I’ve lived in the PNW for nearly 17 years, first in Seattle and now in Portland. But no matter how long one lives in a place, conversation eventually turns to where you lived might’ve lived before, which then glances over its shoulder and asks how you came to live where you do now. My answer has always been the same: Twin Peaks.
I was only a teenager growing up in Chicago when I first heard that unforgettable melody by Angelo Badalamenti, first saw the wind stirring those towering Douglas firs, first met the eccentric residents of and visitors to an uncanny town in Washington state called Twin Peaks, first glimpsed the nightmarish darkness of the woods at night feebly lit by a lone, searching flashlight, and first began to explore the much deeper darkness within.
While watching this singular show I immediately felt a tug at my core, a tension that indicated home was that way, Pacific Northwest-ward. I’m not from Chicago either, wasn’t born in the US to begin with, and no place had ever really felt like home to me before that moment. It would be years before I was finally able to move across the country, but an indelible chord had been struck. Just knowing where I was headed helped me through what would be very difficult intervening years, with the music of Angelo Badalamenti and the voice of Julee Cruise as my melancholy lullaby at night as I often fell asleep listening to the Twin Peaks soundtrack.
Once I moved to Seattle I did, of course, make the obligatory pilgrimage to beautiful Snoqualmie Falls, the Salish Lodge (which provided the exterior of the Great Northern Hotel), and the town of North Bend to visit Twedes Cafe (aka the Double R Diner) for coffee and pie. This was all icing on the cake after moving to the region that felt like home before I’d ever set foot there.
Then came the pleasure of re-watching Twin Peaks while finally living exactly where I’d longed to be. Once again sharing the immense grief for the death of Laura Palmer, delighting in the quirks of the town residents and visitors as we got to know them all, observing and vicariously experiencing their complex relationships, secret lives, secret loves, and of course, watching Agent Cooper and his team unravel the mystery of the dual lives of Laura Palmer and her murder, which in turn revealed still further mysteries as the show, for better or worse, grew stranger and more menacing in its second season. All of this became even more satisfying for me because I was home.
“Harry, I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and the imminent return of Twin Peaks. We’ve officially known it was finally happening since 2014, but now the excitement and anticipation have reached a fever pitch. Scarcely all we’ve been granted during production are tantalizing glimpses of a few locations and some core cast members back in character.
The cast list this time around is almost bewilderingly long. Most of the original cast is back, though we’ve lost a few precious members over the years and some, according to David Lynch himself, simply no longer have a place in this world. Then there’s the extensive list of actors who are new to the series, lots of familiar and sometimes surprising names as well as veterans of other Lynch projects.
As the premiere date drew ever closer I began seeing people on Twitter saying “Let’s go home”, which gives me chills and feels that I can’t put into words. I also feel that for those of us who, each in our own way, consider Twin Peaks home, we never really left. Wherever we reside, we carry Twin Peaks with us, inhabit it from within ourselves…or perhaps it inhabits us. However that doesn’t diminish the literal awesomeness of finally being escorted by David Lynch himself back into that town surrounded by Douglas firs, where the coffee – mind the fish lurking in percolators – is as black as midnight on a moonless night and the owls are not what they seem.
Photograph by Marc Hom
Some people have expressed concern that the show won’t or simply can’t be as good somehow, these many years later. Personally, I consider any additional time granted to us in this world with these characters to be a gift, a strange and unwieldy gift that might well scratch or bite or worse, but a gift nonetheless.
And so it begins…
I watched the first two episodes of the brand new season of Twin Peaks the very night they aired, as did so many of you, I know. Even so, I’ll keep my first impressions spoiler-free for the sake of those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to watch just yet.
“The stars turn and the time presents itself. Hawk, watch carefully.”
Having made a point to freshly re-watch the original series , though the mysteries do kick off right away – and actually started before the TV series even began if one includes the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me into the narrative – there was something of a gentle easing into the myriad peculiarities of that singular town back in 1990. This new Twin Peaks doesn’t ease us into things. There’s little that’s gentle about this world now.
“Is it future or is it past? Someone is here.”
Agent Cooper’s evil doppelgänger has been loose in the world for 25 years and it’s a much more violent and explicit place now. I can’t help but wonder how much of that escalation is due to the development of David Lynch’s style since the early 90s (those familiar with his films will know he’s no stranger to violence) and of course the story itself and what might simply be the opportunities provided by airing on Showtime now versus ABC back in the day.
Though it doesn’t take long to discover that the story now stretches beyond our beloved town and into different states and cities, even those new locations feel unquestionably, uncannily familiar. That ubiquitous blend of puzzlement and dread hasn’t diminished one bit. In fact it has intensified. The face of Agent Cooper, trapped in the Black Lodge for all these years, is haunted and inscrutable. Watching Laura Palmer’s face break into that poignant smile of hers, full of vibrant life yet expressing so much pain, immediately brought tears to my eyes.
“Agent Cooper. You can go out now.”
Violent new mysteries are brewing in multiple locations and the one thing that thus far links them all is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper. We’re granted brief moments with numerous familiar faces, each of which caused an intense wave of nostalgia to wash over me. I wonder how much we’ll learn about what they’ve been up to for all this time. Some actors/characters have hardly changed at all (what is Ray Wise’s secret? Leland Palmer looks like he’s hardly aged a day.) while others show the passage of time on their faces and I love them all the more for that, especially Laura Palmer, who’s “dead, but not dead.” Even having seen promo photos I was unprepared for how it would feel to see her once again inside the Red Room. Everyone we’ve glimpsed so far seems as idiosyncratic and/or haunted as ever, all the new characters are no less strange, and I can’t escape the looming feeling that their world is about to turn upside-down all over again.
“He must come back in before you can go out.”
According to my own excited internet wanderings, I know that Julee Cruise returns at some point in this new season, hopefully bringing her ethereal voice with her. But for now we’re introduced to a new dreamy chanteuse, Ruth Radlet of the Chromatics, who bewitches us with her song and cements the realization that Twin Peaks has well and truly, really really returned by singing “Shadow” on stage at the Roadhouse at the conclusion of episode 2.
Welcome back, Twin Peaks. You’re weirder, darker, and more perplexing than you’ve ever been. I’ve missed you terribly. It’s so good, yet indescribably unsettling to be home. You’ve got 16 episodes yet to share with us, but it’s already clear that we’re in for one hell of a Lynchian ride.
Photo by Suzanne Tenner