I’ve downed the first season and I’m ready to share some thoughts (hopefully not the usual Red Room stuff) on it with you lovely people. In case you’re wondering why I’m up to this check out my first post on the series here. Grab a cup of coffee and pull-up a pew, it’s time to head into the weird, weird world of Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks starts off concerned with the murder of high schooler and homecoming queen Laura Palmer and the subsequent murder investigation by Twin Peaks’ Sheriff’s Department and FBI agent, Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan). But this isn’t just some simple but of CSI that kept audiences gripped in the early 90s before they even knew what CSI was. No, this was a series by David Lynch and Mark Frost that attempted to depict the full impact of one person’s death on a rural community and the ripples it created and the whirlpools it uncovered.
During the pilot episode and much of the season, it is these ripples that are most explored. It’s strange how Laura’s death seems to have been the last straw for much of the town’s visible sanity. As expected, Laura’s parents cannot contain their grief as their world is seemingly turned upside down. The relationships Laura had with people she was expected to have relationships with (like Bobby, a star of his school’s football team) are shown to either have been duplicitous or not what her friends realised they were. In the immediate aftermath of her death, those who respond with emotion to the event are also, (though I haven’t seen season two yet), the least suspect as the race to find out whodunnit kicks into gear.
The play with public and private spheres that Lynch and Frost, along with the show’s other writers, manage to explore in the first season is more interesting than anything I ever saw on a show like Desperate Housewives and could have been the inspiration for shows like Six Feet Under. Because while we have the public images of everyone – Bobby, the “dutiful” boyfriend; Ben Horne, the family loving entrepreneur and so on – the series deeply explores the private lives of its characters and the faces they dare not show in the light of day.
And it’s these private lives that are the whirlpools that I mentioned earlier. In fact, it’s almost like the entire town of Twin Peaks is 99% occupied by sociopaths who continuously hide their true nature from those around them. About the only character who doesn’t have two sides to him, at least by the end of the first season, is Agent Cooper, who’s open honesty with everyone he meets is a stark contrast to the doublespeak of many of the other characters.
But what Laura’s death uncovers for the local law enforcement and those who are meant to be the moral guardians of the small town is that their town has somehow become a mouldering hole of dishonesty, evil and greed. There’s definitely a point after the first few episodes that Cooper and co. are beginning to see that Laura’s death has uncovered a lot more at work than just some deranged killer. When Sheriff Truman and Cooper are interviewing Doctor Jacoby in episode “The One-Armed Man”, the doctor says:
“Laura had secrets and around those secrets she built the fortress that, well that in my six months with her, I was not able to penetrate and for which I consider myself an abject failure.”
For me that line depicted not only Jacoby’s own dissatisfaction with not being able to help Laura when she was alive, but also a nod to the wider narrative that the town’s authority figures are disgusted with themselves for not knowing what was happening right under their noses. And as the first season nears its conclusion, the discovery of how the across border casino and brothel One Eyed Jack’s sources its “escorts” shows that the town is rotten from the inside out.