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What was that? It's Showtime for Twin Peaks


Kyle MacLachlan is more front & center than ever in new Twin Peaks. He can be seen in three guises in first four episodes. Showtime photo

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Well, that was really weird.

Well, why would it be otherwise?

Showtime’s continuation of Twin Peaks premiered Sunday night without any advance review opportunities and with a 2-hour chunk before the premium pay network made the next two episodes available On Demand and on its streaming site.

I succumbed to all of them as someone who had the highest regard for this series when it first hit ABC on April 8, 1990. Veteran fetishist David Lynch, who is directing all 18 new episodes and also co-writing them with co-creator Mark Frost, again seems to be determinedly going nowhere -- and certainly nowhere fast. In Episode 4, his hard-of-hearing FBI character, deputy director Gordon Cole, speaks volumes in telling his partner Albert Rosenfield (the late Miguel Ferrer), “I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all.”

Likewise, I’m sure.

Twin Peaks and its initial central mystery -- “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” -- began as a transfixing, quirky, nothing-else-ever-like-it addition to ABC’s prime-time lineup. Midway through a very meandering and preposterous Season 2, the killer was revealed at the network’s insistence. It turned out to be Laura’s father, Leland (Ray Wise), who had been possessed by the demonic “BOB.” In the final episode, burned off by ABC on June 10, 1991, the “shadow self” of FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) emerged from the nightmare-infused, red-curtained Black Lodge. The closing scene showed his “doppelgänger” to be the new host of the long-haired killer BOB. It all made perfect sense -- as long as you were on an acid trip.

Lynch subsequently made a big-screen Twin Peaks prequel, Fire Walk With Me. MacLachlan wanted little to do with it, and was seen only sporadically. This is decidedly not the case with Showtime’s Twin Peaks. As the first four episodes show, MacLachlan is all in, even if he’s yet to even be in the Pacific Northwest town from which the series draws its name.

MacLachlan’s vivid performances, as the suit-and-tied Cooper, the long-haired, possessed Cooper and in a new guise as “Dougie Jones,” are the principal respites from Lynch’s gelatinous pacing. His camera lingers -- and lingers some more. Some of the new supporting parts are acted out with a mechanical, porn film depth. And Lynch remains hopelessly devoted to mondo bizarro, prolonged special effects, with the start of Episode 3 showing him at either the top or bottom of his game.

Lynch’s twisted brutalization of women likewise continues. There’s a decapitation. And later a punch to the face followed by a gunshot to the head after a lengthy scene of physical restraint and mental torture. Another woman also is dispatched via a bullet through her brain. It all seems to be part of the director’s basic playbook. And it’s past time for him to be called out on it.

The very limited scenes within the actual town of Twin Peaks mostly revolve around goofy and largely purposeless goings-on at the sheriff’s office. Michael Horse, Harry Goaz and Kimmy Robertson all return, respectively as Tommy “Hawk” Hill, Andy Brennan and his wife, Lucy Brennan. Andy has become particularly aggravating, and then some. Michael Ontkean, co-lead in the original Twin Peaks as Sheriff Harry S. Truman, declined to return. Robert Forster steps in to play his lawman brother, Frank, while Harry is said to be ill.

Other members of the charter Twin Peaks ensemble drop in and out briefly on an assembly line. Wise’s aforementioned deceased (or is he?) Leland Palmer is seen for barely a few seconds in the Black Lodge. He has two words for Cooper: “Find Laura.”

Those who make it all the way to Episode 4 will find it fairly rich in guest stars. Richard Chamberlain, Michael Cera, Ethan Suplee, Naomi Watts and David Duchovny (who has transitioned to FBI agent Denise Bryson) are all part of the party mix. Cera, as the Brennans’ wayward son, Wally Brando, is completely extraneous in terms of “plot” advancement, but seems to be enjoying himself as a mockup of Marlon Brando’s defiant Johnny Strabler from The Wild One.

Episode 4 also showcases Cooper’s reincarnation as Dougie, a combination of Frankenstein’s monster (without the scars or bolts) and the simpleton Chance from the Peter Sellers vehicle Being There. How he got to be Dougie is basically impossible to explain in print. But watching Dougie’s evolution into “Mr. Jackpots” at a Vegas casino may be the most fun anyone will have with these first four episodes.

Besides Ferrer, two other returning Twin Peaks cast members, Catherine Coulson (“The Log Lady”) and Warren Frost (Dr. Will Hayward), died after their brief scenes were filmed. The re-do wrapped in April of last year, with everyone sworn to the utmost secrecy. Not that they could have explained what takes place during these first four episodes, or likely henceforth.

In its glorified early episodes, the original Twin Peaks was something to behold. But in the nearly 26 years since it left ABC, a number of other TV auteurs have emerged and surpassed Lynch, who’s now well beyond middle-aged crazy at age 71. Vince Gilligan (FX’s Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), Noah Hawley (FX’s Fargo and Legion) and Ryan Murphy (FX’s American Horror Story, American Crime Story and Feud anthologies) are among those with a talent for blending the absurd with the basically plausible.

Lynch perhaps has no interest in such “conventions” -- or is incapable of them. But Twin Peaks is rambling on anyway, providing little morsels of enjoyment amid all the numbing nonsense. Viewers can be virtually assured that little if anything will be made clear in the end. And if that’s all right with you, then take the ride while remembering this: “When you get there, you will already be there.”

Those are watchwords from Episode 3 -- uttered shortly before a whole lot of vomiting kicks in. Enjoy.

GRADE: C-minus

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