September 3, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Twin Peaks”


Debates about what, if any, garments a television emperor has been wearing have rarely been as polarizing as the ones surrounding Showtime’s reboot of TWIN PEAKS, 25 years after the ABC original arrived in a blaze of glory only to be canceled a season later.  The emperor in this case was David Lynch (along with his majordomo, series co-creator and co-writer of the season’s scripts Mark Frost), and once the 18 hours of the reboot were underway, viewers split into two camps.  There were those–the present writer among them–who thought a reboot of Twin Peaks should be, well, something like a reboot of Twin Peaks, a work somewhat faithful to the characters, narrative and tone of the original.

Others–you couldn’t really call them numerous, considering the abysmal ratings, but they were certainly loud–felt passionately that David Lynch’s willingness to revisit the Twin Peaks universe, directing and co-writing all 18 hours himself, was nothing less than a gift from the cosmos, and that anything he wanted to do with it was by definition precious.  It didn’t really matter from week to week what the new Twin Peaks was.  Utter impenetrability was brilliance, and so were copious exposition dumps.  A pace that jumped all over without explanation was genius, and so were hours that would have had to speed up in order to be said to crawl.  A simple establishing shot of New York in the opening episode was treated like the invention of sound.  If characters acted the way they did in 1990, that was fantastic, and if they didn’t, that was equally blessed.  The fact that Kyle MacLachlan didn’t appear as FBI Agent Dale Cooper from the premiere until the 16th hour was a masterstroke.  The literal was jaw-dropping, and the abstract was throat-clutching.  There isn’t much that can be said about this kind of reasoning; talking to a Twin Peaks true believer was like trying to tell a religious zealot that his or her faith was just a myth.

For the rest of us, what was most disappointing about this Twin Peaks was that it betrayed the very thing that made the original great.  Lynch (and Frost) created Twin Peaks at a moment in his career where he was trying to bridge the gap between avant-garde filmmaking and pop culture.  That quest made The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and even his misbegotten Dune exciting, and it reached its zenith with Twin Peaks, which for a while was both a compelling piece of storytelling and a long step away from conventional narrative.  It’s the reason Twin Peaks, despite its short run, is one of the most influential shows of its generation.  The 2017 Twin Peaks mined the original series iconography, but it was basically 18 hours of Inland Empire, Lynch’s 2006 3-hour art object.

Nothing in tonight’s 2-hour finale will change anyone’s minds about the new Twin Peaks.  To the extent the series had a narrative, the opening hour more or less wrapped that up.  Dale Cooper’s evil doppelganger was dispatched with a bullet from the gun of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), of all people, and his body disappeared into the Lodge.  Cooper reunited with the Twin Peaks Sheriffs Department, and with FBI Agents Albert Rosenfeld (the late Miguel Ferrer) and Gordon Cole (Lynch himself).  About 10 minutes of the episode was presented with an image of… Cooper?… superimposed over the action.  Extended clips from the original Twin Peaks pilot and the post-ABC feature Fire Walk With Me suggested that Cooper might be able to rescue Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) from the dead.

I won’t pretend to comprehend what was going on in the final hour.  After an opening few minutes in which we saw that Evil Doppelganger Cooper burned up in the Lodge and that a new version of Dougie Jones was created to live happily in Las Vegas with his wife and son, things took a turn that was weird even by the standards of this Twin Peaks.  A person who may or may not have been the original Cooper was transported to a place that may or may not have been an alternate dimension (it also may have been this Earth in the era of the atom bomb test sequence from earlier in the season).  Initially, “Cooper” was with someone who may or may not have been Diane (Laura Dern), but she left after they had sex, leaving him a note that referred to them by two different names.  Then “Cooper” stopped in a diner with the name of the evil entity “Judy,” and knew the waitress who was out that day was someone who may or may not have been Laura Palmer.  After a lot (a lot!) of driving, they arrived in a Twin Peaks where there were no Palmers.  Then “Laura” screamed, the lights blacked out, and… scene.  There was no resolution to whatever was going on with Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), no ending for that matter for all the rest of the shards of character and plot that had been thrown our way.

I don’t mean to make the Showtime Twin Peaks sound like a complete waste of time.  There were sequences of horror, beauty and fantasy that only David Lynch could have filmed, some astonishing soundscapes, and even some humor that occasionally seemed to be intentional.  MacLachlan was tireless playing his 3 (4?) roles.  But Showtime had originally wanted the project to be 10 or 11 hours, while Lynch insisted that it be 18, and that gave him license for an unprecedented degree of self-indulgence.  There is indeed something great about a conglomerate like Showtime (part of the CBS/Viacom empire) writing a check for tens of millions of dollars to an uncompromising artist, and airing what he gives them–it just wasn’t as great to have to sit through it all.  (Showtime, for its part, calls Twin Peaks a success despite the ratings, but based on metrics it won’t specify relating to the number of people who signed up for the network’s streaming service in order to watch.)

This much can be said for sure:  whether you loved it or endured it, Twin Peaks stood alone even among the multitudes that make up Peak TV.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."