In the weeks leading up to Showtime’s anxiously awaited Twin Peaks: The Return, critics seized the opportunity to spend time with David Lynch’s original series, recapping and reappraising and recounting the behind-the-scenes story of the game-changing mystery that premiered on ABC in 1990. The one thing they couldn’t do was review the new series — because, in true Lynchian fashion, no advance screeners were distributed to the media. For those who tuned in to the two-hour premiere, here’s a spoiler-free roundup of reviews worth reading.
“Mr. Lynch’s mastery of tension persists,” writes James Poniewozik “The script, by him and Mr. Frost, recognizes the power of silence and anticipation. And Mr. Lynch, who is directing the entire revival, still has his penchant for dualities and eerie beauty.”
But he also notes that the first instalment of the new Twin Peaks is a bit tonaly inconsistent, observing that, “At times it feels as if a nostalgic 1990 version of the show is alternating scenes with a colder, harder-edged 2017 version. Whether and how the two come together may determine whether this sample, one-ninth of a unitary work, has staying power beyond the class-reunion phase.”
Film critic Richard Brody is less enthusiastic about Lynch’s return to television. “I don’t know whether he filmed The Return sequentially but the first hour and a half feels like a filmmaker under cobwebs, working not merely tentatively but conventionally, following patterns rather than inventing, recording and divulging information, rather than creating,” he writes.
In one of many reviews that contextualize Twin Peaks: The Return within a 21st century prestige television landscape the original series helped to create, Robert Lloyd notes that, “In some respects this is a show that has clearly been made in a world that has seen ‘The Sopranos’ and everything ‘The Sopranos’ made bankable. Yet it remains very much a David Lynch film; and if it doesn’t aim to replicate the mood of the original — the stylistic cribs from 1950s big-screen romances and B-grade thrillers that animated the original series have been tamped down — it is more like that Twin Peaks than like anything else on television.”
In an ambivalent review that questions Lynch’s apparent lack of interest in human nature, Sonia Saraiya concludes that, “Twin Peaks: The Return is weird and creepy and slow. But it is interesting. The show is very stubbornly itself — not quite film and not quite TV, rejecting both standard storytelling and standard forms. It’s not especially fun to watch and it can be quite disturbing. But there is never a sense that you are watching something devoid of vision or intention. Lynch’s vision is so total and absolute that he can get away with what wouldn’t be otherwise acceptable.”
Alan Sepinwall expresses some relief that the premiere “never felt like a brand cash-in — Lynch and Frost returning to their most famous creation for lack of other ideas — nor like a show that had no business existing outside its original time and space.” He adds that, “for all of its self-indulgence with pacing and content, and for all off its opaqueness even by ‘Twin Peaks’ standards, this felt thrillingly alive and fresh, even as it was continuing a story that Lynch and Frost had to abandon back in 1991 due to low ratings and various bad creative choices.”
In an appraisal that seizes on the reboot’s difficult, experimental feel, Matt Zoller Seitz writes, “I was riveted,” and recommends watching without interruption, in a dark room, “on the largest screen possible.”
“But,” he wrote, “I didn’t see much evidence that the new ‘Twin Peaks’ is going to pivot anytime soon and turn into the show that people remember, or think they remember.”
“If you were looking forward to a return of the sometimes campy, sometimes cozy humor of the original two seasons of ‘Twin Peaks,’ this premiere could come as a shock,” Emily L. Stephens warns in her recap of Sunday night’s episodes.
But, she adds, “If you, like me, had heard whispers that this revival was going to be Lynch’s vision almost entirely unconstrained by network notes — if you, like me, were buckled in for two hours of uncompromising surrealism and horror, this premiere delivered.”
The New York Times