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Escape to Twin Peaks

June 26, 2018

welcome-to-twin-peaks-town-sign-snoqualmie-don-detrick-1On a cross-country flight a few weeks ago, I was hunched over my phone watching the opening scenes of the pilot episode for Twin Peaks and I began getting teary-eyed. Famously, in the opening scene, the body of seventeen-year-old prom queen Laura Palmer is found wrapped in plastic at the river’s edge. Much of the pilot is the heart-wrenching grief of the town as the news spreads. The pain is palpable. I was caught off guard at how hollow the pilot made me feel.

Of course, Laura Palmer’s death was no surprise. I’d seen the pilot maybe five times over the years. But now I was carrying the weight of an additional 47 episodes. I knew every one of these characters inside and out, knew the arc and final end of almost all their stories. I was also hit with a wave of nostalgia, taken back to a different time and place in my life. (And, someone once told me, you’re more emotional on a plane because of the lower level of oxygen. I’m sure it was just that.)

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I came to Twin Peaks a little late. The pilot aired on ABC on April 8, 1990. When I was a senior in high school, my girlfriend would play the wonderful, ethereal Angelo Badalamenti soundtrack in her basement. In college in 1994, my course load was filled with film classes. I was introduced to David Lynch and became a frequent patron of That’s Rentertainment, the video store in Urbana, Illinois. They had the full Twin Peaks collection—seasons one and two—on VHS. I rented them one at a time.

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Twin Peaks is without a doubt the strangest thing to ever grace network television. It is my favorite TV show (followed by Northern Exposure, 1990’s other quirky small-town drama and True Detective, HBO’s 2014 hit that owed much to Twin Peaks). It is a strange cross-genre blend, a whodunit mystery meets horror meets comedy meets sci-fi wrapped in soap opera pastiche, directed by an artist with a penchant for surrealism.

By episode 2, which ends with FBI agent Dale Cooper’s (Kyle McLaughlin) strange dream of a giant in his hotel room, viewers knew this was not Northern Exposure, Dallas or Columbo.

Last year, after a few head fakes, Showtime released season 3 of Twin Peaks, picking up 25 years after the end of season 2. Perhaps scarred somewhat by the various Star Wars returns, I was hesitant. Television has evolved so much in the past quarter century. There was no way Lynch and his co-creator Mark Frost would be able to upend television again. No way they’d be able to capture the charm of the first two seasons or create something so surprising and bizarre.

I put off watching for almost a year. But after stumbling on a video about the music from the original show, I caught the Twin Peaks bug. So I got a free month-long trial of Showtime and dove into the new season.

 

I couldn’t have been more wrong with my hesitation. The eighteen episodes of season 3 again trumped everything. Twin Peaks obliterated my expectations again. Stunning, confounding, terrifying, surprising, delightful, magical, at times hilarious, frustrating and weird.

It took me about two weeks to get through it all. I accompanied it with podcasts—about 65 hours’ worth so far, by my count (there are dozens of podcasts dedicated to the show).  Once I finished the new season, I started again on the first two seasons and am currently at Episode 15. I listened to the audiobooks of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and Diane: The Twin Peaks Tapes of Agent Cooper. I read The Secret History of Twin Peaks and The Final Dossier and John Thorne’s The Essential Wrapped in Plastic. I’m now a subscriber to The Blue Rose, the Twin Peaks fanzine. Marking them all up, looking for clues like some armchair detective.

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After a couple weeks of all of this, I realized what a total gift it has been. Not only have I been able to reconnect with this fantastic place, but it has distracted me from our current news cycle. My regular podcasts, many of them news or political, have almost all been replaced by shows devoted to Twin Peaks, where fellow obsessives explore every nook and cranny of this weird world. It has been the definition of escapism, and it’s been delightful. It’s reignited my love of film and provided a needed creative spark.

One of the reasons Twin Peaks has built this cult following is that it is thought-provoking in a way that’s rare with pop culture, especially television. Everyone’s understanding of and experience with Twin Peaks is different. The new season delivers a key quote from the Upanishads: “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

The show is an invitation to live in that dream, to bring your own dreams to it. It is a mystery where every question is answered with three more questions. I could go on and on about it.

But rather than bury this blog in posts about Twin Peaks, I’m starting another blog. I’ll continue to post reviews of the books here, but everything else will go over there at Listening Post Alpha. The world only has 1,879 Twin Peaks blogs. There’s room for one more.

Please follow if you care to. Or just stop in from time to time. I’ll have at least one post for people who have never seen Twin Peaks.

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