I rewatched recently, on a full series rewatch (including TSH and TFD), first time since The Return aired. My initial viewing of The Return was a lot of disappointment and confusion, and my second viewing with the whole series much fresher in my mind as I didn't do a rewatch of seasons 1/2/FWWM before The Return, I'm still not satisfied and still confused. My initial viewing, the big take away was the lack of music making everything feel so weird and off, but now I think it's actually the cinematography and lighting that is a bigger issue to missing the feel of the original run and FWWM. The all digital, all bright, even lighting makes it look cheap and sterile. The few flashbacks to FWWM or the original series highlight how much warmer and lived in the world of Twin Peaks seemed. It all feels like a set in The Return. Of course the dodgy green screening, intentional or not (and I have a hard time believing how bad the phones/tv screens chroma keying was was intentional, or how bad either chroma keying or projection in nearly all the driving scenes wasn't a time/budget issue) draws attention to this, and due to the equipment and lighting, there are many scenes that LOOK like cheap green screen but actually were real.
But ultimately I think it's lacking the humanity that made people fall in love with TP, and that's because most of that came from Frost, who seems to be overshadowed and overruled on all things TP when it comes to the Frost/Lynch partnership. All the quirky warmness is replaced with misery and grossness or weirdness that goes unexplained. The quote from Frost about something like "we can't just keep throwing weird mysteries and not solve them" implies to me that Lynch doesn't care about the mysteries or where they lead or how/if they can be solved, but how they make the viewer feel. I think this can be seeing going back to FWWM where Lynch pretty significantly changes the characterization of various characters and events that don't really line up with the show, because it made for a better feel in that particular story he was telling even if it didn't add up perfectly. So then we get The Return and it's a bunch of mystery boxes that I don't think there's an intention to be solved from Lynch, but Frost feels there has to be something concrete and so writes the books that Lynch isn't involved with and won't read or comment on.
I guess what I'm trying to say is The Return FEELS like it's really missing Frost's voice and characterization that defines the original run (to me) and instead it doubles down on Lynchian coldness and disorienting dreamy mysteries that you can't solve because there is no answer to them to begin with. And just a general misanthropic vibe. It's like the entire vibe was flipped upside down, where what used to be a show about a quirky small town with darkness under the surface is now a dark miserable cesspool with a handful of bright spots if you dig deep enough. Which is just...never going to be satisfying for me.
I've said it before and I will say it again, the most top-tier Twin Peaks content comes from as much involvement as possible from Mark Frost, Harley Peyton, and Robert Engels (with Lynch still involved, as well). Of course Peyton will, for some, only come to mind when they muse on some of the worst aspects of season 2... but he also had a major hand in some of the greatest aspects of S1 and early S2! Lynch + writing = not always the best equation... he is INTEGRAL for awe-inspiring visuals and audio evoking strong emotions/moods, but I feel he works best as a cog in a machine & not being the machine itself