I have two abiding memories of being five years old. One, is my fifth birthday party, where, it being 1990, I was given Batman gifts, the 1989 movie still being very relevant. The other memory is something different.
It was dark, it was late. I walked out onto the landing from my room. My mum’s bedroom door was open, the TV was on and there was music. I walked in and asked what she was watching. “Twin Peaks, it’s very good. Someone has killed Laura Palmer”
Twin Peaks is returning to television in May 2017, brought back by Showtime and the original creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, with Lynch directing all 18 episodes. So now is probably the best time to go back and revisit the original show and it’s prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me.
Twin Peaks has transcended Pop Culture and attained it’s own unique status as one of the most influential television shows in history. It’s no exaggeration to say this, literally hundreds of films and TV shows have borrowed that Lynch/Frost visual vocabulary for their own ends.
Opening with the death of Laura Palmer, we are slowly drawn into surrealist web of drama, psychological horror and campy melodrama. Peaks becomes the very definition of Must See TV, simply by playing it’s strengths. The weirdness is compelling, obtuse, yet leaving us wanting more.
In TV, when a series juggles multiple plots, sometimes it doesn’t quite work. Some scenes leave the audience waiting for the main plot to return. Lynch, Frost and their team never have this problem.
The character work is sensational, from weepy Deputy Andy Brennan and Police Secretary Lucy’s slightly awkward love story to the sheer horror of Laura’s plight, not one arc is wasted. Even characters seemingly as minor as the town mayor get fun moments.
Kyle McLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper is, hands down, one of TV’s greatest ever lead characters. Endearing, funny, yet so quirky, Cooper is the heart of this show. His chemistry with Sheriff Harry S Truman, played by Michael Ontkean, is brilliant, the two becoming fast friends and a wonderful duo to watch. What I think works most about Cooper, is that his straight laced FBI agent is plonked down straight into a surreal murder mystery in a town full of weirdo Lynchian characters and doesn’t bat an eyelid. He normalises everything and accepts everybody.
At one point in season two, Cooper’s old DEA colleague, Dennis Bryson shows up, having begun transitioning gender, to Denise Bryson, played by David Duchovny. Coop, not only accepts this, but seems happy for Denise for embracing her gender identity. It’d be progressive for 2017, for 1991 it was incredible. Denise is treated well and her whole arc is a highlight of the entire series.
I think trying to distill what I love about the show down to one blog, sort of short changes why it’s so good. The world of Twin Peaks is so rich and full, it’s impossible to do all of the characters justice
The various intertwined stories are precisely why Peaks is so great. Everyone sort of knows everyone. Noone’s love life is simple, business deals conflict with personal lives. The realism and relatability of these characters really makes the surrealism jump out so much more. One minute you’re watching a love triangle between Shelly, Leo and Bobby and the next thing you know, you’re in the woods with creepy Owls, or being chased by BOB.
In fact, let’s talk about the weirdness. People made fun of Twin Peaks at the time, but the surrealism makes sense. Everything is slightly offbeat, but the supernatural elements really pop. When Cooper shows the Twin Peaks sheriff’s department his investigative methods based on Tibetan theology, you’re aware this is an odd show.
When Coop visits the Red Room with the zigzag floor of the Black Lodge in his dreams, everything changes. This is beyond weird. It’s scary. Yet, nothing is wasted. Everything is there for a reason. The Man From Another Place gives Agent Cooper the clues he needs to start looking for Laura’s killer. Peaks turns a corner here and if you’re into it, the ensuing ride is an emotional, funny, scary, good time.
Angelo Badalamenti’s gorgeous score is as much a character as anyone else, haunting and so very visceral, nothing else would feel right. His music charges the atmosphere so well, backing Audrey’s dancing and providing a jazzy, finger clicking score for The Man from Another Place to dance backwards.
The show ended on a huge cliffhanger, never fully explained in 1992’s Fire Walk With Me, so I’m very intrigued to see where Lynch and Frost take us in May. With a huge cast, most of the original stars returning and new additions such as Naomi Watts, Michael Cera and Trent Reznor, it will be a TV event like no other. Our television landscape has finally caught up with Lynch and Frost’s masterpiece so it’s the right time for it to return.
I’ve avoided spoilers in this blog, as I would never want to ruin Twin Peaks and it’s twists, turns or revelations for anyone. I will however go into more detail when I talk about Fire Walk With Me.