Twin Peaks is back, and if you like the cult-classic show best at its darkest and strangest, you’ll be delighted with the four episodes now released by Showtime: two episodes debuted on air last night, and subscribers can access two more via streaming. 14 more hourlong episodes remain in the new season, all directed by David Lynch and co-written by Lynch with series co-creator Mark Frost (who was raised in Minnesota).
The new season occupies, in many respects, the same world as the 1990-91 original series: the opening credits take us over the same Washington waterfall — albeit this time from above, where we hover precipitously — and we return to locations including the Overlook Hotel and the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station, where Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) and Sheriff Harry S. Truman’s brother Frank (Robert Forster), respectively, reign. (Michael Ontkean, who played Truman, has retired from acting.)
The returning location where we spend most time, though, is the alternate dimension with its iconic zig-zag tile floor and endless red curtains, where the dead and the temporarily dead speak in backwards-looped English. It’s here where, as promised, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) once again meets Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee): 25 years later, as the murdered girl foretold in a scene that’s replayed at the very beginning of the new series.
Before digging into the details of the new episodes, I’ll fill Minnesota music fans in on where the Cactus Blossoms show up. It’s at the end of episode three, in a slot that will, it seems, be routinely given to musicians playing their own music onstage at the Bang Bang Bar. For the Cactus Blossoms, that’s “Mississippi.” The Chromatics play at the end of episode two, and episode four concludes with Au Revoir Simone.
Okay, spoiler alert: don’t read any further if you don’t want to know any plot points or surprises regarding the new season.
The new season centers on a doppelgänger — hope you rewatched Fire Walk With Me, like Lynch warned you to. There’s a bad Agent Cooper out there, a long-haired Kyle MacLachlan that will remind ’80s movie fans of the seedy Christopher Reeve in Superman 3. This Cooper seems to be the one that emerged at the end of the original series, the one who’s seeded with the evil spirit of Bob. The original Agent Cooper, it seems, has been hanging out in that red-draped afterlife for a quarter-century, and when he eventually emerges, he’s as shell-shocked as you’d expect. There’s also a third Cooper, who’s seemingly living a more-or-less happy domestic life with a wife and son. That one was put there by some nefarious power, apparently. Okay, sure.
Back in Twin Peaks, Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse) gets a call from the Log Lady (the late Catherine E. Coulson, who filmed her scenes prior to her 2015 death). Her log is speaking to her again, and this time it’s telling her that the long-lost Agent Cooper is coming back. Hawk, who’s learned to listen to the log, pulls out the records relating to Laura Palmer’s murder — to the shock of Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), now a deputy himself. Angelo Badalamenti’s music swells, and it’s moving to see the now middle-aged Bobby choke up at the image of his former flame.
Meanwhile, we’ve cut to New York City — the new series, like the movie Fire Walk With Me, gets out of town from time to time — where a young man (Ben Rosenfeld) is tending a mysterious, transparent box atop a tall skyscraper. His job is to keep a series of cameras trained on the box, though he gets a little distracted when a local barista (Madeline Zima) presents her naked body alongside the lattes she delivers after her shift. Of course, that’s exactly when the box gets some action too: a horrifying, ghostly figure who may or may not be Dale Cooper, emerges to splatter the young lovers’ torsos into a bloody pulp.
Talk about a guy who needs a damn fine cup of coffee! Cooper eventually gets his coffee, though in 25 years he’s forgotten that coffee is served hot; he spits it all over his second alter ego’s kitchen floor, to the amusement of his son and the chagrin of his wife. We don’t spend much time in the Double R Diner, though Hawk’s doughnuts are clearly marked as being from there. We do glimpse Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick), hanging out with a few friends at the Bang Bang Bar and watching James Hurley (James Marshall) from across the room.
The FBI get involved when Cooper returns, and in a wonderful scene we learn that Denise Bryson — the transgender agent played, once again, by David Duchovny — has been promoted to bureau chief. (We could sure use her in Washington IRL right now.) Gordon Cole (Lynch himself) and Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer) team up to track Cooper down, well aware of just what they’re getting themselves (back) into.
That’s about the most concise way to begin to understand what the heck is happening in the new Twin Peaks. We can expect a lot more of the Cooper doppelgänger in upcoming episodes: he’s involved in some nasty stuff, and he’s got a self-assigned license to kill. We can also expect cameos from more musicians — including Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, and Sharon Van Etten. If anything can restore Agent Cooper to sanity, it’s some good music, along with some good coffee. Maybe just not so hot this time.