the dawning of the last decade before the new millennium, and before
television would enter its own new age, we were offered the highly unusual
This series, like a brief eruption of flame, fascinated, stunned and
confused us. It was hot to the touch. Then, it was gone, and life on
television seemed to change. During its brief reign as an example of how
good TV could be, and before it literally lost the plot and was mercifully
cancelled, it became one of the most influential shows ever.
Twin Peaks is one of the few programs – maybe the only one – to mirror
life in all its mystery. Like life itself, the series is similar to that
of a soap opera, with no logical end seemingly in sight. It twists and
turns in unexpected directions, demands your attention and tests your
endurance. Everything that we think is isn’t; any object that seems to
have significance does not.
characters think they are living in the real world – theirs being the
misty macabre beauty of the
however, the real action takes place internally. Mysteries are solved not
through circumstantial evidence and police procedures, but through dream
interpretation and double meanings. In the end, according to the dogma of
there is no meaning. We’ve been fooled and distracted. We all lose.
underlying plot of the series, and the source of the nation’s obsession in
1990, is: who killed Laura Palmer? However, with each passing episode, we
slowly realize that who killed her is not the point. As the Log Lady
(literally a lady carrying a log, and the virgin mother of all
convention-attending nerds everywhere), states directly to us: “Behind all
things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd.” Yet the cruel
joke in life is this: we never get the reasons.
That was only the beginning. The absurdity would mount to an overwhelming
crescendo, confound us and fuck with us. We have been conditioned from our
first TV experiences to follow a plot line – what we get instead is tone,
and lots of it. The series was produced and packaged by real filmmakers,
headed by the brilliant David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Eraserhead), who
took his vivid visions to television to see what he could get away with,
and for how long. Amazingly,
bit – at least for a while.
town of Twin Peaks, where young cheerleader Laura Palmer is brutally murdered, is so
hyper-All-American, so serene and pastoral, that it becomes dangerous and
frightening. Lynch is asking us, “What is home?” And home can be so homey
that it can lull us into a false sense of security and smother us.
gives us a Peyton Place of dark secrets, unexpressed sexuality and unspoken
emotion, in scenes that purposely ramble on too long and subplots that
laugh at us when we ultimately realize that they are going nowhere. In
fact, time stands still here. Like life, the further along you think you
are, the more you stay in the same place.
course, because Lynch is playing with every literary and melodramatic
convention that we expect from a thousand TV shows, everybody in the town
becomes a murder suspect, even her devastated parents. The youth of the
town are “troubled,” to say the least; the boys
express a James Dean style of angst and the girls stew patiently in their
own sexual innocence. And Laura, it turns out, isn’t the homecoming queen
she initially seemed to be.
adults are stranger by far. Though expected to be authority figures and
symbols of stability, the grownups are over the top, out of their minds
and barely able to grip their sanity. Laura’s parents are bereaved to the
point of satire, Peggy Lipton plays the wholesome beauty who should have
married well and settled down, but owns the town diner and toils in it.
And Russ Tamblyn plays the local psychiatrist who has severe mental
problems of his own. This short list does not include Killer Bob, who may
or may not have murdered Laura, but appears to people in horrifying
Agent Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin) is a detective right out of a thirties’
comic book; a straight arrow Dick Tracy who seems to be fascinated with
everything. He is solving Laura’s murder psychically, saying, “My dream is
a code waiting to be broken. Break the code. Solve the crime.” And what a
dream it is – one of the creepiest and most infamous vision
quests in the history of television. In it, Laura Palmer (or is
it?) sits in a red room, while a little person dances to the coolest jazz
music ever. He says, “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and
there’s always music in the air.” Go chew on that for a while.
Cooper’s sexual attraction to the teenaged Audrey Horn (Sherilyn Fenn) is
more than risqué both now and then. When she places a cherry stem in her
cherry-like mouth and causes it to twist into a knot, we know we are not
experiencing any TV déjà vu. Audrey, for all of her youth and beauty, is
peculiar and commanding.
With a determinedly fifties-retro feel down to the fetishistic gazebo,
saddle shoes, tight sweaters and cherry pie, we are asked to look at our
cultural past with uneasiness now. Even the television soap opera that the
residents of Twin Peaks obsess on, with the cliché-ridden title of
Invitation To Love, appears to vaguely mirror the goings-on in the
town and the characters’ turbulent lives in that corny way that most soaps
do, but more surrealistically so.
symbolism is used as a distraction – everything from a golf ball to a
llama to Hawaiian art to a convention of odd people from Iceland. Even at
Laura’s funeral, one of the teenaged boys confounds us further by
screaming at the mourners, “Everybody knows she was in trouble, but we
didn’t do a thing! All you good people! You want to know who killed Laura
Palmer? You did!” Of course, this rant sounds clichéd on purpose; it
doesn’t help matters at all, and continues to throw us off course.
Sadly, by the second season, the series had lost its mojo and overstayed
its welcome. America, now mired in the Persian Gulf War, was back to
reality. Soon series like Seinfeld and The Simpsons would
take the place of
Twin Peaks as a source of bended reality. However, the show
would inspire a genre of similar odd vibes served with a less heavy hand (Northern
Exposure, The X Files, Picket Fences, Ed, and
Ironically, Twin Peaks and its slow, deliberate style seems to be
long forgotten. This DVD will help us remember and keep the shattered
memory of Laura Palmer – and what she may or may not have stood for –
All rights reserved. Posted: October 13,