I feel like I’ve climbed a mountain. Two, actually. The twin peaks of Kilimanjaro! I jest.
It’s true, I’ve finally finished Twin Peaks and can now return to the world as normal, fully informed on who killed Laura Palmer and… well, I guess I don’t know much beyond that. I’m still confused. I think this is what it must have been like to watch Lost. Or what it must have been like to watch Twin Peaks when it was actually on in the early ’90s.
But before I get into the detailed version of how I felt about this thing, I want to state the simple: I liked it. At times I even loved it. It was weird and terrifying and eerie and hilarious, and I feel fully prepared to enter the world of David Lynch now. But I can’t say I want to spend every waking moment there.
Kyle MacLachlan is impossible to dislike or be creeped out by (well… almost; spoilers ahead, natch). I can see why Lynch found him a curious muse. Deep into an investigation, he can be laser-focused and impossible to sidetrack. Distracted by a pretty girl, he can be giddy and smiley. Under the spell of the mystical, he can be quiet and unpredictable. He has a thousand faces, most of which are appealing, and he can morph and contort and adapt with what seems like no effort. He makes Dale Cooper such a likable guy, such an easy-to-root for protagonist (even in the throes of an investigation against his ethical condict), that the ending to this whole saga is all the more shocking and surprising. Now, I hate Bob, the terrifying man-creature whose evil spirit inhabits all of the truly fucked-up in Twin Peaks, as much as the next guy, but it makes so much simple sense that Bob’s next host would be Agent Cooper. Despite his cheery, structured facade, he’s seen hell twice, and he couldn’t have possibly gone back from whence he came following a double whammy like Laura Palmer and Windom Earle. He really had no choice. Seeing him look in the mirror, and having Bob look back through cracked, bloody glass, was one of the scariest images of the entire series. And the most lasting, at that. I read about Lynch’s plans for the series, were it to have continued, and though he claims that Bob would have eventually left Cooper, and Cooper would have stayed in Twin Peaks and become a pharmacist or something, that happy ending doesn’t feel as satisfying as this unhappy one. Twin Peaks is not a happy place, anyway.
Speaking of unhappiness, the relationships on this show grew very tiresome as the season wore on. I was always rooting for Coop to hook up with Audrey (Sherilynn Fenn) despite the age difference, but theirs was the only truly fresh and fun relationship to follow. The rest of the couples flip-flopped between soap-opera passion, absurd fighting, and uncomfortably long stares into the camera, either at each other lovingly or in disappointed contemplation of the other. Many cases in point: Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) and James (James “Tom Cruise” Marshall) met in idyllic settings to proclaim their love for each other, only to meet in clandestine ones to break up; selfish Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) only appreciated Shelly (Madchen Amick) when she was making his life easier, and never saw the goofy side of her that we, the audience, caught a glimpse of; Harry (Michael Ontkean) was foolishly blind to Josie’s (Joan Chen) bullshit damsel-in-distress act; Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) strung along two guys stupider than she in an attempt to decide who’d be the better father to her unborn child. And then there’s Norma (Peggy Lipton). What a sorry role model she was. Here is a woman who owns her own business and works hard, yet completely crumbles during any sign of hardship. Her mother came to visit and she got all feelingsy. Her husband got thrown in jail and… well, actually, she asked for a divorce, so that was pretty cool. Back to the pushover thing, though; she and Ed (Everett McGill) had been in love since high school or whatever, but for some throwaway reason, she had married Hank and he had married Nadine (Wendy Robie). And she’s mopey all the time because just sits there cleaning dishes at the diner, feeling sorry for herself. She acts weak until Ed provides her with strength, and that is disheartening. I didn’t have anything invested in her character until her sister, Annie (Heather Graham) showed up and revealed her nerd side to Agent Cooper.
But while the relationships grew less interesting, the individual characters went on personal and psychological journeys I never could have imagined. Leo (Eric Da Re) became something of a sympathetic guy, having been captured and tortured by Windom Earle. Ben Horne travelled to the edge of Confederate Crazytown and came back from it. A very ladylike David Duchovny came and went, and I wish we had seen more of him. Speaking of cross-dressing, Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) went in the other (less convincing) direction and provided future inspiration to Margaret Cho. The one-armed man came and went. Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) went completely insane. Nadine gained superhuman strength. Most of these things were left without explanation, and we have to live with them. So long as Lynch puts himself in all his movies like so, however, I can lived with a few untied ends.
One final note about the aesthetics. Early on in the series, I was frustrated by how many identical-looking white people were roaming around this curious town. It made the story rather difficult to follow, because even though each character had a unique name, I couldn’t help but wonder if Leland Palmer was related to Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan)…
A few more to contemplate. Apologies for the shite placement on the page; WordPress is not is slick as it seems. In any case, these folks look too much alike for it to be a coincidence. Was Lynch making some sort of reincarnation commentary? Did he want everyone to appear slightly inbred? Is that really what happens in small towns? I can say with confidence that “Who knows?” is probably an apt answer to most David Lynch-related questions. I was never able to let this go as I watched the show and got to know these people. And I could never fully blame it on the hairstyles or the clothing styles. Lynch (and Mark Frost, Lynch’s co-creator, whom I should have mentioned way earlier in this post) had a very specific, eerie vision in mind, and they certainly executed it visually, aurally, emotionally, every which way. And with that, I’ll leave you to ponder these quasi-twins. And Bob. I really hate Bob.
Michael Ontkean and Richard Beymer: fraternal and fro’d.
Sherilynn Fenn and Sheryl Lee: I mean, they have the same damn name, even.
Kenneth Welsh and Jack Nance: wannabe Bill Murrays.