The first season of Twin Peaks remains one of the most satisfying viewing experiences of my life. When the 90-minute pilot debuted on ABC on April 8, 1990, just two months shy of my high school graduation, I was instantly slayed. It was like the TV gods took all of my favorite things — a compelling, suspenseful murder mystery, mountain-high emotional stakes, rich characters, measured quirkiness — and rolled them into one series.
But like many Twin Peaks fans, I broke up with the series midway into Season 2, when David Lynch’s maiden television voyage became too weird and inscrutable for its own good. And with the Laura Palmer mystery essentially wrapped up, there was nothing holding all of the craziness together. I continued watching, but it became a chore. And by the time the series began turning itself around in the final episodes, it was already too late: The legacy of Twin Peaks was forever stained in my mind. (And the woeful feature film Fire Walk With Me only made matters worse.)
I was counting on the Showtime rebirth to give my Twin Peaks love story the happy ending that I was denied 25 years ago. And when I spoke to co-creator Mark Frost back in October 2014, just as the revival was getting off the ground, I practically begged him to promise me that the continuation would do just that. “It’s our hope that these episodes will give the fans everything they felt they hadn’t gotten the last time we left off,” he assured me.
Now, having seen the 18-part continuation’s super-sized premiere installment (which bowed Sunday at 9/8c), it’s hard not to feel like I’ve been completely, utterly duped. The two-hour kickoff did not repair the damage wrought by Season 2. If anything, it was like taking a sip of damn fine coffee after learning that someone had stuck a fish in the pot.
To say I was disappointed by the revival’s indulgent, incomprehensible, taxing opening act would be a towering understatement. I won’t even attempt to break down the central storyline because, well, there is no central storyline. There are five or six narrative threads that are randomly intercut throughout the two hours featuring mostly new and uninteresting characters played by actors as wooden as the nightstand drawer pull in which Josie was trapped, and scenes that dragged on for what felt like eternity. Yes, Kyle MacLachlan’s Dale Cooper snags a fair amount of screen time, but he’s not channeling our beloved G-man. Instead, he toggles between Mute Cooper (of Black Lodge fame) and Evil Agent Cooper (of possessed-by-Bob infamy), the latter of whom appears to be working as some kind of hitman. The sight of MacLachlan decked out as a psychotic Elvis Presley, while initially amusing, mostly just makes me miss good Agent Cooper all the more. I have to assume he’ll eventually show up, but, man, he would’ve been a welcome, grounding presence in this two-hour opener.
I’m going to refrain from summarizing the other “plots” (I’ll leave that unenviable task to my colleague and Twin Peaks recapper Kim Roots), except to say one features a Laura Palmer-like murder in South Dakota, one revolves around a mysterious glass box/alien portal in New York City, and one is set in good ol’ Twin Peaks and features, most movingly, the return of the late Catherine Coulson as the ailing Log Lady.
I have to imagine at some point in the 18-hour excursion we will learn how all of these disparate puzzle pieces fit together, but I’m not certain I will have the patience to stick around to find out. None of them came close to hooking me the way the Laura Palmer mystery did. Not a single one featured a character I was invested in. Staying the course almost feels like an exercise in masochism, especially considering Lynch (who directed all 18 parts) said himself that the entire season was fashioned as one seamless, if extra-large, feature film. If this were an actual movie, I would’ve left the theater the moment it became clear the most interesting character was a tree branch with a brain attached to it. Heck, any tree branch with a brain would’ve walked out, too.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival took all of the problems that plagued Season 2 and Fire Walk With Me, amplified them and stretched them out for two extremely long hours. To put it bluntly, we were handed the equivalent of a giant stinky log.