Saturday, February 24, 2018

Twin Peaks Day: 10 Ways to Get Your Fix [Contributor: Melanie]

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“Diane, 11:30 AM, February 24th. Entering the town of Twin Peaks...”

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s bonkers brainchild, Twin Peaks, debuted in the spring of 1990 on ABC where its short-lived two seasons became a staple and lasting legacy across an array of media that followed. Modern television would not exist the way we know it without the presence of Twin Peaks in the beginning of the 90s. In fact, plenty of media today wouldn’t be here without the show’s trailblazing presence. And today marks the 28th anniversary of Laura Palmer’s untimely death and Dale Cooper’s one-way trip to the town of Twin Peaks.

The central plot of the show was the mysterious death of local golden girl and homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, whose nude body washed up on shore, wrapped in plastic, and sent the town into a shocked frenzy. Coop’s subsequent investigation revealed a seedy underbelly to the otherwise idyllic Pacific Northwest hamlet and plunged the viewers into the esoteric and ancient mysteries rooted in the surrounding wilderness and inexplicably connected to Laura’s murder. It was part soap opera, part surrealist film, part horror story, part family tragedy, and all kinds of wild.

The show was canceled in 1991 when ratings declined but left diehard fans with an eerie promise as the spectre of Laura Palmer prophesied she and Dale Cooper would meet again in 25 years. And, in 2017, they did just that. Lynch and Frost concluded their story with an 18 episode limited series of the show that both tied up loose ends and created a tangled web of new ones that, unfortunately, we will never see the answers to. Lynch — perhaps still chaffed over ABC forcing his hand in revealing the identity of Laura’s killer — is keeping some secrets forever.

Back during the show’s original run, the network — in an effort to combat a ratings drop — coerced Lynch and Frost into answering the show’s hook question: Who killed Laura Palmer? Lynch would have preferred it remain a mystery, or at least let it simmer, before it was answered. As it turns out in the return season, the more important question is: What is Laura Palmer? Lynch doesn’t really tell us and instead wrote his own TV show out of existence as Cooper went back to the night of Laura’s death and prevented it from happening, subsequently trapping them both in a universe where neither of them exists and the malevolent Big Bad is lurking. The screen fades on one final image in the Black Lodge where Laura whispers to Cooper a secret we will never know.

After all, Lynch did once say: “I don't know why people expect art to make sense when they accept the fact that life doesn't make sense.” That’s Twin Peaks in one sentence from the (white) horse’s mouth. 

So, with Twin Peaks gone forever (in more ways than one) how do you fill the gaping hole of Coop’s frantic last line “What year is it?” and Laura’s final, iconic, scream? I’ve got some suggestions for you to read, watch, listen to and — hopefully — find some cherry pie and damn good coffee solace.

Laura Palmer’s Secret Diary, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, and The Final Dossier 
(Written by Jennifer Lynch and Mark Frost, respectively)

Best to start with the canon supplemental material, right? The first of these books was a transcription of Laura Palmer’s diary, as the title suggests, penned by Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer. The diary begins on Laura's 12th birthday and chronicles her teenage years, up to her tragic death at the age of 17. It doesn’t really reveal anything new to the reader but it does paint a portrait of a self-aware teenager who both uses her friends and understands she’s used by them as her personal trauma and constant torment begins to spiral.

The next book is described on the cover as “a novel” but is more a meta piece of fiction that is comprised of several documents put together to paint the picture of Twin Peaks. FBI Agent Tammy Preston (who eventually appeared in The Return) is tasked by Director Cole to comb the haphazardly constructed file and report back. The book details the history of the area of Twin Peaks going back to Lewis and Clark, as well as some personal accounts of the locals — where applicable to the town’s history. Published as a lead-in to the new season, it ends right where the original show did.

The follow-up, The Final Dossier, is Tammy Preston’s own report on Twin Peaks, focusing mainly on the denizens of the town and what they’ve been doing during the 25 year gap. Both offer fascinating insight, answer some questions, but still leave the majority of the events open to interpretation.

House of Leaves 
(Written by Mark Z. Danielewski) 

This title is for those who are into the aesthetic elements of Twin Peaks and the unconventional storytelling methods. This novel by Mark Z. Danielewski took me about two years to get through and takes some serious patience. The frame story here is that of Johnny Truant, a troubled young man whose neighbor dies, leaving Johnny with copious piles of documents about a film entitled The Navidson Record. The aforementioned film is a documentary story of an accomplished photojournalist who moves into a new house with his girlfriend and their children, only to find that the inside of the house is a few inches larger than the outside perimeter. The two stories are told through a series of academic essays about the film and Johnny’s own hunt to see if this film ever existed at all. The wacky writing style (that involves repetitive use of color on certain words, backwards writing, blank pages, and other oddities) is meant to induce claustrophobia and probably would not have been looked at by an editor before Twin Peaks. And, like Lynch, Danielewski has created his own macroverse with his new series, The Familiar, told in similar fashion and contains elements that suggest it exists in the same universe as House of Leaves.

Strange Truth 
(Written by Maggie Thrash)

Much like Lynch’s work, Maggie Thrash’s debut prose novel (if we don’t count her previous graphic novel) got a severe critical axe from people who didn’t seem to understand what she was going for. Originally titled We Know it Was You, it was billed as “Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars” — which isn’t exactly a combo I want — this book is about two high school wannabe detectives committed to solving the untimely suicide of a cheerleader. Obvious plot parallels aside, Thrash takes more important cues from Twin Peaks with constant use of satire and offbeat humor to depict and analyze stereotypical high school behavior, in addition to portraying unlikable characters. It got flak from those who took its satire seriously and found the shift from mundane to surreal a little jarring.

Wayward Pines 
(Written by Blake Crouch)

I almost feel like it’s a satire in and of itself to include this series. Wayward Pines was written by Blake Crouch, who not only did not try to hide his blatant attempts to recreate Twin Peaks, but publicly spoke about the inspiration.

We use that term loosely. This book wants to be Twin Peaks. It follows Secret Service agent Ethan Burke who finds himself in the lonely Idaho town of Wayward Pines after a car accident. Burke is trapped in the town, full of secrets and mysteries, where — like Dale — he goes native and joins the local law enforcement to discover more. If you want the watered down, more science fiction-y version of Twin Peaks, this is it. Crouch’s most recent novel, Dark Matter, explores the Many Universes Interpretation that many have applied to the eerie finale of the show.

Mulholland Drive 
(Written and directed by David Lynch)

This film actually does a lot to inform on the tone and narrative elements of The Return. The similarities here go back to Mulholland Drive’s conception, when it was going to be a Twin Peaks spin-off. That didn’t pan out, but the souls of the two works remain closely entwined. It tells the story of a Hollywood hopeful and an amnesiac trying to find answers on a surreal L.A. adventure. Much of Mulholland Drive takes place as a dream sequence, reminiscent of Peaks’ consistent motif of dreams (and the theory that the whole show was, in fact, someone’s dream). There are also strong elements of amnesia in both works, recurring character names between them, and Lynch’s constant use of duality and fractured identities as well as double casting female actors. There is also the interpretation that the Black Lodge makes a thematic appearance in the film — as a looming place of evil and consequence for character actions — as well as the origin for certain, seemingly omnipotent characters in the film.

Welcome to Night Vale 
(Created by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor)

This is probably the most famous podcast in the world at this point. It’s a set of news and weather updates from a Cecil Palmer, a DJ at a local radio show in Southwestern town of Night Vale. Are you already seeing the homages? The idea behind the show was a town where “all conspiracy theories are real” and it’s played to mainly comedic effect as various news updates reflect overarching plots and recurring characters continue to further various B-plots. The show certainly has the otherworldly elements of Twin Peaks and a charismatic everyman to lead us through it, helming the broadcasts. It even has its own supplementary material in the form of two novels set in the fictional town.

Bates Motel 
(Created by Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, and Anthony Cipriano)

This is another piece of media where the creators have straight-up admitted their Twin Peaks love coming through the scripts. In fact, the creators of this show referred to this as their attempt to make “the other 70” episodes of Twin Peaks that never were. That being said, it goes for only one dimension of the show: the hidden dangers of a small, remote town. This show — as the title might suggest — is set in the world of Psycho, looking at the adolescence and young adulthood of Norman Bates while his mother was still alive. It’s set in the Pacific Northwest and deals with many of the same issues as Twin Peaks: drug running, corrupt law enforcement, rebellious and criminal teenagers, webs of secrets in the town infrastructure, the threat of isolation, gruesome murders. There are no supernatural elements here, but plenty of demons of the mental variety as Norman slips farther and farther into his own psychosis to become that charming fellow we all know and love from Hitchcock’s film.

(Created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa)

I’m gonna be honest: I can’t stand Riverdale, but it’s another show that has taken on some very obvious Peaks hats and worn them to some critical success. The show is based on the original Archie comics with a nihilistic, 21st-century lens depicting our classic characters as sexually active teenagers ridden with stress, angst, and dangerous secrets. It’s basically Twin Peaks for modern day teeny-boppers and they are just eating it up. It takes that whole seedy underbelly thing and makes it very meta, portraying our traditional G-rated bubblegum characters as modern teens with various iterations of Laura Palmer’s own messed-up double life. And, like Twin Peaks, it begins with a shocking murder.

Hotel Room 
(Created by Monty Montgomery and David Lynch)

This short-lived HBO miniseries came on the heels of Twin Peaks in 1993 and is pretty classic Lynch. It takes place in the same hotel room, across different decades, with various characters to create a wacky and unsettling anthology series. The decades don’t go in chronological order, the bellhop and the maid are both ageless and appear in all three episodes, the color scheme is reminiscent of Peaks. Lynch had hopes the one-night showing would lead to a larger series, but that didn’t pan out and the psychological drama was forever relegated to its original 90 minutes. Much like Mulholland Drive, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that this is set in the same universe as the show.

The Shining
(Written by Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, Directed by Stanley Kubrick)

This film continually ranks as one of the best horror films of all time and for a very good reason. Though author of the source material, Stephen King, wasn’t a fan of the overtly psychological horror of the film or the lack of redemption for his (self-insert) main character, the film has held up as one of the best films ever made. It’s a straightforward plot of a family spending the winter as caretakers for a dormant Colorado hotel, but soon cabin fever and legends of haunted halls begin to warp their view of their new home. This film predates Peaks by over a decade and considering Kubrick is one of Lynch’s influences, it’s quite possible this film had a bit of an indirect hand in the final product of Lynch’s show. Kubrick’s film has several geographical oddities and outright impossibilities, there’s purposeful lack of continuities, several dream sequences, and a mind bending ending that is never explained. Even the color schemes are very similar. Like Peaks, the thing that makes this film scary is the unknown and the possibility that it’s all in your head.


Twin Peaks is sadly over. But it’s lived on in some impressive art over the years. And, of course, there’s always the option of binge-rewatches. And always remember, friends, the owls may not be what they seem but they remind us to look into the darkness.


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