I was nine and not quite eleven between TWIN PEAKS’s all-too-brief time on the air. Even though I was so young, I have vivid recollections of the show. I remember being fascinated by the odd characters that somehow reminded me of the town I was growing up in. I remember the opening with Badalamenti’s unforgettable theme, that Leland killed Laura, that there was damn fine coffee and cherry pie, that Audrey Horne was my first fictitious crush, that Andy and Lucy were a great couple, that the dwarf in the Black Lodge talked backwards and that Coop smashed his head into a mirror and that that was that.
As fascinated as I was by the series itself (and by its stealth exit), it was bearing witness to my mother and grandfather’s discussions and disseminations of the previous night’s episode over tea that fascinated me the most. It showed me the power of a world that broke age barriers, a world that could inspire such fervent discussion among adults as the Jim Aparo BATMAN comics could inspire among my friends and I (later, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES would give me a taste of discussion with my grandfather, as he became as engrossed with the series as I was).
When I revisited TWIN PEAKS on Netflix twenty-plus years later, in a binge-watch following my epic binge-watch of LOST, I saw the show through a whole new lens. I saw how the series had effected my own work and my own storytelling loves: the peeling back of the veneers of respectability and decorum of small-town life, the unsettling suspense that hides behind sardonic humor and the other-worldly surrealism of a world that is our own but isn’t.
Badalamenti’s theme was still a welcome, a melodious vacuum that sucked me into the world and threw me out the other side of each episode, hankering for more (thankfully, the bing-watching negated the agony of a week between episodes); Leland’s confession and realization that he, as BOB, was the one who murdered his daughter was one of the most heartbreaking scenes ever put to television, resting solely on the power of Ray Wise’s unforgettable performance, arguably one of the greatest in television (Wise remains, to this day, a vastly underrated actor); Audrey Horne still held–and holds–a special place in my heart; Andy and Lucy were still a wonderful couple, and I was still rooting for them (stupid Dick Tremayne); and the Black Lodge finale, with the dwarf and the final scene with Cooper smashing his face into a mirror, possessed by BOB, still hurt, knowing that there was no resolution in sight.
One has to wonder if there would have been a resolution had the series not stumbled so badly after the discovery of Laura Palmer’s killer? When TWIN PEAKS hit its high notes, it was unforgettable; when it staggered, it was painful. The transition between Laura Palmer and Wyndham Earle was, at best, shoddy. It was demonstrative of a show that had reached to far in the wrong direction: the emotional heft of the previous mystery was gone. Cooper worked best as the private eye archetype, the constant whose discoveries peeled back the layers of Twin Peaks, and while he had his own mysteries and tragic past, it didn’t work when that past followed him to Twin Peaks. It forced a mystery from within to become one without and the show suffered because of it.
With TWIN PEAKS, the cherry pie, like the coffee, is always damn fine, even if the last batch tried something new with the recipe that didn’t quite work; it’s still tastier than any of the numerous imitators that spring up every fall. Even though they try to recreate the surreal magic of the Laura Palmer aspects of the show, they often end up remaking the last batch of cherry pie, of season two, because they miss the true beating heart of the show: the characters. They become so fascinated by the labyrinthine twists and world-building that they forget that a twist only works and a world is only made vibrant by the characters–the people–that populate them and the stories that are told by storytellers with something to say at the top of their game.
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