This began as one post about the new Twin Peaks, but I struggled to find the words without going in to my experiences with the original show, which is an article all on it’s own. So I’ve split this in to two parts, this time I’ll talk about the original show, and next post, I’ll go into my thoughts on the new series.
Twin Peaks and Me – Part 1: Clean, reasonably priced rooms, amenities include soft feather beds and spirit possession.
My first recollection of Twin Peaks is watching the episode where Special Agent Dale Cooper, Sheriff Harry S. Truman and Deputy Hawk all save Audrey Horne from One Eyed Jacks when if first aired in 1990. My strongest memory is having strange feelings about this handsome dark haired man dressed like a burglar, and thus Kyle Maclachlan began my attraction to men who wear all black. I was nine, so at this point we can assume it’s not a phase.
Fast forward a few years to High School where a close friend had been obsessed with it for a time, even having the entire series on VHS. It was through her that I was able to watch the show with fresh eyes and to really start to sink my teeth into this bizarre soap opera/crime show/paranormal thriller.
When I think of Twin Peaks, I’m met with a sort of nostalgia, a wistfulness. I’m positive this is partly because in my mind it brings me back to a time that was easier, though teenager me wouldn’t think so with all of his feelings and hormones getting in the way. I remember sharing this show with my friends, and feeling a sort of love of it because it ended so abruptly. It was perfect in it’s imperfection, it was the new friend you met on a trip that you’ll never see again.
While the memories of days since past have influenced my perception of the show, there are a great many reasons why I love it on a surface level. Firstly, that Twin Peaks is a place that I want to spend time in. It was a place where some of the deepest darkness lurked just under it’s top layer, but it was also a place of serenity and beauty. When we meet the Bookhouse Boys, they talk about this darkness and how they’re fighting it to protect all of the goodness I was right there with them. I’m ready to put on my leather jacket and a patch and keep the owls at bay.
It was this wholesomeness, this world out of time that made the dark seem that much more frightening. So when Coop would have a dream about The Black Lodge, or Sarah Palmer would see death’s pale horse as BOB waited for Maddy’s return, it was truly and viscerally frightening. The Evil in the Woods reaching out for these character’s who would normally be happy was a great and terrifying thing. Not just one villain, but an intangible force, the unexplained. I was afraid of these things because I was afraid for the people I loved in the place where they should be safe.
Which brings me to the true core of the show: The Characters.
Cooper, who’s only problem is that he’s too perfect. Audrey, who’s maybe too smart for her own good. Even Leo, the perfect soap opera villain careening toward a destruction of his own making. Everyone had a story, everyone had hopes and dreams. We could love them and we could hate them. James is The Worst though.
In the end though, as happens with too many a series, Some Weird Shit went down. We discovered who killed Laura Palmer and the show lost it’s focus. The plots that felt like well written soap operas became regular soap operas. There’s amnesia, get rich quick schemes, random romances. It all started to fall apart. What was once a fairly tight show about a small group of well drawn character became something of a mess, it didn’t know what to do with it’s self.
Twin Peaks burned bright and fast, and it was cancelled after two seasons (these days the first season would be considered a “limited event” as it was only 8 episodes) and we were left with an intriguing but unsatisfactory ending. So many threads were left open, and the show dropped us in the middle of what could be the biggest crisis that world can face.
A year after cancellation, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was released, and to the frustration of many a fan, it was a prequel to the series instead of a continuation. I can only imagine what it was like when the series was originally cancelled on a cliffhanger and then a movie comes out that doesn’t address it at all. Thankfully, as someone who got in to it years after, I was able to prepare and not expect answers.
What came from that is a movie that not everyone can agree on, a trend that I think is going to continue with the series. It begins with unfamiliar characters, in an unfamiliar town, spending just enough time there to make you worry that you won’t revisit Twin Peaks. We see a place that seems to have been taken over by the darkness. Everyone is rude, sad, hopeless, not at all the faux utopia of Twin Peaks. Remember this town, it’ll be important later.
Once the movie returns to Twin Peaks, we’re able to see a bit of the goodness of the town, but now the focus has changed. We’re in Laura’s world now, and she’s going to die soon.
I recently saw an interview with Peggy Lipton, the actor who plays the wonderful Norma Jennings, owner of the Double R. Diner. She said (and I’m paraphrasing) that she was somewhat disappointed in the movie because it was so dark, it lacked the hopefulness of the series. I couldn’t help but agree with part of that. It really was missing the warmth of the series, and it’s loss is very much felt. Thinking further, I believe this was on purpose, and ultimately, a good choice for the film. When Laura died, she was in a dark place, she’d endured years of abuse, she’d pushed away all of her friends and family to protect them. So, if we’re following her, we should see her Twin Peaks. It’s not a place of hope anymore, it’s a place of fear and sadness. We don’t see Twin Peaks as it is, but how Laura sees it.
When she is murdered, Lynch chose epic music and very stark imagery. It’s loud, and it’s frightening, and it doesn’t match anything else stylistically, but it feels right. This is what sets off a chain reaction that tears the roof off of Twin Peaks’ dark lower levels. Now, for the first time, the darkness in the woods is coming out in the open, and nothing is going to be the same for the town.
All of these elements are what Twin Peaks is to me. This wonderful and scary world became real and turned in to something memorable, even after all these years and all of the imitators. It was a collaborative series that took elements of disparate genres and smashed them together with quotable lines, characters both good and bad to love or hate as needed. It made a place that can be wonderful and terrible all at the same time. I’d go there, knowing the evils that are out there. I’d just be a lot more cautious of little boys in masks, creamed corn, or weird rings.
Oh, and Diane, don’t go near the owls, they’re not as they seem.
Next time on Twin Peaks and Me:
Why David Lynch is both the best and the worst thing to happen to Twin Peaks. Oh, and be super wary if you’re a woman, and if you’re a Person of Color, well, you’re obviously not in this show, so you don’t need to worry as much about getting possessed.