Some TV shows define a generation. Everyone remembers the comedic antics of Friends, the geeky shenanigans of The Big Bang Theory, or Walter White’s self-destruction spiral in Breaking Bad. However, long before those shows arrived to audiences the world over, there was a show that was unlike anything we had ever seen on TV.
An auteur like David Lynch is hardly the first filmmaker one would think would agree to work on a serialized murder mystery – let alone one with clear comedic tones. That said, the director of The Elephant Man and Eraserhead proved naysayers wrong when he released Twin Peaks in 1990.
Simply put, Twin Peaks is a show like no other. The way the series handles its bizarre characters, the complex hidden meaning behind even the most innocuous of moments, and the show’s many enduring mysteries are only a handful of reasons why Twin Peaks remains such a cultural landmark to this day.
Even if you’ve never watched an episode of the show, chances are that you’ve seen something that was influenced in some capacity by Lynch‘s timeless masterpiece. All things considered, Twin Peaks is far from being the only piece of influential media Lynch ever produced – so what makes this show so memorable, even more than thirty years after its original TV run? The most likely answer lies in the many mysteries that still lie unsolved surrounding the idyllic town of Twin Peaks and its not-so-idyllic residents.
Good Plot, Great Coffee
To understand why Twin Peaks became such a massive media sensation, we have to get an eyeful at the state of the TV industry when the show was released. Even though they’re the norm these days, serialized dramas were still a rarity in the days of Twin Peaks.
At the time, most people saw Twin Peaks as a rather bizarre primetime crime soap opera. The way the plot moved forward episode by episode was not something that shows at the time usually did; shows like Seinfeld, Baywatch, or Wings presented episodes with little to no correlation between their plots. Sure, some aspects of the show carried over in between episodes, but the idea of TV shows being just long movies – as they are today – was still an alien concept.
However, if all Twin Peaks did was just “being weird” we probably wouldn’t be talking about this show today. No, the reason why so many people were immediately hooked by the idyllic town of Twin Peaks has to do with the iconic mystery at the center of it all: who killed Laura Palmer?
Laura‘s death soon became the talk of the town, with everyone coming up with bizarre theories about who in Twin Peaks would have a reason to want her dead. On the other hand, David Lynch did everything in his power to ensure that the mystery of Laura Palmer‘s killer never found a proper answer.
In a show with a surplus of eccentric characters, anyone could be the killer. Twin Peaks is famous for its clever use of red herrings and false clues that lead audiences to draw all sorts of (incorrect) conclusions. An intriguing mystery like this would fall flat without the proper cast, and that might just be Twin Peaks’ strongest suit.
An Ensemble of Weirdos
Every character in the world of Twin Peaks, no matter how small their role might be in the long run, offers a unique and highly entertaining performance. Of course, when it comes to iconic Twin Peaks characters, no one could resist the unparalleled performance of Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper.
The coffee-loving agent’s quirks and his easygoing nature turned him into an icon of 90s TV. MacLachlan‘s performance might be the best part of the show – and that’s saying something, considering just how seminal Twin Peaks has been for modern pop culture.
Modern (and not-so-modern) shows like The X-Files, Bates Motel, Carnivale, and even Riverdale show some clear traces of Twin Peaks DNA in their narrative structures. From the way they present their characters to the overall setting, the style Lynch created in Twin Peaks transcends generations.
It’s hard to find a show made in the early 90s that has aged as well as Twin Peaks. Sure, there are moments – mainly during Season Two – when the show begins to show its age, but most of the random cheap effects or cheesy scenes can just be attributed to David Lynch‘s peculiar filmmaking style. Remember Rabbits?
Speaking of Season Two, now that the show has three entire seasons, I believe we should revisit its most divisive moment: the season that almost turned Twin Peaks into one of those series people remember for their awful finales.
No Stone is Left Unturned
The appeal of a show as mysterious as Twin Peaks lies in its many mysteries. From the beginning, it’s clear that the focus of the series lies in the question of who killed Laura Palmer. As long as that question remains unanswered, Twin Peaks might live on in some capacity. That’s why it was such a disappointment for fans when her killer was revealed in the middle of Season Two.
Killer BOB, as great of a character as he is, marked the beginning of the end for the series’ original run. Audiences tuned in every week to discover who had killed an innocent girl in a peaceful town, and now that they got their answers, there was no reason to keep on watching. From that point on, Twin Peaks became a shadow of its former self.
Introducing bizarre plotlines that went nowhere became the norm for Twin Peaks. From Nadine developing super strength after a coma to James Hurley starting an affair with an affluent woman, these storylines sounded more like the usual soap opera affair rather than the usual genius that was the show’s first season. This is understandable, however, as the showrunners had just killed the core of Twin Peaks by revealing the killer’s identity.
David Lynch has been very clear over the years when it comes to answering questions about Twin Peaks. In his eyes, revealing the identity of Killer BOB was akin to “killing the goose that lays the golden egg.” In many ways, he was right. As we’ve said many times before, the allure of Twin Peaks – and essentially, of any David Lynch production – lies in the many unsolved mysteries that lie about in the heads of the audience long after the credits roll.
Of course, almost everyone now knows that BOB, a mysterious entity with malevolent purposes, is the one who killed Laura by possessing her father, Leland Palmer. That said, the matter of Laura‘s murder, as we learn towards the end of the show’s second season and during The Return, is only a fragment of a much larger enigma – a battle involving the forces of primordial good and evil that, for some reason, converged in a quiet town like Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks: The Return is every fan’s dream come true. A new season of the show, entirely directed by David Lynch, made its debut in 2017, which could potentially answer some burning questions left by Season Two’s eerie finale. Fans had been waiting more than twenty years for answers, but that doesn’t mean Lynch was ready to give them what they wanted.
If charismatic characters and engaging storylines are Twin Peaks’ coffee, then its many unsolved mysteries are its delicious slice of cherry pie. The very moment we first hear Angelo Badalamenti’s mesmerizing soundtrack, we know we’re in for a wild ride. Today, even three decades after the release of the original series, and six years after the release of Twin Peaks: The Return, there are still questions left unanswered – and they’ll likely stay that way, per Lynch’s wishes. Here are some enigmas that are waiting for answers in the world of Twin Peaks.
– BOB and Mike
Though we know a bit about their nuclear origins and their hazy connections to the Lodges, the backstory of Mike and BOB remains shrouded in mystery. Fitting, for some of the show’s most captivating concepts: the supernatural entities feeding on human emotions that are the catalyst for most of the series’ events.
– The Purple Sea
The residence of the Giant / Fireman (Carel Struycken) and the enigmatic Senorita Dido (Joy Nash,) the Purple Sea is a supernatural ocean where a Fortress and a Mansion are the only notable landmarks. What the Purple Sea represents and its exact location is still a mystery to fans.
– The True Nature of the Black Lodge
Perhaps the series’ most captivating mystery – even more than who or what killed Laura Palmer – is the Black Lodge itself. Almost every paranormal happening in Twin Peaks has ties to this supernatural place, a site that “isn’t in this world,” according to Dale Cooper, who spent 25 years trapped in its famous “Red Room.”
At its core, Twin Peaks is a show that deals with the moments in time when a catastrophic event breaks the apparent innocence of a community. Laura Palmer‘s death changed the face of a quaint little town forever, giving us one of the most iconic sagas in sci-fi TV history.
There will always be questions surrounding Twin Peaks – questions that will forever remain unresolved. If we can learn something from the show’s second season is that these unsolved mysteries are the force that keeps the show so alive in the minds and hearts of its fans. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get another revival two decades from now; after all, Twin Peaks is a damn good coffee: you can never get enough.
Cover credit: IMDb