Beginning in 1990 and creating a legacy of surrealism that led to his return in 2017, David Lynch twin peaks has become a cultural phenomenon like no other. With bizarre visuals, bizarre characters, and a mystery at its core, the series has baffled and confused fans and critics alike for decades.
After the initial series ended after two seasons in 1991, the following feature film Fire walk with me left many questions unanswered. Fans hoped that the 2017 revival series would finally iron out details from previous decades. However, in true David Lynch fashion, the show left audiences with even more questions, which are still unanswered five years later. With a show like twin peaks and a director like Lynch, can the details ever be ironed out, and more importantly, should they?
Before Twin Peaks started airing in 1990, David Lynch had already Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, and blue velvet under his belt. Given his repertoire, studios and audiences should have known what they were getting into with a Lynch-created TV show. However, no one could have predicted how culturally significant and utterly bizarre the show would be.
The plot seems straightforward at first glance: Homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s body is discovered naked and wrapped in plastic. Around the same time, a girl named Ronette Pulaski was also discovered seriously injured and a runaway. FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) comes to town to solve the murder, but it soon becomes apparent that the town and its people are below average.
Cooper continues to have weird and uncomfortable run-ins with the people of Twin Peaks, the show’s tone oscillating from daytime melodrama to disturbingly weird nightmare. Cooper has strange dreams of a red room, with strange characters who deliver cryptic clues to him about the Twin Peaks murders. The show didn’t shy away from being weird, filled with characters like the Log Lady, the Man Who Talks Backwards, and otherworldly beings MIKE and BOB. These beings inhabit the bodies of random townspeople, and although MIKE and BOB used to kill humans together, MIKE now wants to help stop BOB. BOB is the central antagonist of the series, a scary, denim-clad savage man who lurks around town and murders locals.
The second season delves deeper into the weirdness, with the central plot revolving around finding out who BOB is inhabiting and his ultimate plans. The Black Lodge also takes center stage as a place that is not just Cooper’s dream, but very real. Cooper learns that the White Lodge and the Black Lodge are real places and that BOB wants to claim the power of the Black Lodge.
The series culminates with Cooper being chased by a look-alike of himself before emerging into the woods. The final shot of Season 2 makes it clear that the Cooper who left the Black Lodge is the doppelganger, as he smashes his head into a mirror over and over while smiling menacingly. It was the end of Twin Peaks. The film Fire walk with me was released after the show ended, but it also offered little conclusion. It worked as a more serious prequel and somewhat of a sequel to the events of the TV show.
Then, after more than 25 years, fans of the show rejoiced as it was revealed that it would be returning for a third season. There would finally be answers to the questions that went unanswered for decades and fans would finally have a conclusion to Dale Cooper’s story. This did not turn out to be the case.
The third season saw stories set in different locations like Las Vegas, South Dakota, and Twin Peaks along with ethereal plains of existence. Season 3 saw Cooper’s doppelganger live Cooper’s life while the real Cooper is trapped in the Black Lodge. There’s also a second doppelganger called Dougie Jones, who ends up being drawn to the Black Lodge, allowing the real Cooper – bewildered and confused – to take his place in Vegas.
Not only does Season 3 take place in different locations, but it also shows different times. In 1945, the first atomic bomb explodes and the smoke spits out an orb with BOB’s face. There are frog creatures, talking feet and faces that open to reveal the black nothingness within. It was pretty clear that Season 3 might not be about to deliver the answers audiences wanted in a neat little arc.
Season 3 ended with the real Cooper finding a waitress who bears a striking resemblance to Laura Palmer whom he takes to Twin Peaks. Once they reach town, however, the Palmer house is occupied by another family. Copper is confused and the waitress (Carrie/Laura) hears Laura’s mother calling her name. The house lights go out and the show ends with a callback to Laura whispering to Cooper in the Red Room.
Once again, Lynch offered a mystery to end the show, with some fans angry and others elated. Most expected the third season to end with a lack of clarity, due to the nature of Lynch’s job. Lynch is known for his abstract and surreal style. Anyone who watches his weather reports knows that, let alone his cinematic endeavors.
By leaving the endings of the show’s multiple finales ambiguous, Lynch urges audiences to construct their own meanings and stories for what happens beyond the on-screen story. The heart of everything Lynch does is ambiguity. Of eraser head at Mulholland Drive at twin peaks, Lynch’s stories encourage audiences to use their own experiences and thoughts to extract meaning from what they create.
Intentionally, twin peaks is ambiguous and strange. That’s what makes it unique, and it’s a big part of what has made it such an enduring pop culture phenomenon. Any answers Lynch could provide could never live up to what the audience creates in their minds, which means the only logical conclusion to twin peaks there is no conclusion.
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