Last Friday, just as the weekend was kicking into gear, the Internet abruptly ground to a standstill after the news dropped that Twin Peaks, the show that made it impossible to look at owls, logs or cherry pie in the same way again, was to be resurrected. A cryptic teaser, scored by Angelo Badalamenti’s timeless “Falling”, promises nine brand new episodes to air on the Showtime network in 2016, all of which will be written by the show’s creators Mark Frost and David Lynch. Lynch himself will direct the entire mini-series in his first directorial excursion since 2006’s Inland Empire.
It was an auspicious announcement from Showtime and Frost/Lynch, not least in part due to the teaser trailer’s referencing of the Black Lodge scene from the series finale wherein the murdered prom queen Laura Palmer tells FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper that he will see her again in twenty-five years, coinciding with the 2016 transmission date of these new episodes. Other than the canny timeliness of Laura’s prophetic words, this announcement arrives on the crest of a wave that regards Twin Peaks as the pop cultural touchstone of the last quarter-century. More than any of its contemporaries – network or cable – the show has experienced dizzying peaks and troughs, going from instant TV phenomenon in its debut season, through declining fortunes and subsequent cancellation after the uneven second season, to a critical re-appraisal against the formulaic television landscape of the new century…and, finally, emerging with recognition as a trailblazing classic of the medium. The popularity and acclaim of Twin Peaks has only grown incrementally in the wake of the divisive, yet sorely underrated, 1992 wrap-up film Fire Walk With Me that riled hardcore fans with several plot threads still left dangling from Cooper’s battle inside the Black Lodge.
The infuriated response from fans underscores the fervent emotional investment made in a show that even fans will admit is equal parts bewildering and intoxicating with its Luis Bunuel does CSI set-up of grisly crime procedural against a backdrop of small town quirkiness and surrealist ellipses. With the original VHS releases of the show withdrawn from release in the 90s, and with their seemingly perpetual lack of availability thereafter in a pre-Netflix era, the storylines remained enigmatic. Twin Peaks therefore represented a show way ahead of its time – one that existed only in reverent whispers yet subsequently infiltrated the cultural landscape through allusions, homages and tributes. This may explain why the news of the show’s revival has caused a minor critical backlash amongst those who feel that a Twin Peaks: Season 3 will singularly fail to offer anything new and fresh in a landscape where TP’s once unique, offbeat tropes are now so widely engrained and referenced, remade in shows ranging from Lost to the American remake of The Killing. The first hipster TV show and definitive emblem of the cult has stealthily gone mainstream.
However, the idea of reviving Twin Peaks represents perhaps the holy grail of revivals of cancelled-before-their-time shows, previously only assailed by Netflix’s fourth season of Arrested Development. The fact that Twin Peaks, a program so staggeringly unlike anything network television has conceived before or since – a program whose legacy remained so potent in spite of the categorical denials over the space of two decades from everyone involved that it would ever return – is to live again is the best proof yet of the democratisation of the television and the shifting balance of control. The cancellation of an under-appreciated show no longer has to be the be-all and end-all; if the loyal fans want to see their favourite characters reunite once again, the increasing breadth of the viewing landscape can happily accommodate these desires. Other cable networks, Netflix and upstart Internet streaming services like Yahoo and Hulu are providing new homes for these orphan shows. They are also ensuring longevity to the artistic impulses of talented writers, directors and actors who want to continue telling their stories on their own terms. The delectable tidbit that David Lynch would be directing the entirety of the new Twin Peaks – and that the show would not be a reboot, but rather a continuation of Lynch/Frost’s story, twenty five years later – is surely an indicator of the original creative voices wanting to resolve unfinished business, excitingly situating the Twin Peaks revival within the current renaissance of auteur television that includes works like Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick and Cary Fukunaga on the first season of True Detective.
My point of reservation is over what direction this new series will take. The original incarnation of Twin Peaks had the investigation into Laura Palmer’s death at its epicentre, but it was the network-influenced decision to reveal the identity of Killer BOB halfway through the second season that sent the show careening off the rails and into cancellation. Fire Walk With Me, although divisive, did go some way to offer closure to Laura’s journey and fill in some of the blanks of her last week. Does the reboot then suggest, another layer to Laura Palmer? Or will a new murder kickstart a reunion for Harry, Coop and the rest of the Twin Peaks Police Department?
But Twin Peaks was never one for conventionality, I suppose. I’m greeting this piece of news with the same awe as Donna Hayward in the second ever episode – “I’m having the most beautiful dream…and the most terrible nightmare, all at once”.
I hope Season 3 is more of the former.
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