If you haven’t seen the original series and the prequel movie, Twin Peaks: The Return won’t make any sense (come to think of it, even if you have seen the previous material, it still won’t make sense.) Disappointingly, we don’t get closure for many of the season two cliff hangers. We don’t learn if Leo survived or not (he only appears in a clip), we don’t learn what happened to Annie or Donna or Hank (they don’t appear at all), and we don’t find out how James Hurley got out of being a murder suspect.
Overall, I’ve got to say I didn’t care for the third season of Twin Peaks as much as I hoped I would. I think it would have been better if someone had reigned Lynch in a bit. I’d prefer the supernatural elements to be a bit more subtle. I like weird for the sake of weird, but I feel like there was too much weirdness here. The special effects are surprisingly low budget. Lynch’s odd ball sense of humor doesn’t always work. There’s gratuitous nudity to remind you that you’re watching Showtime. There’s a couple scenes of women getting killed after having sex which is something that shouldn’t be a theme.
Many actors give wooden performances as we’ve come to expect from Lynch. Long awkward pauses are inserted into the dialogue. There are many slow-moving scenes in which nothing happens, such as the scene in which we watch a man sweep up a floor. Most episodes contain a musical performance by a band, which just felt like filler to take up time. Michael Cera (Wally Brando) gives us a Marlon Brando impersonation which could be cut without affecting the plot. Ashley Judd’s character Beverly Paige added nothing to the plot either. It seemed like their characters were created simply to fill time. Many characters such as Ben Horne and James Hurley aren’t given much to do. Sarah Palmer and Red both have superpowers for no apparent reason.
All the interesting characters you remember have mostly become bland. I guess they can’t be mysterious after you’ve already met them, but even the new characters aren’t that mysterious. It’s told from an older point of view than before. There’s less focus on the younger characters which may be another reason the third season has less of a cool factor to it than the original series.
Many character appearances are little more than fan service as you’d expect. I was happy to see David Duchovny (Agent Denise Bryson) make an appearance. His character was one of the first positive portrayals of a trans characters on a network television series. However, he wasn’t really given anything to do. More fan service includes the inclusion of Audrey’s dance and James Hurley’s singing to remind fans that the show used to be cool.
Walter Olkewitz, whose character Jacques Renault died in the original series, returns as a relative to his character named Jean-Michel Renault. His scene was basically filler, or, at best, fan service. His dialogue is basically the same as dialogue from the original series. I did like seeing that Nadine got her silent drape invention off the ground. So some of the scenes are a delight to watch, but many more were a chore to get through. There’s a scene in which Hutch and Chantal drive through Utah and engage in some Mormon-bashing. If they made fun of Jews or another religious group in the same way, it wouldn’t be ok, so I don’t know why making fun of Mormons is.
There are far too many scenes in which overly-emotional female characters yell at calm male characters. Albert even becomes uncharacteristically meek when Diane yells at him. Audrey used to be cool, now we mostly just see her yelling at her calm husband. Janey-E yells at a calm Dougie, Nadine yells at a calm Big Ed, a honking motorist yells at a calm Bobbie, Doris yells at a calm Sheriff Truman, Chantal yells at a calm Hutch. Beverly Paige yells at her calm husband. These scenes just keep coming. Lynch seems to be telling us that women are emotional wrecks and it’s man’s lot in life to just calmly put up with it.
It’s surprisingly repetitious in other ways as well. There are a lot of scenes in which someone picks a fight in a bar or restaurant for little to no reason just so we can see that a protagonist is a good fighter. Another theme is that becoming rich tends to solve everyone’s problems and makes them happy.
I’ve got to say it’s not as fun as the original. There’s a lot of focus on disgusting things like corpses and there’s a surprisingly large number of vomit scenes. It doesn’t have the sense of cool that the original did. It’s more grimy. It’s hard to enjoy the light-hearted, comic-relief scenes when a grim scene preceded it. There’s not as much a sense of evil lurking under the surface of small town America when the evil is front and center. Feels less menacing and more dystopian.
One of the best parts of the original is Agent Dale Cooper’s cheerfulness, over-the-top politeness, and love of both coffee and cherry pie. We get some of this towards the end of season three, but not much. For most of the season, Kyle MacLachlan plays both Agent Cooper’s evil doppelganger and the born-yesterday Dougie Jones. Dougie Jones doesn’t know how to do simple things like open doors. When he talks, he just repeats what other people say to him. It’s strange how other characters treat him like there’s nothing wrong with him. Dougie is fun in small doses such as when he rediscovers coffee and pie, but gets he annoying fast. By my count, he survives five attempts on his life mostly through dumb luck. So we get more repetition.
Cooper’s evil doppelganger has supernatural powers and thus no one poses a threat to him. Since both Dougie and the doppelganger continually succeed without trying, they aren’t very interesting to watch. It was really awesome when we finally got to see the real Cooper, however he too turns into a more grim version of himself fairly quickly.
I love Albert’s character. He’s just as acerbic as I remember. Dr. Jacoby does a great Alex Jones (a salesman pretending to be a conspiracy theorist in order to sell product). Jerry Horne is great as an aging hippy. Bobby Briggs has a great character arc. The Mitchum brothers are fun, although the scenes in which they try to get the attention of the oblivious Candy are annoying.
Many questions are left at the end of the third season and there’s currently no plans for a fourth, so Mark Frost wrote a book, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier to explain some of the things that weren’t explained in the show. I count this as a mark against the series. The TV show should stand on its own. If it doesn’t make sense without the book, the show is obviously missing many key elements, which is strange since there’s so much filler scenes in it. Twin Peaks: The Return was largely a waste of time and a big disappointment to me, although your individual mileage may vary.