It was announced via Twitter last night that David Lynch would not be returning to direct the heavily anticipated and long-awaited third season of Twin Peaks. The show, which is scheduled to premiere in 2016 after having been cancelled in 1991, remains one of the most beloved and influential television series in history, and Lynch's bizarre, sinister yet quirky style is one of the main reasons.
That said, I'm not all that sad he won't be in the director's chair.
No. 1, Showtime already has the nine scripts written by Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost (who for some reason people seem to pretend wasn't as important to the original vision as Lynch was). We're getting the story regardless of whether or not it's executed. That's worth getting excited about.
What's not really worth being all that excited about was having Lynch direct in the first place. I know that sounds like blasphemy, but you really have to think about it.
Lynch's last truly great stint in the director's chair of an original full-length movie was The Straight Story 16 years ago. After that he attempted to create the next Twin Peaks but ended up with Mulholland Drive instead when he clashed with ABC and ended up turning the pilot into a film.
Look, I like Mulholland Drive a lot, but it's a terrible film and it would have been an even worse television show. It gets a lot of love from the movie industry because it's largely a pretentious handjob to the magic of filmmaking wrapped up in an incomprehensible package meant to seem deep. It's the Emperor's New Clothes in film form, with everyone who watches it remarking on how mysterious and wonderful Lynch's vision is and not one person really able to say how it moved him or her or what made the characters speak to the viewer or even what it's about.
You ever have someone explain a dream he had to you for way too long? That's Mulholland Drive. Lynch's next film, Inland Empire, was even more incomprehensible. By that point, Lynch seemed as if he was doing an impression of himself. His best works in recent years have been shorts and documentaries and music videos, little projects he can be, well, Lynchian, within without stretching the whole thing out into a giant mess.
And if you really want Twin Peaks to succeed as a television show, that's not actually who you want to be the ultimate executor of the vision. Modern television has come into an amazing renaissance that has given the medium new depth and life. Game of Thrones, Hannibal and Orphan Black are just a few examples of how television has gotten way better than it was back in the day when Twin Peaks was an anomaly. A quarter of a century after Lynch and Frost changed TV forever, there's a whole platoon of directors skilled in the art of tackling nonlinear narratives and surreal elements in a way that still appeals to a mainstream audience.
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Hell, many of the directors who worked on Twin Peaks are still in the TV game and have only improved. Lesli Linka Glatter directed four episodes of Twin Peaks (only two fewer than Lynch himself), then went on to work on Mad Men, True Blood and The Walking Dead in addition to getting nominated twice for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series at the Emmys. If there's any director we should be clamoring to come in and keep Twin Peaks shipshape, it's her.
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Or Tim Hunter. He did three episodes and now works mostly on Hannibal. Before that, he was directing episodes of American Horror Story and Dexter. The point is that there are plenty of people out there with Twin Peaks pedigrees who can fill the director chair just fine, and many of them haven't spent their time since the '90s moving further and further away from accessibility.
You have to ask yourself what you want out of Twin Peaks. Do you want to have some sort of nostalgia experiment to try to capture something that probably can't be re-created, or do you want something like Doctor Who that can come back from a long hiatus and re-engage a modern audience on their terms? I don't want to watch a nine-episode experiment; I want to see the mythology and wonder of Twin Peaks expand and keep going.
David Lynch certainly belongs there. Without him there would be no Special Agent Dale Cooper, no Black Lodge and no Killer Bob. He remains an inventive genius who is impossibly brilliant at challenging norms. I can't wait to see what he and Frost have written for the next chapter, but I doubt that those ideas will suffer any from being filtered through folks who have had a bit more practice making complex serial entertainment work in the past decade.