When the intro column for Lost & Found posted on Friday I’d been hoping that a couple dozen people might respond and cast their votes. Instead, you folks opted to participate en masse, casting over 320 eligible votes.
It makes me think that you’re looking forward to this too, and that has me feeling a renewed responsibility to make this interesting for all of us. Your choice of shows has me feeling more confident that I’ll be able to do so. Deadwood, Carnivale, Firefly and Twin Peaks were the obvious collective favorites for you. I’d have been pleased as punch to cover any of them (and will eventually cover all of them). But by a margin of 5 votes, the first Renewal here on Lost & Found will be…
Unlike most of the shows on Lost & Found I’ve seen Twin Peaks before (sorta). I watched it first when I was in 8th grade (!), at “Peaks parties” where us underage kids would be dropped off to be bewildered by backward little men, and to gape adolescently at Sherilyn Fenn. The group of us managed to hang in there long enough to discover the identity of the show’s killer, but like most of America we drifted away from it not long after that.
A little over a year ago I watched the first season again for the first time since then, and posted little proto-Lost columns of my thoughts. It was kind of a warm up for what ended up being Back to the Island, but it was never finished (irony!). In a way, coming back to Twin Peaks is coming back to my own beginning as an amateur entertainment ‘writer,’ and that feels entirely appropriate. I’m also really looking forward to finally finishing the series – to connecting all of the dots between the reveal of the show’s killer and the still-legendary final episode of the show.
So, why should you, reader-O’-Chud-and-voter-on-this-column, watch Twin Peaks with me?
Basically, the first season of Twin Peaks is Great Television. Some of that Greatness is historic, in terms of the show’s place in time and in culture and in terms of its singularity as a television program. There had literally never been anything like Twin Peaks on TV, and while a show like Lost clearly has Twin Peaks in its DNA, there hasn’t been a show like Twin Peaks since. Some of that Greatness is artistic, in terms of what co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost were able to achieve on a major American Television Network (ABC, the same Network that rolled the dice on Lost).
I could go on listing aspects of the show that make it “Great” but I’ll cap things for now with what may be the show’s most elemental and overall-impressive achievement. For me (especially having revisited some of it as an “adult”) much of Twin Peaks’ cumulative power lies in its unblinking look at Evil. In it’s best moments this show offers a startlingly-clear view through grimy, warping glass at what feels and sounds and seems to be pretty much Evil Incarnate. Mark my words – It won’t happen for all of you, but for some of you Twin Peaks is going to burrow under your skin and slither there. It’s going to creep you out, man.
Don’t get me wrong – Twin Peaks has plenty of quirky comedy (it was the inarguable inspiration for shows like Northern Exposure and Picket Fences) and purple melodrama. It contains my all-time favorite heroic character, televisually-speaking, in Special Agent Dale Cooper. It’s loaded with wry, oddball touches that you might find similar to dry-as-sand comedies like Waiting For Guffman. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch it together with all of you. But, since part of the purpose of this column is to prepare you, so to speak, for watching Twin Peaks, and to identify some of why I’m excited to write about it for you….well, allow me to let someone smarter than I step in to start things off:
“Lynch’s movies are not about monsters (i.e. people whose intrinsic natures are evil) but about hauntings, about evil as environment, possibility, force. This helps explain Lynch’s constant deployment of noirish lighting and eerie sound-carpets and grotesque figurants: in his movies’ world, a kind of ambient spiritual antimatter hangs just overhead. It also explains why Lynch’s villains seem not merely wicked or sick but ecstatic, transported: they are, literally, possessed….they have yielded themselves up to a Darkness way bigger than any one person….Lynch’s idea that evil is a force has unsettling implications. People can be good or bad, but forces simply are. And forces are – at least potentially – everywhere. Evil for Lynch thus moves and shifts, pervades; Darkness is in everything, all the time – not ‘lurking below’ or ‘lying in wait’ or ‘hovering on the horizon’: evil is here, right now.” – excerpted from ‘David Lynch Keeps His Head,” by David Foster Wallace
Wallace submits in his (great, great) essay that all of Lynch’s films focus on Evil, and that this focus comes without the comforting narrative fiction that is clear “moral victory.” As in Lynch’s films overall, so also in Twin Peaks. When people do terrible things on this show there are sometimes consequences. But there are sometimes no consequences at all. Lynch doesn’t introduce Evil into Twin Peaks so that Good can vanquish it. Lynch introduces Evil as fact, as uncaring force of nature – a storm to (maybe) survive but not vanquish; not really, not ever.
Keep this stuff in mind as you watch the show. I’ll most definitely be discussing it.
Just a few housekeeping details before we begin:
(1) I’m going to ask you all to try an experiment with me. Instead of mainlining the show within the week, devouring the whole bag of bag of treats so to speak, I’d like you to try approaching Twin Peaks as a weekly experience – one treat at a time. There are very valid arguments to be made for experiencing television in a great unbridled rush (I scarfed up Buffy the Vampire Slayer like a stoned hobo at a donut festival) but there’s also another set of valid arguments for moderation. Watching Lost together created more than ‘buzz’ or excitement. It created conversation. It sparked arguments. It invited introspection and reflection and, if you were me, a harrowing descent into vertiginous, perpetual composition. Much of that had to do with Lost. But I’ll suggest that much of it also had to do with that break, that time-in-which-to-think. And much of what burbled up in those breaks was genuinely interesting. YOU were genuinely interesting. And while most of these shows aren’t Lost, most of them do seem to share a lot in common with it. By reputation alone I know that some of this stuff is stranger, more challenging, maybe, than much of what television traditionally offers us. And that makes me think that there’s stuff here to dig through and chat about together, at the same pace, on the journey together.
Plus, there’s this; having opened your presents rarely ends up being as satisfying as waiting to open them. If you’ve watched the show before I encourage you to revisit it with us – one episode a week.
That said, Hooray Free Will! Just because I’ve asked you to try this, doesn’t mean you ought to. If bingeing makes you happy, Gourge Away, to mangle the title of a great Pixies tune. All I ask is that you don’t try to cancel the run of the show here on Lost & Found because you’ve finished watching it, and that you don’t spoil upcoming events for those of us who want to remain in the dark about them. If you’re going to discuss spoilers, feel free to set up a thread for them on the Chud Message Boards. Don’t post them in the comments or in the main thread for this column. Cool?
A word of advice: the first disc of the Twin Peaks box set is just the pilot. If you’re planning on following along I’d queue up disc 2 so that you’ll have it for the next Monday’s episode watch.
(2) How should you watch Twin Peaks? If you want my advice, turn all the lights off (leaving one on is acceptable – it is also appropriately Lynchian). Make sure your television’s volume is up and if you have a fancy speaker system, use it. David Lynch deploys sound like few Directors, and to my experience that sound – sometimes haunting, sometimes sensual, and sometimes baffling – is a large part of what makes the pilot episode of Twin Peaks so timelessly arresting. Yes, I said “timelessly arresting.”
To say that Twin Peaks is a weird show is to make something of a massive, laughable understatement. Characters often voice stilted, bizarre thoughts, or veer crazily, emotionally, in ways that are both soap opera-esque and grotesque. Things happen without rational explanation. There is a Log Lady.
Don’t fight the weird. Roll with it, if you’re able. I think you’ll find that it becomes kind of intoxicating, in ways that are both lovely and disturbing. You’re entering David Lynch’s head here, with only co-creator Mark Frost and a shaken-looking Standards and Practices lawyer as your tour guides. While that’s some cause for alarm, it’s also cause for celebration. Twin Peaks is one strange town, but its woods are lovely, dark and deep. Give yourself permission to lose yourself in them.
…See you on Friday.
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