7 Dec 2017

no.8// Twin Peaks the Musical!

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to this series.

At the Roadhouse, every night is Twin Peaks night. The dream fades, the band rematerialises, the episode draws to a close, and Lynch turns the camera on us for the final few minutes. Our faces are still fixed on the stage, still glued to the screen with reverent patience, waiting for one more clue before the final credits roll. The fans at home convene with the fans in the crowd, sharing in this tribute, this séance, this 18-hour vigil, this wake for a beloved television series.

The Roadhouse is a portal to Twin Peaks. This is common knowledge. That’s why the hipsters gather there, night after night, to pay tribute. That’s why the artists make the pilgrimage, with their reverb pedals and their bewitched voices and their vintage pouts. They are summoned to the Roadhouse, just like the motley ensemble that Cooper summons decades before, for the revelation of Laura’s murderer. They gather and they wait for something to happen: for the Giant to appear, or Cooper, or Audrey.

In his Pitchfork article about the music of Twin Peaks 3, Daniel Dylan Wray attempts to articulate the role of the Roadhouse performances that end almost every episode:
The scenes, and the music within them, are used as a guide back toward something resembling reality, a reassuring embrace of the familiar following the rest of the show’s deeply disturbing and bizarre images. […] [O]nce you’re in the Roadhouse, you know you’re safe—relatively speaking, at least.
Wray recognises the Roadhouse’s liminality, as a gateway or antechamber between two worlds. He too suggests that the punters in the Roadhouse are somehow closer to ‘reality’ (closer to us) than the characters whose meandering ‘stories’ their appearance punctuates. But Wray’s gloss is ultimately unsatisfactory, begging more questions than it answers: How is music supposed to guide us back to reality? Beyond the superficial ‘familiarity’ that a music writer might feel when faced with ‘real-life’ musicians ‘playing themselves’, what is so ‘reassuring’, ‘safe’ or ‘real’ about musical performance? And why would a fictional text even want to ‘guide its viewers back to reality’ in the first place?

6 Dec 2017

no.7// The Blue Rose: TV as Performance Art

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to this series.

If there’s a true precursor to the seemingly unprecedented strangeness of Twin Peaks 3, it is the superb half-hour prologue to Fire Walk With Me: Chris Isaak, Kiefer Sutherland, Harry Dean Stanton, David Bowie, etc etc. In his monograph on Lynch, Michel Chion makes the point that Deer Meadow, the setting of this prologue, is effectively the opposite of Twin Peaks in every way (its evil doppelgänger, one might say). On arriving to investigate the murder of Teresa Banks, FBI Agent Chet Desmond discovers an alienating town with a hostile sheriff’s station, an unfriendly diner with bad coffee, and no discernible community spirit.

Deer Meadow and Twin Peaks seem to have merged together in this new series. Harry Dean Stanton’s eerie Fat Trout Trailer Park once seemed a world away; in 2017, however, we discover the trailer park transplanted like an organ into Twin Peaks without its being rejected. The two towns are overlaid and their differences neutralised.

There is an even more significant reason why this sequence is the spiritual precursor of Twin Peaks 3 though, and it has to do with Gordon Cole’s cousin Lil.

5 Dec 2017

no.6// Manufacturing Narrativity in Twin Peaks 3

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to the series. 

Early on in the original season of Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper learns the identity of Laura’s killer in a dream. On awakening, he immediately phones Sheriff Truman to inform him of this knowledge, but tells him that the disclosure of the killer ‘can wait until morning’. Unfortunately for Cooper (but luckily for the audience), by the next morning he has forgotten the killer’s identity completely. Thus, three episodes into the show, the alien logic of the Black Lodge comes perilously close to undermining the show’s constitutive mystery—betraying Laura’s secret without this revelation having been earned by either Cooper or the audience—and thus scuppering its narrative trajectory. In the event though, narrativity is saved by Cooper’s forgetfulness, and the mystery is only intensified.

Let’s compare this moment to the relationship developed between Cooper and the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks 3, which I can only describe as an inversion or parody of that iconic dream sequence. Rather than an unpredictable fount of gnomic clues, threatening the integrity of what should be a conventional murder mystery narrative, the Black Lodge (and Mike, its custodian) appears to be one of the last sources of narrative momentum in the Twin Peaks universe: a final bulwark against total stasis.

3 Dec 2017

no.5// Return, Repeat, Refuse

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to this series.

Is it... happening again?

The horror of compulsive repetition is at the heart of the Twin Peaks franchise.

Teresa Banks and then Laura and then Maddy and then Donna and then Annie and then Audrey. Ritual sacrifice.

To ask for a repetition of Twin Peaks is to ask for another dead body, another dead girl, another secret history of violence and abuse, all wrapped up in a comforting shroud of picturesque mysticism. As with all murder mysteries, the thrill of the original series derives from the friction between the two chronologies that the murder initiates: the first, linear, the mystery-solving procedure; the second, cyclical, the murderer killing again and again. The dynamic behind serial murder, as the original series showed us, isn’t so much accumulation as repetition. Maddy and Donna: they were vulnerable because they were Laura’s doubles (or, because they came to occupy the position that Laura had previously occupied for the murderous men of the show). Laura had to be killed, over and over.

1 Dec 2017

no.4// The Stagnation of Twin Peaks

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to the series.

Twin Peaks 3 is about the passing of time: a portrait of asynchrony, two time periods overlaid. Agent Cooper is still sitting in the Red Room—in the same chair, wearing the same clothes—but his face is 25 years older. Major Briggs’s body is found 25 years after his disappearance, but it hasn’t aged a day.

Twenty-five years later, a much-loved TV franchise returns to our screens. Twin Peaks 3 reminds us that time doesn’t pass in a uniform manner. Twenty-five years have elapsed—this fact is inescapable. We can never go back. And yet the passage of those 25 years will have proceeded in many different ways, according to many different routes with many different destinations, and all of these simultaneously, in the same world: the frayed threads of a once tightly woven rope. In this way, there can be asynchrony even in contemporaneity. Time doesn’t proceed with the linearity of TV narrative. If we lose the thread in 1992, we can’t expect to recover a unified narrative in 2017, 200 hypothetical episodes later.

Twenty-five years later, a much-loved TV franchise returns to our screens. But this isn’t The Force Awakens, or Blade Runner 2049; in Lynch and Frost’s take on the cult revival, nothing is taken for granted. Instead, the show’s creators use this opportunity to ask: how is time supposed to pass? How did we expect or wish for time to pass when we celebrated the announcement of this new season back in 2014? And what do we want our reboots, our nostalgia vehicles, to ‘say’ about the passing of time?

30 Nov 2017

no.3// The Gentrification of Twin Peaks

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to the series.

The seventh episode of Twin Peaks 3 ends with a long, static shot of the Double R Diner. The place is buzzing, full of customers. We watch Shelly and Heidi serve them, as they have presumably been doing, day in day out, for the 25 years since we saw them last. We don’t know who these people are. We can’t catch their conversations. All we can do is sit in the corner and watch.

This significant scene—and, to a lesser extent, analogous shots in Big Ed’s garage and the Roadhouse after hours—encapsulates one of the key effects of the rupture in time on which the show is constructed: the gentrification of Twin Peaks. As I wrote in the previous post, Twin Peaks (and Twin Peaks, the franchise) has been set adrift within a wider world, its inside and its outside both subsumed within the amorphous sprawl of Lynch’s USA. But the world has also entered Twin Peaks. Just look at the crowd of faceless hipsters congregating at the Roadhouse for its nightly Angelo Badalamenti tribute hour. Who are these people? We are teased with names, faces, snatches of dialogue, fragments of lives filled with drama and intrigue, but we are never allowed to know these people.

(“Has anyone seen Billy?” No. And we never will.)

29 Nov 2017

no.2// The Worlding of Twin Peaks and the Crisis of White America

This is one of my ten short essays about Twin Peaks Season 3. Click this link to read my introduction to the series.

Expelled from hell, Dale Cooper crashes to Earth.

Watching Cooper’s cartoonish attempts at navigating real-life Las Vegas, I was reminded of nothing less than a newly 3D Homer Simpson, clambering out of a West Hollywood dumpster after being torn from his animated world and dropped into real life, via the mathematical wormhole behind the bookshelf in ‘Treehouse of Horror VI’.

Although nominally the same world from which he disappeared 25 years prior, the world of Twin Peaks 3 is clearly more real than the soap opera/crime drama world he left behind. Thus, the series ironically invokes that most hackneyed of movie tropes in which a beloved fictional character, usually resident within a self-enclosed fantasy world, is forcibly transplanted into (urban) ‘everyday life’, with comedic consequences (recent examples include the Smurfs movie, the Chipmunks movie, the Goosebumps movie, even Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). The jarring cheapness of this trope is further reproduced through the flattening of Cooper’s character into a few meaningless trademarks: slicked hair, coffee, cherry pie, thumbs up, etc.