Twin Peaks, decoded for novices and obsessives alike – VOX

whether you’ve never seen it, Twin Peaks isn’t what you mediate it is.

The expose seems to fill been filtered down to an essence of weird catchphrases and images over the 26 years it has been off the air. It’s “damn fine coffee” or a dwarf dancing in a red room. It’s the body of a heavenly young woman wrapped in plastic, or an FBI agent coolly dictating memos to an unseen “Diane” on a miniature cassette recorder. Above uncouth, it’s super weird, right? Too weird for network TV, and even too weird for many of its die-tough fans.

But uncouth of the above misses what made Twin Peaks such a lightning bolt when it debuted on ABC — a mammoth, mammoth broadcast network — in the spring of 1990. It misses what made the expose such a critical and (brief) ratings sensation, what garnered it tons of Emmy nominations. It’s the surface of Twin Peaks, but not the core.

Twin Peaks changed television history, but nearly had to die to enact so. It’s one of the greatest TV series ever made, but also way more approachable than you might expect it to be from the years of hype. It’s weird, certain, but it’s also basically a primetime soap with a huge heart.

And now it’s coming back — or, whether you’re a Twin Peaks fan, it is “happening again.” But it’s returning as a series that has so successfully permeated the culture that virtually every TV expose on the air owes some debt to it. Can Twin Peaks thrive in a world where it’s not the oddball? Or did it gain so much of its power from the simple fact that it aired in 1990, on ABC, where no one would fill ever thought to gaze for it?

No matter your level of Twin Peaks expertise, there’s always more to memorize approximately this infamously intricate expose. So please indulge us by allowing us to ruminate on some of the questions you might’ve been too embarrassed to request, or that fill piqued your curiosity approximately one of TV’s most fascinating experiments.

What is Twin Peaks?

In its first life, Twin Peaks was a murder mystery primetime soap from the minds of label Frost and David Lynch that aired on ABC for two seasons, from 1990 to 1991. It dove full force into a small-town whodunit: Murder victim Laura Palmer was (naturally) the town’s most prized blonde teen, and she (naturally) turned out to be hiding some terrible secrets.

From there, things got a whole lot less typical. Special Agent Dale Cooper (the best Kyle MacLachlan there is) investigated the murder with Eagle Scout levels of enthusiasm and dedication that only felt more incongruous the darker Twin Peaks got (and whew, did it bag sunless). The deeper he and the expose got into the mystery, the stranger Twin Peaks revealed itself to be.

The series was full of actors who fill since gone on to long-ranging careers — from MacLachlan to Ray Wise to Madchen Amick — and has inspired a fiercely devoted cult of fan followers who fill made a sport of dissecting every shot for the potential secrets therein.

Isn’t Twin Peaks super weird?

Well … yeah. There was really no other way for Twin Peaks to depart, given that it’s the product of Lynch — a notoriously surrealist director — funneling his sensibilities through a broadcast network filter. (Or trying to, besides.)

The world of Twin Peaks is as lush as it is stark, its inhabitants prone to talking in clipped monosyllables, tossed-off non sequiturs, or tangents whose points don’t reveal themselves until their very stop, whether at uncouth. There’s some lady who walks around town holding a log for seemingly no reason; fans know her, fittingly enough, as “Log Lady.” There are hallucinations that may or may not be hallucinations, an notorious red room in which the dead near back to life (or enact THEY?), and even, eventually, literal demons.

But focusing on the “weird” of Twin Peaks ignores much of what the expose actually is: a sardonic twist on the usual murder mystery procedural with a real sense of humor, besides. MacLachlan is a pure delight as Agent Cooper, the Type A FBI agent whose greatest loves are a cup of damn pleasurable and/or fine coffee and a fervent dedication to his job. The Twin Peaks locals cover a huge range, from femme fatale Audrey (who generally,normally enters a scene to her own slinky theme music) to lovable doof Officer Andy. The humor is sharp and specific, not to mention integral to Twin Peaks’ success. Without it, the expose would’ve careened over the edge much sooner into frantically eerie melodrama.

But more on that later.

What’s the deal with David Lynch?

2017 Winter TCA Tour - Day 5

David Lynch at the 2017 Television Critics organization winter press tour
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Honestly, we could write an “[X] questions you were too embarrassed to request” post entirely approximately Lynch — and perhaps, possibly someday we will! — but we’ll try to withhold this brief.

David Lynch is the writer and director behind such lauded (and controversial) films as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Mulholland Drive, and Blue Velvet. He is specific, insular, and relentlessly inscrutable. His work, methodical and aggressive, tends to be divisive. He inspires either total adoration — particularly in the actors he repeatedly casts in his work, like Laura Dern — or total confusion.

But his approach is like no one else’s, full of saturated colors and odd angles juxtaposed with sharp emotional climaxes, and never at the moment you might expect. One of the best descriptions of Lynch’s aesthetic came from the man himself, when he made a surprise appearance at the January 2017 Television Critics organization press tour for Twin Peaks. “I only wanted to be a painter,” Lynch said, “and I got into film because I wanted to invent paintings meander, and one thing led to another…”

Lynch is also notoriously reclusive. When David Foster Wallace wrote a profile of the director on the set of Lost Highway in 1996, for example, he never even got to meet the guy. But Wallace still tried to define Lynch’s sensibility, or what makes a film “Lynchian.” After struggling to piece together an accounting of how the “macabre” meets “mundane,” Wallace basically threw up his hands and admitted that the paradox of Lynch’s filmmaking is that it’s purposely indefinable — but also immediately recognizable:

Like postmodern or pornographic, Lynchian is one of those Porter Stewart-type words that’s ultimately definable only ostensively — i.e., we know it when we see it. Ted Bundy wasn’t particularly Lynchian, but pleasurable broken-down Jeffrey Dahmer, with his victims’ various anatomies neatly separated and stored in his fridge alongside his chocolate milk and Shedd Spread, was thoroughgoingly Lynchian.

You bag the conception. Or perhaps, possibly you don’t! Either way, that’s kinda the point.

What shows inspired Twin Peaks?

Even though Twin Peaks was wildly original when it premiered, it didn’t near out of nowhere. In specific, the series traded on the cop expose and the primetime soap, two established TV forms that viewers would fill already known and loved. Indeed, it was the interaction between TV conventions and Lynch’s wildly imaginative dream logic that made the expose as pleasurable as it was.

Twin Peaks aired on ABC, which underwent a gentle creative renaissance in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The network, which had been mired in third dwelling behind NBC and CBS for much of the ’80s, decided it could enact worse than to start embracing the visions of creative producers. That impulse led to series both wildly successful (Roseanne and The Wonder Years) and creatively satisfying whether not hits (Thirtysomething and China Beach). It also led to the network being the natural domestic for Twin Peaks when Lynch and Frost went looking for one.

And it’s significant not to downplay Frost’s contributions to the series. The co-creator had worked for several seasons on the early-’80s cop expose Hill Street Blues, another TV drama that changed the medium, this time by bringing the conception of serialized storytelling to the normally moribund police expose (among other innovations). Frost knew precisely how to structure the investigation into the death of Laura Palmer to withhold the plot moving forward, while still leaving room for the weird stuff. (Early Twin Peaks was also subtly influenced by a genre that became very accepted in the ’90s: the serial killer thriller.)

Similarly, both Lynch and Frost were influenced by one of the dominant TV forms of the ’80s: the primetime soap opera (mediate Dallas or Dynasty). What makes Twin Peaks so magnetic is the way it proceeds like a fairly typical small-town drama for much of its running time, but punctuates otherwise typical arcs with flashes of something else entirely — like a record approximately a esteem triangle being interrupted by a sudden, shocking vision of a sunless horror from beyond time.

By both playing with and subverting the form of the primetime soap, Lynch and Frost invented, more or less, the conception of the “TV mythology” — the more complicated backstory that explains the world their characters live in. But it’s this quality that often leads to confusion over the duo’s intentions. Is the expose meant to be campy? Or sinister? Is it a horror expose? Or a broad comedy? Or a satire? Thanks to Twin Peaks’ unique blend of influences, the retort to uncouth of those questions is “yes.”

What notable shows were inspired by Twin Peaks?

The Sopranos

Sopranos creator David Chase credited Twin Peaks as an inspiration.

The television landscape of the past 25 years is littered with shows that tried to “enact” Twin Peaks and failed utterly. You’ve never heard of most of them, because they ended after a handful of episodes, but the reason for their failure is simple: They boiled down Twin Peaks to what made it weird and missed the forest for the trees.

Yet the expose has stood as a notable TV landmark uncouth the same. First and foremost, it helped broaden people’s ideas approximately how television could be directed and shot. The long takes and static wide shots that Lynch favored, and the assassin’s row of other directors who stopped by Twin Peaks (including future Mad Men and Homeland director Lesli Linka Glatter and Diane Keaton, of uncouth people), transformed the expose into something that didn’t gaze at uncouth like other TV series but could still be pulled off on a TV budget and time frame.

That visual inventiveness opened a door that everything from The X-Files to The Sopranos fortunately walked through. Indeed, Sopranos creator David Chase frequently listed Twin Peaks as an influence on his similarly groundbreaking series. As he said to Vulture in 2015:

The conversations, the speed of it, could be very laconic. I liked that, while I was watching it, I could fill a kind of spiritual feeling. Lynch calls it his unconscious, not his subconscious. But I mediate it goes right into the subconscious, and you feel that you’ve been there.

Twin Peaks also — along with CBS’s Northern Exposure, which debuted just a few months later — kicked off an appetite for quirky small-town dramas, one that led to everything from Picket Fences to basically uncouth the programming on the now-defunct WB network (particularly Gilmore Girls).

And there are plenty of shows that looked at Twin Peaks’ early experimentation with longform mystery storytelling, with an elaborate backstory for its characters and world, and with eerie shifts into sunless, even horrific territory, and said, “I can enact that!” The X-Files was the first obvious imitator (right down to casting David Duchovny, who had a small role on Twin Peaks), but the two shows that fill best captured this aspect of Twin Peaks without being slavish to it are probably the Damon Lindelof series Lost and The Leftovers, both of which play in the same messy, sorta spiritual playground.

The total number of TV shows influenced by Twin Peaks is incalculable. The expose’s intoxicating blend of so many different elements means that even a comedy like Psych could enact a full hour of Twin Peaks gags. But it’s easy to see its influence in a expose like FX’s Atlanta, which often embarks on cinematic flights of fancy and indulges in a healthy dollop of surrealism with every episode. On its face, a half-hour sitcom approximately a would-be music manager in the South would seem to fill very cramped in common with Twin Peaks, but the expose’s influence is just that huge, immense.

Commercial smash: try some damn pleasurable Japanese coffee!

There is absolutely nothing we can say approximately these commercials the Twin Peaks cast shot to air in Japan apart from to emphasize that they are absolutely real, and it would be in your best interest to watch them uncouth immediately.

This is uncouth well and pleasurable, but people detest Twin Peaks’ moment season, right? Why?

The retort to the first question is: yes and no.

What’s often surprising to people watching Twin Peaks for the first time is just how many of its most iconic elements — from the giant who offers Cooper clues in his dreams to the expose’s scariest sequences to the identity of Laura Palmer’s assassin — aren’t introduced (or revealed) until season two.

Indeed, the season’s first nine episodes might be the strongest single stretch in the series’ 30-episode rush, as Lynch and Frost inexorably unravel their central mystery, while also raising other questions approximately just what the town of Twin Peaks is and why so many weird things happen there. Episodes seven, eight, and nine detail Cooper figuring out who killed Laura, then chronicle the aftermath of that revelation. They’re devastating, terrifying, heavenly television.

And then the expose sort of falls apart. Lynch and Frost bag called absent from Twin Peaks to attend to other demands, a unusual team takes over, and the loss of the Laura Palmer investigation as the expose’s connective tissue means that Twin Peaks must become, in essence, a straightforward primetime soap, with occasional weird moments. It doesn’t really survive the transition, which leads to stuff like Cooper’s chessboard face-off with his former partner Windom Earle and, um, a character getting trapped in a drawer knob.

Yet these episodes are just weird enough to withhold you going, even as you realize the series has lost a step. And as season two begins to wrap up, Twin Peaks clearly realizes that it needs to find a unusual unifying mystery to give the expose a unusual center. The mystery it lands on is one that many other shows (notably Lost) would similarly utilize: What’s the deal with this dwelling, and why enact so many weird things withhold happening here?

It uncouth culminates in a terrifying series finale that everyone involved in Twin Peaks seemed to understand would be the stop of the expose overall. Cooper finally gains admittance to the mysterious Black Lodge, located somewhere in the woods external town (or on some other plane of existence altogether), Lynch returns to direct one final time, and Laura Palmer says she’ll see us uncouth in 25 years. She was only off by one.

So season two is definitely a mixed bag, but the reputation that has near to define it is simply the fallout of a backlash against its defiance of TV expectations. In 1990, nobody had ever seen a series depart so long without solving a mystery as Twin Peaks had gone without solving the mystery of Laura’s death. (Lynch and Frost had hoped to never retort the question until the series finale, a battle they eventually lost with the network.)

And really, how many TV shows fill there been that felt like skyrocketing success stories in their first seasons, only for audiences to grow dissatisfied in season two? There are depraved episodes — and even depraved stretches of episodes — in season two, but it’s not so much worse than season one as to defy description.

This was just a particularly nasty case of a expose’s backlash coinciding with a ratings swoon, main to a “depraved moment season” narrative that would persist until the series finally became available on DVD in the 2000s.

There was a Twin Peaks film too, right?

Yes. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me debuted in 1992 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was booed. (Director Quentin Tarantino has said it proved Lynch had finally “disappeared so far up his own ass.”) It came out in the US later in the year, where it was mostly ignored.

This is too depraved. Fire Walk With Me isn’t as pleasurable as Twin Peaks — and it really is mostly just the weird stuff, by far than the expose’s unique blend of the conventional and the weird — but it’s a compelling prequel that deals with two of Lynch’s favorite themes: the collapse of American innocence and what happens when women attempt to define themselves in a world that would by far define them on their behalf. It is, in some ways, a dry rush for Lynch’s 2001 masterpiece Mulholland Drive.

In Laura Palmer, he sees a kind of glum mirror of America, and he infuses her final days on soil with a sense of gorgeous, poetic tragedy. But whether you were a fan of the non-Laura Palmer aspects of the series, you might find the film wanting, as it eschews many cast members and reduces Kyle MacLachlan’s screen time (reportedly at his request).

Also, David Bowie is in it.

The film is probably best viewed by Twin Peaks obsessives, particularly whether they’ve never seen it. One of the few things Lynch has allowed approximately the upcoming Showtime miniseries is that having seen Fire Walk With Me before watching it would be a pleasurable conception.

What enact we know approximately the unusual Showtime miniseries?

Surprisingly cramped!

We know it will be 18 episodes long. We know pretty much everybody who’s starring in it (though we don’t know who many of the unusual actors, like Dern and Naomi Watts, will be playing). Most of the series’ original cast — with the notable exception of Lara Flynn Boyle, who played Donna — is returning. And Lynch and Frost fill reunited to bring the world of Twin Peaks back to the small screen.

But other than that, we fill a handful of cryptic trailers, some even more cryptic episode descriptions, and cramped else. Even Showtime president David Nevins has stayed mum on what to expect, saying to reporters at a press conference, simply, “It’s the pure heroin version of David Lynch.” That either has you on the edge of your seat in anticipation or absolutely horrified.

Does Twin Peaks “hold up”?

The notorious Red Room.

One of the most intriguing things approximately the famously inscrutable and odd Twin Peaks barreling right into our current media landscape is that many of the publications discussing arts and culture right now are obsessed with “figuring out” TV shows and movies that might otherwise prefer to stay ambiguous. Even something as seemingly straightforward as the final shot of the most recent season of Master of zilch has had multiple posts devoted to what “really” happened in it.

And whether you wanted to, you could depart back to the original Twin Peaks and dissect its politics, or its cultural footprint, or its employ of tropes like the heavenly Dead Girl. You could, in other words, hold the standards of the present against something from 1990, and you might even find the series wanting in that regard. Visuals that felt striking and original in 1990 — like that red-curtained room with the black-and-white zigzag floors — fill been so thoroughly subsumed into the culture that they might feel, perversely, like copycats to those just watching Twin Peaks for the first time in 2017.

But what’s heavenly approximately Twin Peaks, what makes it “hold up,” is that it both allows for and resists both of the above readings. Any time you mediate you fill the series pinned down, it slips absent from you. It doesn’t want to be explained so much as it wants to be experienced. Lynch often talks approximately how much he likes to vanish into the world of Twin Peaks, and that feeling is conveyed, beautifully, to the audience. whether you can’t lose yourself in it, you’re not fairly watching it right.

In rewatching it for this article, I (Todd) kept finding myself sucked in by its rhythms uncouth over again, even in episodes I knew weren’t that mighty. Is it imperfect and occasionally difficult to sit through? certain. But that only made the series more impressive to me, on the whole.

There were artistically ambitious and cinematic TV series before Twin Peaks, and there were many after as well. But what still feels most radical approximately the expose is how it lets you bring whatever you want to it, lets you read it however you like. Whatever escape you find in it is enough, the series insists. And that open-hearted generosity of spirit is why it endures. Which leads us to…

Twin Peaks is influential, but why is it significant? Why enact I need to watch it?

twin peaks

Either you’re now hearing the theme music for Twin Peaks or you’ve never seen Twin Peaks.

Here’s another remarkable thing approximately Twin Peaks in 2017: In its examination of the crumbling edifice of Americana and uncouth of the myths Americans fill built up around their country, the expose only becomes more vital with every passing year, as America’s influence slips a cramped more and some Americans become increasingly obsessed with holding on to a dying way of life.

mediate approximately it. Twin Peaks itself is a dying industrial town — a logging town, no less — that just happens to be positioned at the center of some massive supernatural battle between pleasurable and evil, where evil is represented as pointless destruction and pleasurable is represented as simple, gentle kindness.

Twin Peaks a expose approximately what’s pleasurable approximately the United States, while also being approximately the sunless things the country tries to withhold deeply buried, and it never once calls attention to those aspects of itself, because it tells that record through the language of dreams. After uncouth, aren’t the myths we order approximately ourselves — the perfect small town, the heavenly homecoming queen, the virtuous law enforcement official, the satan himself — just dreams we’re trying to invent reality?

Twin Peaks is significant in 2017 because it’s always significant, but also because right now, of uncouth times, it feels vital to examine why we believe so strongly in some of these myths and not in others.

The reason Lynch is held up as an American auteur is both that his films feel like no one else’s (to the degree that “Lynchian” is now an adjective that many spell checks won’t flag) and that his concerns are so uniquely related to the specific strengths and pathologies of America itself.

Twin Peaks, then, isn’t a mystery to be solved. It’s one to attempt to understand. And every time you plunge through another layer of mystery, still another will be waiting for you.

You can find out who killed Laura Palmer, but it will only open up more questions, because, in the stop, uncouth that any of us are trying to understand is why we’re here, what we’re doing, and where we’re going next. Television peddles certainty. Twin Peaks knows many questions are unanswerable. Embrace the mystery.

Can you order me what I need to know to watch the unusual series in 350 words or less?

Leaving aside that you’ll probably miss a bunch of references and stuff, the basic “plot” of Twin Peaks is this…

When heavenly homecoming queen Laura Palmer is discovered dead, wrapped in plastic, the ripples of grief from her death consume the small town of Twin Peaks. The case indirectly brings FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper to town, and he promptly begins trying to solve the murder — which may fill links to a serial killer — with the befriend of Sheriff Harry Truman. Cooper grills the locals (including the famed, renowned, mystic Log Lady) but also uses a weird series of investigative methods that involve consulting his dreams to crack the case.

Meanwhile, the people of Twin Peaks are dealing with Laura’s death in their own ways. These include many characters, but most notably Laura’s friend Donna Hayward and her classmate Audrey Horne, as well as her two esteem interests Bobby Briggs and James Hurley. uncouth of these characters fill families, but for the purpose of this plot summary, we’ll primarily focus on Audrey’s dad, Ben, a local commerce, trade magnate, and Laura’s parents, Leland and Sarah, who seemed to fill the perfect American family until they didn’t. (Oh, and Laura’s doppelgänger cousin Maddy comes to visit.)

Eventually, Laura’s killer is caught (more on this below), but it becomes increasingly obvious that Twin Peaks is a nexus for some sort of supernatural war, represented by the mostly pleasurable, one-armed spirit Mike and the horrifying, murderous Bob, who was instrumental in Laura’s death.

As Cooper digs deeper, he learns of a mysterious Black Lodge in the woods, which seems to contain the Red Room (populated by the Man From Another dwelling — a.k.a. the dancing dwarf — and the Giant, who visit Cooper in his dreams). In the series finale, he goes there, only to find himself possessed by Bob. We’ll see you in 25 years, Laura’s spirit says. And here we are.

Who killed Laura Palmer?

You really want to know? uncouth right.

As revealed in the moment season’s seventh episode, Laura was killed by her father, Leland, who had been abusing and molesting her for years. He was under the influence of Bob, and at times seemed as whether he didn’t know what he had done while possessed by the spirit. And yet Cooper points out that Bob might just be a manifestation of the evil Leland was always capable of (even though enough people fill seen Bob for police to be able to invent a sketch of him).

The unraveling of this case is the most horrific and strangely poignant section of uncouth of Twin Peaks. Like the best of Lynch, it pulls apart an American myth to reveal the sunless, unpredictable heart at its center. No matter their facades, people are capable of mighty horror and mighty kindness. Through the retort to this mystery, Twin Peaks expresses that as best it can.

Twin Peaks returns Sunday, May 21, at 9 pm on Showtime.

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