On 18th June 1991 David Lynch and Mark Frost broke a piece of my heart. I had over 36 weeks become addicted to their (now legendary) procedural murder mystery, campy soap, come horror opus ‘Twin Peaks’. Twin Peaks iconography and its explorations of the interconnectedness of the good and evil within universal human experience struck a deep chord within me.
Lynch/Frost had apparently rummaged through my inner case of favourite things, combining a heady brew of snow-capped mountains, mysteries, the ancient spirituality of the woods, cherry pie and Northwestern art before shrouding them in coffee scented steam rising from a percolator. Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper was exactly the kind of hero I had missed as a child; a damn fine blend of intuition, geekiness, bravery, humour, warmth and Buddhist like spirituality. Most importantly for a young gay man starved of positive TV role models, Cooper brought acceptance to his friendships with those of a spiritual nature such as the Catherine Coulson’s iconic Log Lady, or alpha males such as Michael Ontkean’s Sheriff Harry Truman or with Denise Bryson, a trans-character played by David Duchovny.
It is easy to forget in the Netflix age, but Twin Peaks was a big deal, especially during its first season. I can vouch absolutely for mornings spent analysing the town’s strange events with the office typing pool at the water cooler. We held Twin Peaks parties and I even produced a short-lived Twin Peaks fanzine ‘Fish In The Percolator’. As Twin Peaks moved into its second series, a more supernatural tone developed and viewers Stateside tailed off, not helped by the ABC’s erratic scheduling. In the UK we benefitted from regular scheduling and thus when (in one of the most disturbing scenes ever broadcast) the murder of Laura Palmer was apparently solved and temporarily replaced by campy ‘B’ plots, one could still find others watching loyally. Lynch-Frost had contributed to second season decline by becoming entrenched in other projects but Twin Peaks found its mojo again as it hurtled towards its final episodes, intent on reminding us why we fell in love in the first place. The core raison d’etre for the piece, the life and death of Laura Palmer was reframed against the shows wider mythology (cosmology?) of two chevron floored ‘Lodges’ (the Black and the White) through which all living things pass, encountering lost souls, parasitic ‘Dugpa’ spirits and glass eyed doppelgangers.
Ultimately, on Tuesday 18th June 1991 Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper faced the Black Lodge with imperfect courage and as a result our hero was apparently split into two beings, one predominantly good and one predominantly bad. The ‘bad’ Cooper being hijacked by the predatory parasitic spirit ‘BOB’ also responsible for the death of Laura Palmer. The final image of our hero smashing his head into a bathroom mirror manically, possessed, and bleeding from the forehead was unsettling, upsetting and disturbing.
Good Cooper stayed trapped on the Black Lodge whilst Bad/BOB Cooper’s story was apparently only just beginning. Lynch/Frost also left many of the other inhabitants of Twin Peaks in mortal jeopardy, a tactic also employed at the end of series one in order to facilitate network renewal; this time however it wasn’t going to wash with ABC and the plug was pulled. And so as many loyal fans (including myself) howled, with a crackling buzz of electricity and static Twin Peaks ended and began fading into TV history.
Except, my log has a message for you, because like a Douglas Fir, Twin Peaks had taken root deep in our cultural subconscious and even if we weren’t happy with the way the second series had panned out, during random moments of our lives, we could still click our fingers along to Badalamenti’s Dance of the Dream Man and just feel that damn town; Twin Peaks was still very much alive in the moment. The blood of Twin Peaks ran out through the cracks of a broken bathroom mirror into the DNA of modern televisual output, from X-Files to Stanger Things to Broadchurch.
In 1992 Twin Peaks returned in the bleaker form of the Lynch directed prequel/sequel Fire Walk With Me. Derided at the time for everything it was not, Fire Walk With Me is essential pre-viewing for the new series according to Lynch himself, affording us not only clues as to the possible eventual rescue of the ‘Good Dale’ from the Black Lodge but also one of the most beautifully shot and scored film endings in cinema history, as ‘good’ Dale Cooper guides Laura Palmer to peace at last. This is the lasting image of my perfect imperfect hero that I have held dear all these years.
Creatives such as John Thorne and Craig Miller of Wrapped In Plastic magazine worked valiantly to keep the show alive whilst off-air. The USA Twin Peaks Fest started in August 1992, continuing to this day, originally run by Pat and Don Shook and now run by Rob and Deanne Lindley with many others such as Jared Lyon taking over along the way. In the UK Lindsey Bowden has been running the Twin Peaks UK Festival UK since 2010, this year taking place over the weekend of 7th-8th of October at Hornsey Arts Centre; featured guests including Kenneth Welsh. The festival also features performances facilitated by Benjamin Louche and Rose Thorne of the Double R Club who have been striving to keep Twin Peaks alive since 2009 with their nights of Lynchian wonder and weirdness at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club.
These are just some of those who stepped in and kept the flame of Twin Peaks alive, others include Andreas Halskov author of ‘TV Peaks’ and Scott Ryan of The Blue Rose magazine- all of these individuals have contributed to maintaining and building interest and for this Twin Peaks fans and indeed Showtime/Lynch/Frost should be grateful for paving the path towards The Return.
What goes around comes around, the stars turn and a time presents itself. On May 22nd 2017 Twin Peaks returns as an 18 part series for Showtime. I recently undertook a final re-watch of the original run -finding myself oddly hesitant before watching the last episode as for 26 years the final episode of Twin Peaks, painful as it was, has helped maintain the mystery. If the new series provides complete resolution to the story then could perhaps the flame might finally fade post The Return? Somehow though I doubt whether Lynch will provide us with neatly wrapped packaged – I believe he loves that funny little town in the Pacific Northwest just as much as we do, although we certainly shouldn’t expect the forces that overwhelmed Agent Cooper to remain solely in that funny little town for much longer. Its time to say goodbye to Twin Peaks as we know it.
Call for help-MAYDAY! Twin Peaks is back!
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