by: L.P. Hanners
Twin Peaks, the show that ushered in the Golden Age of television, is poised for a revival. In honor of this milestone, we present a personal celebration and dissection of the surreal crime drama extraordinaire…
On May 21st, Twin Peaks, one of the greatest shows in the history of television, will return to the airwaves with a long awaited new season on Showtime. Being that it has been a decade since Twin Peaks’ mastermind David Lynch had even made a film, let alone a television show, for many the series’ relevance remained in question. However, Twin Peaks’ revival does signify something that the world has never seen: A Lynchian sequel. The prequel to the television series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, was released in 1992, a year after the series finale, and the film served to widen its world of characters and to convert the show’s tone away from that of a soap opera. With so much time having passed since the early 90s, when Twin Peaks held the nation’s fascination firmly in its grip, one might wonder why a return to production is even appropriate. But fans of the show will remember a mission statement of sorts by Laura Palmer (portrayed by Sheryl Lee) — whose death was the catalyst for the events of the series — who stated in the Black Lodge to Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks’ series finale: “I’ll see you again in twenty five years.”
David Lynch is to surrealism as Bob Marley is to reggae. I first heard of him in 1996 when Trent Reznor, better known as the founder and frontman of Nine Inch Nails, produced the soundtrack to Lynch’s film Lost Highway. My high school art teacher then recommended I watch Blue Velvet, the 1986 American neo-noir mystery film written and directed by David Lynch, and following that, I proceeded to chase down and watch all of his films. With the exception of the polarizing film Dune, I was taken by all of his work. Notably, the first time I used the internet for e-commerce, was to order a VHS bootleg of a Japanese-subtitled laserdisc copy of Lynch’s seminal Eraserhead — the film Stanley Kubrick declared to be his favorite movie. Besides The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, it was the most gloriously fucked up movie I had ever experienced. I’ve watched Eraserhead numerous times since, mildly anguishing over trying to make sense of the narrative. I couldn’t get the film out of my brain and although unsure of what exactly, I knew I was learning something from it, something magical that I couldn’t put into words. I later decided to go to college and study film, and by chance, I ended up at the same art school that Lynch’s son attended. Lynch’s son was a visual arts major, but he did produce a film while he was there. It was unsuccessful to say the least, but I am proud that I can say I was part of the small audience that attended the one and only screening of an Austin Lynch film.
In time, I naturally turned into a bit of a film snob, and I drifted almost completely away from watching television. Because of that decision, Twin Peaks remained Lynch’s only work that I hadn’t experienced. I decided to check the highly acclaimed television series out when the DVD of the first season was released in 2001. I’ve seen the show again and again ever since, and to this day Lynch’s masterpiece is a fascinating and beautiful world to be submerged in. Perhaps because of Twin Peaks, I fell out of love with conventional film in favor of the small screen format and forthwith, I now view the history of television in two ways: before and after Twin Peaks. Every quality program on television that’s aired since bares in some way the mark of Twin Peaks. Its influence is blatantly transparent in such modern television series as Top of the Lake, Bates Motel, The Killing, and Stranger Things, where a murder mystery causes a small town to unravel. Or in widely-regarded shows such as Mad Men, Les Revenants, True Detective, and Six Feet Under, fantastic shows rife with dreamy visuals. And in series such as Wonderfalls, The Leftovers, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete, shows that are brimming with avant garde, abstract surrealism — a defining characteristic of David Lynch’s wondrous creation.
One revolutionary aspect to Twin Peaks when it first premiered was its strong female ensemble. Its casting wasn’t exactly a feminist high water mark, but it was as close as any show spearheaded by men came to capturing female sensibilities at the time. In that spirit, it has been revealed that in the Twin Peaks revival, a character by the name of Special Agent Tamara Preston will be picking up the mystery where Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper (“Coop”) left off. Agent Preston will be played by musician Chrysta Bell, one of Lynch’s latest muses1. The Secret History of Twin Peaks is a newly-released book written by Mark Frost (who co-created and co-wrote the revival with Lynch) that is pivotal in setting up the forthcoming season. The book reveals that the revival’s story will now revolve around a mysterious character who’s been assigned by FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (played by David Lynch in the original series) to re-examine the incidents in Twin Peaks, Washington that were the basis of the original series. Frost’s book also sheds light on the surprising fate of Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). The last time we saw her, she had handcuffed herself in protest inside Twin Peaks Savings & Loan, only for a bomb to go off moments later when Andrew Packard and Pete Martell uncovered a boobytrap. It was widely presumed that Audrey was dead, but Frost’s book has shed new light on the matter, revealing that Pete bravely shielded her from the blast, allowing her to survive! Audrey’s journey growing up and maturing in the face of, and in contrast to, her corrupt father was one of the more relatable aspects of the original show. As a fan of Audrey’s character, it’s equally surprising and rewarding to learn that she will be appearing in the Twin Peaks revival.
What remains to be seen is if Twin Peaks’ darker tone as set by Fire Walk With Me will continue into the revival, with Entertainment Weekly suggesting that the new episodes might not be as “TV-MA” as one may expect. Through trailers and information released from set, we know that some of the more soap operatic elements of the series haven’t disappeared, and the EW article also revealed that the Double R Diner, Shelly (Madchen Amick), Norma (Peggy Lipton), Big Ed Hurley (Everett McGill), Nadine (Wendy Robie), and Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) are all still around. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), Andy (Harry Goaz), and Hawk (Michael Horse) are still a part of the of the sheriff’s department and even David Lynch himself will be stepping back in front of the camera to once again play the role of Gordon Cole2.
The two hundred and seventeen actors listed on Twin Peaks’ IMDB page for Showtime’s revival mostly include newcomers, but there are also notable veterans, full-blown superstars and actors who have already played a part of in Lynch’s universe. It’s hard to think Balthazar Getty and Naomi Watts will have limited roles in the revival, because of the lofty roles they undertook in Lynch’s films Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive respectively. Laura Dern’s addition to the Twin Peaks revival is something to take note of. Her affiliation with David Lynch is well-known, as she’s acted in a majority of Lynch’s works. It’s rumored Dern will be playing “Diane,” the assistant Agent Cooper dictated all of his thoughts to, like a human diary. Jim Belushi, younger brother of comic great John Belushi, has been cast as either a FBI Agent or a Sheriff, considering what was written in an interview regarding Lynch’s character direction. According to Lynch, Belushi’s character “…loves his coffee. He pours his coffee. He wants to make sure that the cream is the right amount of cream in his coffee. He wants to make sure there’s the right amount of milk to the cereal. He doesn’t want it too soggy. He wants it crisp.” Other notable actors cast in the revival who have yet to work with Lynch include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Ashley Judd, Amanda Seyfried, Tom Sizemore, Monica Bellucci, Michael Cera, and musicians Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, Robin Finck, Sharon Van Etten, and Russ Tamblyn’s daughter, Amber Tamblyn.
This long awaited season will be composed of eighteen episodes, all crafted from what started as one fluid four hundred and eighty page script, which eventually ballooned to twice in size when the nostalgic tide of returning actors and newcomers reached an enormous level. Always the auteur, Lynch will also serve as co-editor on the show, along with the skillful original series editor Duwayne Dunham. What they’ve been doing in post-production has been top secret, with not even Showtime knowing entirely what they are up to. Mark Frost doesn’t know exactly what Lynch is doing either and speculation and interpretation have always been Lynch’s strong suit3. Twin Peaks has thrived in this way, as what has made it an enduring phenomenon is that the story was left unresolved when it was cancelled. The movie, Fire Walk With Me, served to heighten the mystery even further. Now, we can assume that Lynch was baiting us for this, his second act.
Showtime president David Nevins is quoted as saying that “The core of it is Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks.” The wonder, intrigue and mystery of Twin Peaks is happening all over again, and at the heart of it all is Coop, our initial escort into the enigmatic world of the television series. Dale Cooper’s role is one of the most eccentric characters ever seen on television. It’s a powerful role, written by a young Lynch trying to channel a lot of himself, and his own eccentricities, into what he was writing. Kyle MacLachlan’s portrayal of Coop was the show’s driving force, and his presence in the world of Twin Peaks is the essential element linking everything together. His state of mind (and being) when we last saw Coop haunts us all. Unquestionably, Twin Peaks’ biggest mystery is what exactly happened to him. The cliffhanger ending to the second season, and to the dismay of many, the show itself, was so terrifying that all aspects of Coop’s character became infinitely debatable. It’s almost certain his being possessed by an evil doppelgänger has damaged him in some way. Will he still be the beacon of wisdom and zen we all fell in love with almost thirty years ago? I’m sure I speak for all when I say I certainly can’t wait to find out!
- Bell and Lynch have crafted two albums of ambient dream pop, and her latest releases are produced by John Parish, PJ Harvey’s right hand man. [↩]
- Angelo Badalamenti’s breathtaking score, another defining element of the initial series, will be back fortuitously back as well. [↩]
- It’s been forty years since Eraserhead was released, and he still hasn’t revealed what the film’s point is, explaining that “I want the audience to interpret it for themselves.” [↩]