"Twin Peaks," David Lynch's noir soap opera about murder in small-town America, returned Sunday after 26 years away, prompting an outpouring of joy -- and a collective scratching of heads.
The cable network Showtime aired parts one and two of a new 18-episode run of the famously surreal series in perhaps the most eagerly anticipated television event of the year, making parts three and four available on demand immediately after.
"Take that, the very idea of a traditional review," tweeted novelist Ben Greenman after the broadcast, summing up the views of many who thought the show was just too strange for any quick judgment to be fair.
Anticipation ahead of the broadcast and initial, mainly positive, reactions afterward kept #TwinPeaks among the top trending US hashtags for much of the day.
"Newsflash newbies: David Lynch goes at his own pace, not yours," chided one Twitter user.
"For the two things that were answered, there's a bajillion other questions jumping through my brain," tweeted another, a comic store owner from New Hampshire.
Lynch has spent recent years directing music videos and dabbling in comedy acting, but hasn't made a motion picture since the box office flop "Inland Empire" 11 years ago.
The compelling mystery of the original eight-episode "Twin Peaks" -- who killed the beautiful cheerleader Laura Palmer -- captured the imagination of a generation in 1990 and it was held up as frontrunner for a new kind of cinema-quality TV.
It quickly gained a loyal fan base and won three Golden Globes in 1991, including one for best television drama and another for actor Kyle MacLachlan.
- Talking trees -
Audiences and critical appreciation waned when the 22-episode second series unmasked Palmer's killer and ABC canceled the show. A movie that followed, "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me," was a commercial and critical flop.
MacLachlan returned Sunday in his role as FBI special agent Dale Cooper along with much of the show's original cast, with Lynch -- known for his films "Blue Velvet," "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive" -- directing every episode.
"IT IS HAPPENING AGAIN," MacLachlan tweeted as it was about to begin.
Lynch purists voiced their delight at the look of the premiere, which was as unsettling and replete with hallucinatory symbolism -- from talking trees and people speaking backwards to moving zigzag floors -- from the original series.
The story, written by Lynch with "Twin Peaks" co-creator Mark Frost, picks up with Agent Cooper in the red-draped Black Lodge, where Palmer (Sheryl Lee) told him she would see him in 25 years.
No episodes were released to critics in advance, but the Hollywood Reporter described the debut broadcast in an early online reaction as "unsettling, weird, funny and basically impossible to review."
"It's too soon, ultimately, to conclude whether 'Twin Peaks' will justify the investment or, like many a revival, should have stayed in limbo," Brian Lowry of CNN said.
"The first two hours should, at least, pique any fan's curiosity," he added. "And for a program that never fit in a neat little box, Lynch and company have seemingly found the right time and place to reappear."