On David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (1990-1991) – just some thoughts

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As a television addict, the 1980s and 1990s was a weird time to be a kid. Most of the kids’ shows felt like they were produced and written on a acid induced dare. I have fond memories of Read All About It!, Thinkabout, The Electric Company, The Secret Railroad, etc.. There was a good basis for an interest in the mysteries of the weird. As a kid, if you’re not fearful of something different, you’re usually curious; some of that fear will even elicit a greater need to know more still, however. It’s why Alice falls down the rabbit hole and why a kid will want to touch the hot stove.

I’m not sure if anyone knew what to expect with Twin Peaks. I remember being really excited after watching the promos. Pee Wee’s Playhouse was still on the air for a bit then, another show that absolutely blew my mind with the relatable odd factor. Pee Wee had a mixture of quirkiness and nostalgic cool that you just had to watch it. Twin Peaks promos caught your eye and made you wonder what the heck was going on.

First impressions were that this would be a multi-layered mystery show. The scenes of complete randomness injected in those promos were a promised though. This was David Lynch, the guy brought us Eraserhead and Blue Velvet: two great cinematic feats that stand solid because of their total dedication to an artistic dream and vision rather than for potential popular reception. The polished aesthetic of the “teen” characters danced around an Angelo Badalamenti beat poet score, a traditionally incongruous mix made to gel with and tug at my fascination with late night weird television. As Julee Cruise‘s voice soft lilt introduces the show, the subversive tone that permeates this Lynch-world, is laid out.

Beautiful people are presented to us. Audrey Horne slinks across the screen. Handsome Special Agent Dale Cooper (Not gonna lie, nomnomnom Kyle MacLachlan) mystifies with his quirks. Jocelyn Packard casts an otherworldly grace. People die, people come back, spirit worlds are presented, dwarves awkwardly lank about, and a misanthropic log lady enchants and amuses us. The crime drama becomes a soap opera for fucked up minds and it’s amazing.

I taped almost every episode on vhs and re-watched them looking for clues in the intricate filigree of the set wallpapers, the retro kitsch trinkets on the shelves, and the slow simmer of something else beyond the character’s expressions. Everyone seems so perfect, yet everyone wears a perfectly manicured mask. One of the things I do when I read characters is imagine what they would be like as children. You can’t really do that with the people of Twin Peaks. To the eye they seem immortal and stuck in a time that never existed. The Double R Diner is a place “where pies go to die,” and get a great cup of coffee, a model of small time America. But in the anal retentive brain of David Lynch, the unchanging diner becomes a vortex of occult manifestations and strange story arcs.

The joy of Twin Peaks is in the possibility of it never ending. Every plot hole you’d find, Mark Frost and David Lynch would soon be seal it up with arbitrary ghosts and a new stories would be introduced. Finales would be openings to new worlds and new lives. Such writing/directing strategies would ordinarily be seen as cheap red herrings, but in the hands of Frost and Lynch, the undermining enigma becomes a layered optical illusion. If you watch long enough, a new picture is revealed. If you walk long enough, a new door is opened. I just kept wanting to open doors and see new patterns in the floor patterns.

Just before the last few episodes aired, my dad grew tired of the show, finding it too weird for his tastes. I ended up watching the rest of it later on on vhs and never saw the prequel film until last night at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Rue Morgue brought Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, and Ray Wise over for FanExpo and they came over for a Q and A before a screening of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

The impression that I got was of eternal gratitude by the cast for the show’s fans. The trio was obviously happy to be there, open to share stories, and their insights of David Lynch (some of them on the mark, others more humorous in their awkward rendition). It’s been 23 years since the show ended and even with the film not being that great, fans still watch it. The promise of inhabiting the magical town of Twin Peaks is bigger than the over acting and convoluted mess that strays from the mellifluous slip and slide of the original show. Regardless, fans of the show and of David Lynch’s unconventional creative processes continue to want to peak behind the wizard’s curtain.

Ray Wise: “He didn’t really fight against the network. He just told them to go to hell. He just said, ‘I’m going to do this and it doesn’t matter what you say. I have a contract with you people, you gave me autonomy and that’s that.’ The network wanted to sink us pretty soon after we started. ABC….They kept pushing and pushing to solve this murder mystery which was never the intention. David wanted to keep it going, probably forever.”

Imagine if he *had* gone forever. For all we know Bob would fade into the background and White and Black Lodges would house endless Dale Cooper minions or birth multiverses of lush beat meditations on endless loop of kitsch and kink. Who knows? The idea that David Lynch continues to shamelessly create work and try to evolve himself (into whatever yelling transcendental meditative beast he’s aiming for), is a sure sign that he lives in a place not unlike Twin Peaks. And that, readers, is incredibly scary and undeniably intriguing.

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