I am so mad about Twin Peaks: The Return, episode 8. It’s an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. After minute 2 of watching as the camera zoomed into an explosion, I turned to Twitter to amuse myself, but my husband freaked out so I was banned from my phone. For an hour. It was a struggle to stay awake. In fact, the second the credits started rolling, I walked out of the room without a word and went to bed, even though it was still pretty early.
Art-house cinema has its place. People are free to make whatever movies they want, as long as they’re not hurting children or animals. But it doesn’t belong on Showtime, plopped in the middle of an ongoing series, disrupting plot and punishing its audience. No matter what this fawning article has to say about it. Even the New York Times is against me.
I know David Lynch doesn’t give a fuck. It’s an admirable quality most of the time, because it allowed the original Twin Peaks to change the landscape of television forever. But this act of not-giving-a-fuck was aggressive. Thus far, the new series has been difficult to swallow—some moments have been undeniably incredible, but others have felt like dead-end tangents. Despite assurances from the cast that eventually, all of this will make sense, I have my sincere doubts that an hour detour into 1945 New Mexico is relevant to the goings-on of Twin Peaks, Washington’s residents. Enough with the fan theories. Bob’s origin story! Who’s the girl who swallowed the gross bug?
I’m glad that the new series is not a rehashing of the old. I’m glad that, so far, we’ve only had to see James for about ten seconds, in a scene that, like the entirety of episode 8, seems to have little to no bearing on anything else going on in the series. But episode 8 was condescending. The subtext of episode 8 was, “You are all mindless idiots who don’t know how to meaningfully consume texts, so I’m going to force you to stare at nothingness for an hour and be present with it.”
As someone working on her 2nd degree in literature, I’m far from an expert, but I’d say I’m pretty good at sussing out meaning in the media I consume. For instance, Master of None season 2 is undeniably influenced by art-house, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. There’s a 3 or so minute sequence when the camera rests on Aziz’s face in the back of an Uber—the subtle physical acting he does takes the audience on an emotional journey. The guy barely moves for 3 minutes, which in TV land is a painfully long time to linger on one shot, but it’s never boring.
Plot is secondary to any great work, but it is an important component of a television series. Even shows like Seinfeld, that were ostensibly about “nothing,” were still plotted episodically. I had faith that watching Coop navigate a purple planet for an excruciating 20 minutes would be relevant to the overall story. I had faith that two young people getting brutally murdered while watching a giant glass box would eventually make sense. But episode 8 was so remote from Twin Peaks that I genuinely don’t care if it makes sense with the rest of the story. For Lynch to justify this capsule episode in the larger context of Twin Peaks: The Return will be such an unnecessary stretch that it might damage the integrity of the series as a whole. There are other stories to be told.
In eight hours of this new series, we’ve heard Audrey Horne’s name once, watched the insufferable Dougie wander around Vegas for innumerable minutes, and had to roll our eyes through the worst plot device of all time, which is the new Sheriff Truman talking to the absent Sheriff Truman in one-sided telephone calls. (Michael Ontkean chose not to return for the series—why not just say he retired, died, or better yet, not address it at all and just have a new sheriff?) We’ve also gained some wonderful characters (Naomi Watts and Laura Dern are sensational, and Michael Cera provides, in my opinion, one of the best comic performances of all time) and followed the story along some interesting detours.
I was on board through episode 7, because I truly felt like the creator of the ingenious original series wanted to provide us with a new piece of art that didn’t rely on nostalgia, something that challenged us to make connections. Episode 8 was a giant middle finger to everyone who gives a shit about Twin Peaks. It was the work of someone who seems to have contempt for his audience. I’m going to keep watching, because now I feel I’ve made an immense investment in the series and it seems wasteful to abandon it now. But I’m approaching tonight’s episode with a healthy dose of skepticism.
It is my great hope that, at the end of the new series, this take will be proven sorely wrong. I hope to look back on this in a few months and laugh at my own ignorance. But I’m not holding my breath.
P.S. “The” Nine Inch Nails performance was very cool, although the placement in the episode was terrible.
Edit: I have read a recap of episode 9, and it looks like it’s going to be absolutely incredible. I’m looking forward to watching, I just hate that I have to look up recaps in advance now to make sure I won’t be subjected to visual torture.