It’s peculiar how such a bizarre mix of tropes can make for such an influential and dominant show. Created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, Twin Peaks began in 1990 as a combination of tounge-in-cheek soap opera and detective drama, but soon evolved into a surrealistic horror story that many have cited as classic nightmare fuel of the highest intensity. Many have seen it, many have loved it, many have parodied it, and many have wondered just what the hell was going on that whole time.
It was a weird show indeed, and so was the ending that left many questions unanswered, but perhaps we will find out more now that the show’s apparently making a return in 2016? It is in anticipation of this new season that I share my thoughts on this show, as well as in celebration of the recently released Blu-ray box set that contains tons of deleted material, bonus features, creepy intros with the Log Lady for each episode, and an extended version of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that’s nearly 90 minutes longer. Basically, 2014 has been one hell of a year for Twin Peaks fans.
Set in the small town of Twin Peaks, the centerpiece of the show is Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the beautiful homecoming queen loved by just about everyone in the town. In the first scene of the series, she is found on a beach, lifeless and wrapped in plastic. She has been murdered and nobody knows who did it.
The town is visited by the awesomely eccentric FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), who aims to assist local sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) and his men in figuring out what happened. As they learn more about the people who Laura had connections with, they’re dragged into a vide variety of subplots involving an even wider variety of unique characters. Laura’s devastated parents (Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie), Laura’s old school friends (Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey, Dana Ashbrook as Bobby, James Marshall as James and Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna) many of whom she had love triangles with, Laura’s odd psychiatrist (Russ Tamblyn), and several dirty criminals and coke smugglers she used to be involved with, which is shown in greater detail in Fire Walk With Me but still brought up in the show. It is when Cooper and company find out that Laura’s murderer is something more sinister and otherworldly than your average serial killer that things take a turn for the worse and more surreal. This is where we learn about a realm known as The Black Lodge and the rest, well, most of us know it but I will avoid spoilers all the same.
Other prominent tales in the series involve a logger, Pete (Jack Nance), who gets betrayed by his wife Catherine (Piper Laurie) and her network of powerful mobsters; a corrupt businessman, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), who wants to change the town as the inhabitants know it; two cafeteria waitresses, Mädchen Amick‘s Shelley and Peggy Lipton‘s Norma, who both have romantic histories with hard-arsed abusive criminals (Eric Da Rae and Chris Mulkey respectively); and I won’t even try to summarize all the teen drama that the school kids get themselves into… or some of the adults for that matter. Miguel Ferrer, Kenneth Welsh and David Lynch himself appear as Cooper’s FBI colleagues, Don S. Davis plays a respected major, and then of course there’s the iconically bizarre Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson) but let’s not be here too long.
The characters, as you can tell, are many, and most of them possess memorable quirks. This, however, doesn’t prevent certain plotlines from failing to grab my interest. I never, for instance cared for the story about Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) having to deal with the amnesia of his one-eyed, super-strong wife (Wendy Robie), or the sexual tension between Truman’s ditzy deputy Andy (Harry Goaz) and his equally ditzy secretary Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), or really much of anything that happens after mid-season two and they pretty much find out who Laura’s killer was. When this was resolved, I was hoping for more focus on trying to find The Black Lodge; not so much Ben Horne’s villain decay, James’ affair with a much older woman, anything involving Windom Earle (who acts like a 60’s Batman villain) and definitely not the Miss Twin Peaks beauty pageant.
The Lodge was always my favourite element of the show, with its surrealistic atmosphere and weird inhabitants, like a dwarf that speaks backwards (Michael J. Anderson) and a giant who talks only in cryptic clues and riddles (Carel Struycken). Another weird and mysterious character is of course BOB, a character who only came to be because set decorator Frank Silva was visible in a mirror in one of the shots from the pilot, and Lynch thought it looked so cool and spooky that he made Silva a cast-member. If I ever start working in a film crew, I hope my fuck-ups will be equally appreciated.
In fact, my favourite non-Cooper character is probably BOB and my favourite episode must be Lonely Souls, which reveals the true nature of Laura’s murder. Also my OTP is Bobby and Shelley because, hey, even I can be a fanboy sometimes. Really, though, the two do seem like a genuine, passionate couple and, heck, most relationships in this show are well done and realistic. Whenever Ben Horne is with his brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), you totally buy that they’re brothers from the way they interact and communicate. It’s a good thing to get right in any show.
Many will agree that the weakest part of the show is the second half of season 2, sans the series finale that famously left so many threads hanging. The writing was at its best when Mark Frost and David Lynch were getting along, which wasn’t the case for the show’s entire run, if I’ve understood the behind-the-scenes stories correctly. Some of the best episodes are also the ones that David Lynch himself directed, but you can tell that Frost wasn’t involved in the Fire Walk With Me film adaptation in 1992 since the script and dialogue aren’t as spot-on there as in the series. Overall, though, I very much like the show for what it is.
I love the setting, I love the people in it, I love their interactions, I love Angelo Badalamenti‘s spooky music, and I love the constant feeling of mystery and uncertainty. Even when the episodes focus on comedic side-stories or petty teen drama, you still sense that there’s something bigger and more supernatural happening around them. No matter what their stories are, all these characters need to “Beware of BOB”. I avidly look forward to finally seeing the story continue a few years from now.
On an episode of Twin Peaks that aired in 1991, the character Laura Palmer told a perplexed Dale Cooper, “I’ll see you in 25 years”. This was either planned all along or just a lucky choice of words on the writing staff’s part, because in the year 2014, it turned out that she was right. Twin Peaks is coming back, dear readers, and I am more than ready! I will be there in 2016 and I will have a cup of damn good coffee by my side!