It Is Happening Again: Thoughts on Twin Peaks (and Fire Walk with Me)

Twin PeaksThere must be some kind of kismet in the air this week, as right after wrapping my first – long-delayed – viewing of landmark series Twin Peaks and its darkly terrifying prequel, Fire Walk with Me, I woke to the news of Lynch confirming a nine episode continuation of the show (and I mean I literally woke up to the news – Triple J’s news broadcast concluded with the bombshell which jolted me right out of bed). It is happening again.

It’s hard to imagine what it must have been like for avid fans of the show back when it aired – not only because they had to wait a quarter-of-a-century for a (long rumoured) follow-up, but because they had to wade through the muck of disappointment and drudgery that is much of the second season. Coming at Twin Peaks from the remove of a couple of decades makes it much easier to forgive its weak points (see: almost everything that happens after the reveal of Laura Palmer’s killer up until the final couple episodes), both because you’ve been forewarned and because it’s easy enough to throw the Blu-Rays on in the background.

Let’s not focus on the negatives, though. The high points of Twin Peaks remain eerily compelling even after countless series have tried (and, generally, failed) to crib from its supernatural small town atmosphere. The muted, funereal beauty of its pilot, or the sinister balance between weirdness, horror and soap-opera-parody that it somehow sustains for the majority of its first season, resonate for a first-time viewer like myself (it doesn’t hurt that Lynch is one of my favourite directors). And while the second season might be littered with problems, the moment when Laura’s killer is revealed is one of the most terrifying moments ever displayed on the small screen.

Much of that terror is fixated in the figure of Bob (played by non-actor Frank Silva, who sadly passed away in 1995), a nightmarish distillation of the dark terror, violence and demented eroticism that pulsed beneath the garish soap opera trappings of the series. In the show’s narrative he’s a malicious spirit, an incarnation of deranged evil, but he’s also a jarringly potent metaphor for man’s deepest and most terrible potential. As much as Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost tried to grasp at reasonable explanations for Bob, Lynch (and Silva) had imbued him with too much malevolent force to blunt any of his impact.

Fire Walk with Me – Lynch’s follow-up film that serves as prequel-and-sorta-sequel to the series proper – attracted the ire of Twin Peaks fans at the time, offering little in the way of coherent explanation – and no kind of conclusion – for the mysteries still drifting in the wake of the show. I imagine those same fans view Lynch’s latest announcement with a smidgen of trepidation, worrying that those forthcoming nine episodes – all directed by Lynch himself – will steer more towards inchoate horror than off-kilter weirdness.

Fuck those fans, really. Fire Walk with Me is a masterpiece. It fails to deliver on any kind of narrative cohesion, sure, but that’s because it’s really Bob’s movie. It channels his desperate aura of dread in a way that’s profoundly evocative, leaving your heart thudding in your chest with terror long after its credits roll. It’s mired in that creamed-corn stew of garmonbozia (pain and sorrow), and it stands head-and-shoulders above the excellent series that spawned it. It promises a deconstruction of the show with pitch-perfect black humour – opening with an axe through a television set – and delivers in spades, with Sheryl Lee cackling and mocking her way through the shards of the small town and revealing the hollowness at its core. If we get anything like that in 2016, I’ll be more than satisfied.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me Rating:
5 stars

2 thoughts on “It Is Happening Again: Thoughts on Twin Peaks (and Fire Walk with Me)

  1. I agree with you. I was around when the original T.P. came out and was mesmerized, hook-line-and-sinker. Life got busy and I missed Fire Walk with Me. I’ll have to sit down and watch it. Go Lynch, go!

    • Oh, you have to see it! It’s not for everyone but – as much as I loved [the good parts of] the series – I really feel like as a work of art it eclipses the series that inspired it. Strongly, strongly recommended.

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