It’s fair to say that Twin Peaks changed the TV landscape forever. When it first debuted in 1990, television was staid and conventional. Storytelling was told in a linear fashion, everything was usually wrapped up by the episode’s end, and anything slightly arty or strange was frowned upon.
Then, along came a body wrapped in plastic floating on a river…
Twin Peaks changed everything. Without Twin Peaks, you’d have no The X Files, no Sopranos, no Buffy The Vampire Slayer, no Lost – in fact, arguably the whole ‘HBO/Showtime’ model of television wouldn’t exist. This was a world where FBI agents dreamed of red-curtained rooms where dancing dwarves talked backwards. Where a lady walked round carrying a log. Where eerie, dreamy music played while a dark undercurrent of murder and sexual abuse slowly came to the fore. A show which wasn’t afraid to be slow and languid, and wasn’t bothered about pushing the envelopes of what a censor may find acceptable.
Twin Peaks famously shone brightly but shortly – after the murder of Laura Palmer was solved, about 9 episodes into season 2, David Lynch and Mark Frost pretty much departed the show and a new creative team took over. The weirdness was still there, but in a very stylised way – this felt like someone trying to be David Lynch, rather than the man himself. There were sub-plots that went on and on: James Hurley’s affair with a married woman, Ben Horne becoming obsessed the Civil War, a teenage ‘black widow’, and Deputy Andy involved in a love triangle with Lucy the receptionist and a man named Dick.
Yet it was all worth it for the show’s final episode, probably the most surreal 50 minutes ever to be broadcast on television, in which Agent Cooper eventually entered The Black Lodge, had coffee with the backwards-talking dwarf, met the giant again, did battle with his own evil doppleganger and met up with the ghost of Laura Palmer who tells him “I’ll see you again in 25 years”. And, indeed she does, for the new season of Twin Peaks starts tonight in the USA: picking up just after 25 years.
I can’t embed videos on this version of WordPress, but here’s a YouTube link of that very scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL57-9171pk
Impressively, absolutely no information has leaked out about the new season. There’s been a couple of blurry on-set photos, and two trailers (which give very little away). There was even a premiere of the first 2 episodes in front of an audience in Los Angeles on Friday night and nobody has so much sent a tweet about it. There’s been no screeners sent to the press, which means the vast majority of people will re-enter Twin Peaks at the same time on Sunday night.
- What’s happened to Cooper?
The last scene of the second season of Twin Peaks was famously Agent Cooper, possessed by the spirit of Killer BOB, grinning manically and asking “How’s Annie?” (referring to his girlfriend, who he’d gone into the Black Lodge to save). It was an absolute gut-punch to end the show and one of the most unsettling scenes ever broadcast: the personification of good had turned into the personification of evil. Would Cooper start killing people now he was possessed by Bob? What happened to the good Cooper (still stuck in the Lodge, according to a scene in Fire Walk With Me)? Has he been there for 25 years? Will he get out?
- It’s going to be weird
This is pretty much a given. It’s Twin Peaks, after all. The fact that all 18 episodes will be directed by David Lynch only adds to that suspicion. Lynch has never been a conventional filmmaker, and his last work, 2006’s Inland Empire, was a 3 hour epic in which Laura Dern played a film star…and, well, that’s all I can tell you. I still have absolutely no idea what happened in it, apart from there was a family of puppet rabbits in some kind of sit-com, and the whole thing was very dark and foreboding.
Lynch himself has said that Fire Walk With Me would be good preparation to prepare for the new shows. I hereby present two typical clips from Fire Walk With Me:
The first involving none other than David Bowie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nSqDMqCJQw
And then this. Just, well, this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEl8hw7tdwg
So, don’t expect anything too normal.
- The cast
Lynch has pulled out all the stops with the cast. He’s brought back pretty much all the surviving original cast (sadly, some actors have died, such as Don Davis, Jack Nance and Frank De Silva, but in De Silva’s case, I’d imagine some old footage or CGI will be used. You can’t have Twin Peaks without BOB) with the exception of Lara Flynn Boyle and the now retired Michael Ontkean). Some cast members who have died since filming (Catherine Coulson, Miguel Ferrer and Warren Frost) will be appearing. Intriguingly, Alicia Witt, who played Donna Hayward’s sister and appears in just one scene in the original series, is shown in one of the trailers, indicating she may have a pretty big role.
Some of the cast who died in the show are coming back too, such as Ray Wise as Leland, Sheryl Lee as Laura/Maddy Ferguson. Lynch and Mark Frost have explicitly said that this season of Twin Peaks will be in the present day, 27 years after the original show. So, who will they play? Will they be just in the Black Lodge, where we last saw them? Or will they even be playing new characters?
There’s also a massive list of new names – most excitingly, Laura Dern She has worked many times with Lynch (their partnership stretches back to 1986’s Blue Velvet), and there’s been some speculation that she may be playing Diane, Cooper’s previously unseen secretary who he used to communicate with through a Dictaphone. There’s also other Lynch alumni such as Balthazar Getty and Naomi Watts, plus musicians like Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor and Sharon Van Etten.
- Will it be any good?
Frankly, who knows? It certainly won’t have the impact that the original episodes had, and as it’s the first thing Lynch has directed in over 10 years, it could well be an unholy mess. The show’s reputation also means that a whole new generation will be watching it who may not have seen the original – which, frankly, will be an absolute disaster. It’s very likely that you won’t understand a thing that’s going on if you’ve never seen an episode of Twin Peaks before. And more than likely that will also apply if you’ve seen each episode multiple times.
However, it will be the strangest, most interesting and unusual show of the year (and I say that as The Leftovers is currently redefining how surreal a weekly TV show can get). Lynch has never been involved with anything boring or conventional, and although he only directed a handful of the original shows, they were on a whole different level to the rest of the series.
As Agent Cooper would say: “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange“
Twin Peaks season 3 will premiere on Showtime in the US on Sunday 21 May. It will be simulcast on Sky Atlantic at 2am, and then repeated on Tuesday 23 May at 9pm.