7 Recent TV shows that are genuinely cinematic

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Twin Peaks: The Return

The first two seasons of Twin Peaks are brilliant but flawed television. The Return is a monumental piece of American art without parallel. It handily blew away everything else I’ve seen on television or in a movie theater this year. And even a week after its finale, I’m not sure how to quantify it. It’s not the avant-garde nighttime soap it was in the early ‘90s. At points, it felt like a series of barely related surreal short films. At others, it felt like a reflexive, inexplicable 18-hour video installation. It’s not a traditional television series in any sense.

No matter how unusual, American TV shows invariably follow certain conventions. Character arcs reach conclusion. Episodes unfold in some kind of identifiable structure. And in the case of hotly anticipated reunion shows, nostalgia is not weaponized against the viewer. But the profoundly oblique third season of Twin Peaks, none of those conventions apply. That’s not to say the series is nonsensical. Indeed it possesses a biblical clarity of purpose. It’s just that its narrative is presented in a way that resists passive consumption. Like Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), you have to intuit your way through.

Next: 15 Best and 10 Worst Stephen King Adaptations

For those feeling ambivalent about committing to 18 hours’ worth of beguiling, horrifying, infuriating, life-affirming and totally overwhelming episodes of unfiltered David Lynch and Mark Frost, the destination is very much worth the journey. If you’re willing to drink full and descend, you’ll be rewarded with one of this century’s truly great cinematic experiences.