It’s Happening Again – The Return of Twin Peaks
by Rick Harris
For twenty five years, time stood still for millions all over the world.
People were stuck in their thoughts, theories and passions for characters that felt like family who lived in a town that felt like home. For many, it was a catastrophic event when ABC cancelled Twin Peaks on June 10, 1991.
With a two-paragraph announcement in newspapers, the place both strange and wonderful ceased to exist. The Log Lady’s log stopped communicating. Special Agent Dale Cooper stopped investigating. Leland Palmer stopped singing. Audrey Horne stopped vamping and worst of all, of our dearly beloved Laura Palmer, whose life tragically ended in the first episode of the now iconic Twin Peaks was stuck in the Black Lodge – for 25 years.
As time passed, the real-life actors who played Pete Martell, BOB, the Man From Another Place, Major Briggs and others passed away. They were gone (for reals) and further highlighted the great divide between reality and series television. Die hard fans remembered that Laura whispered (backwards, of course) that she would see Agent Dale Cooper again in 25 years – and they waited.
Then it happened. Twin Peaks co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost jointly tweeted the single phrase “That gum you like is coming back in style,” and by comparison, Twin Peaks fans globally made the celebration of the Whos in Whoville seem amateurish, small and uninspired. Lynch, who masterminded, thought provoking, art-inspired and gut-wrenching avant-garde films like Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and the Twin Peaks prequel Fire Walk With Me, followed up his stunning tweet with words that buckled knees from Missoula to Moscow, “It’s Happening Again.”
Instead of the pablum and vanilla safe space of America network television, Twin Peaks would get its reboot on Showtime which instantly promised a continuation the way the story was meant to be told – raw, violent and rated R.
Peakers (the preferred term of Twin Peaks enthusiasts) were always bothered by the PG-rated telling on ABC. While there was plenty of story, trademark staples from other Lynch masterpieces were missing. Seasons one and two lacked a gritty, dirty fingernailed, stomach turning story that Lynch usually serves. His majesty had been hamstrung by network censors who were quick with edit notes and demanded jump-cuts that turned Twin Peaks into a swirling stew of soap-opera, comedy and murder-mystery. Even under the tame and timid watchful eye of American censors, for the nearly two years the show managed to dominate entertainment media and its stars were on every chat show and magazine cover imaginable – until the weren’t, thanks to June 10, 1991.
The question of the day back on April 8, 1990 was “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” and everyone had their theory. Lynch and Frost introduced us to a storytelling orgy and we were slurping it through a straw like a fully iced Coke after mowing a summer lawn. We just couldn’t get enough.
When the sentence (take a breath and repeat it again), “That gum you like is coming back in style” were tweeted and retweeted, Peakers from all over the world awakened like vampires and started assembling. A Facebook group called Twin Peaks 2017 was quickly organized and found itself with 10,000 members within a few weeks after launch and is approaching 30,000 members eight weeks into the show.
To prepare for the debut of season three on Showtime, Peakers shared their stories about what life had been like for the last quarter century and how they had fared without Deputy Andy, Gordon Cole and Annie. They posted production rumors and wrote loving tributes about how much they missed The Giant, Ed and Nadeen and Ms. Trumaine and her grandson. Twin Peaks folklore, artifacts and memorabilia were all brought out of mothballs from a day when Paula Abdul ruled the music charts, Sean Connery was hunting for a red October and the tiny town of Twin Peaks was the most important hamlet in the whole wide world.
The Start – Wrapped in Plastic:
To appreciate Twin Peaks, its revival and the euphoria enveloping the reboot like a slow, thick Washington state fog rolling over the towering spruce and sycamore trees, you have to understand its roots. You need to go back to the beginning.
All the way back to the first episode when Pete Martell (Jack Nance), who ran the family’s saw mill, went fishing one morning and discovered a body, covered with a plastic tarp on the beach. He hustled to the phone and called Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), not the president, but the cop, and uttered these never-to-be-forgotten words over the telephone – “Sheriff, come quick. She’s dead….wrapped in plastic.”
One minute you are in a cozy kitchen with a steaming cup of coffee and the next you are on a chilly rocky beach under slate gray skies hovered over the body of a young nude girl, covered neatly in plastic. World, meet Laura Palmer, the center of the Twin Peaks universe.
All Those Secrets:
Enter Special Agent Dale Cooper, the crackerjack FBI agent, who was assigned to the case because it had the eerie connection of a murder in a neighboring town. Months before, Theresa Banks, a high school troubled girl, had died in a similar way and it looked like the killer left his calling card under Laura’s fingernail. Now, every one of us knew this was bigger than any of us.
During the first few weeks of the show we learn that she volunteered with Meals on Wheels, tutored Billy Horne, the autistic brother of her rival Audrey. She was the Homecoming Queen, girlfriend to Bobby, a loving daughter, and a trusting friend to Donna. She was gone forever and we needed to know which bastard took this lovely angel from our bosom and we demanded to know why.
In addition to her many good deeds, with every weekly probe, a darker side of Laura emerged. We learned that she hooked at a nearby brothel called One-Eyed Jack’s. Her list of “boyfriends” grew by the week. Not only was she seeing Bobby, the high school football hero, but she was also involved with James Hurley, the biker; Jaques Renault, the bartender at One-Eyed Jacks; countless other johns, and more than likely, Ben Horne, the father of the autistic boy Laura tutored.
As the weeks unfolded, and with Special Agent Dale Cooper hot on the trail of the killer, we found out that our Laura, our sweet angel who had been ripped from us in the most unimaginable way, had another life – one filled with secrets.
It’s All About Laura:
To understand Twin Peaks then and now is to accept that Laura Palmer is central to everything and everyone in this story. She connects all characters in a way that makes them impossible to exist without her. There are many characters in the series, but we would never know about a single one of them if Laura Palmer’s dead, plastic wrapped body hadn’t washed up on that beach.
Laura Palmer is to the town of Twin Peaks what Saint Theresa is to the poor of Calcutta. She is revered, admired, longed after and loved. She is the DNA of Twin Peaks.
Not since the original Star Trek (NBC) has one television series given birth to such a rabid fan base. As the years passed new Twin Peaks babies came out of delivery rooms everywhere. They were the brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of original Peakers and began watching reruns of the original episodes through streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. They collected their memorabilia and held on to it like hoarders with prized possessions. They kept hoping for that fateful day when we learned our favorite gum was coming back into style.
When the Showtime promotion machine started, it was centered around two main elements. The first was Laura’s lovely Homecoming Queen portrait photo and the second was the chilling phrase “It’s Happening Again.” There were billboards in Times Square, Entertainment Weekly magazine covers, a poster of the old cast positioned like the Last Supper, with Lynch in the center like Jesus. There were festivals, and those incredible Showtime promos that put you in the center of it all.
There was also the artwork. Spoke Gallery on the lower east side of New York produced In Dreams, an Art Show Tribute to David Lynch that would conclude only weeks before the relaunch of the new show. Spoke invited 80 artists, using the materials and mediums of their choice, to produce artwork to honor Mr. Lynch. The majority of the art was Twin Peaks themed and the wildly successful show produced so many red dots under the art that the wall looked like it was covered in measles. They even recreated a corner of the beautiful red draped and striped floor of Black Lodge in the corner of the gallery so enthusiasts could get the full experience.
Fans were asked on Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 group site if they had ever done anything irrational to incorporate the show into their daily lives. The answers were as humorous as they were shocking, largely because fans obviously were carrying a torch for a show that hadn’t produced a new episode in 25 years. Patrick Hook of Seattle, WA shared that “I have the ‘Missing Laura Palmer’ tee and have had 30 minute conversations with people at the grocery store about how I wish we could find my missing cousin.” He opined that she was lost in the woods and even had one woman asked to donate to a fund to help find Laura Palmer.
Massimiliano Lucania of Lombardy Italy has had Laura Palmer’s high school graduation picture on a shelf in his living room – for years. So does Lizi Disney of North Dakota. Susan Taylor has Laura’s picture on her piano and is amazed at how much attention it attracts. Nicole Majewski of Niagra Falls, New York made Laura Palmer earrings to wear, regularly. Eric Lee Shoemaker has the key tag for room 315 of the Great Northern Lodge (Special Agent Dale Cooper’s Room) on his key chain. When asked why he has it, he tells people that it reminds him of the trip that was both “Strange and Wonderful.”
So dedicated to the memory of Laura, Devon Poole created a Laura Palmer night light for sale from his Etsy site kitschculturecanada. Lin Hendler of Los Angeles, CA owns one. John Joseph Tashjy, a confirmed Buddhist, sewed the Bookhouse Boys logo into his favorite jacket because it promotes peace, collaboration and harmony in life.
Patrick Jacobs of Las Vegas, NV recreated his bedroom to resemble the Black Lodge, which is where Twin Peaks characters go after they die or until the pass into the White Lodge. The Black Lodge is adorned with deep red curtains in several rooms, leather chair, a bone-white stature of the Venus DeMilo and a floor with a chevron striped pattern that is unforgettable. Patrick lies his head down in his very on Black Lodge every night.
Season 3 – A Recap, So Far:
Eight weeks into an 18-week new season and the critics are already on the warpath. They write that Twin Peaks season three is too disjointed, with too many characters and plot lines. They say there are new locations outside of Twin Peaks, WA and the corresponding stories have no link. However, those on Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 Group, laugh and shake their heads knowing that these critics are obviously not schooled in the fine art of David Lynch and Mark Frost storytelling.
The grit and gore factor have been amped way up from the original two seasons. For example, in one scene, police are investigating a murder victim and find a woman’s severed head positioned on a bed slightly above an overweight man’s nude body in bed. It is visually horrifying, but if the viewer steps back for a moment, they are left to ponder the thought that 1) there is a woman with a severed head and a missing body 2) there is a man with a body and a missing severed head.
In the first few weeks of the show Lynch/Frost are painstakingly connecting seasons one and two to the brand-new season three. It is slow, because it is supposed to be. Lynch is a plodder, paying meticulous detail to dialogue and often hiring seldom or never seen actors to play the parts. Sheryl Lee (who plays Laura Palmer) was hired straight out of community theater.
We were treated to one of the most beautiful moments in Twin Peaks’s history during season three. The Log Lady (Margaret Coulson) is on the phone with Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse). In real life, she had life-ending cancer and appeared on screen almost hairless, weak voiced, shaken, but urgently commanding the scene giving the Deputy invaluable information about where to look for answers. The advice, of course, came through her log. The scene was sad, alive, depressing and hopeful all at the same time. We later learned that Coulson passed away long before the shooting ever started for season three, so Lynch must have reached out to her very early on to get her scene shot and edited long before the world knew that the series would be happening again.
Twin Peaks is easily a grand part of American television history, first on network television and now and premium cable. For some, it has taken up space in their lives for about 25 years. For others, it is a brand new. For all, it is a masterclass in storytelling and direction by David Lynch.
No matter what you’ve heard, it’s worth a watch. You can catch up with season one and two through Netflix or similar services and you can watch season three on Showtime or through Amazon Prime’s Showtime add-on.
It is the best way to fully understand why the nearly 30,000 Peakers in Facebook’s Twin Peaks 2017 group can’t let go and will never be able to say goodbye.