Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: 'Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series' DVD

Twin Peaks is my favorite piece of pop culture, so I anticipated its return as a “Limited Event Series” on Showtime fervently. At the same time I was surprised that an artist of David Lynch’s caliber wanted to get in on a sequel-series trend that included the likes of Fuller House. While Lynch obsessively revisits motifs and even structures of his previous works, this would be the first time he’d revisit a specific work. Of course, if he was to revisit a work, Twin Peaks would be the one to revisit both because of a painful cliffhanger that even the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me refused to resolve and because Twin Peaks is Lynch’s most popular production. I’d wager that part of the reason it is so popular is that Lynch’s experimentalism was watered down by Network desires and the fact that he shared duties with a slew of less experimental writers and directors. Had he made, say, Eraserhead: The Series!, it probably would not have endured as the Twin Peaks we knew and loved has.

The amazing thing about the Showtime revival is that Lynch has, in a sense, made Eraserhead: The Series! In other words, instead of servicing our collective nostalgia and desires to spend more time munching on cherry pie and guzzling coffee, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost took the raw materials of Twin Peaks and took it to places that even the highly abstract Fire Walk with Me did not walk. This certainly was not the Twin Peaks that fans expected, but it truly justified both Lynch’s return to Twin Peaks and his return to filmmaking after a decade-plus absence. While I’m sure I would have enjoyed a nostalgic return to the feel of the original series, I probably would not have spent much time thinking about it. And thinking is something that the third season of Twin Peaks has provoked in me like no other series in our current Golden Age of Television. As brilliant as series such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and The Americans are, none hijacked my thoughts like the third season of Twin Peaks, none provoked so much deep discussion, frustration, obsession, and wonder. It’s been said before by others who have valiantly but futilely attempted to pick through the layers of the Limited Event Series, but it bears repeating—Lynch and Frost may not have given us the Twin Peaks we wanted, but they surely gave us the one we needed and deserved as intelligent people. 

Revisiting this revisitation on Showtime Entertainment/CBS’s new DVD set, Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series retains all of its power to mystify and intrigue. One major positive of knowing what’s coming next is that scenes that felt endless upon first viewing now don’t seem so maddening since I’m no longer dying to find out what happens next. So, for example, I can just relax and groove to “Green Onions” as some random guy sweeps the floor of the Road House without finding it indulgent or unnecessary. It provides a moment (or several moments) to reflect on what has happened and what will happen next. Also, now that we know the cruel fates of certain characters, we can better enjoy those who have satisfying conclusions, and those satisfying conclusions should help dispel feelings that Lynch and Frost had some sort of axe to grind against their audience.

Yet, they creators do everything in their power to level the original series that we know and love, so the Limited Event Series may be best viewed as a self-contained work rather than a proper continuation of something we don’t really want to see leveled. And perhaps it is another nice thing about the recent series that it can be viewed in so many different ways, interpreted in so many different ways. The fact that it allows for such options are part of what makes Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series such a thoroughly intellectually stimulating work of art. I can’t wait to find out how it influences future television series now that it has blown the medium wide open… assuming anyone dares to follow in its footsteps.

For those who are drooling for more time with the Peaks crowd, this new DVD set comes with almost five hours of supplemental material. Much like the series itself, the lengthy “Impressions: A Journey Behind the Scenes of Twin Peaks” is open to interpretation. For David Lynch—a guy who notoriously refuses to discuss the meaning of his work, illuminate his process with DVD commentary tracks, or explain how he made that bizarre Eraserhead baby—this is an unprecedented look at the way he makes movies. For some viewers, this will be endlessly fascinating stuff. For others, it will be a bit too illuminating and could break the spell of a peerlessly spellbinding piece of television. Enter at your own risk.

Less risky is a fun Twin Peaks panel at this year’s comic con hosted by Damon Lindelof (Lost; The Leftovers) and featuring Peaks stars Kyle MacLachlan, Naomi Watts, Dana Ashbrook, Everett McGill, Kimmy Robertson, James Marshall, Don Murray, Matthew Lillard, and Tim Roth in top spirits. There are also minor features such as a 14-minute mini-documentary called “Phenomenon” that previously aired on Showtime in three parts, a series of seven short promos, and a photo gallery.
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