Laura Palmer: “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”
“Different strokes for different folks.”
Before Twin Peaks, my exposure to David Lynch’s terrifyingly abstract brand of storytelling was limited to a screening of Eraserhead during a University lecture. The cerebral and surreal portrayal of the human condition seemed much like an exercise in morbidity, with any underlying sentiments or artefacts marred by the aggressive onslaught of grotesque symbolism. Admittedly, it’s a branch of cinema that’s not quite to my personal taste but my ignorance prevented me from delving into a side of a writer/director/producer/artist that was ostensibly very different from what I’d seen, but remained inherently similar in his propensity for the unconventional.
Eraserhead in many ways was the catalyst for Lynch’s illustrious career – despite its initial lukewarm reception, it picked up steam as a midnight movie and propelled the surrealist storyteller into the mainstream. Further success subsequently followed, eventually leading Lynch towards television and one of the most critically acclaimed and most loved shows of all time: Twin Peaks.
The life and times of a sleepy northern town
Twin Peaks is a masterpiece, make no mistake about that. We can hark on all we want about its second season, about the apparent decline in quality and obvious issues, but to allow that to detract from what is widely viewed as one of the greatest seasons of television ever would be a monumental disservice to the show’s legacy. Mark Frost and David Lynch created something in those first 6 episodes unlike anything that had ever been seen before on TV. It came at a time when quality wasn’t particularly present on the small-screen, so having an auteur able to make the successful transition from critically lauded filmmaker to the creator of a highly successful cult-hit TV show was the signifier of change.
Twin Peak’s first season, along with its feature length pilot, was as surreal and meticulous as you’d have expected from David Lynch, but it was also far more cinematic than a television show had any right to be. Filmed in Washington State, the mist-drenched pine trees helped David Lynch realise his vision, but most importantly it helped him build the most important facet of the Twin Peaks story: The town itself. The combination of odd-ball characters and the ever-present drizzle of Twin Peaks made for a place that nobody wanted to live in, but we were all fascinated by. As Angelo Badalamenti (the composer of Twin Peaks) said: “Twin Peaks, I think, will always endure, because Twin Peaks is a beautiful, dark, strange, off-center world that you can enter and wrap yourself up in. And yet, knowing that you’re safe and secure as you’re watching this disturbing dream.”
Despite being serialized, the inclusion of various directors across the course of Twin Peak’s first season ensured a collection of eclectic individuality whilst retaining David Lynch’s overall intended tone. Each episode felt like an individual entry, taking on its own importance and significance. That’s where season 2 struggled. It seemed to devolve, as if unintentionally moving away from the cinematic, standalone pieces of individual brilliance, and fell into the trap of typical network serialisation. It was a story that began to get bogged down in its propensity to introduce new characters. Perhaps it was a victim of its own need to innovate – the surreal aspects devolved into unnecessary oddness with less focused imagery and iconography, becoming detached and shallow for the sake of trying to fit the tone of the show. In its own haste to further its individuality, it lost what made it special. It became weary and lazy, moving ever further from Lynch and Frost’s vision with both writers beginning to take more of a backseat as new projects arose.
Part of Twin Peak’s original appeal was its ability to sincerely parody soap operas without detracting from its crime/mystery roots. It’s an amalgamation of many things, applying tropes from each and every facet of its influences, creating something greater than the sum of its parts like a televisionial melting pot. It brought together the most formidable aspects of the TV shows and films that came before it, whilst remaining painfully self-aware throughout its run. It boasted peripheral characters that were idiosyncratic, dynamic and wholly original making Twin Peaks an idyllic enigma. Its residents have secrets, but the town holds the biggest one of them all.
Twin Peaks demanded that people ask questions. And people did. “Who killed Laura Palmer?” The ceaseless intrigue accounted for a huge part of Twin Peak’s popularity, with its ability to send the watching world into a fervour with its incessant questions. It also ultimately led to its demise, by answering a question that didn’t need a resolution. As Shelly Johnson herself (Mädchen Amick) put it, “No one was happy to find out who did it. They liked to want to know, not necessarily to know.”
Such is the reason I believe Twin Peaks deserves its second chance at the height of the Internet era – it’s being reborn into a world that’s obsessed with opinion, discussion and fervent opposition to the aforementioned opinions and discussion. It’s a worldwide forum that not only permits, but also encourages people to discuss topical matters and throw their otherwise unwanted thoughts into the aether for people to latch on to and subsequently overreact to. It’s perfect.
If Season 3 can make us care even half as much as we did about Season 1, then the internet will spin itself into a frenzy whilst trying to answer David Lynch and Mark Frost’s next big question. The series ended 4 years before I was born, so I wasn’t there to experience the original fervour – whilst I imagine it’ll be difficult for Season 3 to replicate the initial hype and interest that the show garnered during its original run, I’m excited to be a part of the renaissance of one of my favourite shows, and to experience some level of the cultural impact that Twin Peaks still possesses to this day.
Twin Peaks in 2017
For most, having a considerable chunk of the original cast back amongst the evergreens of Twin Peaks would be enough. The series was cut short thanks to dwindling interest in its ever-more-cumbersome story, with the initial intrigue running dry after Laura Palmer’s murderer was revealed part way through the second season.
With the murder case solved, the continued building of relationships was integral to maintaining the series’ appeal, but instead the audience were graced with haphazard and forced love interests thanks to studio interference. With a long-stretching list of new names added to the Twin Peaks’ roster, it may be increasingly difficult to fully and satisfactorily explore both existing and new relationships in the forthcoming revival, but with Lynch and Frost afforded complete creative control of the series, this may be the truest Twin Peaks will ever be to both writers’ original vision.
Put simply, I want more of the same: An assaultive pastiche that just about manages to maintain a healthy balance between morbid humour, self-aware soap opera, mysterious intrigue and the aggressively abstract. My one wish would be to have Michael Ontkean back as Sheriff Harry S. Truman but his retirement from acting shat on that pipe-dream. I’ll take solace in the rest of the returning cast members, and what I believe is Lara Flynn Boyle hiding behind a melted Jigsaw mask from Saw. I think it’s her…
Heaven indeed, Coop. Heaven indeed.