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Blu-ray Review: Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series

December 18, 2017

By John Corrado

Before this long awaited third season of the 1990s pop culture phenomenon Twin Peaks premiered on Showtime earlier this year, channel president David Nevins promised us that it would be the “pure heroin vision of David Lynch,” and for better or for worse this is exactly what we get.

Picking up exactly 25 years after FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) was sent to the northwestern logging town of Twin Peaks to investigate the shocking murder of prom queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), where he ended up discovering a lot of strange things in a world where all is not as it seems, this limited event series takes a deep dive into more of the mythology behind the show.

After getting stuck in the Black Lodge at the end of the first two seasons, the Agent Cooper that returned was a much different man.  With his soul still being trapped in another dimension, Cooper’s doppelgänger is a cold contract killer, who is connected to a series of gruesome murders that catch the attention of FBI agents Gordon Cole (David Lynch), Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer) and new recruit Tammy Preston (Chrysta Bell).  When the original Cooper returns, he ends up taking the form of a brain-injured and selectively verbal insurance salesman named Dougie, who lives in Las Vegas with his wife (Naomi Watts) and young son (Pierce Gagnon), and has flashes of remembering his past.

This new season does take us back to the title town, with one of the main plots involving Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) investigating a cryptic message from the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) pertaining to Agent Cooper.  But a lot of the show, which unfolds over eighteen episodes, takes place elsewhere and focuses on the two different Coopers who are now roaming the earth.  This approach allows us to both catch up with many of the old characters, while also introducing us to new ones who exist both in and out of the town itself.

The new, all-star cast includes Laura Dern as the mysterious Diane Evans, who is working alongside the FBI on the Cooper case.  The show also features a recurring role for Amanda Seyfried, who represents the next generation of Twin Peaks residents and is trying to get out of an abusive relationship of her own, and Michael Cera has a brief but amusing part as the expectedly kooky son of Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) and the delightfully daffy receptionist Lucy (Kimmy Robertson).  There is also an engaging subplot with beloved character actor Harry Dean Stanton, who’s scenes take on an even more bittersweet quality now, after he passed away this fall.

I won’t reveal any more of the plot, both in fear of spoilers and because it would be impossible to put some of what transpires here into words.  So the only question I have left to answer right now is whether or not I think Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series is a successful continuation of the show, and to that I would say yes, but my answer is also much more complicated than that.  I’m a big fan of the original Twin Peaks, so I had high hopes for this new series, and actually chose not to watch it as it aired over the summer because I wanted to wait until I could view it in more rapid succession.

But when I finally started watching this revival of Twin Peaks on Blu-ray, I actually had a hard time getting into it for the first few episodes, which move at a deliberately slow pace and feel somewhat disjointed.  Where the original series offered more of a balance between darker scenes and moments of quirky character humour, this new series starts off by embracing the more nightmarish elements of the show, which can make it overwhelming to watch.  The violence here is also a lot more gruesome than it was allowed to be on network television in the 1990s, and some scenes feel like an endurance test as to how much we can tolerate in terms of grotesque and disturbing images.

Some scenes feel like they go on for twice as long as they need to, and the show often goes off on tangents, introducing multiple different characters and setting up story threads, with the vague promise that they will converge at some point.  Where the original series felt idiosyncratic, at times this new one feels self-indulgent, taking more of its cues from David Lynch’s highly divisive 1992 spinoff movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  But as the show goes on, and more flashes of that old Twin Peaks magic are revealed, this proves to be a mostly rewarding artistic endeavour, and one that deserves praise if only because of how unique and ambitious the whole thing is.

While the original series had its own very specific style and tone, this new series is often its own beast entirely.  It never merely tries to recreate its predecessor, but instead uses it as a jumping off point to flesh out and explore the deeper mysteries and lasting ramifications of the first two seasons.  The show’s grand themes of good versus evil, and the supernatural forces at play in the universe that both keep them apart and connect them together, are explored to an even greater extent here.  The show focuses a lot on the mysterious Red Room, and the points where this alternate dimension connects to our own.

This is a work of abstract art, that is at times more interested in developing a series of sonic and visual landscapes to envelope us in than it is in telling a linear story.  This is especially true of the daring eighth episode Gotta Light?, which unfolds partially in black and white and takes us on a metaphysical journey that branches off from the Trinity atomic bomb test in 1945, and resembles what it might look like if Terrence Malick made a horror movie.  It also introduces us to the terrifying Woodsman (Anthony Marcacci), who rivals BOB (Frank Silva) as the most chilling entity on the show.

What Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series offers is an experience that is hard to definitively compare to anything else, taking us on a ride that is by turns gripping, disorienting, and maddening.  It’s a work that is sometimes mesmerizing and sometimes frustrating, and too much to take in all at once, despite the fact that it often plays more like a seventeen hour movie than it does a typical TV series.  It also offers one hell of an acting showcase for Kyle MacLachlan, who is gripping to watch here has he seamlessly switches between playing an emotionless killer with long, greasy hair and the mentally handicapped but oddly endearing Dougie, portraying both of them brilliantly.

I’m still digesting some of the images that are presented here, but it’s impossible to deny that this is anything but a singular achievement.  If you have the time and stamina to work your way through the series, it’s worth it just to see an old master like David Lynch paint on a much larger canvas than ever before, as he takes the time to explore themes and visual motifs that have been woven in throughout all of his work.  No matter what you ultimately think about Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series, it’s safe to say you haven’t really seen anything like it before.  It’s “pure heroin,” indeed.

The 8-disc Blu-ray set also comes loaded with a wealth of bonus material, including series promos and a selection of three featurettes on the first disc, the entire 2017 Comic-Con panel on the second disc, as well as the extended featurette A Very Lovely Dream: One Week in Twin Peaks, a pair of documentaries on the production shot by actor Richard Beymer, and a “behind the scenes” photo gallery on the seventh disc.  The entire eighth disc is devoted to the lengthy, 10-part documentary Impressions: A Journey Behind the Scenes of Twin Peaks, which offers an in-depth look at the production and plays like a separate series in its own right at several hours long.

Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release.  It runs for approximately 17 hours and 10 minutes, and is rated 14A.

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