Sunday, May 21, 2017

It Is Happening Again

The groundbreaking TV show Twin Peaks which, among other things, writes Matt Zoller Seitz, was an unrelenting and mystifying meditation on grief and trauma, returns after 26 years.

The revered TV show Twin Peaks returns tonight on the Showtime channel . . . 26 years after it last aired.

The series that begins this evening is considered the show's third, and takes place 25 years after the events of season two. In the last episode of that season, the murdered Laura Palmer tells FBI special agent Dale Cooper in the otherworldly Red Room of the Black Lodge that "I'll see you again in 25 years." . . . And so here we are.

(NOTE: For a 5-minute video recap of the Twin Peaks story so far, click here.)

As with the two original seasons, season three, also being called Twin Peaks: The Return, is created by Mark Frost and David Lynch. It's a "limited series event," consisting of 18 episodes. Two episodes have been selected to be screened at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.

Many original cast members have returned for season three, including Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper, Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson, Ray Wise as Leland Palmer, Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer, Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne, Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson, Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs, Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward, Michael Horse as Tommy "Hawk" Hill, Harry Goaz as Andy Brennan, Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran, James Marshall as James Hurley, Everett McGill as Ed Hurley, Wendy Robie as Nadine Hurley, and Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings. Director David Lynch will also reprise his role as the hard of hearing FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole.

Above: The three different covers for the March 31, 2017 issue of Entertainment Weekly, featuring some of the returning Twin Peaks cast members. From left: Wendy Robie as Nadine Hurley, Everett McGill as Ed Hurley, James Marshall as James Hurley, Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, David Lynch as Gordon Cole, Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper, Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horn, Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson, Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs, and Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings.

I was sorry to hear that one of my favorite characters in the show, Catherine Martell* (played by Piper Laurie [right]), won't be present in season three.

Talking to Entertainment Weekly earlier this month, Laurie said: "I did send a note to David [Lynch] that I would be delighted to return, but I think most of the material that I was in on the original didn’t really involve the darker aspects of the show, and I can guess maybe that’s where David and Mark Frost are going, but I really don’t know. My character was more on the silly, comic, fun side."

Another notable absence is Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward. According to a recent story in Deadline Hollywood it was the actress's choice not to return.

Above: Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) and her best friend Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) in happier days.

There will, however, be a large number of new additions to the cast, including Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Michael Cera, Jim Belushi, Richard Chamberlain, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Eddie Vedder.

I don't get Showtime, so unfortunately I won't be tuning in tonight to watch the return of Twin Peaks. I'm definitely curious about it, though. For one thing, I have absolutely no idea what the plotline will entail. In fact, apart from those involved in the show's making, no one does – and the official trailers that have been released reveal very little (see, for instance, here and here). I must admit I have concerns about how good it will be. I mean, the original series ended so dismally (as is discussed here). And then there are the thorny but crucial questions that Melanie McFarland raises in her May 20 Salon piece: "Can a classic succeed at being happening again? . . . Twenty-seven years after a series has broken ground, how can new storylines match the quality of all the shows it spawned?" I suppose I'll just have to wait for the new series to come out on DVD to find out.

In the meantime, Matt Zoller Seitz has a timely and insightful piece at Vulture in which he deftly examines why Twin Peaks is "not the series we’ve convinced ourselves it was."

One aspect of the show that Zoller Seitz explores and which especially interests me (given my current training in chaplaincy) is to do with how the original Twin Peaks was "a meditation on grief and trauma."

Following is that part of Zoller Seitz's article which explores this idea.

Twin Peaks was a meditation on grief and trauma that expressed itself in unrelenting, deliberately unreal, often mystifying ways. People tend to forget this when they talk and write about and remember Twin Peaks. That show did not go down easy. It was charming and weird, but it was also creepy and upsetting and sometimes genuinely horrifying. It gave you a spoonful of sugar, then it punched you in the gut. The gut punches had to do with the psychological effect of loss on individuals and their community.

Twin Peaks is often described as a mystery or a soap opera, and it was definitely both of those things. But it was also the story of a small town reeling in shock after a random act of violence, acting out in strange and terrifying ways, and purposefully and accidentally disclosing not just their naughty secrets (an element common to the soaps that Lynch and Frost emulated, as well as films like In the Heat of the Night and Anatomy of a Murder), but the persistent sadness, desperation, and dread that lurks under the surface of mundane reality. The deeper FBI agent Dale Cooper and his fellow investigators dug into the soil beneath those magnificent Douglas firs, the more ugliness they unearthed. There was incest, sexual exploitation, drug abuse, drug trafficking, domestic violence, smuggling, murder, and corporate crime happening in those cottages and hotel rooms and in the gloom of the woods.

But more impressive – perhaps more daring, considering Americans’ limited tolerance for sincerity – was the show’s willingness to plumb the emotional depths of its characters with the white-hot intensity of a 1950s melodrama or a 1970s Italian horror film, without distancing devices, and often without facetiousness or irony.

The latter was eerie and moving to behold and, for 1990 network TV, unexpected. But it was also upsetting and depressing and occasionally confounding for mass audiences, which is one reason why the show’s ratings, which were immense for the premiere, kept falling by the week, until it became clear a few episodes into season two that ABC was likely to cancel it. Twin Peaks wore the comedy mask and the tragedy mask with equal confidence, and sometimes it put them both away and put on a mask that had live worms in it and might have been made of human flesh.

The audience didn’t just reject the series over the long haul because viewers wanted closure on the question of who killed Laura Palmer, and Lynch and Frost seemed to be in no hurry to provide it. It was also a reaction to the series itself – all of its elements, but perhaps especially the intensity of its darkness. Twin Peaks was not just physically brutal (Leland Palmer’s murder of his Laura-look-alike niece, Maddie [left], is still hard to watch nearly three decades after its airing). It was also emotionally wrenching, in a way that was uncharacteristic of TV in the early ’90s. Supporting characters were forever weeping, sometimes wailing in grief as they remembered Laura. It was an open wound of a show, right up through the end.

The characters’ pain was hilarious if you were a callow teenager or college student who didn’t understand loss and the many, equally valid methods by which art can examine it. You have to permit yourself a certain vulnerability when watching Lynch, otherwise the simplicity of the characters’ needs and fears and the nakedness of their desperation will seem hilarious. Viewers over the legal drinking age had to decide to be okay with a certain level of emotional exposure while watching the original Peaks.

Twin Peaks was playful about everything except pain. It took pain so seriously that over time, an increasing proportion of its initially big viewership did not know how to process it, except to squirm, snicker performatively, or stop watching. Everybody who watches the new Peaks has to recognize this and not be surprised or upset by it. It’s going to be part of the package, because it’s an area of life that is of deep interest to Lynch, the director of such light and peppy movies as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, and Inland Empire.

A 30-something friend of mine quit watching it after a few episodes because his mother had recently died of cancer; Twin Peaks made him feel as if he was reentering a space he never wanted to be in again.

That Twin Peaks is also coming back.

– Matt Zoller Seitz
Excerpted from "Why Twin Peaks Is Not the Series
We’ve Convinced Ourselves It Was
May 19, 2017

* Following is how the character of Catherine Martell is described in Twin Peaks FAQ by David Bushman and Arthur Smith.

Catherine Martell is the sister of Packard mill owner Andrew Packard, and she runs the business after his apparent death, though the ownership passes to his "widow" Josie – and that arrangement is not a happy one for anyone involved. A fiercely proud, shrewd, forceful, and bitterly thwarted personality, Catherine vents her frustrations on her husband, Pete, a gentle former lumberjack and angling enthusiast bewildered by his wife's hostility.

Catherine is conducting an affair with Benjamin Horne and conspiring with him to defraud Josie out of the mill and surrounding land, not suspecting his intention to double-cross and do away with her, taking all the spoils for himself.

Academy award winner Piper Laurie gives an effortless authoritative performance – Catherine is a formidable presence, and while she's no Girl Scout, there is also an affecting vulnerability (as seen in her poignant appreciation of the remnants of affection that remain between her and Pete, and in her jealous paranoia regarding Ben's affections) that makes her something more than a stock antagonist.

Catherine has no connection to Laura Palmer or the supernatural phenomena haunting Twin Peaks, serving instead as a linchpin in the show's soapier plot mechanics, and she is one of the series' more conventional characters – she is absent any bizarre tics or wardrobe eccentricities and feels like she could comfortably exist in a typical "straight" TV drama. That is, until she, after her apparent death (if you're gonna kill a Packard, make sure you see the body before you assume the job is done), disguises herself as a Japanese businessman [Mr Tojamura] to take her revenge on Horne. That was pretty weird.

For more about Twin Peaks at The Wild Reed, see:
The Fizzer Finale of Lost Brings to Mind the Unraveling of Twin Peaks
London Calling

Related Off-site Links:
Everything You Need to Know About the Twin Peaks Revival – Jethro Nededog (Business Insider, May 20, 2017).
Twin Peaks: Can a Classic Succeed at Being Happening Again? – Melanie McFarland (Salon, May 20, 2017).
How Twin Peaks Got Lost, and Found Its Way Back – Finn Cohen (The New York Times, May 17, 2017).
Was Twin Peaks Ahead of Its Time? Let’s Look Back and See – James Poniewozik and Mike Hale (The New York Times, May 17, 2017).
Here's Where Twin Peaks Left Off 26 Years Ago – Eliana Dockterman (Time, May 17, 2017).
Twin Peaks Is Coming Back! Here's Everything You Need to Get Up to Speed for Season 3 – Mayer Nissim (Digital Spy, May 15, 2017).
In 1990, Twin Peaks Was Not Ready for Prime Time. And Vice Versa – Jeremy Egner (The New York Times, May 12, 2017).
Your Complete Guide to Rewatching Twin Peaks – Margaret Lyons (The New York Times, April 26, 2017).
Twin Peaks Cast List: 11 Major Omissions, from Lara Flynn Boyle to Heather Graham – Chris Eggertsen (Uproxx, April 25, 2017).

UPDATES: Twin Peaks 2017: TV Review – Daniel Fienberg (The Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2017).
TV Review: Twin Peaks: The Return – Sonia Saraiya (Variety, May 21, 2017).
Review: In Twin Peaks, an Old Log Learns Some New Tricks – James Poniewozik (The New York Times, May 21, 2017).
Review: The New Twin Peaks Is Strange and Not In a Good Way – Daniel D’Addario (Time, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Review: Woeful Revival Plays Like Fire Walk – No Run – Away – Michael Ausiello (TV Line, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Revival Premiere Recap: The Meaning of the Box Is Threefold? – Kimberly Roots (TV Line, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Review: "I Am Dead, Yet I Live" – Eric Goldman (IGN, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Review – David Lynch Reboot Will Baffle and Irk Even Hardcore Fans – Mark Lawson (The Guardian, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Season 3 Will Baffle and Delight – First Spoiler-free Reviews – Adam Sherwin (I-News, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Premiere: Debating Whether the Return Lived Up to Expectations, and What David Lynch Is Trying to Say – Hanh Nguyen, Michael Nordine and Liz Shannon Miller (Indy Wire, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Season 3 Premiere Review: David Lynch Remains a Master – But the Brutality Toward Women Feels Dated – Liz Shannon Miller (Indie Wire, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Review: WTF Was That & Did David Lynch Just School Peak TV? – Dominic Patten (Deadline, May 21, 2017).
Twin Peaks Review – David Lynch's Revival Is Dark and Intriguing, But It Lacks the Original's Chutzpah – Patrick Smith (The Telegraph, May 22, 2017).
Twin Peaks, Season 3, Parts 1 & 2 Big Questions: Has Cooper Flown the Coop? – Tristram Fane Saunders (The Telegraph, May 22, 2017).
In Its Nightmarish Two-part Return, Twin Peaks is Pure Lynchian Horror – Emily L. Stephens (A.V. Club, May 22, 2017).
Twin Peaks 2017 Review - Season 3, Episodes 1 and 2: David Lynch Makes a Twisted, Triumphant Return – Mayer Nissim (Digital Spy, May 22, 2017).
Talking Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 1 & 2 – Alan Sepinwall and Keith Phipps (Uproxx, May 22, 2017).
Twin Peaks Is Back, As Strange and Stunning as Ever – Alan Sepinwall (Uproxx, May 22, 2017).
Twin Peaks: The Return, Episodes 1 & 2 Recap: Do Not Drop Up – Keith Uhlich (MUBI, May 22, 2017).
Lynch Unleashed:
The Twin Peaks Reboot Is Pure, Outrageous David Lynch – and It’s Glorious
– Laura Miller (Slate, May 22, 2017).
Twin Peaks: The Return Is Riveting, Horrifying, and Patience-Taxing – Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture, May 22, 2017).
Why the New Episodes of Twin Peaks Are Less Soap Opera and More Sci-Fi – Dan Callahan (Nylon, May 26, 2017).
The Best Show on TV Is Twin Peaks: The Return – Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture, July 6, 2017).

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