As Twin Peaks returns after 26 years, Getintothis’ Del Pike reckons a trip back in time might be a good idea.
Twin Peaks is back. For some of us this is like some sort of second coming, and I include myself in this… Oh yes Christmas has come early this year.
It was meant to be a return after 25 years since the show left our screens, but after many rumblings in the Twin Peaks camp, including show co-creator David Lynch walking away and coming back again, it’s here after 26 years. Better late than never.
When the show first aired in 1991, there had simply been nothing else like it. All those shows we now love but maybe take for granted, shows like Stranger Things, Westworld, Wayward Pines, American Horror Story, even Breaking Bad, had their groundwork carried out by Lynch and Mark Frost. Twin Peaks was a truly ground-breaking TV serial that wasn’t afraid to shock or push aside all that went before. Netflix has a lot to be grateful for
When the original series first aired, Lynch was already part of the psyche as one of America’s most celebrated cult filmmakers, with Eraserhead, Dune and Blue Velvet already showcasing his love of the surreal. Mark Frost was from a straighter laced background having scored a massive success as a screenwriter for TV’s Hill Street Blues. The perfect combination of out-there ideas married with competent TV writing was always going to be a winner.
The problem this time round may be that 21st century viewers could well get lost in the show’s history through never having seen the original or simply forgetting the details. Having watched the show again this year for about the tenth time, we’re still finding stuff in there we’d not seen before.
The tale of Prom Queen gone bad, Laura Palmer, washed up stiff on the shore of Twin Peaks Lake, followed by the investigation by FBI agent Dale Cooper, won the hearts of TV fans across the world. Only eight shows long, the first season didn’t even reveal the killer. The 22 show second season outstayed its welcome for many. With the villain revealed in just episode seven, Twin Peaks took the term” filler” to a whole new level. Many tuned out, which is a shame as the final episode is unlike anything seen on TV before or since. Seriously off its head. It’s still hard to believe it aired. For the record, the more forgiving fans still love Season Two, warts and all.
It may be tempting to go cramming all 30 episodes in before starting on the new series, but my advice is to go straight for the movie. In 1992, just over a year after the series ended, Lynch unleashed Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me onto the big screen.
Unfairly considered by many as nothing but a spin off at the time, the film fared badly. Maybe audiences were still feeling duped after the Season Two pantomime of Wyndham Earle or the ridiculous devil child Little Nicky, or perhaps the moment had just passed. The secret is to watch it as a standalone film and what you’ll see is one of Lynch’s most brilliant and underrated movies. It really is that good. Closer to Eraserhead than you could ever imagine.
The premise is to cover the final days of Laura Palmer’s life, but the outcome is a dark study of the human psyche. Much like the show, there is a lot of playing between the real world and the land beyond the red curtains, but the veil is much thinner here and the levels of surrealism and dream states are much more intense.
Watching it again this week we were floored by the sheer terror of the piece. The tension between Laura and her tormentors is unbearable at times and made so even more by the deranged soundscape bleeding over the action. The road rage scene between Laura’s Dad and the one-armed man is insane. The scene in the back of The Roadhouse is even more crazy, all dialogue drowned out by Angelo Badalamenti’s pounding Pink Room track. Go and watch it now, I beg you. Buy the Deathwaltz re-issue soundtrack while you’re at it.
Any suggestion of ritual abuse in the series are brought to the fore in the film and it is aimed at a more mature audience clearly. It is difficult to watch but compelling all the same. Lynch is addressing issues here and then some.
There have been suggestions that some of the themes explored in the film will re-appear in the new series, including the murder of waitress Teresa Banks, a case which we see in the film being investigated by agents Desmond and Stanley, an unlikely double act of Chris Issak and Kiefer Sutherland. This stand-alone rural adventure makes up the first half hour of the movie and plays for laughs. The humour is much needed as when the action moves to Twin Peaks there is not a titter to be had.
All the more light-hearted characters from the series are strewn to the cutting room floor as the action moves between a pre-case Cooper, hellbent on making sense of his Laura Palmer themed premonitions and Laura Palmer herself on her downward spiral of sex, drugs and dancing dwarves.
The joy of Twin Peaks is the unravelling of the puzzle, and the Missing Pieces version of the film, deleted scenes and extended cuts edited by Lynch into an almost coherent 90 minute parallel version of the movie, is full of points to ponder. Elongated scenes featuring David Bowie as Agent Philip Desmond trapped in a land of limbo and a shocking Hawaiian shirt are worth the box set price alone. All those characters sorely missed in the movie can be found here too, it would have been a very different movie with Pete Martell, receptionist Lucy and Deputy Andy. We even get an alternative series ending. Where’s Annie?
The disappointing Twin Peaks book by Mark Frost which was published last year and reviewed here, also promises to hint towards what to expect in the coming months. Read it at your peril.
One thing we can be sure of is that with eighteen episodes, all directed by Lynch and featuring many of the original players (Looking really old – see trailer below), we are going to need to stock up on coffee and donuts and prepare for some damn fine debates in work the next day. It’s what the water cooler was made for. As the little guy says… “Let’s rock”.
Twin Peaks Season Three, Episodes 1 & 2 UK premiere on SKY Atlantic May 23.