Let’s start with “Laura Palmer’s Theme.” Angelo Badalamenti’s synth strings modulate through a series of doom-laden minor chords; a piano at the bottom of its register strikes the bass tonic like a death knell. So often this will set the mood: funereal, mysterious, sinister. And then something sublime happens. Straight out of classical melodrama, the piano snatches the theme and lifts it through a series of new, often major, keys. The sweeping shifts in tone are absurdly romantic. The realization of the melody, at last, arrives like revelation. But it cannot last; it freezes over. Once more decline; drifting, falling cadences taking us back down into the mulch. Synth strings, a period in the bass.
Welcome to Twin Peaks, population 51,201. Better make that 51,200. No wait, maybe 51,199… To be the guy tasked with keeping that sign current is to be cursed with a Sisyphean mission.
The year is 2016 and that gum we liked has come back in style.
It’s twenty-five years since we last saw FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, his head bleeding, the mirror crack’d from side to side, toothpaste everywhere. It’s ten years since David Lynch last made a feature. BOB is dead (heart attack, AIDS, 1995). Fire Walk With Me has enjoyed something of a critical renaissance in recent years. It is revived, occasionally. The original series is streaming in the homes of 50 million Netflix members.
Showtime premieres the first new episode of Twin Peaks since June 10, 1991.
The Internet has of course broken. #WheresWaldo and #damnfinecoffee have been trending for days. In New York, bars overflowing with lumbersexual tension serve cherry pie and little else. For a week before the premiere, the Android billboard in Times Square loops a shimmering montage of Glastonbury Grove, the discovery of Laura Palmer’s body, and the Man From Another Place doing his backwards jive. On the West Coast, pop-up recreations of the Double R and the Bang Bang Bar approach levels of fetishistic detail as yet unparalleled in the underworld of TV superfandom. The Midwest has fallen silent in respectful anticipation. Showtime subscriptions have boomed, and ABC, which turns out to be not the only place to be, is kicking itself.
Sunday night, 9 o’clock.
That little bird is still kicking around (cheers from New York). The Packard sawmill seems untouched by the industrial shifts and recessions of the last two and a half decades (cheers from Seattle). The Great Northern still stands, although no one has seen any of the Hornes in a long time. Lucy and Andy’s son is a chip off the old block, now a deputy in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department. Shelly and Bobby are unhappily together; Norma and Big Ed unhappily apart. The Log Lady is spotted in the Double R. Sheryl Lee’s name was in the credits but we haven’t seen her yet. No sign of Kyle MacLachlan either. But we just know we’re going to get lost in those woods again tonight.
Nothing like this has ever happened before. And yet… It’s all happened before. It is happening again. The first new episode is an echo chamber, a mournful, uncanny revisiting of events long dead. The next day, the phrase “only David Lynch” crops up on Slate, on Gawker, on Vulture, even in The New Yorker. But critical response is mixed – a consequence, say fans, of having the obit pre written. Haters gonna hate, is the informal consensus.
The Monday after the day before, memes flood the web. Everything from Lara Flynn Boyle’s lips to the episode’s color-coding is subject to the internet’s unwavering, unforgiving stare.
Episode 2, and viewing figures are down thirty percent. Fair-weather fans have switched off, but a large body of swing voters remains. Eagle-eyed fanboys spot Austin Lynch teaching at Twin Peaks High School.
Pitchfork interviews Julee Cruise about her new album, The Great Northern Songbook. Family Guy and The Simpsons drop references to the Black Lodge. Moby’s remix of “Laura Palmer’s Theme” enjoys an unlikely return to the Billboard Hot 100. Mark Frost is interviewed by Al Roker in the morning and Stephen Colbert in the evening. Melissa McCarthy presents SNL in a red suit, snapping her fingers and moonwalking on- and offstage. Lynch is spotted, chainsaw in hand, at a bus stop in Philadelphia. With Laura Dern.
Episode 3: ratings remain solid.
“Old” Cooper circa 1990 and Cooper 2016… it’s uncanny. How did they know?
Jokes abound at the Democratic and GOP conventions about the return of properties last hot in the early nineties. Think pieces moan predictably about time warps. Lynch’s political convictions are debated. Uniqlo’s Twin Peaks range sells out. A Jezebel article about the media’s obsession with dead girls goes viral.
Episode 5: ratings have drifted below seven figures. The third season of Better Call Saul did better, and that got canceled. Twitter and a heretofore-peaceful Pinterest demand plot resolution.
Buzzfeed publishes “17 Reasons Why New Twin Peaks Sucks.”
Excerpt from The New Yorker: “Reality with a small ‘r’ and the Lacanian Real are, in Lynch’s work, directly analogous to the heimlich and the Freudian unheimlich. The familiar, comfortable limits of reality are constantly at threat from the reëmergence of the unspeakable. Behind that photo of Laura Palmer – an image as close as cult television has come to producing a true icon – behind the homecoming queen, exists a world of prostitution, murder, drug abuse, and, that most essential taboo, incest. These new episodes have reënergized the uncanny potential of TV drama. But abandon all hope, ye newcomers.”
Showtime announces that Twin Peaks will move to Friday nights for the remainder of the season. The Internet explodes.
Lynch and Frost dishonor a commitment to The Daily Show. Mädchen Amick is visibly upset on The View. The handle @wow_BOB_wow is shut down by Twitter after threats are made against Showtime execs (“wrap all u mothafuckas in plastic”). An original-series marathon at a bar in Lincoln Park is dispersed by cops when a man dressed as Leland Palmer (Season 2-era Leland) flips and sets fire to his table.
An estimated 643,248 viewers tune in to Episode 7.
In a falsely upbeat (red-draped) press conference, Showtime reveals that the last two episodes of Twin Peaks (“EVER”) will be played as a standalone movie event. That night, an image of an unlimbed David Lynch is projected on the sides of buildings in Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Brooklyn, Denver, and Austin. Simultaneously, Episodes 8 and 9 are leaked online. Andrew WK claims responsibility but his guilt is immediately disproved.
Fans and the curious gather for one last visit.
And we’re back in the Black Lodge. Screaming, stroboscopic, epileptic imagery is mainlined to the mainstream in a fashion no less unsettling, no less obscene than it was in 1991. Laura Palmer leans in for a kiss. How’s Annie? Safe with Sheriff Hawk. Chris Isaak was credited but is nowhere to be seen. There’s an other-worldly, UFO-ish tremor on the soundtrack. Then, impossibly, “young” Cooper – 1991 Cooper – appears. His eyes are blank. A bloodied Heather Graham is on his arm. Except it’s forty-seven-year-old, 2016, real Heather Graham.
Twitter clusterfucks. People are watching after all.
Graham turns to MacLachlan.
“I’ll see you…” – in that constipated, backwardspeak fashion – “in twenty-five years.”
Fade to black.
Music: “Laura Palmer’s Theme.”
// END //
Charles Arrowsmith grew up in England. He read English at Cambridge and worked as a live subtitler before moving to the USA. He works for the British government and is the online editor for the New York-based nonprofit organization House of SpeakEasy.