Article by Maggie Burton and Chris McGee
We are living in strange times – to put it mildly.
Reality has always been stranger than fiction, of course, but recently it seems to have outstripped the imagination with an aggression that has left it dazed, bewildered, and perhaps in a state of existential crisis. What kind of art can reflect our reality when the daily news is ever-increasingly grotesque and farcical in equal measure? What spectacle could be strange enough to compete with that of a racist, misogynist TV host conning his way into control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal?
But if there’s one artist who can do it, it’s David Lynch, and luckily for us, he’s arrived just in time. After a decade-long hiatus from film work, the avant-garde director and multidisciplinary artist is returning to the site of his most enduringly popular creation and one of the most fertile playgrounds for his imagination, Twin Peaks, with a limited series on Showtime starting in May. Most tantalizingly, Lynch will direct all 18 episodes of the series himself, and if you’re not sure why that might be exciting news for TV and film fans, allow me to recap.
Twin Peaks, a genre-busting supernatural murder mystery soap opera, ran from 1990-1991 on ABC, and was co-created by Lynch and TV writer Mark Frost. The series centered on the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer and its investigation by the holistic, coffee-and-pie-loving FBI detective Dale Cooper, but the true star of the show was Twin Peaks itself: a northwestern logging town populated by an indelible cast of eccentrics and beset by dark extra-dimensional forces. The show became a surprise watercooler hit, drawing people in with its unfolding mystery and then blowing their minds with surreal moments like Cooper’s dream of the backwards-talking, dancing dwarf. The show petered out creatively and was cancelled in the second season, and after the unsuccessful (but secretly great) feature film Fire Walk With Me, Twin Peaks was finished.
Our collective unconscious, however, wasn’t finished with Twin Peaks. The show’s memory was kept alive by a devoted cult following, and it has reverberated deeply through pop culture. Its most obvious descendants are surrealism-tinged mystery series like Lost and True Detective, but the undefinable Lynchian sensibility can be found in places as diverse as the experimental-video-art-sketches of Tim and Eric or the rap-themed dramedy Atlanta. The show was also especially popular in Japan, as testified by Twin Peaks-influenced videogames like the satirical Americana odyssey Earthbound or the horror series Silent Hill.
Which brings us back to the present moment, as Twin Peaks returns 25 years later to a cultural landscape heavily shaped by its legacy. What will the new episodes be like? No-one really knows, which is part of what’s so exciting. All we can say is that it promises to be Lynch’s purest and most uninhibited effort in the TV medium yet, as the new era of premium cable has opened the doors to auteurist creative control and unrestricted content guidelines. So we wait to see what new wonders and horrors the woods hold, and if they can give us comfort in these strange and turbulent times. And remember, the owls are not what they seem.