Ian Harris: How "Twin Peaks: The Return" changed the revival game forever

NOSELL

Showtime

 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 5:19pm

Even the most die-hard of "Twin Peaks" fans could never have imagined that a "Twin Peaks" revival would look anything like this. The new season of the beloved series at times barely resembled the show that many love and remember from the early 90s. While every other modern revival of an old classic ("Ghostbusters," "Star Wars," "Rocky," "Fuller House," etc.) seems to treat the original like the holy gospel, "Twin Peaks: The Return" flies in the face of everything that people thought they loved about the original series. Dale Cooper? He’s barely in this — at least not in the way you remember him. Audrey Horne? Time has not been kind to her. Nor has it been to basically anyone else. If there’s one thing "The Return" is commenting on, it’s the very nature of TV returns, and how things can never truly return to exactly the way you remember them.

While everyone else in the entertainment world has been trying desperately to recreate the glory days, David Lynch has used the "Twin Peaks" name to con Showtime into giving him 18 hours to make what is quite possibly the strangest program to ever air on primetime TV. It is, in every sense of the word, esoteric. It barely follows its own internal rules, much less the rules that we usually expect to govern narratives involving characters and actions. At times hilarious and at times demented, it is, more than anything else, unexpected. For that, we must be eternally grateful.

In the age of the never-ending story, Lynch is at long last bringing about an end to a story that he never got to end on his own terms. It's well-known that Lynch and Mark Frost were forced to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer earlier than they intended to and that they were advised to create as much of a cliffhanger as possible at the end of the second season to incentivize the network to renew the show. That didn't work. "Twin Peaks" was cancelled and since then has remained one of the biggest unresolved cliffhangers in television history. The prequel film follow-up, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," only added more questions. So, rather than being a cash-grab revival designed to stir up feelings of nostalgia for the original and nothing more, "Twin Peaks: The Return" is one of the few revivals of the past few years that has felt necessary. It seems clear that “The Return” isn’t just a retread of old ideas, but an actual conclusion that is forcing audiences to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew about the "Twin Peaks" world. Of course, this season also ended in an infuriating cliffhanger, but before that happened, the main Bob/Cooper plotline was wrapped up and many of the characters were given a sense of closure. Your mileage on the final episode may vary but "Twin Peaks" was never going to end on a note of definite closure. This is still David Lynch, after all.

We need more revivals like this one. We need more artists who are willing to use brand recognition not just to make money, but also to promote new and exciting ideas and stories. "Twin Peaks: The Return" is nothing like the original "Twin Peaks" series, and it is all the better for it. There's no point in bringing something back only to do the exact same thing. If more creators follow in Lynch’s footsteps, we could see the beginnings of an entire era of avant-garde renditions of classic IP hitting the airwaves. Sadly, "The Return" has received only average ratings for Showtime, and although it’s unclear whether or not the show can be considered a success, when you factor in online subscriptions, it’s certainly not the runaway hit that the original series was by any means. What this means for future projects like this is hard to say, but it’s certainly possible that other networks and companies will take the wrong lessons from the "Twin Peaks" revival: that giving millions of dollars to auteur filmmakers is a mistake, no matter what the brand is they are attempting to retool.

In any case, what Lynch has done with "Twin Peaks" is something that should rightfully be admired. While "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Rocky" and many other franchises resort to what has come to be known as the "soft reboot" (essentially a way to remake an old film while still keeping the original continuity), Lynch has gone out of the box to create something that stands completely on its own and is wholly unique compared to what has come before it, to the point that it’s debatable whether or not "Twin Peaks" and "Twin Peaks: The Return" can even be directly compared. Where other reboots leave you wondering if you stepped into a time portal, asking yourself, “What year is it?” with "Twin Peaks: The Return," David Lynch re-affirms himself as one of the great auteur filmmakers and reminds audiences that "Twin Peaks" is one of the most original and thought-provoking television series of all time.