I love Twin Peaks, so there was no way I was going to miss a chance to reflect on the one year anniversary of Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return. Here’s the thing, though: Twin Peaks is really hard to talk about because Twin Peaks is really confusing.
The show’s debut in 1990 coincided with the early days of the internet, and online chatter focused on solving the show’s central mystery, “Who killed Laura Palmer?” Never mind the fact that series creators David Lynch and Mark Frost really weren’t interested in that question, and instead used it as a jumping off point to explore the town’s peculiarities. Fans just wanted to make the show make sense.
By the time we reached our current point of internet saturation, ABC’s Lost became a mainstream phenomenon and “explainers” the dominant form of television criticism. Online tv recaps and forums became the new water cooler, where fans gathered not just to talk about what they enjoyed, but to figure out what they missed. TV shows became less about the experience and more about the puzzle, and if that puzzle fails to come together… Well, just check out an online discussion about the ending of Lost and see what happens.
David Lynch famously loves dream logic and intuition, and while the surreal aspects of his movies can be arranged into a coherent structure (google “Mulholland Drive Meaning” to see what I mean), he’s more interested in the experience of watching than he is the interpretations of it. With its mix of abstract imagery, its haphazard approach to fan service, and its “18 hour movie” structure, The Return forced those recapping individual episodes out of that mindset. But would the show make sense a year later, now that all the missing pieces have been revealed?
But that’s not a bad thing! As I write for Tor.com,
Returning to The Return a year after its initial broadcast, one realizes that demanding uniform coherence is a weird way to approach a show about dreamers and doppelgängers and diverging timelines. There’s no one version of Twin Peaks; the town and its inhabitants change according to who’s dreaming the dream, and according to who’s watching the show. The various plots line do not necessarily come together more clearly during a rewatch of season 3, but one can see how they run parallel or extend from one another, simultaneously inviting a variety of interpretations and rejecting any that one might claim to be final or definitive.