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Twin Peaks: Still powerful 25 years later

Twin Peaks: Still powerful 25 years later

Twin Peaks one

“Fellas, coincidence and fate figure largely in our lives.”
Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)

The moment is still seared into the pop culture consciousness; the pretty blonde Homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) found dead and wrapped in plastic on the shores of an picturesque Washington logging town. The show Twin Peaks is still startling, epic, funny, mindboggling, weird, and game changing. Twenty-five years later, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s fever dream of Americana gone dark is still landmark television at its finest.

FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) arrives in the small town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer, which has eerie similarities to another case with another dead girl. He meets the quietly smart but confused Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) and starts digging into the increasingly bizarre case. There’s Laura’s bad boy boyfriend Bobby (Dana Ashbrook, in full early 90s crush mode), who’s both a quarterback and a drug dealer. There’s the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), and the seductive, curious Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn). That doesn’t even began to scratch the surface of the plot.

Watching Twin Peaks again, or even for the first time today, is an intense experience. It doesn’t feel twenty-five years old, it still feels fresh and unique. From the very first episode, perhaps one of the best pilot episodes ever filmed, Frost and Lynch didn’t waste any time; they just jumped right in and created this bizarre world that also managed to be effortlessly engrossing. What’s so terrifying about the show is that some of the storylines’ most pronounced terrors could actually be a reality. As with most things from David Lynch, the show’s tone is deceptive. Beneath the eerily calm music and humor are some of the darkest themes ever introduced on television.  Nestled between the series’ self-aware camp and soapy drama are disturbing moments, grim acts of violence, and evil deeds. Twin Peaks meshed these worlds together, and for their effort, the show became what is easily the most original series of the last twenty-five years.

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The reach of Twin Peaks has been discussed endlessly. The show’s deep surrealism, tone, and storytelling techniques have become touchstones for today’s modern television landscape. Season-long plot lines weren’t as common then as they are today, and shows like Lost and 24 owe a debt to Twin Peaks for their formula. Shows like True Detective, with their mix of surrealist and everyday terror, are directly influenced by Twin Peaks. It’s obvious that shows like The X-Files, which premiered two years after Twin Peaks went off the air, would have never survived, or even made it to screens in the first place, if Twin Peaks hadn’t come before it.

Twenty-Five years later, Twin Peaks still stands as the standard for modern television. It redefined what TV could be. Challenging, terrifying, funny, fierce, and exceptional, Twin Peaks was the game changer that started it all.

Tressa Eckermann