Twin Peaks: The Return was the best piece of visual art I’ve ever seen.
Critics have described the last decade and some change as the “Golden Age of Television” which is pretty undeniable. I’ve found myself gravitating toward television more often than films in large part due to the medium’s capacity for telling a compelling story. A film has to tell a self-sustained story in about two hours or less, and even the longer ones rarely go past four hours. Sure there are sequels and prequels, but more often than not even these films are required to produce a story that is easy to follow regardless of your knowledge of the expanded universe it is set in. Television is kind of a final frontier in the quest for a fresh way to create long-term emotional storytelling. Budgets have gotten larger, seasons come more frequently (typically once or twice a year, as opposed to a few years in between for a film series), and there is always more that can be expanded upon due to fewer constraints and the ability to gain a larger viewership in the age of “binge-watching” on streaming services that virtually every home subscribes to. There’s also the option to watch a small chunk of a story, ruminate on that portion, and come back for another helping at your own leisure.
David Lynch and Mark Frost blurred the line between television and film with The Return. Lynch himself described The Return as an 18-hour film. Because virtually no one is going to sit still for 18 hours to watch a movie (and in order to build the hype and mystery needed to keep the momentum of this event going), it was split into 18 one-hour pieces that played each Sunday night through the summer of 2017. Lynch was adamant that this would not be a “binge-watch” scenario (though it will almost certainly be that way for some, now that all the episodes are available) and even scoffed at any one who would dare watch these episodes on a phone or tablet. This was meant to be seen on as big of a screen as possible, digested slowly over time, and the viewer was urged to keep their mind completely open and their mouths sealed shut as the events unfolded in front of them.
As a huge fan of the original Twin Peaks (humorously enough, one of the first posts I ever made in this blog was years ago when I first discovered the show) I was excited, but also extremely nervous, when the new season aired. Like anyone who loved the original run I wanted more, but there have been so many poorly executed revivals/reboots in recent years I was unsure of whether or not something 25+ years in the making could be brought back from the dead and made interesting again. What ended up occurring was something so sublime and beyond its time it actually casts a shadow across the subject matter it originated from and dwarfs it in comparison.
The Return was Lynch’s finest work to date and it’s not blasphemy to wonder if it’s the finest work of any director in my lifetime.
(Found forgotten in the draft folder from 9.8.17; last edited on 11.04.19)