Ross Humphreys discusses the cult David Lynch TV Series
‘I look at the world and I see absurdity all around me. People do strange things constantly, to the point that, for the most part, we manage not to see it.‘ David Lynch
The mundane peculiarities of life, those that go unnoticed in the background, are something of a fascination for David Lynch, the surrealist director of Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. It is these very peculiarities that are ever-present in his arguably best work, the television series Twin Peaks. Produced by Lynch and TV writer Mark Frost, Twin Peaks aired from 1990 to 1991 for only two series after being cancelled following its declining ratings. Thankfully, its status as a cult series has ensured its continuing popularity. A new series is currently in production and scheduled for 2017, with many of the original cast reprising their roles.
The series revolves around one small town in Washington State, the eponymous Twin Peaks. It is a place where time appears to have stopped. There, we see characters from all walks of life: high-schoolers, businessmen, policemen and waitresses, doctors and lawyers. All of them are connected by Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the young and innocent darling of the town and the symbol of the respectable veneer of Americana that permeates the series. When her body, wrapped in plastic, is discovered floating down the river, every Twin Peaker is deeply affected and the police are at a loss. Enter Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) of the FBI, an intensely calm and methodical man, who takes over the investigation whilst fervently documenting his experiences to ‘Diane’, a voice recorder. Cooper is the closest thing Twin Peaks has to a protagonist: much of the series is devoted to his arc and investigation. His prophetic dreams and interactions with the fantastical elements of the town are also well documented in the series.
However, Cooper is by no means the central character: as the series progresses, we see the deep connections that Laura has to most of the town. It is those revelations that drive the plotlines of the rest of the series, particularly after the controversial resolution of the murder mystery in mid-season two. We see psychological breakdowns, breakups and marriages, incestuous and ideal love: a spectrum of humanity presented to us in the microcosm of Twin Peaks. Everyone has secrets, hidden and unknowable things that they must hide from wider society. A dual human nature revealed by the death of Laura.
Lynch’s signature awkward angles and slow pans, as well as his focus on violent and sexual imagery exaggerate and stretch the characters and their situations, clawing at the thin soap opera reality in which they exist. In conjunction with the varied and strange traits of many of the characters and the significant Black Lodge and Log Lady sections (the optional introductions to each episode), Twin Peaks appears to exist within its own world. The alluring soundtrack of Angelo Badalamenti endlessly plays over the series and lends its distinctive soap opera like tone with some characters themselves having separate themes, announcing their presence and setting the scene. The main aspect of the soundtrack however is its dreamlike nature, which is reflected in the series with its bright colours and beautiful, glowing people.
Immerse yourself in the world of Twin Peaks then. Settle into a nostalgic haze of cherry pie and coffee. But remember, the owls are not what they seem.
Featured image credit: Twin Peaks still