When Twin Peaks first aired on ABC in 1990, there was nothing like it on television. The oddball story by David Lynch and Mark Frost explored a fictional Pacific Northwest town plagued by the murder of a young woman named Laura Palmer. The show gained a cult following for its strange pacing, melodramatic characters and nightmarish details. In the final episode, a doppelganger of Laura Palmer tells Special Agent Dale Cooper that she'll see him in 25 years. True to that prediction, Lynch and Frost have resuscitated the series, this time on Showtime. Since the first five new episodes aired, the questions of how Twin Peaks: The Return compares to the original are still being hashed out. In Missoula, where Lynch was born, the Indy convened three die-hard fans—arts editor Erika Fredrickson, journalism professor and Last Best Stories podcast host (and Indy copy editor) Jule Banville and Roxy Theater director Mike Steinberg—to discuss all the ways Twin Peaks has grown up.
Erika Fredrickson: Let's just start with do you have a favorite character so far in the new season?
Jule Banville: It would have to be Michael Cera. I was kind of expecting to hate him, just because he's always himself, but when he showed up as Wally Brando, I thought, "Oh, I get it." And then that whole riff he went on, everything about Marlon Brando thrown into one monologue. I thought it was super entertaining.
Mike Steinberg: Favorite character? I don't think I do. I'm certainly intrigued by Cooper, and I like the talking balloon-faced tree.
EF: What is that thing?
MS: I don't know what it is, but one of Lynch's earliest films was called The Grandmother, and it's about this little boy who has this terrible life and he grows a grandmother as a plant in his home. That is a motif throughout Lynch's work, including in Eraserhead. His father was a tree surgeon here in Missoula, Montana. I don't know what any of it actually is or means, but as soon as I saw the tree in this new series, I thought, "Oh, that's his."
EF: A friend of mine once said that in the original Twin Peaks the ceiling fan is actually a character. Lynch always gives these objects personality.
MF: Yeah. Traffic lights are characters in the first series.
JB: So, I rewatched the last episode from the original, when they're in the Black Lodge and the Man From Another Place says, "When you see me again, it won't be me." And then I was reading—because I have been obsessively reading the internet—that the actor playing the Man From Another Place was offered the role in the new series, but he wanted too much money. So, it's like, yeah, you wanted more money so, guess what? Now you're a talking tree, which is much cheaper, probably.
EF: Yeah, the internet is a rabbit hole for Twin Peaks. Last night I was reading about the creamed corn stuff called Garmonbozia, which is supposed to signify pain and sorrow. I'd forgotten about it, but when Cooper threw it up in his hands I recognized it from the Meals on Wheels scene in the original series.
JB: Yeah, remember? It's the grandma and her grandson, and Donna goes to deliver for Meals on Wheels, and the grandma goes, "I don't want creamed corn. Did you hear me say that?" When she looks at the plate it's gone, and her grandson is holding the creamed corn in his hands. I mean, who fixates on creamed corn? I love it.
MS: So were you guys fanatical about the original series?
EF: I watched it when it originally aired. We had a Twin Peaks group in high school and we ate cherry pie and drank coffee and were fanatics about it. We were on the front page of the Missoulian. We would have parties where we'd dress up as characters.
MS: In St. Louis it was the same thing. It was every Sunday night and we'd go over to my friend Alex's house. We didn't do pie and coffee. We weren't really that hip in terms of pairing our meals with our shows.
JB: I just really wish I had had you guys in my life in rural New York because I was basically the only one I knew who watched it except for my brother. So this is my dream come true right now. My brother bought me a Twin Peaks T-shirt and it was my most prized possession. I was a senior in high school and I wore it to a party and then I realized that was a mistake because young women who are maybe not so sure about their bodies shouldn't wear "Twin Peaks" plastered across their front. All these dunderheads I went to high school with were like, "Hey, Twin Peaks! What's up Twin Peaks?" It was a tough time. I feel like I'm in a safer space now.
MS: Going back to the new episodes, I have to admit I'm not that into it. I haven't given up on it, but I'm not that into it. The things I loved about the original series, like the sort of self-contained world of it with the Black Lodge as the only other place we ever are, I loved that about it and I feel like that's missing.
- Kyle MacLachlan plays three versions of Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks: The Return including, pictured above, an evil Bob-possessed doppelganger.
EF: I've been waiting impatiently for all the old characters to show up. At the same time, I love that Lynch resists bringing them all back at once, so it's not just like, "Hey it's the Twin Peaks variety show!"
JB: The other thing I noticed that's missing, and I can't decide if I'm nostalgic about it, is the scoring in the first one. It was like Dynasty, right? Because that was the era. Now you get more of the David Lynch "whoosh" sounds. I want to know how he's doing it, like is it wind through a metal tunnel? But it's really great, I love it.
EF: It's also quite a bit more violent, and there's swearing and stuff he couldn't do before.
JB: I mean the creamed corn is much more realistic
MS: It's rated-R creamed corn.
EF: I can't imagine watching it without the first series. Especially with the Cooper storyline, where you're waiting for him to be Cooper again in this long hero's journey out of the underworld. You have to already understand who Cooper was. But it's taking forever. I mean, it's Episode 5 and he's just discovering coffee again, but it does feel like what would happen if you were stuck in the Black Lodge for 25 years. You wouldn't know what was going on.
JB: Although when David Bowie came back from being missing he was still looking fly as shit and talking like a normal person. His character was referenced in the latest episode, so that'll be interesting to see what happens there. Bowie was supposed to come back for the series, but that's probably not going to happen unless
MS: Unless they can bring him out of the black box. He can fall to earth again.
EF: The latest episode when Dr. Jacoby's talking—that brought me back to the tapes of his sessions with Laura Palmer in the original. It's so fun that it's 25 years later and all these things we recognize are showing up.
JB: You know, on Facebook there was this thing that says, "Spoiler alert! All these people are old as fuck." And I'm like, "I think they look great," but I guess that's because I'm also old as fuck now.
MS: Does it feel to you like this show is just decidedly more supernatural than the original? It seems more sci-fi, and Lynch has had a penchant for that, but this one seems more like a cross with X-Files or Black Mirror.
EF: Yeah, I think so. It's not about characters and their soap opera relationships at all this time.
JB: It is missing those traditional relationships, which is why I wonder if there's something for new people to hold onto. I don't miss it because I'm so intrigued by where it's going. It seems like it's more of Lynch's obsessions with this vision he had of the Black Lodge, and he has a chance to fully realize it.
MS: You know, 25 years later, Lynch is arguably a better filmmaker, though some of those early films—Blue Velvet, Eraserhead—are still some of my favorites. Now he's not so much relying on TV show cliches, but he's still bringing in this complex dream stuff.
EF: What are you guys hoping will happen next, and who do you want to see more of?
JB: I want Cooper to stop talking and repeating everything people say, because he's getting on my nerves. But I really loved Laura's mom. She's this sort of psychic person in Twin Peaks ... the only civilian putting it all together.
MS: Plus, she had the greatest losing-your-shit-on-camera scene ever, right? When she realized Laura was dead and she grabbed the curtains and pulled herself down, almost like the end of Citizen Kane when he trashes that room.
EF: The latest scene with her is one of my favorites.
MS: Yeah. We find her in the middle of the night watching a nature program, like, the most graphic scene of a lion devouring a water buffalo. At first it's just extraordinary that that's what she's watching. Then the camera sort of careens in and takes almost the point of view of the television. There are these mirrors behind her so we can still see the image of the lions and you get her reaction observing this violent behavior, smoking and drinking in the blue light of the TV.
JB: And these lions eat the face of the water buffalo, instead of going for the meatier flanks, which is also what happens to the two people who are supposed to be watching the black box. Their faces get eaten by the monster in the box.
MS: Everyone's faces are getting destroyed in this series. They find a headless man, someone's shot in the face...
JB: Laura takes off her face.
MS: Lots of facetime. You know what I keep hoping to see? I keep hoping to see flashbacks. In a way, Fire Walk With Me satiated that exact thing for Twin Peaks fans by providing a backstory. I'm still holding onto knowing more about that original universe. I'll tell you if I get what I want.
JB: Let's meet every week and talk about the show.
MS: We'll meet again in 25 years.
JB: Well, shit, then I really will be old as fuck.