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.

28 Nov 2017

no.1// Lost in Space: Twin Peaks 3 and Lynch's Late-Period Sublime

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

Disorientation sets in almost immediately. A glistening helicopter shot of the New York skyline wrenches us from the clearly circumscribed, immaculately dressed set of our Twin Peaks reboot fantasies, before it has even had the chance to materialise. This recurring, HD flight over New York, along with similarly pristine shots of Las Vegas, threatens to usurp the sea of shaking pines and slow-motion waterfalls as a representation of the trademark Lynchian ‘sublime’.

Twin Peaks 3 begins with a cut of 25 years: Cooper in the Red Room, sitting, waiting patiently, and then 25 years older, still waiting. Already, with this cut and the future shock that it elicits, we have a valuable key to appreciating everything that follows. Twin Peaks 3 is about the passing of time, seen not as continuous change but as a disjunction between two temporal points. A whole world is interrupted, frozen, shelved, and then reanimated with a jolt, 25 years later. Rather than glossing over this temporal lacuna, David Lynch and Mark Frost have made a whole show about it. ‘Is it past or is it future?’, we’re asked. And then, much later: ‘What year is it?’

27 Nov 2017

Ten Short Essays on Twin Peaks: The Return

The third season of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks completed its 18-part run on 3rd September, a full 25 years after the previous installment of the franchise: the film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Like so much of contemporary culture, it promised my generation the chance to ‘relive’ a cultural memory that, although deeply engrained, we were too young to actually experience. It was carried onto screens on a wave of pre-emptive nostalgia, with a new generation of artists and commentators attesting to the deep and lasting influence of a cultural event that they missed the first time round.

Perhaps it was a lot easier to talk about Twin Peaks Season 3 (aka Twin Peaks: The Return, but henceforth Twin Peaks 3) before it actually happened. I've been struck by the comparative paucity of public discussion—especially now, in the wake of its cataclysmic final episode. I understand that this is partly a symptom of a strict taboo on spoilers (one of our culture's newest and most fearsome taboos), combined with the asynchronous nature of today’s streamed television ‘event’. Nevertheless, is there actually a consensus on whether Twin Peaks 3 was good or not? Was it as good as the original? Was it even better? From the few critical perspectives that have risen to the surface of public consciousness, it remains pretty hard to tell.

Still, this is hardly surprising. Twin Peaks was hard enough to talk about already, requiring 25 years of cultural digestion and canonisation to provide the meat for the think-piece previews. What's more, Twin Peaks 3 is nothing like Twin Peaks; in fact, taken in its 18-hour entirety, it is nothing like anything else. Showing an indifference to its own cult that borders on the sadistic, it seemed dead set on wrecking every planned fancy dress, coffee-and-cherry-pie viewing party. Of course, in denying the critics another shallow reboot that would cement the franchise’s existing reputation with triumphant reviews that read like eulogies, the new season has hopefully furnished us with decades of actual conversation, once the dust settles. This series of blogposts is my attempt to get in (relatively) early on the action.