In the corner of a red-curtained room, an odd-looking gnomish man dances as a jazz beat plays seductively in the background. That’s just one of the indelible images from David Lynch’s great TV series, “Twin Peaks,” a show that offered a delightfully loopy take on the very dark evils lurking underneath the surface of small town America. In only 30 episodes (the series was cancelled after its second season in ’91) and one poorly-received film, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost offered something akin to the inverse of a Norman Rockwell painting. In the show, the familiar images associated with Rockwell’s American-as-apple pie paintings were colored by the surrealist strokes of Lynch’s signature narrative style. Much like many of the director’s films (with “Blue Velvet” perhaps the series’ closest thematic relative), “Twin Peaks” offered its audience an improbable mix of nightmarish imagery, suspense, and goofy, sometimes slapstick humor that managed to fit together perfectly.
The show is something that I had always wanted to watch, but only recently decided to put in my Netflix queue. Long a Lynch fan, I was a little uncertain of what to expect. While his peculiar vision of the world can be equal parts terrifying and hilarious (but nevertheless, endlessly-enthralling) in his films, I was unsure how well he could sustain that tone throughout the course of a weekly, serialized television show. Well, any doubts were brushed aside from the minute I started watching the pilot episode.
I was hooked from the sound of the first notes of composer Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score playing over the opening credits, all the way to the last episode’s frustrating finale (ABC cancelled the series at the end of the second season, leaving for quite the cliffhanger). By the time I was done watching the show, I felt kind of homesick for Twin Peaks. Dale Cooper, Sheriff Harry S. Truman, the Log Lady, Donna, James, Audrey, Big Ed…etc etc…the list of characters goes on. These weren’t just fictional characters, it felt like they were people I knew. Somehow, the show’s writers were able to breathe life into a community full of people whose trials and tribulations, attempts at finding love, and desires to overcome loss all felt poignantly real. “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” may have been the mystery driving the plot of the majority of the episodes, but the issues faced by many of the show’s characters were those far more relatable to the average viewer than those seen in most murder mysteries. Beyond the elements that made the show so bizarre –– such as labyrinthine plot points that involved a literal cosmic battle between good and evil waged deep within the town’s nearby woods –– was a genuine heart.
Watching “Twin Peaks” felt very much like growing up in a small town. There are the same people you see each and every day. They are the kids you sit next to in class year after year, or the people you might bump into heading to the post office or church. On your way to these haunts, you pass by the familiar buildings and travel the same usual routes. It is a life of unshifting routines, and for the relatively short time that I watched the show, I became a part of the ebb and flow of life in Twin Peaks. While my own small town experiences growing up in Cheshire, MA (est. pop. 3,304) were by far not as colorful as those living in Lynchland, I certainly identified with the endearingly slow and relaxed rhythm of life of the people of Twin Peaks. I mean, even this eerie sunset in Cheshire is kind of “Twin Peaks”-esque, isn’t it?
Cheshire = “Twin Peaks?”
By the time I finished the series and its misunderstood film prequel, I felt immediately nostalgic for what I had just seen. It’s how I felt when I first left home for college, leaving behind the familiar Berkshire hills for something new. And at least for me, no book, film, or show is ever as good the second time around. When I do decide to revisit “Twin Peaks” someday, I’m sure re-watching episodes of the show after my first initial viewing will be like returning to the Berkshires after a long time away. Nostalgia for the past sets in, familiar places are revisited, but home is never quite the same.