TV REVIEW: Twin Peaks (2017 Revival)

written by David Steffen

The original Twin Peaks was a murder mystery created David Lynch and Mark Frost, which premiered in 1990, and ran for two seasons.  The story began with the discovery of the corpse of the homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee).  As the town grieves the loss of one of their own, FBI special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachland) arrives to investigate the murder.  Charmed by the small town atmosphere, Agent Cooper works with the sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) to uncover clues to the mystery.  What seems at first an ordinary murder (although unusual in this smaller town), uncovers more strange details and soon everything they think they know is called into question.  Even though the main plot of the show was pretty dark, there were plenty of moments of levity, fun moments between characters, intentional awkward pauses.    The show has a large ensemble cast who all play a major role at times, many more than would be worth bringing up in a review of this length.  The show is well worth a watch, though you might want to keep in mind that it gets weirder as it goes on, to the point where some of the weirdness is just confusing rather than compelling, and if you are expecting the confusing parts to make sense later, they often don’t.

If you are thinking about watching the original series, you might want to stop here, because you can’t discuss the least part of the revival without spoiling some of the most major events from the original.

The original series, which as a whole I would describe as hopeful, especially in regards to the protagonist Dale Cooper, takes a very dark ending.  Cooper visits the Black Lodge, a dark and mythical place with figures who speak strangely seeming to spend all their time in red-curtained rooms.  He is warned that he might meet his doppelganger there, and if he does, he must face the doppelganger head on, or else the doppelganger will steal his body.  In the moment of truth, Cooper flees, and the doppelganger does exactly that, and Cooper is trapped in the Black Lodge while the doppelganger returns to our world in Cooper’s body, and carrying the murderous spirit Bob along with him.  The original show ended with Cooper’s doppelganger smashing his own head into a mirror and laughing at the reflection.

One of the first weird things that happened in the original was a strange and vivid dream Cooper has about what he will later find out is the Black Lodge.  In the dream, it is 25 years in the future, and he is talking to Sarah Palmer.  It’s interesting that the original show set it up that way, and that they timed the revival to air 25 years later, and so they recreate this scene as part of the new show.  Cooper is still trapped in the Black Lodge, and his doppelganger has been committing terrible crimes in his body, off the grid.  Cooper soon finds a way to leave the lodge, and tries to reclaim his body in our world, but he is soon sent off on a confusing and surreal journey.

The most appealing part of watching the revival is to see all the old characters, see how they’ve aged (much of the cast of the original were high schoolers, so they’re in their early 40s for the revival), see what jobs and circumstances the characters find them in.  We get to see Cooper in multiple personas, it is super weird to see him as the surly grizzled doppelganger when we’re used to him being clean cut and chipper all the time.

But overall the revival is… confusing.  David Lynch loves the confusing.  And not confusing in a mystery novel kind of way, where it all comes together at the end, rather the opposite, it all makes less sense as the series goes on.  Entire episodes occurred where I literally had no idea what happened, with long silent stretches (or worse, ear-wrenching terrible noises that were super fun especially with a kid sleeping in the next room).  Cooper’s travels through the Black Lodge in particular are whole episodes of nothing but the surreal, with no clear idea where he’s going or what the rules are or anything.

Overall, I thought it was a disappointment, but it was fun to see the old characters again.  I just wish it was a more coherent story to go with it.


BOOK REVIEW: Pines by Blake Crouch

written by David Steffen

Pines is a… I guess I’d call it a mystery fantasy/SF thriller… the first of a trilogy written franchise tie-in novel written by Blake Crouch and published in 2012 by Thomas & Mercer.

If you follow reviews on this site regularly, and this one seems familiar, that’s because I’ve already posted a TV review of Wayward Pines Season 1 which is based on Blake Crouch’s trilogy of books and covers a similar set of events as the trilogy of books.

The story begins as U.S. Secret Service agent Ethan Burke travels to Wayward Pines, Idaho to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents who were last heard from as they approached the mysterious little town. After a car accident en route, Ethan wakes up in the Wayward Pines hospital, unable to contact anyone and unable to leave. In many ways it seems like a stereotypical small town, but there are big warning signs that something is not right in this little town–the strange things that people say, the strict rules the town keeps about not talking about your past and not asking questions. He wants nothing more than to escape the small town and get back home to his wife and son, but every route out of town is blocked–the main road only loops back into town again.  He finds one of the agents he was looking for (whom he had had an affair with in the past), but she seems to aged more than she should have.  Everything is a mystery in this mysterious, ominous, little town.

I read the books after already seeing season 1 of the TV show, and so I knew pretty much what to expect but I was interested in where it differed and where it was the same.  Pines stuck pretty close to the TV show, albeit covering only the first few episodes.  There are some notable differences, probably just to compress the plot enough to fit it on TV, and the book had more of an emphasis on Ethan’s past torture at the hands of a terrorist.  The main things that differed were supporting details like character appearances and character ages, and that sort of thing, which is always a little confusing but not terribly so.

I commented in the TV Review that some of the “weird little town” moments kind of reminded me of Twin Peaks but that the show did a reasonably good job with them and didn’t make it just a ripoff.  I was interested to read in the introduction that Blake Crouch is a huge Twin Peaks fan and this trilogy was his attempt to write something that had some of the same feel to it, so I think it’s interesting that I picked up the reference.

Book 1 provides a pretty solid plot arc on its own, making it a reasonably good standalone book on its own. By the end of the book you find out clear explanations for most of the weirdness in the town but with enough questions left to leave plenty of remaining mystery, the immediate plot arc resolves in a satisfying and interesting way, and at the end of the book the situation changes drastically enough to serve as an excellent hook for reading the next book–many things are the same but big big things have changed so if you’re like me you’re immediately drawn by the question of “WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?”