On 18th June 1991 David Lynch and Mark Frost broke a piece of my heart. I had over 36 weeks become addicted to their (now legendary) procedural murder mystery, campy soap, come horror opus ‘Twin Peaks’. Twin Peaks iconography and its explorations of the interconnectedness of the good and evil within universal human experience struck a deep chord within me.
Lynch/Frost had apparently rummaged through my inner case of favourite things, combining a heady brew of snow-capped mountains, mysteries, the ancient spirituality of the woods, cherry pie and Northwestern art before shrouding them in coffee scented steam rising from a percolator. Kyle MacLachlan’s FBI Agent Dale Cooper was exactly the kind of hero I had missed as a child; a damn fine blend of intuition, geekiness, bravery, humour, warmth and Buddhist like spirituality. Most importantly for a young gay man starved of positive TV role models, Cooper brought acceptance to his friendships with those of a spiritual nature such as the Catherine Coulson’s iconic Log Lady, or alpha males such as Michael Ontkean’s Sheriff Harry Truman or with Denise Bryson, a trans-character played by David Duchovny.
It is easy to forget in the Netflix age, but Twin Peaks was a big deal, especially during its first season. I can vouch absolutely for mornings spent analysing the town’s strange events with the office typing pool at the water cooler. We held Twin Peaks parties and I even produced a short-lived Twin Peaks fanzine ‘Fish In The Percolator’. As Twin Peaks moved into its second series, a more supernatural tone developed and viewers Stateside tailed off, not helped by the ABC’s erratic scheduling. In the UK we benefitted from regular scheduling and thus when (in one of the most disturbing scenes ever broadcast) the murder of Laura Palmer was apparently solved and temporarily replaced by campy ‘B’ plots, one could still find others watching loyally. Lynch-Frost had contributed to second season decline by becoming entrenched in other projects but Twin Peaks found its mojo again as it hurtled towards its final episodes, intent on reminding us why we fell in love in the first place. The core raison d’etre for the piece, the life and death of Laura Palmer was reframed against the shows wider mythology (cosmology?) of two chevron floored ‘Lodges’ (the Black and the White) through which all living things pass, encountering lost souls, parasitic ‘Dugpa’ spirits and glass eyed doppelgangers.
Ultimately, on Tuesday 18th June 1991 Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper faced the Black Lodge with imperfect courage and as a result our hero was apparently split into two beings, one predominantly good and one predominantly bad. The ‘bad’ Cooper being hijacked by the predatory parasitic spirit ‘BOB’ also responsible for the death of Laura Palmer. The final image of our hero smashing his head into a bathroom mirror manically, possessed, and bleeding from the forehead was unsettling, upsetting and disturbing.
Good Cooper stayed trapped on the Black Lodge whilst Bad/BOB Cooper’s story was apparently only just beginning. Lynch/Frost also …