So 2017 was over a while ago, and I still haven’t really discovered much this year, mostly picking up scraps from the one I’ve been writing about. In these retrospectives, we often seek to reclaim a year or a escape it, but in truth it moves with us. If things were miserable before, they’ll be miserable until we’ve dealt with them. And 2018 shows some promise that things might get a little better. But maybe it won’t. If that’s the case, you can keep yourself occupied with some of the best art of the Trump era, because over the past two months, I’ve counted down the best entertainment of 2017. Hopefully you’re richer for having read this series, and if you’ve decided to check any of these out, then, well, that’s beautiful.
1. Twin Peaks: The Return (Showtime), created by David Lynch & Mark Frost
Finally, time to put this best-of-2017 project to bed.
…what year is it?
It made sense that Twin Peaks was going to return. I’m sure they didn’t, but watching the original finale and seeing Laura Palmer tell Dale Cooper they’d meet again in 25 years, it feels like Frost and Lynch have been planning for it all along.
Truth be told, I’m new to Twin Peaks. I sat down earlier this year with the old material to catch up before the new season finished. “Pilot” through “Episode 14” is immaculate, absolutely perfect television. I was drawn in by the gradual exposure of a dark town in denial, the drama of hormonally-crazed high school students, and the irreverence, the jarring tension between the seriousness of a serial killer investigation and the show’s ability to guffaw at anything at anytime. Of course, I was sucked in when phenomena, for which words like “spiritual” and “paranormal” seem insufficient, came further and further to the fore.
After “Episode 14,” the show substantially lost steam, but the characters kept growing and I was pleased to just have more time with Twin Peaks and its residents, however zany or outright pointless their misadventures might have been. But “Episode 29” (the finale) and the oft-underappreciated Fire Walk With Me, both masterpieces, were just what I needed to prepare myself for the ambition of The Return.
So far, it might appear that I’m giving The Return my #1 spot simply because it’s a continuation of a stone cold classic that I happened to find this year. That skepticism is fair, but The Return is so wildly distinct, so at odds with itself, so painstakingly not quite a return that its achievement stands entirely apart from the rest of the Twin Peaks legacy.
It is not what anyone expected. It is not what anyone asked for.
The original series ended on a double cliffhanger, but it doesn’t give either a thought. What Cooper and Audrey were up to these past couple dozen years remains unclear. “Where’s Annie?” isn’t even a thought. Harry Truman is gone. Audrey Horne is barely here. Special Agent Dale Cooper, as we know him anyway, is barely here.
The friendliest moments to people longing for the old stuff are like when we see Andy and Lucy with their son, both so proud of their gibberish-spewing Brando wannabe that they refuse to take their hands off his shoulders for the duration of the scene. But even those moments are truly about the unfamiliar.
In fact, only once does The Return tend to unfinished business with any real sense of respect: Ed and Norma finally get together and shovel themselves out of the shit to Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.”
It’s a crown jewel not just of The Return but the entire series, and it knows this enough to make you wait until “Part 16” of 18.
Otherwise, any satisfaction the show gives us is fleeting. Special Agent Dale Cooper takes just as long to truly arrive, and he just as quickly shows that he never meant to truly return to Twin Peaks. Just as any good revival knows, you can’t go home again. Not really.
So what is there?
Listen to the sounds. You are far away. It’s not about the bunny. Call for help. Drink full and descend. You’re in the shit! I’m not me. What year is it?
Each brief sentence is so evocative, whisking you back to whatever moment.
There’s Lawrence Jacoby, the creepy psychiatrist who’s now a ferocious InfoWars-style radio host, shilling golden shovels on the back of bogus self-help and vague politics. “The fucks are at it again!”
There’s the Woodsman, also quite the radioman, hypnotically closing out the daring “Part 8,” the episode that more than any other distances Twin Peaks from any other television.
There’s Diane, played by 2017 MVP Laura Dern, giving a monologue that would be the high point of any other show.
And, of course, there’s Dougie Jones. Kyle Machlachlan is tasked with three (perhaps even four or five) performances, each starkly different incarnations of Dale Cooper. The greatest of these is the hollowed out shell of Dougie Jones, one of the finest achievements in all of comedy.
So despite these and so many other remarkable standalone achievements, “Part 16” tells us so firmly that it’s all coming back together, that we’re all about to see our favorite people back in our favorite place. The show reeks of confidence.
Then it’s all undone so quickly, like the act of getting everyone in a room together undoes not just the return, but the original, leaving everything further apart than ever.
The Return is so remarkable because it’s such a thorough demonstration that Twin Peaks cannot return.
But the attempt is as haunting, as amazing as what we tried to return to in the first place.
And gosh, listen to the sounds.
The soundtrack is phenomenal, and most prominent are the performances at the Roadhouse that usually close these new episodes. A few stand out: Au Revoir Simone’s “A Violent Yet Flammable World,” Rebekah Del Rio’s “No Stars,” Chromatics’ “Shadow.”
But none force themselves into being a standout moment in a season with so many as Lissie’s “Wild West.”
It is happening again.
All that you lost you get back, and all that you want you can have.
Goodbye, 2017. It can never happen again.
Onto 2018. I’ll be fine, fine. I’ll be fine, fine. I’ll be fine, fine.
#12: Doki Doki Literature Club
#9: The Young Pope
#8: Life Will See You Now
#7: Super Mario Odyssey
#6: Better Call Saul
#5: The Wicked + The Divine: “Imperial Phase”
#4: competitive fighting games (part 1: Smash 4), (part 2: Street Fighter V), (part 3: Super Smash Bros. Melee)
#3: The Can Opener’s Daughter
#2: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild