A TALE OF TWO PEAKS
The Dreamer is David Lynch, and he doesn’t care what you think.
One of the most anticipated returning shows in the history of television came to an end on Sunday evening, as TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN took its final curtain call.
TWIN PEAKS first ran in the early 90s on ABC. After two seasons, the show was cancelled, and fans were left with an image of central character, beloved FBI agent Dale Cooper, smashing his head into a mirror while laughing maniacally. All signs were pointing to Cooper being possessed by an evil version of himself. A cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers.
Of course, that’s getting ahead of ourselves a little bit. Is the future the past? Past the future? Let’s start from the beginning.
The original run of TWIN PEAKS was built around the murder of high schooler Laura Palmer. It was a “who done it” that just wouldn’t quit. Lynch had designed a world where anyone could have done it, and eventually anything was possible. Owls that were really an evil entity named Killer Bob in disguise. Portals to different planes of existence, aptly named the White and Black Lodges. A dwarf who spoke in backward riddles, who also danced if he felt like it. All of this, and we’re not even scratching the surface of the melodrama that was the cast of characters that occupied the town of Twin Peaks, Washington. Almost everyone was involved in a love triangle. Isn’t it funny how a triangle is the shape of a mountain?
To say the show was a required taste is an understatement. You either love coffee and cherry pie, or you don’t. Simple as that.
FBI agent Dale Cooper, played perfectly by Kyle MacLachlan, must solve the murder of Laura Palmer. ABC executives looked over Lynch and co-exeuctive producer Mark Frosts’ shoulders and demanded the Palmer angle be wrapped up. Turns out that Leland Palmer, Laura’s father, was sexually abusing her for years up until he murdered her. Then it’s revealed he was possessed by Killer Bob, an evil entity from another realm. Yep, that old chestnut.
With the show’s main question resolved, and story line spiraling into madness, audiences lost interest and TWIN PEAKS was cancelled. However, in a stroke of pure genius or random happenstance, Lynch built in a caveat. Laura Palmer tells Dale Cooper she’ll see him in 25 years. Cut to 25 years later, and Showtime green lights a revival of the show, even with certain key players being deceased and others not willing to return. Looking at you Michael Ontkean.
Once TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN began, it was apparent that the stars of yesteryear’s beloved quirky melodrama, were gonna take a back seat to something new. Lynch went the route of dipping his toe in the waters of the prequel feature length film FIRE WALK WITH ME, which frankly is a hell of a lot darker than TWIN PEAKS ever dreamed of being. It’s also Lynch without hand cuffs or without someone looking over his shoulder telling him to make things cohesive or to wrap it up.
What the fans got were 18 episodes, when there was only really a need for 10. Events take place in South Dakota, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, when all anyone really wants is Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks. That’s something the audience doesn’t get until episode 17. Plenty of new characters are introduced, but we’re hard pressed to care about any of them.
The most compelling new characters are Cooper’s former assistant Diane, performed by the incomparable Laura Dern, and Phillip Jeffries. Jeffries was originally portrayed by David Bowie in FIRE WALK WITH ME. With Bowie having been sick and passing away, Jeffries was reduced to a giant tea kettle (???). Everyone else just didn’t cut the mustard of the original’s run.
The main focal point of the season was Agent Cooper operating the body of a man known as Dougie Jones. Jones was not a good person, and was actually a planted doppelganger/tulpa in case Cooper ever caught up to his former body now occupied by his evil counterpart Evil Cooper/Killer Bob. Can you keep up? Are we there yet? The road did more than meander and visit pointless side shows, only to make the audience crave the point of it all.
By the end of it, we’ve seen the creation of Killer Bob via an atomic blast in arguably the most Lynchian episode, episode eight. We’ve witnessed what’s going on with some of our former favorite characters, namely Audrey, who has been reduced to a manic with seeming dementia. When last we saw her, she was inside a bank that had exploded. Now we don’t know where Audrey is when she escapes her dreamlike dance number in episode 16, surrounded by white walls and a mirror.
The final two episodes saw Cooper return a good Dougie Jones to his family, the destruction of Killer Bob, and an attempt at saving Laura Palmer in the past in hopes of returning her home in the future. The only problem is, by saving Laura, space time shifted. The Twin Peaks that we know and love, no longer exists. This may have been the point of the whole thing. This may have been Lynch’s way of using a third season to try and explain that a third season wasn’t needed. It’s also hard to believe if ABC had continued the show in the early 90s, that it would look anything remotely like this.
Lynch isn’t one to give you answers. He never has been. Quite frankly, he doesn’t owe you any. He’s an artist, specifically a visual one, who wants you to feel more than you think. That’s why people get frustrated with his work. It’s never been about getting the audience from a to b. It’s always been about the journey and how the audience felt along the way.
In his heart of hearts, David Lynch is a painter. He paints pictures. The audience can interpret it however they want. They can take it, or they can leave it. Lynch doesn’t really care which choice the audience makes.
TWIN PEAKS was a show that morphed from a murder mystery into something far broader and not easy to understand. It was a show about the loss of innocence and not being able to return home. That’s why Laura screamed at the faint echo of her name and the lights going out on her once childhood home. That part of her is gone. That world in which she once occupied is also gone. The world in which the show had its first run, is also gone. There’s simply no going back to that version of TWIN PEAKS.
When walking into the northwestern woods proceed with caution. Perception is reality, and the dreamer is David Lynch. Take it, or leave it, because it just might take you.