You’d probably expect a follow up movie, to an abruptly cancelled television show to be a sequel. Especially one that ended on a huge cliffhanger. Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, opens with TV static,followed by the same television being smashed by an axe.
(This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks the TV series.)
The lesson to learn from this, if you didn’t already know, is don’t expect the norm from David Lynch. This is a very different animal to the television series.
Fire Walk With Me is a prequel to the cult classic, Twin Peaks, showing the last 7 days in the life of Laura Palmer, the girl who’s death is the catalyst for the series. Sheryl Lee reprises her role as Laura along with almost the entire original cast. Ray Wise returns as Leland Palmer, Kyle McLachlan pretty much cameos as Dale Cooper and Lynch himself pops back up as loveable, hearing impaired FBI boss Gordon Cole. Lara Flynn Boyle most notably didn’t return as Donna and was replaced by Moira Kelly
Flopping on initial release and getting critically berated, FWWM in my opinion, is a dark hearted masterpiece. Having very little of the playful humour of the series, this movie plays like a twisted mirror version of what we loved about Peaks. Opening with a 30 or so minute prologue starring Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland as two FBI agents investigating a murder we’d heard of in the show, but never seen. They face hostile local cops and have a bad experience with coffee in the town diner. Almost the exact opposite of Dale Cooper’s arrival, setting the tone for how the story will play out.
It’s unsettling to see Laura Palmer alive, knowing the fate awaiting her at the end this film, but Sheryl Lee’s performance is nothing short of brilliant. You really feel Laura is coming apart mentally and see her anguish. She knows Bob is coming for her and when she realises who he is, it’s heartbreaking. Watching FWWM, I got to feeling Lynch was saying something deeper about her sexual abuse and her drug addiction all along in Peaks, but I obviously didn’t pick up on it, forever changing how I watch the show from now on.
The show’s reveal of Leland Palmer as the killer and molester of his daughter at the beginning of season 2 was oddly placed due to network pressure, and left an emptiness in the middle of that season before Windom Earle shows up and led our characters to the Black Lodge and the madness within. FWWM acts as the dark mirror version of the show and being a feature film, it had the freedom to push boundaries that were unavailable to Lynch on television.
I had a lot of different feelings while watching FWWM, mainly due to the fact it was so different to Twin Peaks. The campy comedy was gone, everything felt more real and more grimy. Laura’s trip to the club with Jacques Reno being the highlight (lowlight?) of showing how her life was unravelling around her. Going back to what I said earlier about Lynch saying more about her sexual abuse and drug addiction, I really began to feel like this was all Laura’s way of coping with what her Dad was doing all those years. Sure, he claims he didn’t know BOB was possessing him, but there are definitely a few clues dropped that he was in control.
It does change your opinion on Leland and the TV show as a whole. Going further, are BOB, MIKE and the Black Lodge just a metaphor for abuse and evil? I don’t think it’s as simple as that, but it’s hard for me not to think about it everytime I see BOB now.
The Black Lodge itself and it’s inhabitants are more fleshed out during FWWM. The reveal that the backwards talking The Man From Another Place is the chopped off arm of MIKE was interesting, adding a new element to his previous appearances. His scene sat across the table from BOB showed them at odds over the battle for Laura. I particularly loved when during David Bowie’s sudden appearance, we got to see more of the Lodge’s monstrous and twisted demons, some of whom are apparently returning for the new series. This short scene was hugely disturbing, letting us know there was much more than we realised, as well as bringing back the Grandmother and Grandson that talked to Donna Hayward in season 2.
With Fire Walk With Me acting as both a prequel and a sequel, Lynch got to both explore Laura’s past while leaving her future wide open. Odd that a dead character would have their fate left hanging in the balance, but I don’t think Laura is staying dead. Sheryl Lee being in the new series gives me hope we will see more of Laura than expected and that maybe because the Black Lodge is outside of Space and Time, a return for her and the real Coop will be bolder than a lot of people expect.
Through the darkness of future’s past,
The magician longs to see.
One chants out between two worlds…
“Fire… walk with me.”