OK, I’m two episodes in to the new “Twin Peaks,” two episodes of bendy zig-zag floors in maze-like red-curtained rooms, video-taped demon cages, Kyle MacLachlan in bronzer, stilted Lynchian dialogue, weird tree things, and too many wait-was-that-white-horse-important moments and I have liberated myself enough to say: I’m so over this.
And then my David Lynch guilt starts creeping in: I should like this. It’s weird. It’s surreal. It requires delayed gratification and narrative stamina. It’s David Holy Hail Lynch! And after begging the Gods of Obtuseness for forgiveness, I reiterate: I’m out.
There are just too many questions, key questions, like: What is going on? Is anything supposed to be going on? Am I an unsophisticated idiot? Why do those characters use each other’s names so much? Is the backward language thing vitally important or a red herring? Is David Lynch just messing with us?
I needed more input and enlisted the help of one of the few people I know who not only watches “Twin Peaks” but likes it, my friend and colleague, Durango Herald Arts and Entertainment Editor Katie Cahill, who’s gone as far as participating in viewing parties.
“You just have to be paaaatieeeent. It’s about patience and maybe we don’t have that anymore,” she said, reminiscing on her time as an 18-year-old watching the original series. “It’s almost like being harassed. You don’t know where the scenes are going. You don’t know where it fits in with the bigger picture.”
With that, I kept thinking to Vince Gilligan’s writing, arguably the best TV has seen in a generation with “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul.” While Gilligan likes to start with a mysterious, jostling, out-of-context grabber at the start of an episode, to put it simply, he manages to pull the audience along skillfully with a mastery of plot, movement, and show arcs, always somewhat resolving the thread by the end of each episode and propelling the story forward with a binge-yearning cliffhanger.
Lynch – I guess – requires more of us.
As hard as I tried to lay out what I believed was the plot to the new “Twin Peaks,” my recounting to Katie ended up being a collection of descriptions of events that had taken place. But any semblance of a thread tying these things together was out of my grasp, ultimately confirming that I had pretty much no idea what has been going on.
“And that’s kind of the fun of it, though,” she said, saying shows like this are fun to let wash over you after watching. “You chew on it later. You chew on it in the shower. You chew on it in the car. You chew on it before you fall asleep.”
Perhaps my problem is wanting something Lynch isn’t attempting to create: a plot-driven, linear, mainstream drama. Perhaps, as one could expect from Lynch, the “Twin Peaks” experience is meant to be, in part, interpretive, the intense visuals and surreal style as much narrative poems as anything else.
At times, I feel like the series is one of those math problems where they pile on extra information to confuse you to see if you really know how to solve the equation, wondering if the guy walking through the woods with a flashlight is important or merely thrown in for Lynchian giggles.
Katie posited that that might be because of Lynch’s obtuse, auteur reputation. “You’re not going to watch it the same way you’d watch ‘The Bachelor,’” she said. We go in assuming “his stuff’s got to be hard. This has got to be tough and pretentious. Do you feel weird if you don’t get David Lynch? But then, can you really get David Lynch? Or is there nothing more to get than a cool story?”
And that’s my problem. When watching something like “Twin Peaks,” I find myself wondering if this is just a big practical joke in which David Lynch got to make a show about a dream he had once. And then I loop back, feeling dumb, feeling like a “Bachelor”-watching Philistine, unable to grasp the work of a great artist.
Perhaps time has simply passed David Lynch by, where we as a culture have lost the ability to appreciate his snail’s-pace storytelling. In the decades since the original, we have been slowly conditioned for binge-inducing, fast-paced storytelling in terms of cuts and scene-length, story arcs, and cliffhangers. As Katie noted with her Lynchian Theory of Required Rumination, Lynch seems to be the anti-binge.
“So maybe we all need to cool our tits and indulge in it a little bit,” Katie said. “It’s like reading a big, long book in book form now. It’s hard to do.”
Ultimately, while I believe “Twin Peaks” is Lynch being Lynch, I don’t think the show is a practical joke. There will be a graspable plot. There will be payoffs. The stuff in the first two episodes will work into later episodes. It will be weird and twisty and mildly fulfilling in the end.
But this is 2017. Who has the time to find out?