Nostalgia-fueled executives are creating reboots, remakes and reunion shows left and right. I’ve previously written about how Netflix successfully taps into that with “Stranger Things” and “Voltron: Legendary Defender” while failing with “Fuller House.” Yet this summer another program, on Showtime, eclipses them all.
David Lynch and Mark Frost’s “Twin Peaks: The Return” is a surreal spectacle that weaves together old and new threads. The show, which premiered in May and had its two-part finale on Sunday, breaks the hiatus from when the cult classic originally ended in 1991. Laura Palmer’s death was solved decades ago, but the passage of time for the characters, actors and audience is a major theme.
What makes the season work is the reunion of almost every member of the cast. Of course the show wouldn’t work without Kyle MacLachlan reprising his multifaceted role as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, but “Twin Peaks” was always about the eclectic ensemble.
Sherilyn Fenn’s Audrey Horne comes back to sway to jazz, and her father and uncle Ben and Jerry are still shrewd businessmen. Though not exactly alive, Ray Wise as Leland Palmer is seen in the supernatural Black Lodge talking to Cooper. Even Cooper’s assistant Diane, who never appeared on screen in the 90s, finally came to life by Laura Dern’s portrayal.
A few late actors also managed to reprise their roles. Miguel Ferrer, known for being Owen Granger on “NCIS: Los Angeles” as well as FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on “Twin Peaks,” once again acts as the straight man to Lynch’s Gordon Cole before he died to throat cancer. With Cooper mostly out of commission, the pair of detectives is the main hope to getting towards the bottom of the new mystery.
Twin Peak’s coroner Doctor Hayward, played by Frost’s father Warren, makes a cameo on a Skype call before he passed away in February. Even if it takes a literal phone-in, Lynch and Frost wanted to reunite everyone.
But the most moving performance comes from Catherine E. Coulson, who played Margaret Lanterman. Also known as the prophetic Log Lady, she is a staple to the town’s creepy atmosphere. She gives more cryptic messages this season but with a cannula in her nose and hair loss due to chemotherapy, she also gives a farewell. As Coulson says death is “just a change. Not an end,” to Michael Horse’s Deputy Chief Hawk, I don’t doubt that the actors themselves knew it would be their final conversation.
The show acts as a time capsule that immortalizes characters long after they’re gone.
Unfortunately, not every actor was able to come back. Michael Ontkean didn’t wish to play Sheriff Harry S. Truman again so Lynch wrote a debilitating illness for the character into the script. Frank Truman, Harry’s brother, then became the sheriff and was played by Robert Forster, who was offered the original role on the series but couldn’t do it because of schedule conflicts.
The great David Bowie, who played FBI Agent Philip Jefferies in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,” passed before filming his cameo. Lynch had to resort to archival footage, off-screen communication via text and hiring a voice actor to mimic Bowie.
“24: Legacy” picked up after three years, the fifth season “Prison Break” was eight years later, “Mystery Science Theater 3000” returned after 18 years, yet none of those trump “Twin Peaks” appearing on air after 25 years. Part of this is because the show got out its obligatory winks and nods in a pseudo-reunion episode that happened seven years ago.
“Dual Spires” was an episode of USA’s comedy detective show “Psych” that was not afraid to ham it up for old times’ sake. Featuring seven members of the cast like Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook and Coulson, the hour-long procedural is filled with hundreds of references to the show. Along with the obvious name change and a murdered teenager, the show alludes to Nadine’s silent drapes, The Great Northern hotel, a burned sawmill and more.
To be fair, the third season of “Twin Peaks” is not without its callbacks either.
This season’s excellent closing credits feature a musical act virtually every episode so Twin Peak’s own James Hurley has to sing “Just You” with the same eerie falsetto he had years ago. And it should go without saying that damn fine coffee and cherry pie are seen or mentioned as much as possible. Catchphrases are present, though reserved. Like I said, this isn’t “Fuller House.” Characters aren’t going through past motions robotically but have evolved to perform similar actions.
The references are simply a necessity to please ravenous fans. Much of the show is still a mystery to me—and I’m not a big fan of obscurity or absurdity for the hell of it—so without those touchstones I would have been alienated so much more that I doubt I would have made it through the season.
Resuming any creative endeavor nearly a quarter of a century later is no easy task. Lynch and Frost expertly pulled off an homage and continuation of their beloved series that provides closure for all.