Notes On the Crack-Up of America
Stewart Copeland on Charlie Watts

Twin Peaks Revisited


It's hard for me to believe that it's been over three years since I finished Twin Peaks: The Return and stated my intention to re-watch the original series and Fire Walk With Me. Here's what I said at the time: "fascinating but disappointing."

So I finally got back to this plan a month or two ago, accepting the fact that I would have to "buy" the series on Amazon if I wanted to stream it rather than spend a lot of time waiting for Netflix DVDs to travel back and forth. I made it through the episode in season 2 where the identity of the murderer is revealed, then watched Fire Walk With Me (on DVD).

I still love the TV series, though I will admit, with a little sadness, that some of the bloom is off the rose now. I suppose part of the delight of my first viewing was the unexpectedness of so much of it--the juxtaposition of the normal and two kinds of strange, the dark and the silly. Even the darker parts have an element of...not exactly silly, but of parody or caricature, as in the decor and atmosphere of One Eyed Jack's, and for that matter even the Black Lodge, with its "modern" furniture. Obviously startling juxtapositions can't continue to startle, though they certainly still amuse. Why were all those people in uniform--Navy, I think?--bouncing balls all over the Great Northern?

The movie, on the other hand, seems even better than I remember, but it is quite different from the series. The DVD that Netflix sent includes a thirty-minute documentary made in 2000 in which most of the major actors are interviewed. Several of them, most strongly Peggy Lipton (Norma), weren't happy with the film's seriousness and darkness, the absence of the comic-but-respectful treatment of what she refers to as "small-town values" in the series.

And whether one approves or disapproves, she's right about the difference. The movie is unlike the series in that it's almost entirely serious and dark. There's not much of the whimsy of the series, less depiction of young romance, more of sex. I don't recall anything comparable to, for instance, the video of Laura and Donna larking girlishly on their outing with James, early in the original series. There's a lot more of what we think of as normal-for-Lynch weirdness, like the mysterious boy wearing a bird mask, and the Black Lodge. There's no old-fashioned wise Major Briggs, and Agent Cooper is a more straightforwardly serious character, whom we see less of than in the series (partly because Kyle McLachlan was concerned about being typecast). And it gets pretty violent, close to horror movie territory at times. It's just not lovable in the way the series is.

But this is a movie, with a time limit of a couple of hours or so, necessarily focused pretty tightly, unless it's to be just another episode in a long and wandering story. A number of the plot threads from the series are either missing or only lightly alluded to. It delves deeply into Laura's character and the things which torment her, including the entity called Bob, and succeeds, which is not a fun ride. Laura is more clearly a lost soul here, in the sense that she is further gone in corruption than we saw in the series. But she's not so lost that she doesn't know it, as witnessed by her outraged intervention when Donna attempts to follow her path. And if I understand it correctly part of the reason for her death wish is that she wants to prevent Bob from taking possession of her.

There's a lot of interesting information in the Wikipedia article on the film. I was especially interested in the critical reception, which was initially quite bad but has grown more positive over the years. Count me on the positive side. I think it's powerful and profound, and although I haven't seen all of Lynch's work, of what I have seen I would only rank Mulholland Drive higher--maybe. I admit to being a little bit annoyed about a few things that I couldn't make sense of. What exactly does it mean in the last scene that Mike demands Leland's "pain and suffering"? I thought Mike had renounced the murder and spiritual cannibalism he had practiced with Bob. Or is it really Mike? I'm generally confused about Mike and The Man From Another Place. 

I had entirely forgotten a great deal from my last viewing of Fire Walk. Two especially powerful moments stand out: Ronette's prayer in the train car, and this exchange between Laura and James not long before her murder:

James: What's wrong with us? We have everything.
Laura: Everything but everything.

That seems a fitting summary of what's happened to Western civilization over the past century or so. And particularly so for Americans of Lynch's generation, and mine. I've wondered if Lynch's work will always appeal more to those of us who recall the pre-sexual-revolution, pre-Sixties culture of the U.S. But I do know of at least one person born in the '70s who likes it as much as I do.

I noticed two very small things that are very interesting in light of Twin Peaks: The Return. In an early scene, when the mysterious FBI agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie with a bad southern accent) appears and delivers a strange rant, he says "I'm not going to talk about Judy." And one of the young people, maybe Donna, says "Laura's mother is kind of spooky," or something like that. Did Lynch already have in mind that there was an evil entity called Judy associated with Laura's mother, or did he develop that idea after the fact, and take the name from that seemingly insignificant bit in the movie?

I guess I'll finish out the second series, though I agree with what seems to be the nearly universal view that the show deteriorates. And watch The Return again?...I don't know...I guess. What I'd really like to see is Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces, ninety minutes worth of footage that didn't make it into Fire Walk. But it doesn't seem to be available at the moment, either on DVD or streaming. 


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(spoiler alert)
FWWM is very dark but quite powerful in some places. I'm still not quite sure what to make of the ending, with the descending angel and all that, but I find it very moving. I think that Sheryl Lee's performance is outstanding -- probably Oscar-worthy, actually.

I thought that The Return... was more similar in tone to Fire.... than to the original series, which I found somewhat disappointing. I'll probably watch the former again at some point but it's not on my immediate radar.

The one Lynchian series I do want to watch again is the Aussie "Kettering Incident," which despite the fact that it was left incomplete, still revealed enough in its last episode to make me want to revisit it.

The main reason for the 2nd series being so disappointing is that Lynch did not direct much of it, I seem to remember that at least. Whereas he certainly did series 1 and 3 and FWWM.

When I rewatched the entire shebang before viewing series 3 I got much more out of FWWM than when I saw it at the movie theater, so I guess I would say that I am with those critics who had a negative reaction at first which has turned much more positive.

I think series 3 is just incredible, but you are correct in that it is darker than the original series.

" the descending angel and all that"

I thought that was fairly clear. Laura has a picture in her bedroom of children being guarded by an angel, and not long before she's killed, I think when she's leaving the house for the last time, she looks at the picture and the angel has disappeared. So that last scene is the reappearance of the angel to a joyful Laura after her death. But it puzzles me that it seems to take place in the Black Lodge. I feel myself in danger of buying some kind of fan book in search explanations.

Lynch did indeed bow out of the 2nd series. As I recall the network demanded that he reveal the killer before he wanted to, and he left.

I think most of what I said about the difference between the original series and FWWM applies to the original vs The Return as well. Not much of the whimsy and charm, and a lot more violence.

The Kettering Incident isn't available on DVD from Netflix and on Amazon only season 1 for $20+. I guess there wasn't a season 2?

Yes, I understood those aspects of the angel thing, but I was confused by Black Lodge bit too, and also by the fact that her joy seemed hysterical. I wondered if Lynch was throwing some kind of curve there.

I think Lynch was still involved in season 2 after the murder was solved, but not as directly. Not sure he did any writing but I think he may have directed one or two episodes.

No, Kettering wasn't renewed for a second season, despite its good reviews and popularity. As a result the ending leaves quite a few things unanswered, but offers enough hints about the big question of "what's going on" to make it ambiguously satisfying.

Did you ever get the chance to watch Nocturnal Animals? That's got a bit of a Lynchian feel to it.

Well I just spent ten minutes typing in a somewhat lengthy comment only to have a network outage occur at just the right moment to cause the comment to be neither posted nor still on the page. Grrrr. I know I should always copy to the clipboard if I've spent any time at all on a comment. Oh well.

I did notice what you're calling the hysterical note in Laura's tears of joy, but figured it was a typical Lynchian touch of a sort of kitsch. I just did a search for Twin Peaks explanations. Most likely some are garbage but maybe one of those will shed some light.

According to the episode guide on Wikipedia, Lynch only directed one episode after Laura's killer was revealed, and that was the last one. Not surprising that he would want to do that one.

No, I haven't seen Nocturnal Animals and had forgotten about it, actually. But I see it's on Netflix so I'll put it on my list.

N.A. has more in common with Lynch's non-supernatural work than with Twin Peaks. It's pretty dark. And don't be put off by the disturbing opening credits -- they do serve a purpose, albeit a minor one.

Here's one of the better out of a number of commentaries I've found.

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