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Final Thoughts Before the Return of “Twin Peaks”

Tonight’s the night! After re-watching Fire Walk With Me I have some final thoughts I wanted to put out there before the series premiere. *SPOILERS AHEAD*

ON NOSTALGIA

I’ve certainly been critical of “nostalgia-TV” in the past (see my post on Fuller House), and am particularly weary of 90’s specific reboots and revivals – but unlike other shows, the Twin Peaks return doesn’t bother me. Is my love for the show somewhat nostalgic? Yes, absolutely. Is its newfound popularity since it began streaming on Netflix at least slightly indebted to the grips of nostalgia? Surely. But more than that, Twin Peaks‘ adoration and acclaim should be credited to the fact that it was, and still is, an extremely well crafted, unique, intelligent, and inventive series that changed the televisual landscape forever.

Based on how the original series ended and what I’ve gleaned from interviews, I imagine that the revival will pick up with “good Cooper” still stuck in the Black Lodge 25+ years later, trying to get out. Simply seeing the characters/actors return 26 years after the final episode is a return to the same, but I imagine that unlike shows built around pure nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake (Fuller House being the clearest example), the “new” Twin Peaks (also known as Twin Peaks: The Return) will support the notion that so much has changed too.

ON RAPE, MURDER, LELAND, & BOB

One requirement for studying media is being critical of that which you love most. I love Twin Peaks like nothing I’ve ever seen on-screen before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be critical of the series. It is exceedingly difficult for me to accept that Leland Palmer’s rape and murder of his own daughter is obfuscated by the fact that he was inhabited by the evil spirit of BOB. Leland himself is seen as a victim, who just before his death, after BOB leaves his body, confesses and pleads for forgiveness, passing on quietly in Agent Cooper’s arms. At his funeral no one seems upset by the fact that Leland raped and killed his own daughter. Maybe very few realized it at the time that he was the murderer, but that isn’t made clear in the episode.

On the one hand the rape and murder of Laura Palmer by Leland/BOB bothers me, but I also see the value in using such a character to illuminate the realities of violence against women. ABC would never have aired a series about incest and familial murder, so instead David Lynch and Mark Frost sugar-coated darker truths using genre and character. As Agent Cooper says to BOB-skeptic Sheriff Truman, “Harry, is it easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?”

In an interview with Esquire Magazine, Frost was asked about the show’s ambiguity towards the BOB/Leland dynamic, and how viewers have interpreted the character. He responds:

“What we were really talking about in the old show was a horrific crime that took place within a very damaged family, and we did it in a way that had elements of dark poetry and metaphor and mythology. The Greeks were obsessed with themes like this, and they did it through invoking gods and taking you to other realms, and even when you think about the real nature of fairy tales, this has been done through the ages of storytelling. By not making it simply a documentary of a wretched series of events inside a tormented family, you’re able to talk about themes that certainly for network television might have seemed far too dangerous.

We also have never really wanted to narrow down viewers’ choices of interpretation. People can see BOB however they want, and one of the things we explicitly stated at one point in the old show was that maybe it was just a way of putting a terrible story into a form that we could cope with, or maybe it was something real. We’ve always decided it’s best to let viewers make up their own minds about that stuff, and that’s very much the case moving forward as well.”

 FIRE WALK WITH ME & THE LIVING LAURA PALMER

When I first watched Fire Walk With Me (David Lynch, 1992), it didn’t have the same impact as my most recent viewing. While the sexual violence depicted in the film is certainly grotesque and exploitative, there are numerous aspects of the film that I appreciate. Throughout the entire series, Laura Palmer is seen as a beautiful corpse wrapped in plastic or a photogenic homecoming queen. She’s the young woman who the men in Twin Peaks gravitated towards and took advantage of. She was greatly involved in her community, loved by many, but also seriously troubled. It wasn’t a secret that she had problems, and ultimately, all of Twin Peaks was complicit in her death.

Fire Walk With Me, which details the days leading up to her death, allowed Laura Palmer to be a living, breathing, caring, flawed, and complicated character. She is the victim, not her father. Sheryl Lee gives a haunting performance as Laura – thrashing between moments of anger, lust, fear, and love with ease and vulnerability. I also appreciate the truly loving relationship between Laura and Donna. Donna tries to support and understand her friend, but Laura fights to protect her (pleading, you don’t want to be like me). Fire Walk With Me may end with Laura’s death, but the film grants her the life the series didn’t.

OKAY, IT’S ALMOST HERE

Tonight’s premiere of the Twin Peaks revival will be a part of television history and I’m so excited to experience it. I’m even baking a Twin Peaks cake! What’s wrong with me? Like everyone else tuning in, I have no idea what’s coming and the anticipation is killing me. But regardless of whether I like the new series or not, I’m sure it will be both wonderful and strange. 

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