Awards Daily TV shines a revolving Emmy Spotlight on Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival. The question is less what happened and more what will Emmy think of it?
I knew a whole hell of a lot more about David Lynch’s Twin Peaks before I dove too much into the Showtime revival. That much, I know. After tonight’s conclusion to the 18-part miniseries, I needed the reminder of my original review title to guide me.
“Well, what did you expect?”
Even my first sentence seems positively prophetic tonight: “The degree to which you enjoy Showtime and David Lynch/Mark Frost’s return to Twin Peaks depends entirely upon your tolerance level for modern Lynch.”
I was dead-on.
The past dictates the future indeed.
The new series wrapped tonight with back-to-back unique episodes. I can’t even begin to explain any of it. I have my initial thoughts, but I’m going to sit on it a while. This needs to marinate. Extensively. All season long, I’d patiently followed while reluctant to write much about it. There were pieces of the narrative I understood. There were pieces I did not. I didn’t spend much time trying to understand the actions as I did absorbing the emotions of the moment. Say what you will, but David Lynch is a master director. He holds a fantastic gift for manipulating your emotional spectrum as cleverly as any director working in linear narratives.
Case in point: Episode 8 (“Gotta Light?”) contained some of the most nightmarish imagery I’ve seen on television. Sometimes, you just have to look beyond the lack of narrative and trust your feelings. Kind of like the Force.
But modern audiences likely don’t want to interact with television that way. As much as he did in 1990, David Lynch continues to work within a television studio system to tell a story the way he wants to. Forget what you know about 1990 Twin Peaks. The 2017 Twin Peaks completely delivers exactly what David Lynch intends. He paints in broad, emotional strokes, not concerning himself with the minutiae. Want to know what happened to Audrey Horne? David doesn’t want you to. Want to understand what happened to BOB? David doesn’t want you to. Want to understand happened to Shelley’s daughter? David doesn’t want you to.
The sooner you divorce yourself from strict adherence to the narrative, the faster you’re likely to grasp the central concepts.
So, what will the Television Academy make of all this? Showtime will need to do some heavy lifting all year to keep it current next June during the 2018 Phase 1 voting window. Fortunately, there have been some critical huzzahs, enough to pop it back into the conversation toward the end of the year. And the fact that half of Hollywood had a role doesn’t hurt. Yet, given Lynch’s history with awards bodies, nothing is guaranteed.
If the past dictates the future, we should look at Twin Peaks‘s history with the Emmys. The more linear Season 1 received 13 Emmy nominations. The challenged, less linear second season won four Emmy nominations. Season 3, thanks to a presumed shift into the Limited Series race, will fall somewhere in between, I suspect. It could, though, fall more in line with this year’s The Young Pope. That series, a similarly challenging narrative from a distinctly unique directorial vision, received little Emmy traction despite the presence of Jude Law, James Cromwell, and Diane Keaton.
Among the Twin Peaks actors, three names emerge unscathed, I suspect, by the lack of tidy resolution at the end of the 18 episodes. Kyle MacLachlan effectively played three roles all series: The Bad/Dark/Dirty/Evil Cooper, “Dougie” Jones, and eventually Dale Cooper. His performance emerged as a complex feat of acting. Even in the unpopular “Dougie” sequences, MacLachlan says more with eyes, gestures, and stammers than many actors do in full soliloquies. And I’ve never see MacLachlan as intensely terrifying as he was with “Dark” Cooper. The Episode 16 revelation of the real Dale Cooper made for one of the best moments in television history after 15.5 episodes without him. MacLachlan deserves serious consideration for Limited Series Actor based on the three roles he tries on.
The other two successful performances from the series hail from Laura Dern and Naomi Watts. Dern, Lynch’s long-time muse, received the meaty role of the previously unseen Diane, Dale Cooper’s secretary. Initially bitter and broken, Dern’s Diane became something of a series femme fatale. She delivered flawless line readings week after week thanks to her intense partnership with David Lynch. She emerges from the series with two fantastic, awe-inspiring scenes: one in which she reconnects with “Dark” Cooper and one in which she melts down before attempting to assassinate David Lynch’s Gordon Cole. If she fails to win for Big Little Lies this year, then perhaps a cleverly assembled greatest hits reel will do the trick next year.
Naomi Watts gave an emotional, comic, and ultimately touching performance as Janey-E, the dogged wife of “Dougie” Jones. Initially, you feel these sequences are too bizarre to register with a voting body. Yet, Lynch gives Watts a handful of scenes in which she “tells it like it is” and regains some sense of agency for her character. If Twin Peaks 2017 goes over big with the Television Academy, then perhaps Watts comes along for the ride. My money’s on Laura Dern for Emmy attention, however.
As the series started, it appeared that Robert Forster’s role would be significant enough to put him in contention for Supporting Actor. He certainly has the right role as something of an audience surrogate, trying to sort through all the inexplicably mad goings-on. Alas, as the series progressed, Forster’s presence receded.
Ultimately, Twin Peaks may only receive a handful of Emmy nominations. It’s just very hard to say how tolerant the Television Academy will be of the finale’s failure to deliver a complete ending. Still, no one can deny the filmmaking bravura of David Lynch. It’s just difficult, in this era of immensely high quality television, to imagine a Television Academy with the patience to reward Twin Peaks.
But as I’ve said before, your appreciation for Twin Peaks depends entirely upon your tolerance level for modern Lynch. Maybe they will surprise me and recognize it.
Ultimately, they absolutely should, but no one will think less of Twin Peaks: The Revival if they don’t. Bravo, Showtime, for committing to the material and to Lynch. Bravo for taking the chance.
Now, can we get one more to explain it all? I’d really like to know what the hell is going on with Audrey Horne.
Kyle MacLachlan, Actor
Laura Dern, Supporting Actress
Naomi Watts, Supporting Actress
Robert Forster, Supporting Actor