Release Date(s)2017 (December 5, 2017)
Studio(s)Showtime (Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: A+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: A+
Few TV experiences in recent memory have been as exhilarating, mind-boggling, and ultimately beautiful as Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series (aka The Return). An esoteric approach, one that had more in common with the film of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me than the original TV show, this new season offered many twists and turns over its 18 episodes to keep both long-time fans and new viewers endlessly discussing its content. It was a true return to what was once referred to as “water cooler television.” Opinions were both positive and negative, but the debates were ultimately a kind of release valve that helped viewers sort out the finer details of each episode.
The wait for the new Twin Peaks was one of great excitement. Not only did it hold the possibility of exploring some of the original series’ loose ends, but any new content from David Lynch was to be a welcome gift. He hadn’t directed anything in quite some time, choosing to focus on other aspects of his career instead. And in an age when most TV viewing is done through binging, the decision to dole out Twin Peaks 1-2 episodes per week was both maddening and refreshing. Each episode left fans craving more, but the delay also gave them time to properly digest what they’d seen. This is the kind of show that you didn’t want spoiled and Lynch was well aware of that. He disallowed Showtime from even releasing a synopsis for the episodes as they were airing. This left viewers completely in the dark... and made the viewing experience that much more rewarding.
What we have with this new series is a continuation of the weird and wonderful world of Twin Peaks, with Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) still trapped in the Black Lodge as his doppelgangers roam free outside it. There’s also a mystery brewing as Agents Gordon (David Lynch) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) search for Cooper, only to find themselves drawn into the world of the Black Lodge, the White Lodge, BOB, the Fireman, and the Woodsmen. Many of the original show’s characters make their return, though some are left in limbo (until there’s another season, at least). We also meet a variety of new characters, including Andy and Lucy’s son Wally (Michael Cera), Cooper’s doppelganger’s wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts), Cooper’s previous assistant Diane (Laura Dern), Agent Preston (Chrysta Bell), a pair of crooked casino owners (Jim Belushi and Robert Knepper), and a spineless insurance salesman (Tom Sizemore), among others. Even as they enrich the world of Twin Peaks, these characters each have their part to play in Dale Cooper’s destiny.
(This next paragraph enters spoiler territory, albeit mild, but you may wish to skip past it if you haven’t seen the show yet.)
The most effective episode of the season is certainly Part 8, which has both everything and nothing at all to do with what’s going in Twin Peaks. Essentially a prequel of sorts, it reveals the nuclear “birth” of a Woodsman, personified as the dark husk of a man with an unlit cigarette in his mouth who asks “Gotta light?” of everyone he meets. This whole episode, including the nuclear blast, the Woodsman himself, and his effect on the people of a small New Mexico town, is one of the most disturbing and artistic pieces of TV in ages. Nothing else even comes close. On the flipside, the episode in which the Log Lady says goodbye to Hawk over the phone is heartbreaking, in that Catherine E. Coulson died not long after the show wrapped. It’s the kind of pathos you’re not really expecting at all and it’s devastating. The adventures of Cooper as Dougie, with his family in Las Vegas, are unexpected and enjoyable too. It’s also heartwarming to see Ed and Norma finally come together officially.
(Resume reading here.)
Arguably, the most controversial aspect of this new season was its ending (not unlike the original series). It’s one of pure bafflement, meant to leave you without any concrete answers and to remain open to numerous interpretations. For some fans, though, this felt more like a betrayal than a payoff. It’s almost as if there were two last episodes of the show. In a weird way, Part 17 was the perfect ending for fans of the original show, while Part 18 was for those who wanted to continue the journey (but with the proviso that it wasn’t meant to be conclusive). The best thing about Twin Peaks returning in such a grand and off-the-wall manner is that we now have what is essentially an 18-hour film by David Lynch to discuss and dissect for years to come. It’s the very definition of film as art. No one really knew what to expect going in, but for the director to pursue such a bold vision, with few footholds and mostly unanswered questions is vexing to be sure, but totally Lynchian. This is an extremely challenging and subjective piece of work that’s certainly not going to appeal to everyone... and that is just as it should be.
Whether you watched the show on TV or through Showtime’s streaming service, prepare to be blown away by the A/V quality of this new Blu-ray release. As expected, this is a gorgeous presentation with incredible depth and no flaws whatsoever. Though captured (mostly) digitally, the image amazingly textured, with even grain and high levels of fine detail that results in a very filmic look. Background and foreground elements, as well as extreme close-ups, offer tremendous detailing. The color palette is rich, with bold hues and deep, inky blacks, and well-balanced brightness and contrast levels. This presentation is cinematic in every sense of the term. Equally impressive is the show’s soundtrack, presented in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s an exceedingly immersive experience. Dialogue exchanges are perfectly audible when Lynch wants them to be, while the rest of the soundtrack, including sound effects, music, and score, features great clarity, as well as booming and thunderous LFE activity. Ambience is aggressive all throughout, not just with regard to Lynch’s trademark machine-like drone, but also during moments in the woods, in the trailer park, or on empty streets at night. The audio experiece here is close to perfect.
This package also comes stacked with exceptionally entertaining extras. Lynch, as an avant-garde filmmaker, has never been especially interested in doing traditional documentary or behind-the-scenes featurettes, so much of this new material is fairly impressionistic, a sort-of “fly on the wall” experience. Disc One contains the episodes Part 1: My Log Has a Message for You and Part 2: The Stars Turn and a Time Presents Itself, both presented separately or as a combined feature-length presentation (as they originally aired). Also on this disc are the Series Promos, which were produced by David Lynch (Piano, Donut, Woods, Places, People, Albert, In Cinema), as well as the Twin Peaks: Phenomenon promotional featurette in 3 parts (Part 1: Creation, Part 2: Life After Death, Part 3: Renaissance). Disc Two contains the episodes Part 3: Call for Help and Part 4: ...Brings Back Some Memories, also presented separately or as a combined feature-length presentation (as they also originally aired). This disc also contains the San Diego Comic-Con 2017: Twin Peaks Panel video. Discs Three through Six contain episodes only: Part 5: Case Files, Part 6: Don’t Die, Part 7: There’s a Body All Right, Part 8: Gotta Light?, Part 9: This is the Chair, Part 10: Laura is the One, Part 11: There’s Fire Where You Are Going, Part 12: Let’s Rock, Part 13: What Story is That, Charlie?, Part 14: We Are Like the Dreamer, Part 15: There’s Some Feat in Letting Go, and Part 16: No Knock, No Doorbell.
Disc Seven contains the episodes Part 17: The Past Dictates the Future and Part 18: What is Your Name?, as well as a Crew List for the show (all of it in alphabetical order I might add); A Very Lovely Dream: One Week in Twin Peaks, which is a featurette by Charles de Lauzirika that takes a look at the making of the show on location for several scenes, with narration from various cast and crew members; a set of Richard Beymer Films: Behind the Red Curtain and I Had Bad Milk in Dehradun, which are two behind-the-scenes segments shot by the actor at the director’s request, as well an opening note by Beymer explaining them; a collection of all of the show’s opening Rancho Rosa Logos; and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery with 62 stills. And Disc Eight comes with the most substantial extra, which is a nearly five-hour pseudo-documentary Impressions: A Journey Behind the Scenes of Twin Peaks, divided into 10 chapters with a Play All option: The Man with the Gray Elevated Hair, Tell it Martin, Two Blue Balls, The Number of Completion, Bad Binoculars, See You On the Other Side Dear Friend, Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers, A Bloody Finger in Your Mouth, The Polish Accountant, and A Pot of Boiling Oil. It’s also presented with optional subtitles in English SDH. By far the most artistically-driven of the bonus materials in this set, chapter by chapter we see David and his crew working together through an aesthetically-minded lens. It’s endlessly fascinating, all of it, and watching Lynch work his craft is a real gift. The discs are all housed in handsome cardboard packaging, though be aware that the discs have a tendency to come loose from their little cubbies. Otherwise, no complaints at all.
For my money, Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series is the best TV experience, if not the best film, of 2017. It’s unorthodox to be sure, but if you keep an open mind, you won’t soon forget it. I’ve rarely been torn in so many directions by a show, both emotionally and critically. One of the things that sets Lynch apart from other directors is that he does what he wants creatively and he’s not afraid to challenge his audience. He never compromises his vision. I, for one, am thankful for that. CBS and Showtime have delivered that vision to fans in a fantastic Blu-ray set that deserves – like damn fine coffee and cherry pie – to be savored and appreciated. It will also sit happily on your shelf next to The Entire Mystery and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Blu-ray releases, just as it should. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons