David Lynch's return to television, and to filmmaking, is at its halfway point. An incredible work thus far, Twin Peaks: The Return is the full-circle evolution of what Lynch and Frost began 25 years ago, as well as what Lynch has spent an entire career crafting. Linear and plot-driven, yet never afraid to take the plunge into pure visual art, The Return has been a methodical dive into the unknown. As of the conclusion of Part 9, we've seen Lynch unabashedly follow his instincts and ideas into their fullest form at every turn, yet with the constant nagging feeling that the work has yet to become untethered from restraint and may never. This is Lynch bound by his own parameters, taking what would be risks for any other filmmaker and making them seem like we're playing it close to the chest. The Return's refusal to engage with most of the previous installments' tropes is a clear-headed decision at a time when Lynch could, and possibly should, be throwing caution to the wind and creating a slam-bang mind fuck out of Twin Peaks. Instead he plots his moves carefully and crafts a slow burn.
What The Return truly has going for it is the reinvention of the classic Peaks' tone. When the original seasons aired, part of the charm was a straight-faced, yet wildly over the top, rendition of the kind of shows that littered the television landscape (soap operas). The Return is just that as well, a straight-faced yet wildly over the top rendition of the dark, gritty mystery drama that elicits oohs and ahhs from critics and audiences alike. The new season borders on parody of slow-reveal shows and cable dramas by playing into their touchstones and taking it to the next degree. The art crowd had an easy time of laughing at the low-brow soap opera tropes while feeling that the show was intellectually superior to the trite teleplays. Here, however, Lynch is roasting the tropes of critical darlings and doing a damn fine job of it.
However the next half of the season ends up, The Return has been a deeply satisfying journey back to Twin Peaks, here's hoping the conclusion can do the impossible and pay off, not only the original work and Fire Walk with Me, but somehow outdo the left field first half. Defying expectations and outdoing what came before by sidestepping it entirely has been bold, and to do it again before the conclusion plays out here would be an even bolder stroke of genius.