"Twin Peaks: The Return," Showtime's extraordinary offer of prime time to David Lynch and his partner Mark Frost, has been must-see TV this summer.
I watched every episode with a weird combination of duty and excitement. To have been a critic watching, right from the very beginning, David Lynch's career (including interviewing him in what seemed at the time like a Lynch film) was to feel both the duty of seeing what America's most dedicated dream-maker was capable of on cable TV.
But I also knew there was always the possibility that something like Episode 8 of "Twin Peaks" could come along where we could see, at long last, the purest example of avant-garde, non-narrative art cinema ever seen on American prime time TV. As I watched it with genuine amazement, I couldn't believe that Showtime was gutsy enough to let Lynch do it.
That's the subject we can never forget, The ratings for Lynch's "return" to "Twin Peaks" hovered consistently around abysmal but what was revealed by the show's finale, after episode 18, was a nuclear explosion of excited professional and amateur commentary and criticism on social media, the likes of which I've never seen before.
And that, I suddenly understood, was the whole point of reviving "Twin Peaks." Its aggregate audience may never have been large but its capture of that audience was passionate and total.
There exists now, in America, a huge number of educated people who have been indoctrinated, at an early age, in the worlds of narrative interpretation and criticism.
They are an immense seminar waiting to converge coast to coast for the glorious and portentous offerings of an artist like David Lynch, who will allow them all to display all of their intellectual skills, no matter how foolish they look.
There was one "Twin Peaks" exegesis I read from one of America's most prestigious suppliers of big circulation movie discourse that was hooey of astounding purity.
In the context of "Twin Peaks" theories exploding from every direction in American social media, it was perfectly in place.
That is what "Twin Peaks" did magnificently: it liberated a small but desperately under-appreciated audience to use skills for each other's benefit that they were afraid they'd never exercise again.
It was another altogether wonderful "return."