips to New York City, eventually zooming in on an empty glass box inside a high-rise, monitored consistently on all sides by video cameras and a watchman. The man and the box stare each other down in a moment of quiet tension that is broken by a notification to change the memory card on camera three.
Within the first 10 minutes, “Twin Peaks” establishes itself as a continuation of the narrative, but through different techniques. The original two seasons were firmly grounded in the fictional location, with occasional forays across the border to One-Eyed Jack’s. Season Three defies the constriction to the town of Laura Palmer’s death and flicks back and forth between storylines and timelines, which would be less disorienting if there weren’t so many new characters and facets. Perhaps, as viewers, it may be necessary to trust that the direction will answer its own questions and fill in its own blanks, like when watching “Game of Thrones.” Angelo Badalamenti’s sultry jazz and musical motifs are also lacking, leaving the audience listening to the sounds of the moment — footsteps, an alarm, the scratch of a record player.
Most dramatically, the pallette of the series has changed. Many scenes are cast in cool, dark shades, which evoke gloom and heaviness. Other brighter scenes are shown white, creating a mood of hostility and sharpness. However, when Lynch turns back to the core characters that occupy Twin Peaks — Cooper, his doppelganger, Ben and Jerry Horne, The Log Lady, Hawk and Lucy — he restores the rich, warm, earthy tones that visually defined Seasons One and Two.
The episode itself reaches two separate climaxes that at first seem to have nothing in common. The first is the grisly murder of the watchman and his daring lover, who comes to visit at an inopportune time. As they begin to have sex, a violent specter appears in the glass, bursts out of the box and shreds the couple’s heads. The second is the discovery of the decapitated head of Ruth Davenport, shot in the eye, and the body of an unidentified man in the bed of Ruth’s apartment. Lynch returns to the murder of a young, beautiful girl as a crux for the narrative. While Lynch may have left other visual motifs behind, the motifs of headlessness or the separation between body and mind are established twice within the first episode.
In short, “Twin Peaks” stays true to Lynch — macabre, strange images and questions rather than answers. Episodes One and Two, released simultaneously, provide a rich, mystifying experience that may take two or more viewings to fully understand. While die-hard fans may struggle adjusting to the disparities, the limited release is ambitious, looking beyond the confines of its legacy and into the plight of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.