glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | sept. 2017
[This article is spoiler-free.]
It was with some trepidation that I greeted the news of the return to the oddest town in America. Standing as an icon of US television, “Twin Peaks" certainly confused and enthralled many viewers while generating an enthusiastic fan base. Centered around the mystery of who killed homecoming queen Laura Palmer, the series was very ambitious for a TV project being in equal parts horrific, quirky and downright surreal, but by the end of the first season, the creators, Mark Frost and the legendary David Lynch, we're very much in the back seat when it came to the series' direction. Sure enough, bowing to fanatic audience demands, the killer was revealed shortly into the second season and predictably, with the show now missing its main drive, “Twin Peaks" began to lose its audience while the story meandered between a much thinner premise and side stories that ranged from moderately interesting to astoundingly awful. The series was never to recover. Despite the central story continuing in an occasionally interesting direction, “Twin Peaks" became distracted with side stories of little worth and audiences began to forget to tune in, partly due to insane rescheduling decisions, and the series was cancelled at fairly short notice leaving the overall arc unsatisfyingly resolved with what is an amazing, though until recently, unfulfilled cliff hanger.
The 1992 film “Fire Walk With Me," a very good, though difficult and underappreciated prequel, was released into cinemas and it was to be the last we saw of the odd town of Twin Peaks for some time. The film didn't do very well in its day though it has garnered a lot of retrospective praise since, but to all intents and purposes the idea of making another Twin Peaks, one that would follow on from the season two ending, was deader than Laura.
In a move that was either genius, super natural foresight or just a happy coincidence, Laura's last words to Special Agent Dale Cooper in season 2 were to be realized and “25 Years Later" we finally were about to see Coop again.
There was a lot of chatter about the new series when it was teased as a possibility and indeed it nearly never happened when Lynch was only offered a very short season, but after fan petitions and Lynch refusing the short season format Showtime soon saw fit to give Lynch what he wanted and familiar faces began to sign on.
And so, in May 2017 the third season started and it has to be said, for fans, it's been worth the wait. At the point of writing we're 15 episodes in and there is a marked change to this series in that this very much feels like pure Lynch, with Lynch alone in the director's seat, this is how it should be. It's a much more consistently surreal affair, it's far more violent and it's shaken free of the shackles that the original series had, in short, this feels like the kind of “Twin Peaks" that Lynch would likely have made had he had full control of the original run. This is in some ways as much of a blessing as it is a curse though. As much as fans of David Lynch love this, it's not the kind of television that most casual viewers are used to, it takes time, patience and will to appreciate. It also requires the viewer to have seen the vast majority of the previous material. That's a huge commitment to say the least. The absolute minimum you need to have seen would probably be the pilot film, season one and the beginning and end few episodes of season two along with “Fire Walk With Me" and unfortunately this barrier to a new audience, and undoubtedly the gated stage the series is airing through, is having some adverse effect on the audience figures.
This is a crying shame because although the series hasn't stood up well in terms of an audience share, it is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging, fascinating and beautifully crafted pieces of television I've seen in a very long time. This is “Twin Peaks" at its best, handled by the people who should have been handling the entire first two series and it's the kind of television that should be made more often, not all the time, but it's works of art like this that enrich the viewing experience and challenge the audience.
Although it'd be difficult to see this series being renewed, it's my near desperate hope that at the very least this kind of television is given enough critical praise to peak the attention of the people financing this kind of work. No, it's not something that will gain gigantic audiences but it will retain an audience over time. It's work like this that will stand the test of time and will find a further audience through the coming years, but most importantly, a series like “Twin Peaks" stretches the expectations of the audience and that's important. It's important because art thrives through experiment and going beyond the passé, and it's worth remembering that some of the great artists were barely, or even never, popular during their lives. What a world we would live in had their works been ignored forever because they weren't what we wanted right now.
“Twin Peaks," whatever its fate following the coming conclusion to this series, is one hell of a ride. This season, in particular, has some of the most beautiful writing and masterful direction I've seen in a very long time and I sincerely hope that the execs will take note that popularity isn't everything. I believe that they have one of the most remarkable pieces of television ever made on their hands, and it will be quite the legacy for whoever's name is on it, not just David Lynch. Do it for us, the audience, do it for the love and do it for the art once in a while. We'll thank you for it.
Oh and one last thing: Distributors, don't make this stuff difficult to watch, find a way for everyone to be able to enjoy it easily and affordably whatever subscriptions they may be able to afford. Trust me. It'll help those precious viewing figures.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.
For more of Glenn's work, visit cynicalcelluloid.com.