[DISCLAIMER - I’ve made this as spoiler free as possible on the off chance you’ve never seen Twin Peaks and want to after reading this. If so, bless you, you wonderful creature.]
If you’ve met me, follow me on social media or interact with my existence at all, you probably know how much I love David Lynch’s work. As with all my loves, I’m effusive and exuberant about my adoration of Lynch’s creations. You can’t look around in my apartment without encountering some sort of Lynch-inspired art. In fact, you can’t even look at me without encountering it, because I’ve got two Lynch-inspired tattoos on my left hand.
What’s sparking this intense devotion? Who is this dude, anyway?
David Lynch is an American artist. He’s a film and television director, painter, photographer, screenwriter, producer, musician and author. His films include Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and The Elephant Man. Lynch is most popularly known as one of the creators of the cult favorite show Twin Peaks. His work is famously surreal, bucking traditional narrative structure and sometimes, any structure at all. Invoking the name David Lynch is shorthand for something being, well, fucking weird.
I’m predisposed to enjoying the stranger things in life. Things that are outside the realm of the everyday, things that stick out, things that startle and alarm - the novelty of them is exciting, but they’re very stimulating to me, aesthetically and intellectually. There’s something at work in my brain that isn’t frustrated by them, but intrigued and delighted. When I discovered the work of David Lynch, that part of my brain felt like it finally found something to truly sink its teeth into.
The dream logic, the nonlinear narratives, the baffling dialogue of Lynch’s films is an Everlasting Gobstopper for my mind. It defies understanding and analysis. I can watch them over and over and find something new and puzzling every time. When I began to learn more about Lynch’s creative process, I became even more enamored. It’s wildly organic. He welcomes accidents, lets his intuition lead the way, tries new things and follows tangents with abandon. As a stringently organized creative, getting reminded that I can be freer and calmer is cathartic.
Lynch is popping up in the mainstream consciousness now because Twin Peaks - canceled after only two seasons in 1991 - is coming back with not a reboot or a remake but a new season, taking place nearly thirty years after the events of the original show. The show was a massive, unlikely hit when it first aired. Its surreal and strange narrative that blended a crime drama and supernatural elements with traditional soap opera tropes revolutionized television.
Twin Peaks is a small town in the Pacific Northwest that was rocked by the murder of the high school prom queen, Laura Palmer. It’s filled with a population of endearing and bizarre characters and nestled into an area of the mountains that is, hm, a bit spooky. The subsequent investigation into Laura’s death by special FBI Agent Dale Cooper unearths much of the town’s secrets, both prosaic and mythological.
Like much of Lynch’s work, Twin Peaks has a swirling core of uncanniness and horror that is surrounded by wholesome, earnest, 50s-inspired Americana. Despite being the white hot center of my preferred aesthetic (I’m writing this as the woman who wears saddle shoes with my Baphomet shirts), the fusion of the two, as odd as it seems on the surface, is the most realistic and engaging depiction of life that I’ve ever encountered. Nothing makes any sense. Everything is strange when you look at it the wrong way. We, as people, project narrative and meaning on to life, and Lynch reminds us how faulty that is.
“My childhood was elegant homes, tree-lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, picket fences, green grass, cherry trees. Middle America as it’s supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there’s this pitch oozing out- some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath.”
We navigate the town of Twin Peaks alongside Agent Cooper, an admitted avatar of Lynch himself. Coop exudes an unabashed zest for life - constantly exclaiming his delight over mundane things like coffee and donuts. (I always felt self conscious about my propensity to give thumbs up until I saw Coop doing it.) In a world that lauds cynicism and apathy, Agent Cooper’s return to television is a breath of fresh air. Coop also radically embraces the stranger side of life. He takes clues to finding Laura’s killer from dreams and uses Tibetan meditative techniques with the staff of the Twin Peaks sheriff department. His earnest navigation of the weirdness of Twin Peaks is a delight to behold.
Cooper’s effort to shed light on the secrets of Twin Peaks is consistently foiled by Laura Palmer, the greatest character ever written for television. Laura’s astounding because she does not ever actually appear in the show - alive, anyway. The very first scene is the discovery of her body. Her cold and cerulean corpse graces the first few episodes, but the shadow of her life darkens both seasons.
Laura Palmer epitomizes America for me. She’s a beautiful and fit blonde, the prom queen, a volunteer, popular - the American dream. She’s also a nymphomaniac drug addict, a girl whose inner life has been laid to waste by years of sexual abuse. Lynch bringing the metaphor for this to actual life with the creation - an on-set happy accident - of Killer Bob is a work of genius.
Nothing screams American life more than a vision of something picturesque and perfect that, when under pressure, shatters into a million dark and twisted pieces. Laura is that cherry tree, crawling with red ants.
As Cooper delves deeper in the world of Twin Peaks, he begins to encounter the denizens of the town that aren’t part of the world as we know it. The mythology of Twin Peaks is surreal and difficult to penetrate. It’s a murky undercurrent to the show that follows an intriguing dream logic. It’s almost an optical illusion. If you let it - and don’t look at it head on - it drifts into place.
Twin Peaks is a hallucination of bucolic, small town America sitting on top of a site of darkness and myth. In our current political climate, so many millions are waking up the darkness and hatred that have lurked in our midst since this country was founded. Surprise, folks, America was never great (for those who aren’t rich white dudes). I can’t think of a better show to make a comeback right now than Twin Peaks.