It doesn’t take long for the viewer to catch on that Twin Peaks: The Return is one long deconstruction of the more or less traditional murder mystery that originally catapulted the show into the public’s imagination. The distance of twenty-five years has a way of eroding a story, especially given the evolving perspective of the aging creators who constitute its collective memory, creators who are under no illusion of recapturing the mindset of their former selves. Laura’s life and murder are incidents fixed at specific points in time in our collective memories, and it was the tantalizing details of this terrible crime that drew us in and hooked us into the Twin Peaks universe. But time has a way, too, of separating such details from their prior circumstances. What if this murder that obsessed a nation so long ago was but a trivial detail in a greater cosmic saga? The more we obsess over these mundane details, or even expect its sequel season to shed light on its causes and tie up its loose ends, the more we are likely to miss this grander story. I’m telling you, man, this shit is deep – or at least as deep as the viewer is willing to descend and lose themselves in Lynch and Frost’s twisted storyline.
We don’t know exactly where Lynch and Frost intended to take the Twin Peaks story at the time of its cancellation, and it’s fairly safe to say that Twin Peaks: The Return is a far cry from the show they would have made 25 years ago. Okay, so yeah, they actually wrote the line in which Laura says to Cooper, “I’ll see you again in 25 years,” but that’s a line in a script for an actress to deliver as a fictional character, not some coded pact the creators were making with their audience. How could these two men, let alone any of us, possibly know what they would be doing, or where their hearts and heads would be, in 25 years’ time? And yet without any effort on either of their parts, and no doubt to their great shock and surprise, Twin Peaks had somehow taken on a life of its own. Its original run was a veritable poke in the eye to traditional network television fare, and its reputation (nay, legend) over the years had hardly diluted its strangeness. Subsequent shows took to “borrowing” elements of Twin Peaks’ quirkiness, core mystery and mythology (X Files, Lost, Northern Exposure, Stranger Things, The Leftovers, etc.), but none of these were completely successful in capturing its quintessential oddness, mainly because they ended up sacrificing, unwittingly or not, Lynch’s unwavering commitment to his inscrutable vision for the usual adherence to narrative logic or audience expectation.
I’ve just recently returned from a trip to Twin Peaks, Washington. It’s a place that doesn’t actually exist but nevertheless enveloped me so completely in a world so mysterious, entrancing and even at times horrifying, that I never wanted to leave. Great art does this, it conjures a world so different from the hum-drum of our own that even the familiar takes on the vividness of a dream we carry with us after we’ve wakened. Twin Peak’s surrealism draws us in to such a degree that we hardly give it a second thought when we suddenly find ourselves in a room with red curtains where people walk and talk backwards. Nothing here is quite as it seems, but sadly, like a dream, it is not a world we can stay in. Still, it is impossible to leave from this place without seeing our own existence in a different light and, if perceiving is being, creating fundamental changes in us. Beneath the surface on which most of us pass our days is the dark forest home of our lives’ rawest and most irresolvable materials, and Twin Peaks, the creation of David Lynch and Mark Frost, is a deep, dark journey into this forest of our psyches.
Celebrity deaths don’t usually move me since my connection with any famous artist that I admire is primarily through their art, which survives their death. The death of David Bowie, however, has had an effect on me that is as unusual and unique as the man himself. I can’t help but think this has every bit to do with the way he died – a process he transformed into a work of art itself – as it does with the undeniable effect his music has had on me over the years. Everybody by now is aware of the circumstances behind the recording and release of his final album, Blackstar. The fact that an album recorded so late in his musical career can be held up to any of his best albums is an astonishing feat in itself, but that he made the album while knowing, after being diagnosed with cancer, he had only eighteen months left to live is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Thanks to Spotify, the music here at WMCW plays non-stop, even if yours truly happens to be the only one who tunes in to this particular frequency on my own radio station of the mind. Since I began my premium subscription at the start of 2015, I have found no shortage of music to listen to, and I have encountered few bands or albums that Spotify doesn’t have. This would be, on the surface at least, any music lover’s dream. Indeed, I’ve been wishing for this state of unfettered access since the internet has hinted it might be possible. But after more than half a year as a Spotify subscriber, the streaming service has made me more intensely aware of a disconcerting change that has been taking place in my relationship to music for some time.