Twin Peaks: Mystery town returns to TV

DAVID LYNCH, writer, director Twin Peaks
DAVID LYNCH, writer, director Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks. I have always thought that these two words sounds surreal, perhaps depicting a place shrouded in mist - and mystery. I knew it was not a real place, but my wife knew better. She is a huge fan of Twin Peaks, that cult TV hit from the 1990s and whenever we talk about nostalgic TV shows, she would mention Twin Peaks. She had patiently sat through all the 29 episodes when it was shown here in Sri Lanka more than 20 years ago. Being a schoolgirl at the time, she had not understood some parts of the story (with David Lynch’s stories, that is a problem everyone has), but she remembered enough to tell me that it was TV at its finest. Nothing she had seen ever since comes close to it, she says.

So, on my travels, I picked up Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery Blu Ray Box Set a couple of years ago, but we could not find a proper time (or excuse) to watch it. The she found the perfect excuse: Twin Peaks is returning to TV with a brand new series from today (May 21), first in the US (Showtime) and UK (Sky Atlantic) and an Asian release is not far away. What better time than this to catch up with the intricacies of Twin Peaks ?

We watched the first and second series, all 29 episodes, almost back to back over just 10 days and what an outstanding experience it was. Having gone in as a “Twin Peaks” virgin, I emerged as a total addict who would give an arm and a leg to watch the third series, like already. First, let me get one thing out of the way. Twin Peaks first hooks you in with that theme music by Angelo Badalamenti. No other TV series has such creepingly haunting opening music and it sets the tone for every episode, naturally full of intrigue.

The one name that runs like a thread throughout Twin Peaks is Laura Palmer and she is not even alive when the first episode begins. She is very dead, wrapped in polythene, her face still serene despite the obvious horrors she has been subjected to. The initial premise of Twin Peaks is the investigation launched by the FBI and local police to track down the killer, who may have murdered another girl in another State as well (hence the FBI involvement). The rape and murder of Laura Palmer shatters the serenity of the close-knit village, whose residents gather to discuss the local gossip at the R&R Diner and the all-wood Great Northern Hotel by the waterfall that is featured so prominently in Twin Peaks. If you watch even a single episode of Twin Peaks, you will immediately realize one thing. Everyone in the village, alive or dead, is impossibly beautiful, from Laura Palmer to local mogul Ben Horne’s flirtatious daughter Audrey. And even the outsiders are really cute, from FBI man Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan) to his boss Cole, played by Lynch himself. But this very beauty can often be fatal in Twin Peaks, which in itself is impossibly beautiful. By the time you quit watching Twin Peaks, you will have gained an intimate knowledge about everyone in the village, back-stabbing, two-timing affairs, hot gossip and all.

Although Lynch never wanted to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer, the studio (ABC) put pressure on him to do just that as the ratings went through the roof. However, Lynch never does straight whodunits and the viewers eventually get to know the murderer, but not until they have gone through a fair but of horror, occult and ESP, apart from the usual police procedurals. It is this unique blend of detective and horror genres that sets Twin Peaks apart.

Beware that the Twin Peaks Season 2 finale leaves more questions than answers. The episode and the entire series ends with Dale Cooper seeing another man’s reflection in the mirror as he brushes his teeth after recovering from a journey to the “other side”. Of course, by this time we know Laura Palmer’s killer, so Lynch had to invent a whole lot of other shenanigans to keep the viewers glued. He has succeeded in this endeavour to a great extent, though viewer interest did slide after the grand reveal.

There are so many loose ends that Lynch could not tie up, but it remains to be seen whether he can do so after a huge gap of 25 years. After all, everyone in the series (most of the original cast will feature in Series 3) has aged 25 years and may not have the same appeal to viewers unless the storyline is really, really good. Lynch has also got the services of many A-list actors including Naomi Watts to light up the new Twin Peaks. Original cast members Mädchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs) and Peggy Lipton (Norma Jennings) are among those making a return.

Remember that Twin Peaks was shown at a time when the Internet practically did not exist except at military level. There was no Twitter or Facebook to instantly dissect each episode. Thus Twin Peaks easily conquered television and the viewer’s minds. It will not be so easy today, but Twin Peaks is a phenomenon that will almost certainly give television a boost again.

What do we know about the return of Twin Peaks, which was perhaps coincidentally predicted by Laura Palmer’s apparition seen by Agent Dale Cooper with the chilling line “see you in 25 years” ? It was filmed in the same area, for starters. Badalamenti will do the music again. Kyle Maclachchan will still be the lead actor. Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost have again written the entire story, but unlike during series 2, Lynch is directing all the 18 episodes (there is no word yet on a fourth season).

The pilot episode will run for two hours. Details of the plot are still largely unknown but according to Frost’s new book – The Secret History Of Twin Peaks – after Dale Cooper’s investigation of the Palmer murder, the FBI comes across a “a huge dossier” and a female FBI agent begins to analyse the documents inside. Everything is apparently related to the strange town of Twin Peaks. Frost says the new series is not a remake or a reboot but a continuation of the series set in the present day. Thus the passage of 25 years is very important in that context. But one thing is certain – Twin Peaks has changed television forever. It has influenced and spawned a good number of films and TV series and third season will do exactly that – again. Pass me that black coffee and cherry pie from the R&R please. 


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