“A First-timer’s Guide to the Mystery (and Beauty) That Is Twin Peaks“ is a guest post by Nick Caruso, the writer behind The Littlest Winslow.
[Spoiler-infested waters. Swim at your own risk.]
After 30 episodes filled with bizarre owls, evil entities named Bob, and a lady who communicates with a log, I completed my first ever run-through of the David Lynch-Mark Frost series, Twin Peaks. It took patience and many cups of damn good coffee, but I made it through the spooky trees, visited the Black Lodge, and lived to tell the tale.
But what the hell did I just watch!?
Twin Peaks raised lots of questions and mysteries, provided little to no answers, and had me wondering whether its creative forces knew where they were heading—all the reasons why Lost made me want to take a long walk off a shirt pier. But Lynch and Frost built one of the most distinctive and eccentric shows of all time. Built around the murder of wild child Laura Palmer, the show fused together its idiosyncrasies like uncanny puzzle pieces to an even larger left-field framework often leaving viewers (me) bewildered, while captivating them at the same time (seriously, what the hell?).
Lynch’s surrealist storytelling can often be polarizing, no question there, but here are a few noteworthy happenings that left me riveted while simultaneously screaming WTF at my TV.
Airing from April 1990 through June of ’91, Twin Peaks had the kind of style that gave early X-Files its cool. It was a world of curly-corded landlines, small town haps, and hand-written letters that helped the show unfold while giving it character. While we’re soon about to meet a 2017-style Dale Cooper, the time period along with its Lynchian stylings gave Twin Peaks the room it needed to get its strange groove on.
Angelo Badalamenti’s Score
A long-time collaborator of Lynch’s, Badalamenti’s theme provided mystery, intrigue and hope to the show’s eerie Pacific Northwest vibe and dimly lit scenes. Just one viewing of the opening credits and I knew this show was something special. “Laura Palmer’s Theme” is the perfect backdrop for the decade’s finest murder mystery.
With its steady synths and beautiful piano arrangement, it’s both calming and unsettling at the same time, which yes, helped shape that quirky tone. Then, there was “Audrey’s Dance,” which pushed the show towards goofy, self-satire, as if Lynch, Frost and Badalamenti were saying: “This is all a bunch of insanity. Are you just now figuring that out?” The music is dripping in style, which helped Twin Peaks span multiple genres of storytelling.
Holy Melodrama, Batman!
There’s no denying the show’s venture into Soap territory. From Shelly Johnson and Leo Johnson’s tumultuous, abusive relationship, to Bobby Briggs’ over-the-top high school cool, to Sarah Palmer’s ear-splitting screaming (SERIOUSLY LADY. STOP.), Twin Peaks wasn’t afraid to be cheesy and extra. There were countless moments where I began questioning Lynch’s motivations (and wondered what Lynch was smoking).
These lighter moments formed a show that didn’t take itself too seriously, and quite frankly, provided a reprieve from the heavier, supernatural, murder-centric moments that, if left unattended, could’ve led to pretension. Twin Peaks had many different faces to it, just another reason it deserves a spot in TV’s Hall of Fame. And Andy and Lucy? Don’t get me started.
The Log Lady
There is a lady. Who constantly walks around carrying a log. And she reaches the spiritual world through it and accurately describes events with it? I don’t understand any of this shit and I already need to re-watch the series.
Bob and the Owls
Bob is the ultimate Big Bad in the mysteries surrounding the town of Twin Peaks. Played by the late actor Frank Silva, Bob was frightening, first as a possible real-life human, and later, even more so as a supernatural entity that can jump bodies, including owls? IDK, this show was weird, man.
Dale Fucking Cooper
Even when interest waned, I could never pull away thanks to Kyle McLachlan’s portrayal of Dale Cooper, an FBI Special Agent who arrives in town to help figure out Laura Palmer’s murder. Cooper has an open mind. He doesn’t rule out any possibility no matter how other-worldly or strange it may seem. He respects those he works with, and wants them to feel good about themselves and the jobs they do. He cares about the people of Twin Peak, maybe a little too much. Excuse me now while I go watch every single thing McLachlan has ever done.
Cult fans of Twin Peaks decode and pick apart every single line and scene from the show’s two seasons. Me? I found myself on the losing end of that game after Lost. This time, I sat back, drank tons of beer, let the show wash over me, and allowed Lynch do his Lynchian best. I don’t think there’s any hope in ever trying to fully understand the innards of that man’s mind, so I’m taking the lazy way out on this one and maintaining my fly-on-the-wall status with the Twin Peaks phenomena.
While I admittedly did find the show testing my patience on more than one occasion (they never should have solved the Laura Palmer murder, the network be damned!), Twin Peaks is undeniably special, geeky, cool, unnerving, over-the-top, mind-bending, and so many other complexities.
Sometimes, show-runners bite off more than they can chew and end up treading water a bit; the same can be said for audiences who dedicate their time trying to follow the mania. In the case of Dale Cooper and Twin Peaks, I wouldn’t have it any other way.