'Twin Peaks' Premiere Review: 'The Game Begins' In Season 3

Diane, it's 11:04 P.M. on Sunday evening, May 21, 2017. I've just finished watching the two-part premiere of Twin Peaks season 3, the brainchild of creators David Lynch and Mark Frost that's been the subject of hopeful speculation for more than two decades. If you're wondering whether Lynch – who hasn't directed a feature film since 2006's Inland Empire – is still in top form, these two episodes put that question to rest. It's still hard to believe, Diane, but Twin Peaks is back, and it's just as enigmatic, engaging, and ambitious as ever.

Warning: spoilers ahead. Also, you may want to read our refresher before you dive into the remainder of this review.

Twin Peaks Review

The first question some of you may have: are the new episodes any good? We weren't given screeners ahead of time for this series, so I can't speak for what comes next, but based on the first two parts (which aired back-to-back in their debut on Showtime last night), the answer is a hard yes. Lynch and Frost delivered in a big way, introducing a handful of new mysteries and, shockingly, providing concrete answers to questions that were left dangling with the show's cancellation. The premiere episodes are gorgeously shot, beautifully edited, and contain flashes of the Lynchian strangeness fans were waiting for, but considering Showtime head David Nevins has called this limited series revival "the pure heroin version of David Lynch," the narrative for the first two parts was surprisingly linear and easy to follow.

The show opens with a flashback to a scene from season 2 that takes place in the Black Lodge's iconic Red Room, in which Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) tells FBI Special Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) that she'll see him again in 25 years. It quickly jumps ahead to reveal an older Cooper, who we now definitively know has been stuck there this entire time as his doppelganger roamed the Earth. I have to imagine that the fact any questions at all are answered, let alone in the opening minutes, is the influence of Mark Frost, but remember, the pilot episode of this show barely scratched the surface of the wonderfully unhinged and unpredictable nature of the rest of the series. We'll cover his doppelganger in a minute, but in the meantime, the real Cooper encounters The Giant (Carel Struycken), Laura Palmer, the benevolent inter-dimensional being known as Mike (Al Strobel), and a bizarre tree version of Mike's severed arm, which is technically the same character as the dancing little person from earlier episodes. (Ah, there's the weirdness.) All of these characters provide Cooper with cryptic messages and imply his time in the Red Room is finally nearing its end. But before he can leave, his doppelganger must re-enter the Black Lodge.

Here's where the show starts to head in a fascinating new direction. In New York City (photographed at night with a haunting beauty by cinematographer Peter Deming), we're introduced to a young-ish guy with no name who works in a high-rise warehouse and whose job is to watch a glass box that contains a porthole to the city outside. The glass box is recorded by cameras from multiple angles, and based on the number of memory cards the guy adds to the recording equipment, it's clear someone thinks that something important is going to happen there. (He mentions his employer is an anonymous billionaire.) When his girlfriend drops by, the guy gets distracted – and that's when something otherworldly drops in, breaks through the glass, and brutally murders both of them. Lynch stages the build-up to the killings with a palpable sense of dread, a motif that's been integral to the Twin Peaks package since the very beginning.

Back in the town of Twin Peaks, we briefly drop back in on the lives of real estate moguls and Great Northern Hotel owners Ben and Jerry Horne (Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly), and get a new look at former high school students Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick) and James Hurley (James Marshall). We'll see more of them in upcoming episodes, but we get a bit more of the now-married police officers Andy and Lucy Brennan (Harry Goaz and Kimmy Robertson) here. Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) gets a message from the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson): she tells him "something is missing, and you have to find it." It involves Agent Cooper and something from Hawk's Native American heritage (read: the Black Lodge), so Hawk enlists Andy and Lucy to help.

Season 2 ended with the reveal that Cooper's doppelganger made it out of the Black Lodge; he apparently went missing immediately after escaping, while leaving the real Cooper trapped inside. But the doppelganger's been busy leading a sketchy group of low-rent criminals (one of whom is played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), and he has no intention of ever returning to the Lodge.

DoppelCooper – who is still being embodied by the serial killer being known as Bob – now has long hair and looks like he stepped out of dirty 1970s motorcycle movie. He's involved in a whole new story happening in Buckhorn, South Dakota, where a woman's severed head is discovered in her bed along with someone else's beheaded body in her sheets. Yikes. There are fingerprints all over the crime scene that belong to a local school principal (Matthew Lillard, who absolutely kills it in an excellent interrogation scene), which allows Lynch to check his "explore seedy underbelly of an American small town" box. The principle's wife knows more than she lets on, and there's a good chance she's framing her husband as a way to get back at him for cheating on her. Looks like Twin Peaks has retained its soap opera element even in these new episodes.

The show also retains its guttural sense of horror, whether its in the occasional bursts of violence or inexplicable visuals; I was deeply troubled by a tracking shot that slowly reveals a creepily wide-eyed jail cell occupant, and most of the real Cooper's bizarre encounters in the Black Lodge carry with them the uneasy sense that something awful could happen at any moment. Just the rustling of those iconic red curtains is enough to make my blood run cold, let alone imagery like a screaming Laura Palmer getting sucked into the ceiling or Cooper falling into an inter-dimensional space abyss between the Lodge's black and white floor lines.

I have no idea what the critical consensus is going to be, but I found the first two episodes of this series to be incredibly satisfying. This is just about everything I wanted from a new Twin Peaks installment, and it was infinitely more digestible than I anticipated. I'm still expecting Lynch to spiral into way more surreal territory as he goes on, and I welcome seeing what he has in store for us. But for now, I'm savoring the relatively straightforward narrative and looking forward to seeing even more familiar faces as Lynch and Frost explore new ideas through a framework they established two and a half decades ago. This is going to be fun.

This Week's Clues

These two episodes provided a couple of strange clues that we assume are important for the larger story at play during this season. Of course, they might turn out to be red herrings or dead ends, but let's try to keep track of them as best we can anyway just for fun. You never know what might become important later on.

  • In the Red Room, the Giant tells Cooper to "listen to the sounds" coming out of a gramophone. The sounds that emanate from it are reminiscent of a spoon against a washboard. The Giant has more information for him: "It is in our house now." "Remember 430." "Richard and Linda." "Two birds with one stone."
  • The weird brain tree in the Black Lodge says to Cooper, "253. Time and time again. Bob, Bob, Bob."
  • The next two episodes are actually available for subscribers to watch online right now (I haven't seen them yet), but for those who don't want to bother tracking them down, they'll air next Sunday at 9 pm EST on Showtime. What did you think of the return of Twin Peaks?