TV: Twin Peaks: S3 E12 - Reviewed

One of my favorite aspects of David Lynch’s return to the director’s chair alongside co-creator Mark Frost’s return to penning the episodes with Lynch is that it is wholly unpredictable and you can never let your guard down.  Unlike the original series which formed a consistent narrative structure, a familiar tone counterbalancing surreal comedy and horror, anything absurd, horrific or both in equal measure can happen without warning at any moment.  Further still, you think you know the characters’ trajectories and where they may head yet we continue as viewers to have the rug pulled out from under us. 

Nowhere is that truer than the twelfth episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, which includes everything from advancing the plot forward, comical asides, Lynch’s newfound obsession with elongated awkward silences, new answers to decades old mysteries (I think), and a reintroduction to a beloved character that is every bit as bizarre and curious as the much divisive Wally Brando scene from the fourth episode.  While I won’t reveal here who makes their grand entrance back into the world of Twin Peaks, I can say even after reading up on other interpretations and reactions that I’m unable to make heads or tails of this one.  Of the moments in an episode already chock full of amusing or bizarre abstractions, this is the one that wouldn’t leave me alone after the episode finished.

What is familiar, however, is Lynch’s casting of Grace Zabriskie in roles that always continue to stun in their unparalleled ability to terrify.  From her psychosexually charged murderess Juana Durango in Wild at Heart to the elderly neighbor with a disturbing prophetic vision in Inland Empire, Lynch and Zabriskie know precisely how to make viewers’ blood run cold and her return as Sarah Palmer is no exception.  While functioning in the episode as a loose recurring commentary on the world changing with the youth taking over the small town of Twin Peaks, as any longtime Lynch fan will tell you, Zabriskie was, is and always will be playing the scariest female characters in his oeuvre. 

Some fans will be a tad annoyed with Lynch’s ongoing indulgence in awkward silences, particularly involving a French woman Gordon Cole is attempting to woo, channeling the same peculiar long take of Cole standing in a stairwell with Tammy and Diane in episode nine.  Others will also have as many mixed feelings as I did seeing one of the show’s most beloved characters make their return on such a strange if not seemingly inessential aside.  Still, even as the plot creeps forward in some areas while deliberately standing still in others, watching Twin Peaks: The Return I’m well aware that what might seem inconsequential now could and likely will have great significance later. 

Even as my own notions of what I thought I knew about David Lynch and the world of Twin Peaks continue to be subverted in episode after episode, the journey its creators are taking me down continue to excite, enthrall and surprise.  Where most auteurs at this age have admitted to running out of steam or simply repeat themselves, Lynch’s longform movie as television event continues to show America’s most renowned cinematic surrealist has never been more imaginative or innovative.

- Andrew Kotwicki