I’ve been in a fog all day, not quite present in my situations, with a distinct feeling of looking in on real life from the outside. Not depressed so much as just not quite there. Deflated. Downbeat. Dare I say melancholy. And I think I know why.
That pretty much sums it up. You see at 8am this morning Special Agent Dale Cooper actually knocked on a door marked 1516 and it was opened by none other than Laura frickin’ Palmer. You know. The beautiful dead body found wrapped in plastic in the opening episode of Twin Peaks back in 1992. The doorway from our dull domestic lives into a world of infinite darkness and light that changed the face of television forever. Ever present like a beautiful shadow always there whether onscreen or not, watching over the many interwoven tales of small town life amidst the shifting realities of supernatural and extra terrestrial interference coming from deep within the surrounding woods in Washington State…But always considered lost. Dead and gone whether we or her alcoholic mother or her square-jawed, motorcycle-riding beau liked it or not.
Until 8am this morning. For the uninitiated the new series of Twin Peaks has been more hardboiled crime thriller-cum-supernatural mindfuck than the quirky original. And in the wrap-up final episode Cooper, played by the supremely talented Kyle McLachlan in one of three roles this season, followed orders from the celestial Fireman and the tormented soul of Leland Palmer to ‘find Laura’. This involved driving across the state line from one reality to another, finding himself in an alternate dimension, or years in the future, or an amalgam of both, where Laura took the form of a white-trash waitress who’d just murdered her scumbag boyfriend and needed to, as she put it, ‘get out of dodge’.
But getting out of dodge meant going back to Twin Peaks, a darker, colder version of the town we know and love, where the residents of the Palmer house were NOT family, and hadn’t the slightest idea who Laura was. Had Cooper and Laura got off in the wrong time zone? Had Cooper driven into a different reality and simply forgot to drive back out, destined to roam side by side with our universe trying to find ‘one chance out between two worlds’ to get back in and bring Laura home?
So much going on, and all before 9am on a Monday morning. You can understand why I feel a tad vague about life right now. But more than anything I feel a deep sadness. For the last 12 weeks or so my morning routine, lucky as I am to be able to choose what I do on a Monday morning, has involved waking up at the crack of dawn, brewing a pot of coffee and immersing myself into the new series of Twin Peaks all on my own. I chose this for myself. I decided to go it alone. But save for internet groups it’s a lonely life being a Peaker these days. No longer the water-cooler show that the original series was, it exists somewhere outside of reality just like the tulpas, the Woodsmen and a disembodied David Bowie in the show. It’s not gonna draw the big audiences it once did because, quite frankly, it is unlike anything that’s been on TV.
Putting aside comparisons with American Detective, Breaking Bad and the later films in Lynch’s canon, the slow burn beauty of this new trawl through dark Americana is literally peerless. Much was made of Episode 8 which took a step back from the slowly unfolding narratives to give us a history lesson in the creation of the evil that haunts Twin Peaks, transporting us to the atom bomb test in White Sands, New Mexico in 1945.
But for me it’s hard to single out one specific moment in this 18-episode journey that blew my mind the most. Was it the return of Audrey Horne, stuck in an endless loop of demented hysteria, a tragic shadow of the femme fatale beauty she once was? Was it Ike the Spike, the sharpy-wielding dwarf who rampaged across Las Vegas in pursuit of Dougie Jones? Maybe it was the return of Dale Cooper through a plug socket (no, really), and his long, drawn out return to form as he stumbled through life like a baby deer after spending 25 years trapped in another dimension. Or the trio of Candie, Mandie and Sandie, the Vegas showgirls who never changed outfit and liked to show up at the most inopportune moments just to look fabulous and bring sandwiches…
You could literally go on forever at the wonders and horrors that Lynch and Frost bestowed on us over this last few months. It’ll take time for me to process and be coherent. But then Lynch revelled so much in being incoherent at times I hardly feel any guilt for rambling on. What I gave us was the gift of breathing space. So often now TV shows are obsessed with keeping us hooked – every scene has to end on a gasp moment, every ad break has to promise us another flashy surprise otherwise we may just turn over or get lost in social media. But with Twin Peaks: The Return we had long scenes that kept us watching simply because they were imbued with such heart, such artistry, and steeped in the mythology of a world and an artist who we know we just have to trust. Just go with it. It’ll be worth it.
And wasn’t it? Who else sat slack-jawed at the audacity of revisiting the 1994 movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me with Coop now watching the scenes we’re so familiar with, and then actually stepping into that world to ‘save’ Laura? Only he fucked with time and I’ll argue paid the price in episode 18. But the theories are endless. In those final moments I got the impression that we were being taught a harsh lesson, one that it took 18 episodes to come to terms with. And that is this. 25 years have gone by since we were last in Twin Peaks. It could never stay the same. And that’s tough to deal with, but accept it and the rewards are rich and bountiful. I could be totally wrong of course. But that doesn’t matter. Lynch doesn’t want to explain, he doesn’t need to. With any decent or great work of art, what you bring to it informs what you take away.
With Twin Peaks: The Return I brought expectations of existential horror, soap opera melodrama and that dark heart Americana – simple images like a gas station at night or a motel in the middle of nowhere that are painted over with such dread in a way that only David Lynch can achieve.
As you can see it delivered in spades – and golden shovels. I’ll write more as I process it. It’s gonna take a while.
But having thought on this, my mood today, sombre, out-of-time, spaced out – I think it could be grief. Like Coop with Laura in that final episode, I got back what I thought was gone only for it to slip away again. The last image was Laura being reminded of the life she’d left – or the life that had left her – and she screamed in horror and anguish and confusion. Whatever that was, that town, that familiarity, it was now out of her grasp. And now it’s out of mine. Well, until I just start from the beginning again.
Then I can start drawing up favourite moments, favourite characters (Diane all the way), biggest head-fucks, all that fun stuff. In the meantime I’ll just nurse the void with coffee and cherry pie – the original Norma Jennings recipe thank you, not the shit they sell outside of town!
I’m gonna need a bigger percolator. Fish-free.