This weekend, at the expense of sleep, exercise, and pretty much any exposure to the sun, I inducted myself into the very strange club of people who have seen Twin Peaks. I watched every episode in a row. If it weren’t for the fact that I no longer live in Austin, I would have undoubtedly watched the prequel/sequel movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, after hunting it down at local rare video rental landmarks Vulcan Video or I Love Video, probably dying shortly thereafter of Overexposure to Lynchian Themes.
Given the heavily publicized upcoming release of Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery, the extended blu-ray edition of the show, the staff at Loser City have decided to do a week of Twin Peaks material, the first of which being this “newbie’s take” article.
Prior to my marathon, everything I knew about Twin Peaks I had learned from the Internet, which actually made me feel like I knew a good amount. If you’re active on Tumblr at all—and let’s face it, I write about niche-y pop culture so we all know I’m on Tumblr—you’ve encountered a Dale Cooper thumbs-up, an artful doodle honoring donuts and pie and coffee, or a charming image of The Log Lady. Thus, I’ve always had just enough information to coast on during pop culture conversations, despite never having seen the show. This secondhand exposure definitely affected me once I was finally watching it, but it turns out I had a lot to learn before I was a true member of the Twin Peaks fandom.
Here’s a few things I learned as I binge watched Twin Peaks for the first time:
Twin Peaks is not Dante’s Peak
No lie, I kept waiting for the volcano to come into play. Don’t know how I never encountered anything to disprove the ridiculous media-fusion I’ve lived with for my whole life, but here we are and, hey, now I have a nice cheesy disaster flick to watch next weekend.
Spoilers Didn’t Matter (That Much)
One neat thing about the Twin Peaks fandom is that much of it is devoted to appreciating very plot-unrelated things like setting and atmosphere, character quirks, the soundtrack, and, well, David Lynch. So I went into the show having pretty much no clue what actually happened. This was exciting for me—all the cliffhangers would really be cliffhangers! I could watch like the Original Viewers of yore!
The truth is I didn’t end up caring so much about the jaw-dropping reveals and major plot elements as I did the character development. I almost intentionally “spoiled” myself a few times as I Googled or Tumbled around to learn more about a certain character or symbol, and it just didn’t end up mattering that much to me, especially given that I was hurtling through the series all in one go anyway. (Honestly, the effect of marathoning a show that should probably be watched serially could be an article in itself.)
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This lack of concern is partly, I’m sure, a function of my own personal viewing tendencies. I’ve never placed as much emphasis on spoilers in my viewing experience because I believe the value of a show should be separated from how often it can shock or surprise you. If the primary value of a significant episode comes down to the fact that it contains a shocking twist, I consider that a failed episode. I need setting, atmosphere, character development, great dialogue, framing, lighting, a strong control of tone, etc. But that’s just me. So as a person who skews Mad Men rather Breaking Bad—that is to say, prefers “character-driven” over “plot-driven” TV—I was far more concerned with how Laura Palmer’s slowly-revealed secrets impacted the behavior of those left behind than I was with how they contributed to the progression of the story or the solving of the crime.
This is all to say: watching a cult classic serialized drama that aired thirty years ago and has a rabid fanbase that’s very active on sites that I frequent didn’t “spoil” me to any significant degree, and even when it did, I didn’t care.
It’s Really Effing Scary
Another result of my encounters with the Twin Peaks fandom was that I was sorely unprepared for how much of this TV show is straight-up nightmare fuel. Yes, I understood that it was a David Lynch creation, and I’ve seen Blue Velvet and stuff, but it was sold to me as “Gilmore Girls meets The Twilight Zone” and my brain really interpreted that as Gilmore Girls plus, you know, some spooky lighting. The thing about .gifs and screencaps is that, by virtue of “sharability” and the nature of subjects that communities tend to bond over, they’re comprised of probably 70% funny stuff, about 28% sexy stuff (maybe more, depending on which part of the Internet you live in), and no more than 2% freaky, serious, dramatic, scary stuff. THESE PERCENTAGES DO NOT DO AN ACCURATE JOB OF REPRESENTING HOW OFTEN A SCENE IN TWIN PEAKS MADE ME DO THIS:
Twin Peaks veterans, I beg you: before you let your loved ones watch this series, properly inform them that it’s a dark and chilling world they’ll be entering, despite all the pie.
The Pie Isn’t Always Cherry
Sometimes it’s huckleberry, y’all! What even?!?! This is a fandom pain point, I’d argue. I was not expecting pie variety and it threw off my viewing experience.
It’s So Soapy!
Something I tend to forget about “serialized dramas” is that the term can often be straight-up code for “soap opera.” Everyone—and I mean this with Archer-level sincerity—literally everyone is sleeping with everyone else. And plotting to kill someone. And lying. And speaking in riddles. And like never ever going to school, despite the fact that half the cast are outrageously mature-looking high-schoolers who presumably need to graduate on time so they can get the hell out of this murdery, rapey, creepy-ass small town with all the Douglas firs.
Possibly what I love most about the soap elements is how Lynch is hyper-aware of them and plays with them. Scenes of the fictional soap opera Invitation to Love, which often serve as transitions between scenes of Peaks itself, are a nice tongue-in-cheek way to both satirize and pay homage to the soapy nature of the show. My favorite bit is Invitation to Love’s title sequence, which advertises how one actress plays two stunningly different roles and is an obvious nod to Sheryl Lee, who shows up as both the blonde Laura Palmer and, in a somewhat half-hearted attempt at differentiation, her soft-spoken brunette cousin Maddy.
Dale Cooper + Harry S. Truman = OTP
You think the sexual tension between Cooper and Audrey Horne is hot? (And you should. Because it is. It really is…) That’s nothing compared to the deep and beautiful love connection forged by Cooper and Truman. Given the number of bizarre personality traits of Dale Cooper’s that I’d encountered on Tumblr before watching, I didn’t really expect him to have chemistry with anyone.
(Via Twin Peaks Secrets)
I was so wrong.
Coop and Truman are meant for each other. The conversations they share, faces inches from one another. Coop’s knowing glances. Truman’s wary but affectionate smirks. In the final episode, I like to think Truman takes so long to answer Andy’s questions because he’s lost in a haze of memories, his heart leaden with the possibility that Cooper could get hurt or killed before Truman has professed his love.
Most Importantly, What I Learned, Of Which I Had Heretofore been Tragically Unaware, Is That This Scene Exists:
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(This entire plotline, and especially this scene, makes me incredibly uncomfortable on levels I didn’t even know existed. But my god, I’m so glad it’s been committed to film.)
Kayleigh Hughes is an editor, freelance writer, and overthinker. In addition to contributing to Loser City, Kayleigh occasionally writes for xoJane. Talk to her about literally anything–she doesn’t have that many friends–on twitter or via email.