Better twenty-three years late than never. (That’s how the saying goes, right?) It certainly applies to my latest foray into cult television, Twin Peaks. I was a wee tot when the series first aired, but the Internet gods preserved it for me.
On the surface, Twin Peaks is a murder mystery/cop drama set amidst the pines of the Pacific Northwest. Following the death of Laura Palmer, special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes to the aid of local law enforcement. Other notable characters like Audrey Horne, the Log Lady, and Garland Briggs round out the quirky band of townsfolk who help (and sometimes hinder) the investigation. The deeper the law men delve into the secrets of Laura Palmer and her loved ones, the further the show strays from its original format.
Stylistically, Twin Peaks is perhaps the most complex show I’ve seen. Creator and director David Lynch teases viewers with abstract scenes of scarlet drapery and distorted conversations, but he doesn’t fully indulge them until the end of the series. What he consistently delivers, however, is a combination of parody and pastiche. Overwrought portrayals of love and loss call soap operas to mind, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s jukebox score lends a distinctly retro feel. In turn, these elements find harmony amongst snappy dialogue, shared secrets, and cups of coffee.
What I love most about Twin Peaks–aside from dorky dreamboat Dale Cooper–is its commitment to weirdness. Watching via Netflix, I almost could not believe it had ever aired on network television. The premise of the show is palatable enough; primetime is saturated with dramas that depict similar situations. But the show’s intent can be challenging to navigate.
One could reasonably approach the soapy scenarios with an earnest mindset. Yet, it seems more likely that Twin Peaks is an exercise in the uncanny. Often the characters are caricatures and the subjects are clichés; this only seems obvious when contrasted with scenes that break from convention. (In other words, it takes a giant in a red room to suggest that there is more than meets the eye.) Viewers must possess a fair amount of patience and mental acuity to stick with a show that leaves so much room for interpretation. If one is a fan of the cerebral and the supernatural, however, the journey is well worth it.
Note: Both seasons of Twin Peaks are available on Netflix streaming.