Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks ★★★★★

"She's dead. Wrapped in plastic."

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions, especially in terms of film. Things like A Charlie Brown Christmas, the classic It's a Wonderful Life, or, in some cases, Die Hard. For me, there are three things I make a point to revisit every holiday season. The first is the most recent, being the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia Christmas special, which I watched a few days ago but could log as it's not on here. Anything that contains the lines "Did you fuck my mom, Santa Claus?" and "We're trying to give you the Christmas spirit here, dickhole!" is all right in my books. The second is, of course, Black Christmas, one of the greatest slasher films ever made (and, perhaps ironically, directed by the same man who later made A Christmas Story). And the final Christmas tradition-y film (or I guess TV show) is Twin Peaks.

Allow me to explain myself a bit: nothing in Twin Peaks (the atmosphere, the setting, the subject material, it even takes place in February) suggests Christmas-time viewing, so that makes it an even stranger choice in tradition than my (already unconventional) previous two. Still, the first time I started watching Twin Peaks was close to Christmas (I was taking piano lessons at the time, and I started watching the same day as my piano recital - the year after that, I would be playing the theme to this at the same recital). I had a needle, a thread, and two bowls of popcorn and cranberries, respectively, and was making a string to hang on the tree. I also had a pile of presents by my side and was wrapping them, all while slowly being transported into David Lynch's strange, fantastic world of Twin Peaks. So every year, as White Christmas begins to play on the radio and a fire crackles in my fireplace, I cannot resist revisiting Lynch's magnum opus television masterpiece.

"The lonesome foghorn blows..."

Twin Peaks is already a town fully realized. While Blue Velvet's Lumberton could feel like nearly any American town (which Lynch used to his advantage), Twin Peaks is fully and completely its own, while still maintaining familiar aspects for the audience to latch onto. It's a town where everyone knows everyone - but everyone still has secrets. Enter Special Agent Dale Cooper, his only companion being Diane the tape recorder, and to him Twin Peaks is wonderful. They shut themselves off from the world, to enter Twin Peaks is to enter a portal to another time, with so many quirks and oddities that one would have to try not to love them. But there is a darkness in the woods, a price they pay for seclusion, which strikes out at times, such as murdering Laura Palmer. Evil has many agents in Twin Peaks, some of them may not be those you'd suspect.

And then there's Laura herself. As the Man from Another Place said, "She's full of secrets." She volunteered for Meals on Wheels, she worked the perfume counter at Horne's department store, she was Homecoming Queen. She hated asparagus. But there was a darkness behind Laura, a sadness. When Cooper suggested that Laura might be doing cocaine, Sheriff Truman simply replied, "You didn't know Laura Palmer." But, like everyone else in Twin Peaks, nothing is exactly as it seems, and everyone can surprise you. The evil in Twin Peaks consumed her, as it had done to others before her, and will do to more after her.

As expected, Lynch films Twin Peaks beautifully: the luscious greens, deep reds, and enveloping blacks make the hauntingly beautiful (and grainy) pictures all the more astounding. Twin Peaks is often accredited to be the first television show shot like a movie, and that's certainly an accolade well deserved - everything on display here looks absolutely marvelous. Lynch frames everything incredibly well in the 4:3 aspect ratio (one which, besides some short films, I don't believe he really worked in before); it never feels too crowded or too empty. Lynch's sense of timing has always impressed me: something I always notice when watching a film is when I believe a shot is too long or (most of the time) too short. Lynch is one of the few directors who I believe to really have a concrete sense of timing in their editing, nothing overstays its welcome to disappears too soon, and, save for a few exceptions (and by that I literally mean about two shots), Twin Peaks is, as Dale Cooper would say, a damn fine example.

Lynch's sense of humor is fully on display here: while this pilot does feature a lot of dramatic moments (as people finding out that Laura Palmer was murdered takes up a lot of its run-time), Lucy's antics, the Norwegians ("Everyone here has a gun! No good!"), and others do provide some of Lynch's signature dark humor. His surrealism, while restrained, can also be felt: while the mythological or (for lack of a better word) supernatural elements of Twin Peaks only began to really be incorporated by Zen or: The Skill to Catch a Killer (with the iconic dream sequence), some of the Lynchian weirdness is on display. The use of the red stoplight also feels like Lynch playing around with his surrealism, but in a much more subtle way (probably so as not to alienate television viewers too much).

Twin Peaks went through a lot during its thirty episode run. It packed a lot of sub-plots (many unresolved to this day), a lot of characters, mood, emotion, beautiful music, terror, humor, satire, just about everything you could want from a television show. It reached highs that no television show had reached before, and none has since, and it also crashed to disappointing lows. No matter how many times I revisit Twin Peaks, it still feels new. At the same time, if this makes any sense, it also feels old: it feels lived in, like the characters have known each other for forever. Twin Peaks is the world to these people. I wouldn't doubt that many have never traveled more than five miles outside of its border. And, due to Lynch's convincing and steady directorial hand, when I watch it, Twin Peaks is the world to me, too.

Let's bring on 2016!!!

"One chants out between to worlds: Fire...walk with me."

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