Twenty-seven years ago, I became a fan of Twin Peaks.
I watched the series on TV, I bought the books, including the one that never got released in the UK- and this was before the days when you could order stuff like that on the internet. I bought the series on video despite having taped it off-air, and then years later I got it on DVD.
I saw the film six times at the cinema.
For years, I was upset that we would never get to find out what happened next. I read people’s ideas and speculations about the series, and wished that we could somehow get some final answers. But slowly, I came to terms with not knowing.
A year or so ago, it was announced that we were going to get another series.
I tried to be happy about it, but I was worried. It had been so long. It couldn’t possibly live up to my twenty-five year old hopes.
And it was going to be entirely written and directed by David Lynch.
To the average person, Twin Peaks was always a David Lynch project. It was one of the first times that a big budget Hollywood director worked on a TV show. His name was plastered all over the publicity. Everyone heard about it.
I don’t want to diminish his involvement. He was one of the creators, and without him, the sleepy little town would have been vastly different, if it had happened at all. Many of the characters, besides being played by actors that he’d worked with before, showed distinctly Lynchian features. But through the series, he only wrote four episodes and directed six, and not necessarily the best ones.
Hearing that David Lynch was going to be involved with the new series last year was great news. Making Twin Peaks without him would just have been unthinkable.
Having him write and direct the whole thing was worrying.
Then I heard that Mark Frost was going to be involved as well, and my hopes rose again.
Mark Frost was the other creator – the one that no-one remembers. He wrote eleven episodes, directed one, and acted as showrunner for the majority of its run. He shaped the series to a much greater extent than Lynch, especially given that Lynch wanted it to be as nebulous and random as a dream.
Basically, if something happened that actually advanced the plot, or answered a question that had been raised, it’s more likely due to Frost’s influence than Lynch’s.
Fire Walk With Me
Eighteen months after the end of the series, the story was continued on the big screen. I really enjoyed it- as noted, I saw it more at the cinema than any other film before or since. We got to see the characters again, and how they got to where they were at the start of the series.
What we didn’t get was answers and a conclusion to the story, only more questions.
This was much more a David Lynch creation. Mark Frost had no input, as far as I’ve ever been able to find out.
We hoped that it would lead into a series of films, that would gradually bring the story to a close.
That didn’t happen, and we were left with nothing else until 2017.
The New Series
I avoided spoilers and behind the scenes information as much as possible. I couldn’t watch it when it was transmitted because I didn’t have access to the right network. But as soon as I saw the DVDs for sale, I bought them and watched them as quickly as possible, hoping for answers and a real ending.
I really wanted the series to be more Frost than Lynch.
And it was… very, very David Lynch.
The First Problem
The first problem was the cast. Twin Peaks was built around the characters as much, or even more so, than the nominal main plot of ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’.
It’s been twenty-five years since the series, and much of the cast was unavailable. Many of them had died in the intervening years, and even more have passed away just in the months since the new series was made. Reading the cast list at the end of each episode, it seems as though almost every one was dedicated to the memory of an actor.
Other actors, for one reason or another, either weren’t invited back, or declined the offer.
Result: stories patched together according to who was available. We
got plots involving James, the Nadine/Big Ed/Norma triangle, and Bobby and Shelley. Dr Jacoby was there as an internet pundit. Audrey appeared, kind of, though she never met another character from the original series. The Horne brothers were still around, and up at the Sheriff’s station we had Hawk, Andy and Lucy, along with Harry’s previously unknown brother.
For the FBI, at least we had Gordon Cole and Albert. But only a few of these had anything to do with the main plot.
Michael Anderson as The Man from Another Place was missing.
Donna wasn’t there.
Pete, Catherine and Josie appeared in flashbacks.
Annie gets a mention but no appearance.
Most of the old supporting cast were absent. Instead there were new characters, but they didn’t get proper introductions and we had no reason to care about them. Most of them were unpleasant, several of them died, and I felt nothing for any of them.
One pair of characters was presented at the end as having hearts of gold. Their first scene is them brutally kicking an employee for doing his job. Later, they kidnap Dougie with the express intent of killing him.
Yeah, I didn’t buy them being really great guys.
The Next Problem
This wasn’t the story that we’d have got if the series had been renewed back in 1991.
It couldn’t be.
There was a huge gap of time that needed to be addressed.
And for the most part, it wasn’t.
Some of the stories started with characters in exactly the situation that we left them. Others were just shown in the new scenarios, and we had to accept them.
And the main plot of Cooper’s doppelgänger was presented as him leaving Twin Peaks straight after the end of the series, and the FBI losing track of him from that point.
Cooper himself has been stuck, seemingly in the same chair in the Lodge, ever since the last scene of the first series. At the end of the first episode, he falls out of the Lodge, and is trapped in a body that the doppelgänger somehow created.
Once Cooper is caught in the body, he appears to be mentally impaired, only able to repeat a few words that people say to him. None of the other characters around him acknowledge this beyond a brief mention when they first encounter him, and treat his comments as perfectly normal conversation.
Yes, the script is structured so that what he says is pertinent most of the time, but he’s talking like a two-year old.
The result is that no-one involved in this part of the plot behaves like a real person.
In the original series, you believed in the characters. They were strange and bizarre people, but they were people.
This is the plot that gets the most time on screen: Cooper’s return to Twin Peaks. But it becomes a tedious drag, where we don’t really get to see Cooper as himself for most of the series.
There’s a point in the penultimate episode, where he finally comes back to the fore, and we get the main theme playing on the soundtrack. If the series had only been two episodes long, with that as the climax to the first part, I’d have been happier.
The other big problem was, as I had feared, David Lynch. This was his Twin Peaks.
Weirdness was piled upon weirdness, for the sake of being weird. After twenty-five years of waiting for answers, we were again given mostly new questions.
And The Direction…
Lynch has a very distinct style. Even a novice can tell when he’s in the director’s chair. And if there’s one thing that he is prepared to face that would scare any other director in Hollywood, it’s a long, static shot that goes on forever where one person moves slowly across the frame, or out of the distance into close up.
We got at least one of those shots in every episode, I think. If they’d all been cut, we could have saved a whole episode.
There’s one where someone is sweeping a floor. After 100 seconds of watching this, a phone begins to ring in the background.
Why did we need to wait for over a minute and a half to get to that?
Finally the story itself moved along very slowly.
Every episode felt twice as long as it needed to be, with scenes that dragged, even when there was a point to them. If Showtime had only given him six episodes to fill rather than eighteen, he could have still told the same story and kept it sharp and focused.
It may be my prejudice here, but every time something happened to advance the plot, I felt as though Mark Frost had managed to wrestle the typewriter away from Lynch for a few minutes.
I have to admit that some of the plots were interesting, though there was little connection between many of them and several of them went nowhere.
For all I complain about Lynch, he has a mind like few others on the planet. At the points where his interests and mine coincide, I found the story fascinating. And for a couple of episodes right at the end, it felt like we were really getting Twin Peaks again.
The last episode, which marked a radical departure for the series and could have been the springboard for a whole new direction, felt truer to the town that we visited all those years ago than many of the scenes we’d had there for the first fifteen episodes.
Sadly, I don’t expect that we’ll ever get to go there again. In 2017 we lost at least four actors from the series and the film, in particular Miguel Ferrer, who was one of the main points of continuity here. I feel that without him, the series has lost too much to get started again.
Also, I don’t know what the series ratings were like, but I can’t imagine that they were good enough to get it recommissioned.
If you were a fan of the original show, you’re going to want to see this, if you haven’t already. Sadly, I can’t promise that you’re going to enjoy it.
If you aren’t a fan already, I think that I can pretty much guarantee that you aren’t going to like it. You certainly aren’t going to understand it. The only way to approach this, is to go back to the beginning and start from there.
Perhaps Twin Peaks is that rarity, a beloved cult show that should actually have been rebooted, rather than continued.
Or perhaps it should have been left, like Cooper, trapped in a timeless zone beyond our understanding.
Steve works full-time for the NHS and tries not to spend too much of his day plotting out his series of vampire novels. Away from the office, he divides his time between playing games where he is a vampire, playing games where he hunts vampires, and playing with Lego (he has numerous Lego vampires).