The declaration "I am the FBI!" would strike fear into the heart of some. But for "Twin Peaks" fans, the words proved as exhilarating as a damn good cup of coffee and a damn fine slice of cherry pie.
That's because the phrase spouted from the dormant lips of Special Agent Dale Cooper – marking his fully realized comeback nearly 16 hours into the TV return of "Twin Peaks," a quarter-century after our last taste of David Lynch and Mark Frost's mélange of American weirdness.
The generation-long layoff didn't test fans' patience perhaps as much as the slow wind of a season largely missing its main character through a serpentine journey by turns quirky, bizarre and maddeningly tedious.
The masochistic marathoners among us who made it this far thirst for answers as the third season of "Twin Peaks" lurches toward its two-part finale Sunday on Showtime. But not knowing what to expect is the primary expectation in the world of Lynch, the auteur who puts the "odd" in odyssey.
In Lynchland, evil lurks on every dark and lonesome highway. His map of the human heart is even hazier, as evidenced by the various versions of Cooper presented in recent weeks.
The show, still rooted in the long-ago murder of prom queen Laura Palmer, traveled to strange old places (including the Red Room) and challenging new ones. Frequent shifts in tone and setting underscored that cohesion may be too much to ask from Lynch, who leaves us to savor and puzzle over memorable moments.
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Give him credit for concocting some great scenes with actors too young to remember the original 1990-1991 ABC series and the 1992 prequel movie "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me."
Amanda Seyfried's grinning heroin-high car ride through town could become the enduring image of Season 3. Jake Wardle's explanation in Episode 14 of how his British-born character landed in "Twin Peaks" with a green glove packing superhuman punching power gave us the strength to hang on for more.
Michael Cera's brief turn as Lucy and Andy's son, Wally Brando, decked out as Marlon Brando's iconic "Wild One" rebel, made the viewing investment worth it, no matter how the series ends.
Speaking of Lucy and Andy, Lynch clearly enjoys bathing in off-kilter nostalgia. He resurrected familiar characters, with Norma, who refuses to water down the grub at Double R Diner for profit, shovel-hawking Dr. Jacoby and the eye-patch-sporting Nadine, among the still-crazy-after-all-these-years returnees.
Lynch notably dedicated episodes to the memories of actors who died after filming their parts – including Miguel Ferrer (deadpan G-man Albert Rosenfield) and a clearly ailing Catherine Coulson, who imbued the eccentric Log Lady a haunting poignancy in her final role.
David Bowie even made a posthumous appearance, via a flashback from his past turn as FBI Agent Phillip Jeffries. The character also surfaced in the new series as a giant, steaming teapot-like creature out of a Ziggy Stardust fever dream.
There haven’t been any Bowie tunes on “Twin Peaks,” though Lynch hasn't skimped on the music. The lineup at The Roadhouse included "The Nine Inch Nails" and "Edwards Louis Severson III" (a.k.a. Eddie Vedder), while Angelo Badalamenti’s eerie soundtrack echoed once again. We even got a reprise of the slinky "Audrey dance," courtesy of Sherilyn Fenn.
Still, much of Lynch's choreography detours onto foggy paths perhaps better less traveled. The notion of Palmer's murder rooted in the original-sin-evil of the nuclear nightmare unleashed at Los Alamos offered a compelling visual – though one unfortunately beaten to death, via repetition. Someone should put together a reel of "Twin Peaks" women screaming (even if the lady with the child inexplicably oozing green goop can be forgiven).
The best and worst of "Twin Peaks" came in its convoluted tale of (at least) two Coopers. Kyle MacLachlan chomped scenery as the vicious gangster Mr. C, who imbued the season with menace and a semblance of forward motion. Yet MacLachlan's role as zombie-like insurance man Dougie Jones, who sleepwalked amid the clueless leeches in his life, edged into frustrating dullness at times.
But that's the duality of David Lynch, who Mel Brooks once called “Jimmy Stewart from Mars.”
The old TV show offered Lynch a platform to go beyond the strictures, time-wise and otherwise, of movies. He used his perch to change television, showing the potential for a medium now said to be in a new golden age. This time around, Lynch got 18 hours from Showtime and went full "Eraserhead" on us.
Red herrings run rampant in the rivers of bucolic "Twin Peaks." It's impossible to know how Lynch will tie everything together, or whether he'll bother. He reliably gives his audience more to scratch their heads about than to think about.
But at least we've finally got the pure-of-heart G-man Dale Cooper back to sift through some damn fine crumbs in a town still hungering for resolution all these years later.