THE SHOW: “Twin Peaks: The Return,” Showtime, Sunday
FOR ORIGINAL FANS: Mostly all pleasure, with lots of Easter eggs, curtain calls and sheer unalloyed nuttiness. (And will the Evolution of the Arm take a bow, please?)
GRADE: A -
FOR EVERYONE ELSE: ??????????
WHAT IT’S ABOUT David Lynch and Mark Frost bring back their classic surreal two-season oddball after a 25-year absence, in an effort for closure, or to take care of what they have called “unfinished business.” On that front, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) -- who merged with the very evil Bob a quarter-century ago -- is now split in two, with the good Coop stuck in limbo, where he consorts with others who are both dead and alive, like Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), and the bad Coop, or his doppelgänger, out the real world, causing havoc. Will the good Coop return to vanquish the bad Coop? I suppose that’s some of the unfinished business this 18-hour return will eventually have to finish.
MY SAY In the abstract, a reboot of “Twin Peaks” always seemed like a good idea. But in the abstract, a reboot of almost anything sounds like a good idea. A new and improved wheel? A more perfect piece of cherry pie? Name your reboot fantasy. But eventually the abstract has to meet reality, or the rubber meet the road. “Twin Peaks” was always an abstraction anyway, so Sunday’s return after 25 years was the abstraction of an abstraction -- whatever that means. In fact, it can mean whatever you like. Was “The Return” profound? Sure. Ridiculous? That, too. Coherent or incoherent? Your call. “Twin Peaks” defies ultimate analysis, and ultimate judgment. That’s its secret and mystique, and why it’s back after 25 years, as a reminder that TV -- like art -- doesn’t have to be reduced to nuts and bolts, or to specific meaning either.
Defiant as always, “Twin Peaks” returned with those best impulses intact, and some of the worst ones, too. “Peaks” always could be indulgently odd, and indulgently nonlinear. Settle in for one storyline, only to have that one yanked from under you, and on to the next one. Frost and Lynch had a lot of that “unfinished business” to tend to Sunday, which included a lot of curtain calls, too. That meant characters as diverse as Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) or Duncan Todd (Patrick Fischler) made their re-entry into Lynchworld, only to have that cut short after a few seconds. Grace Zabriskie -- Sarah Palmer -- had one of the best moments, or half moments, but after 30 seconds of sucking down cigarettes and whatever was in the glass she was coddling -- was gone quickly as well. The most memorable and melancholy return of them all was Log Lady -- Catherine E. Coulson -- who died at age 77, not long after those scenes were shot.
Also on the indulgent side: A long detour to some fictional town in South Dakota, where Bill (Matthew Lillard) and Phyllis (Cornelia Guest) learn the hard way that evil lurks in the heart of men -- or one man in particular.
But the best stuff easily reminded true blue fans -- and only true blue fans -- why they loved this so deeply to begin with. I think I’d begin on this point with the “Evolution of the Arm” -- an electrified tree with a melon head, and Clutch Cargo lips, which lisped and told Agent Cooper about “Bob, Bob, Bob,” or “Time and again.” That was Lynch at his best: Joyously, wickedly bizarre.
The return to the Red Room was almost triumphant, except that the Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson) was nowhere to be seen, and instead Mike, the shoe salesman, aka Philip Gerard (Al Strobel), was instead. Good enough. The giant (Carel Struycken) -- identified in the credits only as “?????” – was back, albeit not in the Room itself, but instead in a pair of black-and-white sequences that were as pleasingly cryptic as anything else in the two-hour opener.
The return to the town of Twin Peaks offered pleasures, too, like the Bang Bang Bar, and the Great Northern Hotel, where Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) and brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) – now comfortably attached to the cannabis industry -- had a reunion, yielding one of the greatest lines of the night. In describing his product, Jerry explained that it has “a touch of mythic AK47 ... baked into banana bread and infused with this potent spreadable jam that’s ideal for creative sojourns of a solitary nature. Wheels up!”
Some things never change, some people, too. In “Twin Peaks,” that’s good.
On the music front, this mystery: There was none, other than the appearance of Chromatics at the Bang Bang -- recalling Julee Cruise from all those years ago. Angelo Badalamenti, who created the original soundtrack -- one of the most evocative in TV history -- was back for this ride, too, but the new music track sounded like John Cage in one note. Nice, I suppose. Not exactly hummable.