Twin Peaks: The Return: The Rewatch: The Past Dictates the Future
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
David Lynch once admitted to being “fascinated” by the spread of grey hair on his head. As responses to the ageing process go, it’s not one that’s widely shared. Yet you can see its benefits all over The Return. When a cast member – including himself – has aged, he celebrates that, gives them a loving close-up that shows off every distinguished wrinkle. He is unafraid of technological advances, placing glitchy digital editing alongside the more analog-era signs of Black Lodge activity (reverse speech, harsh spotlights). Even mobile phones, the subject of a famous Lynch rant, come useful in the end.
Anyone who’s been paying attention to these reviews will have guessed that I loved Lucy, my favourite Twin Peaks character, coming to Sheriff Truman’s rescue. Normally in Twin Peaks a bad person can only be killed by a worse person – think of the BOB-possessed Leland smothering Jacques Renault, or BOB himself killing Windom Earle, or Mr. C frying Richard Horne last week. Lucy icing Mr. C is a sign that things are changing in this town – and at last, they’re changing for the better.
The digital effects of Twin Peaks: The Return are worth talking about, because they work in a very different way to most CGI. Anyone who’s seen Lynch’s paintings will know he values a certain crudeness and child-like feel to his images. When everyone else was getting excited about the increasing sharpness and clarity of digital video, he was enthusing about the “super low quality” look of INLAND EMPIRE. Some of the effects in The Return are not so much unconvincing as unnatural: if the vortex in the sky doesn’t look like a natural part of the scene, that’s because it isn’t, it’s an opening to a completely new plane of reality.
I realise this sounds like a cop-out, and yes, when I imagined the final battle against BOB I didn’t foresee it looking like this. But this is a common problem with fans: we assemble our dream story in our heads, then expect the creators to somehow read our minds and produce it. We should approach the work based on what it’s trying to do, rather than what we want it to do, and there are signs that Lynch and his team can do beautiful, realistic effects when they want to. Sometimes different styles can coexist in the same shot, like the scene in episode 8 where a lovingly-rendered photorealistic chute delivers Laura Palmer’s soul to what looks like a 1950s cartoon of the world. This week, the pinball madness of Freddie’s destruction of BOB coexists with the hair-raisingly eerie, sad scenes of Cooper intervening in the final act of Fire Walk With Me. Conceptually it’s incredible – the story of Twin Peaks reinvented as the myth of Orpheus with time travel – and visually you can’t see the join.
The people of Twin Peaks live inside a dream, and for years we’ve dreamed along with them. It’s heartbreaking to think that we might have to wake up, so Lynch and Frost have given us a reason not to. Cooper’s jaunt into the past may have uncertain consequences for him and Laura, but for the rest of Twin Peaks it looks like a win. Pete’s fishing trip goes off without an interruption, Josie puts her make-up on, and the sun rises on a morning like any other. If you want Twin Peaks to remain nostalgic, unsullied, perfectly preserved within its gold box, here it is. Nothing can touch it now.
So where are Laura and Dale going? When Phillip Jeffries gives Cooper his instructions, he materialises what looks like a figure eight. Then he rotates it, revealing it to be a Möbius strip. Möbius strips are a common metaphor for time-travel narratives, but perhaps here they represent something hermetically sealed. Twin Peaks is now its own closed universe, with consistent continuity: “the official version”, says Jeffries, sounding partly like the FBI agent he once was and partly like a fanfic writer explaining that his work is non-canon. But Jeffries also reveals a hole in the band. That’s where Cooper loses Laura, and that’s where he’s going next week.