Counterpart or Contrast: Is Season 3 Still Twin Peaks, or Something Else?

“Black Lodge/White Lodge” is the occasional 25 Years Later version of the popular point/counterpoint style of debating, wherein two sides take opposing views and hash it out on stage. Here, we’ll be debating the finer points of Twin Peaks lore, in writing, for your reading pleasure.

Today’s debaters are: Brien Allen and Paul Billington

The topic is: Was Season 3 “Twin Peaks” (or something else)?


Black Lodge: Brien Allen

NO

To answer this question, we’ve first got to ask, what does it mean to be Twin Peaks? What made the original series Twin Peaks? Recall that when Fire Walk With Me originally came out, there were a lot of fans up in arms about it not being Twin Peaks. It was so much darker than the original series. And more importantly, it was coming from only half of the Lynch-Frost partnership. Even during Season 2, we can look to the James Hurley-Evelyn Marsh storyline and recall again how fans were losing their collective minds over this subplot and how it was not Twin Peaks either. It’s still routinely cited as the low point of the original series and mocked relentlessly online.

Twin Peaks was, at its core, a soap opera. All the plots were interconnected. It was a small town, after all. Who could have predicted that Mike and Nadine would be an item in the latter half of season 2? Or that Bobby would team up with Audrey to help cure her father’s mental illness? This was the problem with the Evelyn Marsh storyline. James was not only isolated by himself as the only core Twin Peaks character in those scenes, he had physically left the town. The show was called Twin Peaks after all. Why were we not in Twin Peaks?

So too is it with Season 3. One intrepid Redditor, u/RunDNA, had been keeping track on time spent in each location up through Part 14 (after which it became too hard and they gave up on the project), and the results are telling:

  • 4:45:27 Twin Peaks
  • 1:06:29 Red Room, etc.
  • 3:03:55 Las Vegas
  • 2:36:20 South Dakota
  • 1:22:43 All others (New York, Buenos Aires, etc.)
  • Total: 12:54:54

So up through the first 14 parts, only a little over a third of Twin Peaks Season 3 was spent in the actual location of Twin Peaks. The last 4 parts may have tipped the scales a bit more in the right direction, but counter that with the fact that the Twin Peaks time includes all of the “Roadhouse randoms” scenes and the closing credit musical performances at the Roadhouse. Do those count? Should those count? The bottom line is, if being Twin Peaks means you need to be *in* Twin Peaks, then Season 3 is not doing very well on that particular measure.

Speaking of those “Roadhouse randoms” scenes, let’s discuss that for a minute. These scenes, with their Billys and their Tinas and their itchy armpit girls—what the hell was that all about anyway? Those scenes weren’t even Twin Peaks Season 3, let alone Twin Peaks. David Lynch has said in a post-Season 3 interview that those scenes were intended to be little windows onto the town of Twin Peaks, to show us that life carries on there. They are not really part of the series. They are like catching glimpses of entirely different shows as you channel surf looking for something good to watch—and these shows aren’t it. Despite Lynch not liking it, the comparison to Invitation To Love is apt.

To be fair, the remaining Twin Peaks time did revisit a few of our original favorites and give us some genuine character progression, most especially with the Nadine-Big Ed-Norma love triangle. However, other bits gave us painfully clichéd caricatures, like Shelly still loving the bad boys, Lucy being bowled over by modern technology, and a drugged out Jerry Horne endlessly running through the woods. Likewise, while many of the new Twin Peaks character were compelling and given fulfilled character arcs, several turned out to be frustratingly meaningless dead ends, like Red, the Farmer, and Beverly’s husband Tom. Apparently, having always regretted being forced to reveal Laura’s killer in Season 2, Lynch and Frost now “keep the mystery alive” by subjecting us to all kinds of dangling plot lines and unanswered mysteries.

Music is another factor working against Season 3. Lynch purged the series of the old familiar refrains of Angelo Badalamenti’s soft jazz in the background. Now, it’s all been replaced with “atmospheric whooshing”, “electricity crackling”, and other such sound cues, as David Lynch chose instead to overindulge himself in sound design for the series. Julie Cruise, the original Roadhouse music act, was finally featured at the end of Part 17, only to have her song cut off, while other closing credit artists went on and on for 6 minutes or more (can’t have enough choruses of “no stars” after all).

The mythology of Twin Peaks was taken to a new level in Season 3, which is not necessarily unexpected nor a bad thing. However, part of what made the original series so amazing was that the supernatural aspects used to be subtle, working behind the scenes through dreams and visions, with enough room to leave us questioning if BOB was real or just in Leland’s head. Or indeed if anything about the Red Room was “real”. Now in the new season, people take their faces off in public, Woodsmen explode people’s heads in broad daylight, and a glass box monster Cuisinarts a young couple to a bloody pulp in one of the final scenes of the premier.

While the fans were getting slapped in the face for the audacity to expect a little nostalgia from Season 3, Lynch was turning Season 3 into his own personal nostalgia fest. One of the “puzzle box” aspects to Season 3 was trying to spot the actors, locations and themes Lynch had worked with in his past films and art work. Of course, the big casting decision was to bring on two of his favorite actresses, Laura Dern and Naomi Watts. Not only did he give them leading parts, but Lynch also made both of them love interests for Cooper, retroactively in the case of Diane, and completely ignored Annie Blackburn and Audrey Horne.

Audrey at least made it into the script, but she was originally going to be relegated to a bit part, only present to enforce the “badness” of new character Richard Horne. Thankfully, Sherilyn Fenn was brave enough to call out the emperor on his lack of clothing, and so she got her character’s part rewritten into something much more worthy, although ultimately disconnected from everything else that was going on in the series.

The Frost-Lynch partnership can best be explained by this quote from Wrapped in Plastic issue #9:

“Left to their own devices, Frost will cram too much plot into too short a space; Lynch will virtually ignore plot and spend too much time on atmospherics, mood and psychological quirkiness. Their collaborations, on the other hand, seem to strike the appropriate balance.”

The Pilot and Season 1 of Twin Peaks reflect this balance running at peak efficiency, pardon the pun. In Season 2, when Lynch lost interest and left things to Frost, the show got plotty and lost its way a little bit there. When Frost left Lynch alone to do the prequel he was uninterested in, things got dark and weird.

Even though they spent years together writing the scripts for Season 3, it seems pretty clear that after establishing that world building ground work, they left each other to their own devices. Frost had his eye on the book he wanted to write, a book that would eventually transform into two that would book end the new series. Lynch indulged himself to the max, transforming Twin Peaks Season 3 into just another weird ass David Lynch film. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t Twin Peaks.


White Lodge: Paul Billington

YES

“Permission to approach the bench?”

“…Ok, what is it counsel?”

“Sir, this was Twin Peaks. The titles said so.”

A pause.

“Defense rests.”

Ok—but seriously, can Season 3 be considered Twin Peaks is the question I am being asked (aside from the obvious use of the name and the main title theme?)

Yes indeed it can. For starters, and the most obvious route for me to take, is that it comes from the minds of Mark Frost and David Lynch—who, let’s face it, are Twin Peaks. That’s not to take away from the other writers of the first two seasons—far from it, as they were key in developing and continuing Frost and Lynch’s fever dream. No, this is simply acknowledging that these two damn fine folk created this show—it’s theirs to develop and stretch. They did this with Season 3 in both subtle and gross terms, which I understand both disappointed and thrilled new and old fans alike. But it was theirs to bring back, and move forward from, the 1990s. And instead of recreating nostalgia they used the solid grounding from the original and built something as expectation-dividing as that original show was.

“…We had the opportunity to go back and look at this very large set of characters and see what had happened to them and what their lives had done to, or for them, and then wrap it all in a larger context,” explained Mark Frost to Indiewire.com.

The feel of the show was retuned, but not in the same key: the music, the cinematography, the actors, the dialogue. Some were new variations, some were thematically different forms. But Fire Walk With Me did similar and that was/has been accepted by the Twin Peaks community (mostly—especially in the intervening years). Nothing stays static, and 25 years have passed—this is where that sleepy Northwestern town is now. It’s in a bigger world, a changed world. However it’s still Twin Peaks.

“For me,” Lynch explained to Deadline.com, “the pilot—the original pilot—is Twin Peaks, and this one here [Season 3] is Twin Peaks.” After the drifting during Season 2, he explained “This hopefully brought it back into a true world of Twin Peaks.”

Some familiar faces appeared throughout, in new or similar situations to where we last left them. Time has had its often-cruel way with several, but there they are—still in town and interacting with new residents and visitors. Nostalgia, though primarily what some viewers wanted from this new season, was in short supply yes—but then, if Twin Peaks broke new ground previously, wouldn’t it subvert expectations once more? Despite that, when talking about the returning cast and going back into that world, Lynch himself admitted to Deadline:

“They all know their characters, they know the world, and they love the world like me. It was so beautiful. I’m telling you—it was a lovefest.”

Whether or not fans thought that the return to Twin Peaks was done in the way they wanted, Lynch was there to return to a world he and the cast loved.

David Lynch was firmly in the directing seat, and he and Mark Frost completed all of the scripts together—a marriage that all fans had wanted to see repaired and blessed once more since their productive union all those years ago. Cooper’s apparent sacrifice at the end of Season 2 had not been forgotten like so many had feared, and in fact was the dominating narrative across 18 brand new episodes. With the Lodge mythology expansion and Cooper (multiple Coopers) front and centre, fans were getting a dose of something and someone that had intrigued them so many years ago. This is one of the many threads that made Twin Peaks the genuine “return” that it was.

But what about the soap opera storylines of old? Yes, they were here too. Andy and Lucy amused us once more, married with Brando wannabe Wally the comedic result; the will-they-won’t-they Norma, Ed and Nadine triangle was featured and reached the emotional height we had dared hope for; Becky, Steven and Gersten continued the bad boy/bad relationship dynamics so often visited in previous storylines; Audrey gave us soap, sarcasm and pathos with her WTF scenario. I could go on. The point here is that Twin Peaks was and is many things. The “formula” (for want of a much better word) is there, but the proportions may be different.

This time we got more Gordon Cole (hurrah!) and Albert Rosenfield. We had Dr. Jacoby, Ben and the delightful Jerry Horne, Silvia Horne, Bobby, Shelly, MIKE the one-armed man, BOB, the Giant (the Fireman), another Renault brother, always-cool James, Doc Hayward, Deputy Hawk and the Log Lady Margaret, to name a few. We had wonderful new characters (the first two seasons had new characters throughout its time too) with Tammy, Diane (we finally got to meet Diane!), Chantell and Hutch, Frank Truman, Janey-E, Bushnell Mullins…again I could go on. The characters were one of the mainstays of the first seasons—if we didn’t care about them, well, we wouldn’t have been looking forward to the new season so much would we?

And if the storylines hadn’t grabbed us that first time around, no one would have been subscribing to Showtime (or Sky or whatever the network) to view this limited series. Storylines were the lifeblood of the new season too and yes, it had its share of duds just as the original did, I can’t lie. Not everything worked like gangbusters (for me) but then, I wasn’t the biggest fan of James in Noirsville back in Season 2, or “Windom Earle’s Papier-mâché Hour” either. But they were part of the journey. We may have branched out to New York, Las Vegas and Buckhorn, well away from Twin Peaks itself (something the original barely did—aside from the aforementioned flat sojourn with James and Evelyn Marsh) but all of these places contributed to the ongoing machinations of Mr. C. etc and ultimately brought us back home to Washington State.

I do have to admit this: I missed Angelo Badalamenti. He was with us, but not in the fundamental way he was 25 years ago. Things had moved on—we weren’t in town all episode, every episode. If his score was synonymous with Twin Peaks the location, then it figured he wasn’t going to be a large part outside of it. We got more Roadhouse this time, and not just Julee Cruise. Again, with the passage of time new patrons frequented the bar, and the bands on stage reflected the customer base. However, as before, most of the artists were in keeping with the style, the mood and the voice of the show itself. As with Julee’s legacy with Twin Peaks, we will always associate the Chromatics’ Shadow with the end of that 2-hour mini-movie that kicked off our return; Nine Inch Nails and Part 8 are linked forever in a twisted tour de force; Rebekah del Rio’s haunting No Stars will never be turned off just because we know it’s now the end of that episode.

There are images that will stay with me forever from the first two seasons: the vivid horror of that fateful night in the train car at the end of S2E1; the haunting rendition of The World Spins whilst Donna and Bobby seemingly-inexplicably feel the loss of Maddy (and in some ways Laura once more); the lone seat in a populated classroom denoting Laura’s absence; Ben and Jerry’s mouthful-of-baguette dinner conversation…there were so many skilful, comical, dark and abstract moments.

We had new brain-searing visuals again in The Return: a young girl crawling and screaming her way across the Roadhouse floor whilst the song Axolotl accentuates her panic; the nuclear explosion in the famous Part 8; the purple ocean and the monolithic dwelling of the Fireman; the comedy of Gordon Cole waving his hands silently in the air in front of dilapidated house which we view from a hundred yards away; the cryptic phone calls with the Log Lady and the final dimming of her light. Let’s face it, I could go on…Twin Peaks was famous for Lynch and Frost giving us refreshing perspectives on old soap opera staples, or twisting the televisual vernacular into new shapes. And 25 years later they delivered that again.

There are a lot of opinions out there, and a lot of passionate advocates either way on what this new season was/wasn’t. But asking the question “What was Twin Peaks anyway?” is probably the right place to start before asking if the new season was Twin Peaks or “something else”. Twin Peaks was, and is, the brainchild of Mark Frost and David Lynch. It is a place, and a feeling—beautiful and beguiling, comedic and heartwarming. And it also holds many mysteries, filled with dread, corruption and malevolence. Its characters are both recognisable and intriguingly different. The metaphorical landscapes it occupies are intimate and friendly, but also contain conundrums that have consequences far-reaching for individuals and the community. It reflects back to us modern day concerns: the hidden depths of human cruelty and the forces that exist to stop it; the day to day tensions and happenstance in our lives; the glorious highways and the painful detours of true love. A sense of timelessness haunts the questions it poses and the human machinations that revolve around those questions. And the TV series, old and young, approached these questions in a surreal, occasionally ambiguous and aesthetically singular way.

“The show did exactly what it was meant to do,” said Michael Barile (assistant to David Lynch) in the Lynch biography Room to Dream. “The original series fucked with the conventions of television and made its mark, and Season 3—which is basically an eighteen-hour film that he somehow got on television—did it again.”

The town of Twin Peaks wanted us to stop by and stay a while, but it didn’t show us all of its charms and puzzles at once. We had to return to it to try and find more answers, and inevitably, more questions. And in 2017, that’s what we did.


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