TV Series Review
In 1990, ABC unveiled a curious little show called Twin Peaks. Critics loved it. Practically no one else watched it. It lasted just two seasons—a little more than a year—before it was axed due to low ratings.
But in its death throes, it gave birth to television as we know it today.
Twin Peaks began when television was made for the masses. It was the age of Roseanne and The Golden Girls, Matlock and Major Dad. Twin Peaks, the brainchild of television vet Mike Frost and surrealist director David Lynch, was nothing like those shows. Nothing like any show. It was a telegenic fever dream—a serialized mystery with super-quirky characters, supernatural undertones and an offbeat vibe that left viewers uncertain whether they should laugh or scream. The series rewarded obsessive viewing and inspired couch-born analysts to discuss and dissect every outlandish turn of events.
In a television landscape full of broadly appealing comedies and inoffensive dramas, Twin Peaks was a cult show—and one that made no pretension of being anything else.
And then it was gone. Only—like Laura Palmer, the murdered woman at the center of Twin Peaks' first mystery—not. It spawned a slew of imitators: Northern Exposure copied its quirk. The X-Files replicated the show's freaky-creepy vibe and, to some extent, its serialization. And those series in turn spawned their own imitators. Now, it seems, every show—or, at least, every show we talk about—is a cult show on some level. From Game of Thrones to Stranger Things, from American Gods to American Horror Story, today's prestige television is built on the foundation laid by Twin Peaks.
Perhaps it's fitting, then, that Twin Peaks is back (on Showtime), more than 25 years after Laura Palmer's murder was solved. But given that today's television landscape was shaped by the landmark show, is it even possible for the sequel to feel as freaky, as unhinged as the original?
Answer: yes. Boy howdy, yes.
My Log Saw Something That Night …
When Twin Peaks aired its last episode in 1991, the dashing-yet-dour FBI agent Dale Cooper had been possessed by the spirit of Killer Bob, a sadistic, demonic entity who inhabits various innocent hosts and, through one such host, killed Laura Palmer (and perpetrated plenty of other vile deeds besides).
Showtime's Twin Peaks picks up 25 years later. Cooper's body is still thrall to Killer Bob, while Cooper's consciousness is trapped in what's called the Black Lodge—an extradimensional reality featuring red curtains and a red-and-white zigzag floor.
And that, I'm afraid, is the most sensical paragraph you're likely to get here.
Killer Bob's supposed to be sent back to the Black Lodge, but the spirit doesn't particularly want to go. So he's plotting to keep Cooper's body in his evil clutches. Meanwhile, Cooper's consciousness chats with a variety of spectral entities, including the dead Laura Palmer (who removes her face to reveal a blinding light) and a small talking tree with some sort of odd, pulsing growth on it.
Also meanwhile, there have been a couple of murders committed in Buckhorn, S.D.: the local librarian and an as-of-yet unidentified man. He's yet to be identified, in part, because the man's naked body was found in bed with the librarian's severed head. The town's high school principal has been implicated, but he swears he had nothing to do with either of the murders.
Also, also meanwhile, there's a super-secret glass box in New York City that occasionally contains extra-dimensional beings. And a casino tycoon in Las Vegas seems to be under the thumb of an as-of-yet-unnamed authority. Laura Palmer's mother watches violent nature documentaries. The Log Lady's log is having visions again. Someone's buying shovels.
Mairzy Doats and Dozy Doats and Liddle Lamzy Divey …
Know what's going on yet? No? That's partly the point. Lynch, the mastermind behind the vibe of both the original and rebooted iterations, relishes jarring visuals and dissonant plotting and flat-out mystery. Indeed, if Lynch had had his way, Laura Palmer's killer wouldn't have been found so early in the series. He might never have been found.
"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense," Lynch was quoted in My Love Affair with David Lynch and Peachy Like Nietzsche: Dark Clown Porn Snuff for Terrorists and Gorefiends. "I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."
And while the original Twin Peaks was plenty jarring back in the day, the Showtime version—free of any network constraints—ratchets up the content something fierce.
We're exposed to intense moments of nudity, violence and language. The violence against women can be particularly shocking and, Lynch plays that card again and again.
The violence and sex isn't as pervasive as on, say, American Gods or Game of Thrones. But In some ways, that makes it all the more dissonant: You can never be quite sure whether a conversation will end with a surreal bon mot or someone's head rolling around on the floor.
Twin Peaks, the new version, has reclaimed its long-dormant crown as the strangest show on television. And while its resurrection may be a dream come true for fans of the original, the content we see can be the stuff of nightmare, right out of the Black Lodge itself.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper; Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer; Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran; Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby; Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson; Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs; Ray Wise as Leland Palmer; Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer; Everett McGill as Big Ed Hurley