I am 36 years old and had never seen a second of Twin Peaks until a few years ago.
Twin Peaks was one of those shows I had heard about long before I had actually seen it. I was 10 years old when it premiered, far too young to watch and certainly far too young to understand. As I got older, it was one of those shows I heard about a lot, but never watched. I’d be lying if I said the bulk of my “knowledge” didn’t come from The Simpsons.
Going off of those clips – along with the overall reputation – all I knew was that it was weird. No real point; just weird.
When I finally got around to watching it, I was shocked at how coherent it was. Yes, there was some weirdness, but it was a show driven by a cast of likable characters and a fairly simple plot: a girl was murdered in a quiet town and it was likely that someone in town killed her.
There is an oddness to the town itself, and some of the characters are strange – having a character simply known as “The Log Lady” speaks to that – but I didn’t find it hard to follow. The first season certainly had its share of odd moments, but it all had a purpose. There was a vision behind it. Looking at individual scenes on their own, it would be easy to dismiss the show as artsy-fartsy garbage. But, within the context of the show, I was amazed that all the pieces seemed to fit together. Trying to explain to someone else never ends well for me, but the show itself works.
It works for the first season, at least. I was immediately pulled into the world and fell in love with Agent Cooper and his wide-eyed love of everything he saw. Cooper lovingly saying”Douglas Firs,” with a huge smile on his face told me that this was a man I would absolutely love. Cooper drew me into the show, and the friendship he formed with Sheriff Truman cemented my love. Cooper had some odd ideas, but the two of them grounded me. There may have been weirdness with some of the residents of Twin Peaks – and Cooper certainly contributed to that weirdness at times – but Cooper and Truman gave me an anchor.
The show went off the rails a bit in the second season, and completely came unglued after Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed 7 episodes in. According to David Lynch, they never intended to reveal the killer, instead using the crime as a way to look at the darkness in this small town. The killer was not important; what the murder revealed was. After the killer was revealed, Lynch dropped out of the show and everything started falling apart.
My breaking point came when James – moping biker, love interest of many and my least favorite character – set off on his motorcycle and got entangled with a murder plot that served no purpose. I still enjoyed Cooper and Truman, but even their story got stranger. Lynch had a vision for the show and Mark Frost helped keep him grounded and put his nightmares into a coherent story. After Lynch left, people were left trying replicate his dark mind and the results were not good.
To Lynch, not every story needed an ending; not every question needed an answer. When we found out who Laura’s killer was, Lynch essentially posed a question: was this the work of a man possessed by a demon from another dimension, or was it simply the work of someone with a mental illness? When Lynch left, the story said that it was absolutely a man from another dimension so let’s go there and see everything and make sure none of it makes a ton of sense. They took Lynch’s warped vision and tried to make sense of it.
I still haven’t watched every episode. I lost interest when James took off on a solo mission. I watched the last episode to have some context for the new series, but there are episodes I will likely never watch. And I’m okay with that.
The first season is 8 episodes, and they are all incredible. More than that, they’re oddly accessible. If you’ve never watched Twin Peaks because you assume it’ll be too weird, I urge you to give it a shot. It certainly earns its reputation as a strange show, but it’s much easier to watch than I had assumed it would be. It is also beautifully shot and has a tremendous soundtrack.
If the show doesn’t grab you by episode 3, you’re probably fine to part ways. However, if you fall in love by that point, I urge you to at least watch through episode 7 of season 2. If you’re looking for one of the most harrowing scenes I’ve ever seen on TV, you’ll find it in that episode. After that, if it all gets to be a bit much, I give you my permission to cut and run.