It's Happening Again:
How, After 25 Years, Twin Peaks Continues to Inspire
by Cameron Cooper
There comes a point in episode seven of “Twin Peaks: The Return” in which David Lynch does what he does best. Cutting away from antagonist Evil Doppelganger Coop, viewers enter a black and white hellscape in which the first atomic bomb is detonated, and within its blast, a dark gelatinous, faceless “mother,” births "Bob," who is known as the embodiment of "the evil that men do." Following this, viewers are subjected to flashes of light and horrific imagery: faces are crushed, pitch black “woodsmen” scurry about in an unnatural darkness. It makes very little sense, yet when whittled down to its core, it reaches deep into viewers’ emotions and leaves them chilled and transfixed.
Two and a half decades after the iconically dead homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, uttered her backwards farewell to Dale Cooper: "I'll see you in 25 years," she did just that. After deliberation and teasing, Lynch and Frost, co-creators of the show, finally revealed it would be coming back to television screens.
Fans were ecstatic. Though only on for two seasons, the original series crashed into the public psyche so brightly and so strongly, it has an avid following still today. Even many casual viewers were piqued to find out more after the original show left the fate of so many of its characters hanging in the air.
This intense interest is a small testament to the strength and impact the original show had on a number of today's brightest and most prolific creators. Directors and creators of shows such as “Lost,” “The Leftovers,” and “Riverdale,” to name a few, have accredited “Twin Peaks” and its combination of soapy drama and dark underlying mythology with inspiring them and their own now-iconic shows.
But after network executives infamously forced Lynch and Frost to solve Laura's murder, Lynch left the show for a great deal of time and in his absence it floundered. Only after he returned did it return to form and once again push the envelope of what was allowed on network television.
"Lynch made clear he had no interest in creating a show like anything on television"
Now, 25 years later as predicted, the show asks these questions again - and answers them by taking the rules and throwing them into the aforementioned atomic bomb and watching them blast to smithereens. With absolute creative control at Showtime, Lynch and Frost crafted 18 episodes of television that asked questions, introduced plots that went nowhere and ultimately left viewers as frustrated as they were at the end of the original run.
And herein lies the power of “Twin Peaks:” it pushes the line of what's acceptable. Lynch never cared about answering fan questions or catering to their needs. He included episodes like the one mentioned at the start, in which half of the screen time is wordless black-and-white images with absolutely no explanation. He took time to reintroduce fan favorite characters only to leave their plots stranded and forever unsolved. Through each of these choices, Lynch made clear he had no interest in creating a show like anything on television - or even a show that perfectly resembled the original “Twin Peaks.”
With the number of shows influenced by Lynch's work and “Twin Peaks,” there was always the worry pre-premiere that the reboot would flounder among its technologically advanced and fresher peers. Yet Lynch and Frost were able to take their unique show and make it new again, and create new images and ideas without ever treading into self-parody territory. Whether this is a testament to the story at the heart of the show or their craftsmanship is hard to tell, but throughout its 18 episodes it remained intriguing and puzzling. Perhaps most importantly, though, it remained true to the original show’s spirit of adventure, mystery, and the darkness that lies in the heart of our American values.
In the final moments of the revival, Lynch encapsulates what made “Twin Peaks: The Return” so thrilling in a few perfect shots. We stand outside the iconic Palmer home with a woman who looks like Laura, and a man who resembles Dale Cooper but is named Richard. The camera cuts to our Laura lookalike, she screams her iconic bone-chilling scream - suddenly, terrifyingly - and the lights in the home, the streetlights, and seemingly the whole world cut out and all fade to black. The end. In this frustrating moment viewers were left scrambling to understand, but at its heart the ending was a perfect encapsulation of the show. New questions were asked, old questions were answered, and viewers realized that the world within the show could never end.
No matter the story, or characters, no matter the town or setting, the mystery at the heart of “Twin Peaks” would remain a mystery, an enigma left to be cracked forever. In the end Lynch and Frost got the finale they wanted: a story, and mythology, that will live on forever in viewers’ minds, and hopefully inspire more mysteries in the future.