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When the original seasons of Twin Peaks ran in the early 90’s, no one had seen anything like it, and its stir was fierce. Each episode brought a flurry of watercooler dissection, and television became a little weirder.

Twenty-five years later with the conclusion of Twin Peaks: the Return, David Lynch has once again provided an entirely novel viewing experience, revolutionizing the way his audience regards the possibilities afforded by television while delivering some of the greatest moments the medium has ever portrayed.

David Lynch Says Viewer, Walk With Me

David Lynch Before we continue, be forewarned – there will be spoilers. And if you’re unfamiliar with Twin Peaks, this probably won’t make sense at all. That said, let’s look at three instances in which Lynch crafted pitch-perfect, groundbreaking television.

Two of these moments came almost back to back in the same episode, number fifteen. The first proved that Lynch is the master of delaying gratification. Consider the fact that he kept us waiting through sixteen episodes before we got the return of the real Agent Cooper. It’s all we wanted. He withheld.

But we’re not here to talk about Coop. Right now, we’re looking at Norma and Ed.

As any seasoned Peaks viewer knows, their entire story was one of will they, won’t they. Theirs was a love that seemed destined not to be, poisoned by the violence and madness of their respectively miserable marriages.

…Lynch is the master of delaying gratification. Consider the fact that he kept us waiting through sixteen episodes before we got the return of the real Agent Cooper. It’s all we wanted. He withheld.

Then late in the Return – after twenty-five years – we get a surprise when Norma and Ed come together in one of the most effective love scenes ever crooned from the screen. Set to the ache of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, we feel Ed’s despair as he sits at the counter of the Double R, eyes closed, heart broken. When that tension finally breaks, it’s like seeing something good happen to old friends. Something you’ve wanted for them for a long time. In a show that is heavy on the dark, this is a climax of light. It had every longtime Peaks viewer on their feet. I can think of few kisses in the history of celluloid that compare. The pacing, the blocking, the soundtrack, the acting — this is a moment of master-craft.

Minutes later, we not only leave the light behind, but delve deep into the darkness with the passing of the Log Lady.

When actress Catherine E. Coulson died of cancer in 2015, fans were left wondering if she had finished her scenes for the Return. As it turned out she not only completed her reprisal, but delivered a direct-to-camera farewell with all the frailty and mantle of death’s proximity that come with advanced illness, ruminating on her own death before Hawk tells her goodbye for us all. This meta moment is nothing short of devastating to the viewer. It is a unique, fitting, heart-wrenching farewell to one of the most singular characters ever to grace television.

To finish things off, let’s jump back seven chapters to number eight – the episode in which David Lynch broke TV forever.

Twin Peaks: the Return

There Are No Rules In A Dream

Confused? So is everyone else. The president of Showtime described the new season as “pure heroin” Lynch. This is what he was talking about.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s difficult to describe. Let’s put it this way – the eighth episode of the Return is a surrealist nightmare fusing Lynch’s own Eraserhead with 2001: A Space Odyssey. It involves time (and interdimensional?) travel, nuclear explosions, a terrifying character called the Woodsman (“Gotta light? This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.”), the inhabitants of the Black Lodge, and a little girl who births a frog-bug from her mouth. Oh, and a full performance by Nine Inch Nails. Among other things. Strange, other things.

Confused? So is everyone else. The president of Showtime described the new season as “pure heroin” Lynch. This is what he was talking about.

Simply put, with the eighth installment of the Return, Lynch transformed what we can do with television. A major network has given the green-light to pure surrealism, and no matter how dream-like Mad Men or Breaking Bad might have wandered, there has never been anything like this. Even the first two Twin Peaks seasons seem ordinary by comparison.

David Lynch has an incredible amount of faith in his audience. He trusts that we are willing and capable of following him into the abyss, and conversely, we trust that he will take us there and lead us someplace that is, if not coherent, at the very least fascinating.

It seems there will be no more Twin Peaks. While some fans might find this disappointing, we can go forward assured that the Return will offer just as much heartbreaking, heartwarming weirdness with repeat viewings as it did upon our first look.

That’s the power of David Lynch. With Twin Peaks, he has captured the triumphs and horrors of life’s mysteries and condensed them into something that is safe for human consumption.

Safe, that is, as long as you can keep his characters out of your dreams.

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