Skip to main content

I’m supposed to watch the box and see if anything appears inside.

Twin Peaks
3.1 & 3.2: The stars turn and a time presents itself.

(SPOILERS) Well, Lynch hasn’t lost it, that much is clear. Not his marbles, which he never had, of course, but his capacity for weirdness, hilarity, discord and the outright disturbing, all of which are brewing away potently in Season Three of Twin Peaks. What’s most striking, though, and something I’ve occasionally found a detraction from his work, is that the presence of Mark Frost ensures there’s a lucid narrative thread upon which to hang his strange fascinations. It means that, even when we go on a diversion into five minutes of plot-free surrealism, or one of Lynch’s trademark crawl-act comedies (which are sublime, as long as you’re willing to pace yourself), it won’t be long before (potentially remaining unanswered) mystery and intrigue will pull us back on track.


I’d read, not least from Lynch himself, that his prequel movie Fire Walk with Me would indicate the tone of Season Three, but that might be a touch misleading. If you took the first act, the non-Laura Palmer part, the fragmented but fascinating part (I know there’s a spirited defence of the picture from many quarters, first expounded by Kim Newman when it debuted, but as much as I admire parts of it – and Sheryl Lee’s performance is phenomenal – I still don’t think it really works as a movie, and I still don’t think it really justifies its prequel status; Lynch, after all, was never even going to reveal Laura’s murderer, so to then go and make a film filling in this background is suggestive of how inessential it was to join the dots. Even as an examination of horrific abuse, I tend to think more is less), you might have something.  But you’d be as well to draw attention to Lost Highway (alter-ego evil Cooper in biker jacket), Eraserhead (any of the cosmic weirdness on display), Wild at Heart (the various brain-spattered viscera, and particularly the upchuck – of whatever nature – on the carpet) and even On the Air (the batty special effects).


It would be difficult to label any of the first four episodes driven; indeed, they’re almost wilfully abstract and fragmented in places, unless you’re alert to the mystery of Coop as the glue that holds the various pieces of character and location together (rather than the more tangible mystery of the murder of a schoolgirl). Without network edicts, Lynch is free to be as tangential as he likes, which in a way makes it surprising the results are as compelling as they are.  Note: although this review concentrates on the first two episodes, I may reference the next two here as I watched them in one session, so as to hold the train of thought.


What’s instantly most evident about Peaks 3.0 is that it’s largely the new characters and scenarios that are the immediate winners, rather than those hearkening back to, or continuing, the old. In the case of Ben and Jerry Horne (Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly), their couple of scenes simply feel tired, Beymer particularly lacking the energy to give the same-old-brothers vibe anything (and Ashley Judd currently at least, appears superfluous). Russ Tamblyn’s Dr Jacoby’s role is so oblique (taking delivery of shovels and then spraying them gold in 3.3, the latter scene going on so long, it becomes almost hypnotic) as not to indicate anything either way.  The familiar shtick of Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) and Andy (Harry Goaz) has picked up where it was left off, while Carel Struycken has to fill in in the Red Room for his pint-sized, departed colleague (now he’s turned into a blob in a tree).


The Arm: He must come back in before you can go out.

There’s a familiarity, obviously intentional, when it comes to Laura Palmer’s repeated dialogue and the Black Lodge scenes generally, Cooper quizzing her about her identity and receiving evasive responses (“I am dead yet I live”) and further enigmatic information (“Is it future or is it past”) but it means that it isn’t until the appearance of the Arm, resembling some spawn of Eraserhead lodged in the branches of a dead tree, given to cryptic pronouncements (“I am the arm. And I sound like this... The evolution of the arm”) that we really feel like we’re going somewhere, that Lynch is really channelling his unfettered subconscious once more, and it’s mesmerising to behold.


Other characters are in a holding pattern (Grace Zabriskie’s Sarah Palmer watching lions tear apart bison on TV, accompanied by copious booze – Sarah, that is, not the lions and bison). Mädchen Amick’s Shelly is bigging up James Hurley (James Marshall), who obviously suffered somehow in a motorcycle accident: “James is still cool. He’s always been cool”. Well, maybe to anyone who wasn’t a viewer of the original show, but he’s actually more interesting, genuinely lost and tragic, in a scene here than he was in the previous run full stop.


The Log Lady: Something is missing and you have to find it.

Talking of which, the most welcome surprise is the amount of time devoted to Michael Horse’s Deputy Chief Hawk. In the original, he was given odd moments but never the chance to shine; here, he’s taking on the traditional intuitive Coop role, and in the next episode makes comedy gold out of over-used wise Native American tropes (“The way you will find it is something to do with your heritage”). It’s sad to see Catherine Coulson so fragile, but the Log Lady is used well, in both these openers, prodding and teasing the mystery as previously and reintroducing the figurative spectre of Cooper.


Evil Cooper: Tomorrow, I’m supposed to get pulled back into what they call the Black Lodge. But I’m not going. I’ve got a plan for that one.

The other returnee of note is, of course, Kyle McLachlan himself, making great capital of Bob/evil Coop. So much is suggestive in Lynch’s plots that it’s probably asking for trouble to speculate over whether they will lead anywhere, although some answers have been provided already (his “plan for that one”). I had rather expected him to assume the most of the opportunity to wreak havoc posing as Cooper at the FBI, but it appears he dropped off the radar and took up a life of more standard-issue crime, one that is coming back on him (“How much do they want me dead?”).


Although, he seems well-equipped to deal with any threats, killing Jack (Steve Baker) by massaging his jaw and revealing a trademark method of dispatch by a gunshot to the head in a particularly tense and nasty seen with Darya (Nicole LaLiberte) (“Are you going to kill me?”: “Yes, Darya”). It seems evil Cooper still has his double’s tape recorder, which is nice. Perhaps the most intriguing scene finds him take a call from not-Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie in Fire Walk with Me; here, we don’t know, yet), and learn that he met with Major Garland Briggs (but that was 24 years ago, so presumably not the body in the bed) and he is told, “You’re going back in tomorrow, and I will be with Bob again”.


Ben: I’m supposed to watch the box and see if anything appears inside.

But, as noted, the most impactful scenes here are with all-new characters. Those between Ben (Sam Colby) and Tracy (“You’re a bad girl” – Madeline Zima certainly was in Californication) are classic Lynch and therefore entirely distinctive. We wonder if she hasn’t been put up to checking out whatever Ben is doing, and when we find out what he is doing, for an elusive millionaire, we’re none the wiser (“We’re not supposed to say anything about this place, or that glass box”). 


Even less so when a freaky apparition, one that outdoes Bob in the primal fear stakes, is drawn into the room (by their having sex, or is it connected with this being the same moment Cooper drops into the box – is he, unbeknownst to himself, somehow responsible?) turning the lovebirds to bloody gloop, like they’ve been set upon by a threshing machine.


Then there are the scenes with Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard), another scenario where you start out second guessing and the reveals indicate otherwise. The respected school principal, bedrock of the community, arrested for murder seems like textbook Bob-style possession, particularly when he tells wife Phyllis (Cornelia Guest), “I wasn’t there, but I had a dream that night, that I was in her apartment”. Except, it seems that this was Evil Coop’s set up, for reasons as yet unclear, and that he’s also setting up Dale’s lawyer George (Neil Dickson), whom Phyllis is having an affair with. The downward progression of the relationship between Dale and Phyllis, more of a plunge towards on abyss, as masks are torn away and they descend into a screaming match in his cell, is expertly done. Her initial, very-Lynchian, obliviousness to the severity of Dale’s situation (“But the Morgans are coming to dinner!”) is revealed as part of her own cold agenda (“You’re going down. Life in prison, Bill. Life in prison”), and then part of Evil Cooper’s (“This is George’s gun” before shooting her in, yes, the head).


Marjorie Green: It was a funny thing. I couldn’t remember my address when I called you on the phone.

I don’t have much to say about the Vegas scene between Mr Todd and Roger, except that I presume – hope – it will become clear(er). The one with Marjorie Green (Melissa Jo Bailey) calling the police because of the terrible smell in her neighbour’s apartment is hilariously inert comedy of strained miscommunication, with attempts to get the keys leading to further misunderstandings (“Am I free to go?” asks Max Perlich’s paranoid handyman, so concerned about being arrested for whatever he feels guilty about that he ignores the officers’ requests for assistance) before Marjorie announces she has her neighbour’s key after all.


We also have Balthazar Getty being a cock (don’t fall for him, Shelly; he’s another Leo!), Jennifer Jason Leigh (more, please), two Sheriff Trumans (“One is sick and the other is fishing”) and a generally air of undinted oddness that is utterly transfixing. I’d say this is undiluted lynch, but to reiterate, I think that, unlike some of the mystified mainstream critics’ responses, Frost’s influence ensures Twin Peaks’ return remains accessible. Although, neither of the creators are really doing any favours to anyone who knows nothing about the show. It has that much in common with Fire Walk With Me, at least.



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

I added sixty on, and now you’re a genius.

The Avengers 4.3: The Master Minds
The Master Minds hitches its wagon to the not uncommon Avengers trope of dark deeds done under the veil of night. We previously encountered it in The Town of No Return, but Robert Banks Stewart (best known for Bergerac, but best known genre-wise for his two Tom Baker Doctor Who stories; likewise, he also penned only two teleplays for The Avengers) makes this episode more distinctive, with its mind control and spycraft, while Peter Graham Scott, in his third contribution to the show on the trot, pulls out all the stops, particularly with a highly creative climactic fight sequence that avoids the usual issue of overly-evident stunt doubles.

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Where is the voice that said altered carbon would free us from the cells of our flesh?

Altered Carbon Season One
(SPOILERS) Well, it looks good, even if the visuals are absurdly indebted to Blade Runner. Ultimately, though, Altered Carbon is a disappointment. The adaption of Richard Morgan’s novel comes armed with a string of well-packaged concepts and futuristic vernacular (sleeves, stacks, cross-sleeves, slagged stacks, Neo-Cs), but there’s a void at its core. It singularly fails use the dependable detective story framework to explore the philosophical ramifications of its universe – except in lip service – a future where death is impermanent, and even botches the essential goal of creating interesting lead characters (the peripheral ones, however, are at least more fortunate).

He's going to emasculate our nuclear deterrent and bring the whole damn country to its knees… because of his dreams.

Dreamscape (1984)
(SPOILERS) I wasn’t really au fait with movies’ box office performance until the end of the ‘80s, so I think I had an idea that Dennis Quaid (along with Jeff Bridges) was a much bigger star than he was, just on the basis of the procession of cool movies he showed up in (The Right Stuff, Enemy Mine, Innerspace, D.O.A.) The truth was, the public resisted all attempts to make him The Next Big Thing, not that his sly-grinned, cocky persona throughout the decade would lead you to believe his dogged lack of success had any adverse effect on his mood. Dreamscape was one of his early leading-man roles, and if it’s been largely forgotten, it also inherits a welcome cult status, not only through being pulpy and inventive on a fairly meagre budget, but by being pretty good to boot. It holds up.

He mobilised the English language and sent it into battle.

Darkest Hour (2017)
(SPOILERS) Watching Joe Wright’s return to the rarefied plane of prestige – and heritage to boot – filmmaking following the execrable folly of the panned Pan, I was struck by the difference an engaged director, one who cares about his characters, makes to material. Only last week, Ridley Scott’s serviceable All the Money in the World made for a pointed illustration of strong material in the hands of someone with no such investment, unless they’re androids. Wright’s dedication to a relatable Winston Churchill ensures that, for the first hour-plus, Darkest Hour is a first-rate affair, a piece of myth-making that barely puts a foot wrong. It has that much in common with Wright’s earlier Word War II tale, Atonement. But then, like Atonement, it comes unstuck.

The aliens are not coming, just so you know.

The X-Files 11.1: My Struggle III
(SPOILERS) Good grief. Have things become so terminal for Chris Carter that he has to retcon his own crap from the previous season, rather than the (what he perceived as) crap written by others? Carter, of course, infamously pretended the apocalyptic ending of Millennium Season Two never happened, upset by the path Glen Morgan and James Wong, left to their own devices, took with his baby. Their episode was one of the greats of that often-ho-hum series, so the comedown was all the unkinder as a result. In My Struggle III, at least, Carter’s rewriting something that wasn’t very good in the first place. Only, he replaces it with something that is even worse in the second.

I'm going to open an X-file on this bran muffin.

The X-Files 11.2: This
(SPOILERS) Glen Morgan returns with a really good idea, certainly one with much more potential than his homelessness tract Home Again in Season 10, but seems to give up on its eerier implications, and worse has to bash it round the head to fit the season’s “arc”. Nevertheless, he’s on very comfortable ground with the Mulder-Scully dynamic in This, who get to spend almost the entire episode in each other’s company and might be on the best form here since the show came back, give or take a Darin.

He's a wild creature. We can't ask him to be anything else.

The Shape of Water (2017)
(SPOILERS) The faithful would have you believe it never went away, but it’s been a good decade since Guillermo del Toro’s mojo was in full effect, and his output since (or lack thereof: see the torturous wilderness years of At the Mountains of Madness and The Hobbit), reflected through the prism of his peak work Pan’s Labyrinth, bears the hallmarks of a serious qualitative tumble. He put his name to stinker TV show The Strain, returned to movies with the soulless Pacific Rim and fashioned flashy but empty gothic romance Crimson Peak (together his weakest pictures, and I’m not forgetting Mimic). The Shape of Water only seems to underline what everyone has been saying for years, albeit previously confined to his Spanish language pictures: that the smaller and more personal they are, the better. If his latest is at times a little too wilfully idiosyncratic, it’s also a movie where you can nevertheless witness it’s creator’s creativity flowing untrammelled once mo…

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…