If I’m completely honest, I’m not much of a David Lynch fan. I don’t get along with the surreal. My only two experiences with his work are Dune (1984) which I found confusing and boring and Mulholland Drive (2001) which weirded me out so much I decided there and then that he’s not my cup of tea. I’d always known about Twin Peaks (1990-1991) hearing the incessant praise over the years and I was aware that Lynch co-created it, but due to my now regarded dislike for his work, I avoided at all costs.
Needless to say, when they announced a new series and everybody lost their minds, I didn’t really understand it. However, in my maturing years I’ve become more open to new experiences and learned to love the weird and wonderful. After a colleague commented how amazing the first couple of episodes of series 3 were, it piqued my long dormant interest and I made the bold leap to do what I had always brushed off.
For those not in the know Twin Peaks takes place in the titular small town in Washington state. When the murdered body of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) washes up on the shores of a lake, the entire town is stunned by her death. With evidence to suggest she is the latest victim of a notorious serial killer, FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is sent to the town to investigate and uncovers a web of intrigue as the mystery reaches into the lives of the townsfolk and their secrets.
In the space of two weeks I have worked my way through the first two series of Twin Peaks and I can honestly say I found it hard not to stop. I didn’t force myself to grind through each episode as I was expecting to, it only took the pilot to get me hooked and now I feel an idiot for putting it off for so long. I couldn’t help one more visit as the credits rolled over the infamous photo of Laura, and just one more listen to that beautiful opening theme tune.
The initial series of 8 episodes sets up the story perfectly, introducing a mystery, the characters involved and lacks any of the batshit craziness I have come to expect from Lynch. (There is one scene that has been famously referenced by The Simpsons, but it is a dream sequence making it easy to jump on board.) Granted as the series progresses there are more moments of oddness, but by that point you’re already invested in these characters and the plot too much to care.
Dale Cooper has to be up there alongside the best television characters ever with his encouraging thumbs up and penchant for a good “cup of joe”. His infectious optimism is refreshing in a world that seems full of grumpy protagonists these days and his likability factor is through the roof. I’d never rated MacLachlan very highly before (could be down to Showgirls) but through Twin Peaks I’ve garnered new respect for him as an actor. The eclectic cast in support is perfectly complimentary, the most Lynchian being “Log Lady” (Catherine E. Coulson) who cradles a small log she claims sees things and can talk to her and Dr Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) with his outrageous dress sense. It also features cameos by the likes of David Warner and Lynch himself as one of my favourites Gordon Cole and a lot of actors who went onto bigger and better things such as Heather Graham and a very memorable appearance by a pre-X Files David Duchovny.
With its satire of soap operas, quirky humour, masterful strokes of horror and genuinely engrossing murder mystery, Twin Peaks is a major feat of television. I once wrote an article looking back at Oz and deemed it the founder of modern television as we know it today. I’d like to use this moment now to say I was wrong. Twin Peaks takes that spot, doing it 7 years prior. I firmly believe that without Twin Peaks breaking ground as it did, we wouldn’t have the television shows we have today, particularly the likes of The X-Files (1993- ), Lost (2004-2010) or Fringe (2008-2013) with their focus on the supernatural and bizarre. Ironically it’s the response audiences gave those series that prompted a return to the town of Twin Peaks this year.
For anybody out there that has done as I have and side-stepped this magnificent series, I urge you to give it a try. Don’t assume that because David Lynch is involved it will be a confusing mess of surreality that will fly so far above your head you won’t even notice. Its 90s aesthetic may look rather dated now and its acting occasionally borders on hammy, but this is television at its best. A core story tying together a variety of characters leading you on a pleasant trail of discovery and the final reveal of the killer will no doubt shock you. I cannot wait to start series 3.