The opening sequence to Twin Peaks sets the stage for the town we're about to enter intoTWITTER/PROBABLYALISSA

You would be entirely forgiven for never having heard of Twin Peaks before. I received the boxset for my 18th birthday, knowing little of what was to come. The show, like the town it’s about, is a quietly dangerous mess of characters, plotlines and motifs from the early 90s. The story begins with an investigation into the murder of local teenager Laura Palmer; however, it quickly devolves into a confusing analysis of sleepy border-town politics that harbour hidden depths, replete with wood cladding and questionable hairstyles. Not to mention the hallucinations, occasionally moralising tone, and the oddly frequent theme of demonic possession. As things get more complicated, we realise that the identity of Laura’s killer is the least intriguing thing about the series.

Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, speaking into his iconic DictaphoneTWITTER/PROBABLYALISSA

My mum sold it to me as the kind of show that had become a cult classic even as it was being released. In the early 1990s, newspapers and tabloids were treating the fictional murder as a real-life case. We encounter the town and its folk slightly before the discovery of Laura’s body, and slowly attempt to make sense of it all alongside FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, dispatched to the town to solve the case. As the episode progresses, we learn more about Laura: she was loved by all, having touched everyone’s life in some way. We also begin to realise that there’s something wrong with the town. Even the apparently “normal” Agent Cooper acts increasingly bizarre. He carries with him a Dictaphone, narrating his life to an unknown, unseen secretary named Diane. He takes his coffee “as black as midnight on a moonless night”, pins his investigations on that dream he had a few years back about Tibet, and wears more Brill-o hair wax than is probably healthy. He starts out as peculiar, but moves steadily towards downright weird, his dreams serving as moments for further exposition, or confusion, as the case may be. My fifteen-year-old sister denounced him as unattractive, preferring instead the scenes with the younger cast members. This was before she stopped watching the show entirely.

“We realise that the identity of Laura’s killer is the least intriguing thing about the series.”

Be that as it may, he plays an integral role throughout the series, as it is through one of his dreams that we finally come to see the Red Lodge. Often alluded to, the red velvet-curtained room makes an appearance early in season one. Cooper appears twenty-five years older, alongside a dwarf who can only speak backwards, and who informs him that his favourite gum will soon be back in style. Also present is the dwarf’s supposed cousin, who looks remarkably like Laura Palmer, and who also can only speak backwards. She tells him that, sometimes, her arms bend back. The Red Lodge, its counterpart the Black Lodge, and later the White Lodge, are all somehow involved in the twisted game being played in the town, with characters in the Lodges being doubled by murderous doppelgangers and bodily possession.

The peculiarities of the Red Lodge are signalled through the eccentric settingTWITTER/CHOPPINGWOODPOD

Nevertheless, Cooper goes about his investigations of the townspeople in the highest of spirits. The cast is extensive, each role more eclectic than the last. Special mention must be made of the Log Lady (simply, a woman who owns a log that speaks to her — which, of course, saw something on the night of Laura’s death…), and David Duchovny in season two, who appears as transgender FBI Agent Denise. The main thrust of the show lies in its bizarre characters. It simply wouldn’t work if they were “normal”. We do see the usual clashes play out: generational differences, city police officers and the local bumbling cops, or unhappily married couples. On the face of it, Twin Peaks is made up of believable, hardworking American people and their families.

We see Laura's life through videos like this, on a picnic with her friend DonnaTWITTER/VIDAISONLINE

However, we quickly learn that each and every one of them is twisted in one way or another, and nothing is as simple as it first seems. Side characters appear and disappear with apparently no narrative impact. Everyone seems to have a hand in something illegal, whether that be a covert property deal, staffing their brothel with underage girls, smuggling drugs across the border, or straight-up plotting a murder. The townsfolk have woven a knotted web; Laura alone has two boyfriends (one public, one secret) and a combined total of 40 sexual partners — as indicated in her diary, which was published to accompany the series. She is not the exception, though. It seems as though no-one is happily married. Every spouse is actively cheating on the other, no-one tells the truth, and no attention is paid to those who are too caught up in it all to disentangle themselves. In short, it is in the fatal quirks of each personality and the suffocating “small town” environment that prove the catalysts for Laura’s death.

“Each character is twisted in one way or another, and nothing is as simple as it first seems.”

The series is utterly captivating, if a little bewildering. The narrative pinwheels from slow discussions of coffee and cherry pie in the diner, to autopsies conducted under flickering lights, to bar brawls and the threat of the killer striking again. The story picks you up from one moment, only to drop you into the next, with little idea of what to expect. Certain references that initially seem important are never mentioned again — equally, momentary glimpses of faces or names could end up proving to be the crux of the entire show. Indeed, show creator David Lynch acted on this very principle after the pilot, when the face of one of the set designers appeared by mistake in a mirror in the background of the final shot. He would later become Bob, a demonic figure that has a nasty habit of possessing people…


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Recreating the Magic of Cinema

With incredible fashion that left my sister struggling for words, endlessly quotable nonsense (“one day my log will have something to say about this”), and plot choices that will have you reeling, forever more trying to work out who really killed Laura Palmer, the series only gets better the more you get invested. Wrapped in a synth soundtrack that is as haunting as it is iconic, against the surrounding forest of Douglas Firs, Twin Peaks is a must-watch.