Twin Peaks: A beginner's guide to David Lynch's cult classic
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Part murder mystery, part spoof, part comedy and supernatural drama, the 1990 TV drama Twin Peaks follows the FBI investigation of murdered homecoming queen Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) investigates the murder and uncovers a seedier side to the idyllic veneer of small community life in Twin Peaks - one littered with drugs, violence and splintering relationships.
WHY WAS IT SO POPULAR?
While most were drawn in by the show’s whodunnit aspect of the Laura Palmer murder, the show became about so much more. Black humour would often sit with carefully-inserted references to real-life events (such as Laura Palmer’s character development echoing that of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe) as well as the surreal and chilling parallel world of the Red Room.
Others liked it for its award-winning storytelling and musical score, while Lynch’s love of film noir plot devices - including neon signs and flashbacks - harken back to the golden age of cinema. Most of all, despite the evil that Twin Peaks conceals, so many of the show’s characters are likeable, albeit flawed and complex people.
Twin Peaks devotees often speak of scenes in the Red Room. In one, Laura Palmer makes a strange promise to Special Agent Dale Cooper. The room is notable for its thorougly unsettling atmosphere, helped in part by the presence of the Man from Another Place and the disjoined speech of each character, which was recorded in reverse.
Ronnette’s dream is one of Twin Peaks’ most terrifying scenes, with the panning shots of darkened hospital corridors interrupted by shots of Laura Palmer’s mutilated body and a manic Bob screaming in the dark.
Running gags are peppered throughout the show, the most famous of which is Agent Cooper’s love of coffee, or, to quote the FBI’s finest, “a cup of Joe.” Leland Palmer’s deterioration after his daughter’s death is improbably told through interpretive dance, which sometimes provides comic relief, and some of the series’ most harrowing scenes. Then there’s Nadine’s drapes, Gordon Cole’s deafness, the Log Lady – we could go on.
HOW INFLUENTIAL HAS IT BEEN?
It’s one of the 20th century’s defining pop culture moments, a precursor to the sort of ambitious television we now consider the norm from the likes of HBO and Netflix. Everyone now talks about “must-see” TV, but we’d be much poorer without Twin Peaks. Even the music is essential – the show’s haunting opening theme, by Angelo Badalamenti, is a masterpiece.
It’s been referenced so frequently, and in so many places – from The Simpsons and Sesame Street to The Legend of Zelda – that for a substantial number of people it’s a show they know of but aren’t familiar with.
Nominated for 14 Emmy Awards for its first season, Twin Peaks was widely hailed upon release, but no-one could have predicted how revered the show would become. It’s not perfect by any means. Once the Laura Palmer murder arc is resolved midway through the second season, the quality of the episodes slip noticeably. But its influence on everything that’s followed it – from The X-Files to True Detective – is plain to see.
WHO’S IN THE NEW SHOW?
An all-new cast featuring Naomi Watts, Richard Chamberlain, Jim Belushi, Michael Cera and Amanda Seyfried has been announced for the new series of the US drama Twin Peaks.
In addition, veterans Kyle MacLachlan, Sherilyn Fenn, David Duchovny and Harry Dean Stanton will return to the fictitious Washington community.
Other newcomers to the show include Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ashley Judd, Laura Dern, Ernie Hudson and Tom Sizemore.
WHO’S NOT COMING BACK?
Original cast members not returning to the new series include Lara Flynn Boyle, Joan Chen, Heather Graham, Piper Laurie and Michael Ontkean. Catherine Coulson, who played the Log Lady, died last year but is set to appear posthumously in the new series. Frank Silva (Bob), Jack Nance (Pete Martell), Don S Davis (Major Garland Briggs), Dan O’Herlihy (Andrew Packard) and John Boylan (Mayor Dwayne Milford) have passed away since starring on the show.