When it was first broadcast on network television in 1990, Twin Peaks was revolutionary. The original run of the show so greatly changed the face of primetime television that our concept of “prestige TV” still bears the marks of Twin Peaks‘ formula. It is only natural that David Lynch, a director obsessed with how we shape our own realities, would make Twin Peaks: The Return, his 2017 continuation of the series, in large part an examination of trends in modern television which the original series helped shape. In the course of eighteen hours, The Return crafts one of the greatest television narratives in the history of the medium, blending Lynch’s trademark surrealism and black comedy with a kind hard-nosed realism that wouldn’t be out of place in The Sopranos or Lost. The series’ peak, for me, came with the infamous “Part 8” which is a surreal, unsettling metaphorical depiction of the Trinity bomb test as essentially a 21st century version of original sin. Particularly apt is the careful use of Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima”, a piece of music every bit as disjointed and avant-garde as the episode itself.
However, the ending of The Return, consisting of the pairing of “Part 17” and “Part 18”, has been quite divisive among fans and critics. Much of the criticism seems utterly baffling to me; who in their right mind would expect David Lynch to wrap up every hanging thread neatly and logically? Lynch’s work has always relied on abstraction and dream logic, often frustrating the viewer deliberately in order to remind them of the inherent incompleteness of narrative. In Lynch’s worlds, there is no decisive ending; the world is always in flux, reality just barely perceptible and fleeting. Those qualities define Lynch’s oeuvre, and, in expecting neat resolutions, critics seem to desire Lynch to scrub his work of all that makes it interesting or unique. Personally, I hope we never see another episode of Twin Peaks; for me, learning what happened to Laura and Dale after that cut to black would ruin an otherwise perfect show. Twin Peaks: The Return was a gripping, creepy, and oddly spiritual journey that I can’t recommend highly enough.