Warning: Major spoilers up to Episode 5.
Three weeks and five episodes in to Twin Peaks: The Revival, critics are pretty much in agreement that the one-off miniseries is something very special indeed. Many have hailed Lynch’s storytelling, with its quiet ambition and fragmented structure, as displaying a degree of artistic freedom that goes beyond anything we’ve seen on TV in recent memory, even in our Golden Age of Television. Some have even pointed to the series as a crushing blow to the idea—upon which many TV critics’ careers rest—that each episode of a series is necessarily a discrete unit that can be commented upon and graded according to its quality.
Most audience members seem to be on board now too, if the show’s user rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes has anything to say about it. It’s still early in the game, but so far Lynch’s choice to ignore all audience expectations with the new Twin Peaks appears to have won him a true jackpot of a reception (“Hello-o-o!”). Of course, like Cooper’s casino adventure, the winnings probably don’t mean much to him.
I’ve made no secret of my appreciation for the series up this point, and my admiration continues with “Part 5,” in which nothing truly earthshaking happens, but a lot of little things happen that are great fun to watch and colour in a lot of detail about our characters and their world. We get some new characters, too, the most intriguing being the young Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried), whose firecracker of a lifestyle and flaxen blonde hair make her an obvious potential successor to Laura Palmer’s coke-tinged legacy, and a character we expect will play a central role in future episodes. Don’t underestimate Lynch’s ability to ignore your expectations though: it could be a misprint, but IMDB credits Becky as well as her beau Steven—the wraith-like Caleb Landry Jones who had a memorable turn earlier this year in Get Out—as only appearing in this single episode. Touché, Lynch. Touché.
The crux of this instalment, though, is Dougie’s—er, Agent Cooper’s—set of workplace antics as he’s forced into the daily grind at Lucky 7 Insurance, where Dougie apparently works as a senior sales agent. From ruthlessly intercepting his colleague Frankie’s coffee, to accidentally charming a female coworker into a rendezvous outside the bathroom, to being saddled with extra work from his angry boss (“It’s a homework game—since you missed the last two days of school, smart guy”), Cooper runs the gamut of oblivious hijinks within the span of a single day. While it’s hard not to wish for Cooper to get back to being the swashbuckling lawman we know and love, this stuff is still a lot of fun to watch, and Kyle MacLachlan as Cooper does an impeccable job of milking it all for laughs.
Like the original series, the new Twin Peaks has been playing leapfrog with genre, jumping interchangeably from light comedy, to police procedural, to experimental horror in as many consecutive scenes, and as a result we’re never entirely sure how we’re supposed to feel about what we see onscreen. That sense of ambiguity reaches its peak at the end of the episode, at which point a disturbing altercation inside the Bang Bang Bar ends somewhat cruelly on a cliffhanger. What’s Lynch’s strategy here? To test the limits of what he can get away with? Does he want us to resent him dragging out this foreboding moment?
As usual, we come away from “Part 5” with many more questions than answers—but this time it feels like we really do need to get some answers. While I don’t know whether they’re coming, I do know that what made the original Twin Peaks great was that, while the story world was pervaded by the underlying threat of pure evil, we also had a handful of heroic characters who embodied goodness as a counterbalance. Now, with that evil force evidently rising once again, here’s hoping some of those heroes are coming back too.
Next week: “Part 6”