Twin Peaks 2017

October 2017: latest Stuff columns & my Twin Peaks experience

My weekly columns on Stuff, New Zealand’s biggest news website, continue to generate interesting comments on the site and good feedback on social media. Last month we had a general election in New Zealand, so a couple of my columns focused on the tech policies of the major parties. Since the result of the election has yet to be finalised, it’s unclear yet which direction the country will take with technology. The centre-right National party is mostly concerned with the business impact of tech, while the centre-left Labour party takes a broader, more socially conscious view of tech.

I also wrote about the current unhappy state of online discourse on the Internet (thankfully Stuff’s comments are moderated) and the bugs and gremlins we all experience in software these days. Speaking of tech frustrations, New Zealand’s banks need to get their act together so kiwis can participate in the Bitcoin revolution.

Twin Peaks

In lieu of a reading recommendation this month, I want to discuss the extraordinary TV series that finished last month: Twin Peaks. It was a brilliantly written and directed 18 hours of television; sometimes frustrating but always absorbing. I’ve been a David Lynch fan since I was a teenager, so the unexpected return of one of my favourite shows this year was a treat.

When Twin Peaks first came out in 1990, I was a young man in my late teens. I remember watching the show on a boxy television set and being hooked straight away. Of course, in my James Hurley-like naivety, I didn’t immediately grasp the full mythology of Twin Peaks. All I knew was that the show was surreal and utterly unlike anything else on TV at the time.

In retrospect, Twin Peaks in 1990-91 was a good match with the Dali print I had hanging on my wall in the early 90s (Metamorphosis of Narcissus; an appropriate choice for the artsy but unformed young man I was back then).

Fast forward to 2017. Series 3 was a visual feast on an HD, large rectangular TV set. Boy, the red room really came to life! What’s more, the storyline was deep and much more wide-ranging that anyone expected. Twin Peaks in New York City? We were greeted with that in part 1, which I thought was a belter of an opening. Sure, like everyone else, the interminably slow Dougie storyline grated on me from parts 3-7. But then came part 8, an incredible atom bomb blast of Lynchian surrealism and horror. I was fully on board with the narrative again after that, even though Lynch and Mark Frost kept us constantly guessing.

Then that remarkable two-part finale. Part 17 seemingly tied up the narrative, with the defeat of BOB and the full return of Special Agent Dale Cooper. But part 18 threw the storyline wide open again. That ending…on first watch, it was tense, puzzling and from a narrative point of view a little deflating. But on second watch, I found it much more gripping – and satisfying in a weird, unresolved way. The sense of dread that built up over the episode was masterfully done. Then afterwards, wondering if Cooper did the right thing bringing Carrie Page (a.k.a. Laura Palmer) back to Twin Peaks? The ending can be read in multiple ways, but all of them are fascinating to think about.

Perhaps the best part of the Twin Peaks 2017 experience was the fan discussion and tv critic analysis after each show. I particularly enjoyed the weekly write-ups of Emily L. Stephens at The AV Club, which helped me understand what was happening the first time round.

Another delight was a podcast by two Entertainment Weekly writers, Jeff Jensen and Darren Franich. The podcast was called A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks – a name clearly designed to game any alphabetically ordered list of podcasts about Twin Peaks. And believe me, there were a bunch of such podcasts. In any case, I only discovered this EW show after the series had finished. But I enjoyed their recap of the finale so much, I went back and binge-listened to all their previous shows. Their various theories and over-analyzed musings were thought provoking and entertaining. Jensen’s meta theories about Lynch’s career and Franich’s fabulous hipster-geek voice were an added bonus.

At the same time of course, I re-watched the TV series. I can confirm that the Dougie parts got better the second time round.

Twin Peaks 2017

I also devoured many Web articles and books (like co-creator Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks). I started to really enjoy the Twin Peaks mythology; what the black and white lodges mean, the differences between a doppelgänger and a tulpa, what the heck the Evolution of The Arm is, and so on. I think I’m a full-on Twin Peaks fan now. Not a Twin Peaks scholar, by any means, but a fan of those too. (p.s. check out this map of Series 3, if you’ve watched it and are still trying to make sense of it all)

I’ve rambled on about Twin Peaks here, but it really did feel like a deep, immersive story – similar to a great novel. We’re in an era where novels struggle to gain attention in our culture, in no small part due to the smaller attention spans that Facebook and Twitter gleefully cater to. But the flipside is that the Internet gives us boundless opportunities to dive deep into intriguing stories like Twin Peaks. For that I’m grateful.

Photos: Showtime

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