AGENT DALE COOPER: I have no idea where this will lead us. But I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.
You may have heard of a little show called Twin Peaks. For thirty episodes across the 1990 – 1991 television seasons, this brainchild of David Lynch and Mark Frost brought with it high ratings (and low), critical acclaim (and disdain) and a lot, lot of confusion.
“Who killed Laura Palmer?” was the question on everybody’s lips for months after this show’s successful debut. Every week the answer would get a little closer, but also a little further away. Twin Peaks was one of the first shows to really incorporate such intense mystery and continuity into each successive episode, most of which usually ended on a cliff hanger. Shows like Lost owe a great deal to this form of storytelling: always leave the viewer wanting more. Twin Peaks executed this perfectly, all the way though to its final episode. I almost feel sorry for people who watched the show when it first aired in 1990; watching it on DVD for the first time, almost twenty years later, I had the luxury of watching one episode after another and still found the tension unbearable. Just imagine what it would have been like to wait for a whole week — or a whole season hiatus — to find out what happened next.
In many ways, it was a show ahead of its time; rewatching it now, it feels as current as if it were produced last year, instead of last century. The stories are timeless. The dialogue is priceless. The weirdness is endless. And the characters are fabulous. These people are so like us in so many ways, but are also completely larger than life.
There are a heap of residents we get to know in this little town, and everybody seems to know everybody. There’s this really strong sense of community among the protagonists (and even the antagonists) and the relationships they share with each other — romantic or otherwise — are absolutely fascinating.
And none are as straightforward as they may first appear. Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) loves James (James Marshall), and James loves Donna. But wait, James loves Laura (Sheryl Lee) too? Laura loves James, and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) loves Laura. Bobby also loves Shelly (Mädchen Amick), who loves him in return. Too bad Shelly is married to Leo (Eric DaRe), who loves her. Hank (Chris Mulkey) loves Norma (Peggy Lipton), but Norma loves Ed (Everett McGill). Ed loves Norma, but Nadine (Wendy Robie) loves Ed too. Nadine also loves high school kid Mike (Gary Hershberger) at one stage, who seems to be in it only for the sex (which is great apparently). Who’d have thought? Andy (Harry Goaz) and Dick (Ian Buchanan) both love Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), but Lucy only loves Andy. Harry (Michael Ontkean) and Pete (Jack Nance) both love Josie Packard (Joan Chen), but she’s an evil bitch, so who knows if she’s even capable of love? Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) loves Annie (Heather Graham), and Annie loves Cooper. Finally a simple relationship! Except, no, wait! High school hotness Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) also has a thing for Cooper, and… well, we’re not quite sure how Cooper feels about Audrey. But it’s not entirely platonic.
I hope you got all that, because trust me, it’s only the half of it.
Relationships aside, Twin Peaks has so much more to offer its audience.
Rewatching it now, it feels as current as if it were produced last year, instead of last century.
The mystery is intense, though it must be said that when we finally get the answer it’s kind of anti-climactic — in all honesty, the fun really is in the waiting. The slow build up from episode to episode is truly brilliant, and the show’s strongest point was probably the lead up to that reveal of who did, in fact, kill Laura Palmer (and what those people talking backwards had to do with anything). About halfway into Season 2, we get the dish on Laura’s killer, and the show hits a bit of a slump after that. It does, however, pick up again for the last batch of episodes, and the finale is one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen.
If you have even the smallest, shriveled up, poor excuse of a heart, at least a portion of it will belong to the folks of Twin Peaks before you even reach the end of Season 1. Of course, everyone will have their favorites from the bunch (for many it is David Duchovny as Denise Bryson, a kickass DEA agent and trans woman. In 1991!) but I feel it’s almost impossible not to love them all at one stage or another, which is why it is so exciting — but also worrying — to have the series return for a very long-awaited “Season 3” this week, a quarter century after the show went off the air.
On the one hand, with the series’ cancellation at the end of an increasingly bizarre, but compelling, Season 2, most of these characters we quickly grew to love never got a resolution–which I’ve always felt was a good thing. The show could live on in our minds and in our hearts, and the lack of a definitive conclusion meant their futures could be whatever we wanted them to be — very in keeping with the series’ unsettling vibe.
On the other hand, I doubt I’m the only one still wondering: how the fuck IS Annie? How’s the Log Lady? WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH BOB?
These thoughts have never been far from my mind in all the years since I first watched this show. Because Twin Peaks is not just a television show. It is a phenomenon. And it becomes a part of you.
So I will be tuning into Showtime this Sunday to let the mystery take hold once more. I hope.