Twin Peaks: Feature

We are currently living in a golden age of television. With the popularity of series such as BREAKING BAD, THE WIRE, and THE SOPRANOS, television has taken a new level of prestige with cinematic storytelling, top tier performances, and rich production value. However, this level of achievement is not unprecedented. Please allow me to introduce you to TWIN PEAKS.

Back in 1990, filmmaker David Lynch and soap opera writer Mark Frost proved early innovators by creating this singular cult phenomenon. PEAKS has since received massive critical acclaim and grown to be widely considered one of Lynch’s most popular works. Following the adventures of FBI agent Dale Cooper as he uncovers the mystery behind Laura Cooper’s death, the series continues to resonate thanks to its imaginative storytelling and quirky, yet lovable, characters. 29 years later, the show’s original run continues to have a significant impact on television making it arguably the medium’s most influential show pre-SOPRANOS. Read below to learn five reasons why TWIN PEAKS is some damn fine television.

Twin Peaks: Femme Fatale
She’s got those Horne eyes. (Courtesy of ABC Entertainment)

TWIN PEAKS Is The Perfect Mixture of Genres

Most television series are defined by their respective genres. TWIN PEAKS, though, broke the mold by blending several genres together. Lynch and Frost, inspired by classic soap operas and police procedurals storytelling tropes, steeped the show in those aesthetics. Then, with increasing intensity, they layered in supernatural elements. This approach made TWIN PEAKS original, daring and unpredictable. And yet, it could still create an emotional connection through melodrama as with subplots like Ed’s affair with Norma, her husband Hank’s release from jail, or Josie and Harry’s romance. Via these relationships, TWIN PEAKS still felt realistic and honest even as it grew increasingly odd and supernatural.

TWIN PEAK’s genre-blending also allowed it to take some truly exciting artistic risks, cementing its status as more than just a mere television serial. The narrative aspects where Dale Cooper relies upon his dreams to obtain clues regarding Laura Palmer’s death and his journey into the Red Room introduced an avant-garde element most daytime serials lacked at the time. By combining genres, TWIN PEAKS proved a progressive piece of art.

While many shows have attempted to cross genres in recent years, very few have done so with the level of sophistication and boldness as TWIN PEAKS. This level of genre fluidity, along with its unorthodox approach toward storytelling conventions, allowed the show to remain relevant and influential all these years later.

Twin Peaks: Double R
An example of the mix of retro and contemporary, served with fine coffee and great pie. (Courtesy of ABC Entertainment)

It’s Influenced Modern Television More Than You Expect

Dense, serialized, cinematic storytelling increasingly define modern television. THE SOPRANOS, BREAKING BAD and BARRY all boast a style where dark humor and surreal visuals mix. The genesis of this narrative approach can be found in the original run of TWIN PEAKS and its cinematography.

Back in the 90’s, TV shows, with very rare exceptions, operated more on an episode by episode basis. While the show might have an overall tone and recurring characters, largely one could tune into any one episode without fear of missing a larger storyline. However, with the arrival of PEAKS, narratives started becoming more long-form. Additionally, Lynch’s direction pushed the conventions of TV further with esoteric imagery and stylistic choices.

A large part of these stylistic choices comes from the show’s combination of retro and contemporary aesthetics. The series art direction draws upon many elements of 50’s and 60’s culture. This comes across on-screen via the costumes, locations such as the RR Diner, and even its pop music heavy soundtrack. This visual and narrative influence continues to dominate much of modern pop culture, be it directly or indirectly. Recent shows like STRANGER THINGS, RIVERDALE and even AMERICAN HORROR STORY have all been informed by TWIN PEAK’s stylistic approach.

As television progresses in terms of visual storytelling, more and more series subvert the nature of the narrative. PEAKS provided the blueprint to show them the way.

Twin Peaks: Cooper
Dale has a steamy cup of thumbs up for you. (Courtesy of ABC Entertainment)

Dale Cooper Introduced A Whole New Protagonist

When it comes to mystery and detective series, most protagonists share similar tropes. That all changed, however, with the introduction of Special Agent Dale Cooper. Cooper is optimistic, spiritual, and an anchoring presence throughout TWIN PEAKS. Played enthusiastically by Kyle McLaughlin, Lynch and Frost’s protagonist deviated from TV norms by adding humanity and humor to his interactions.

Cooper’s spiritualistic curiosity further embodied the show’s themes, making him more multidimensional than heroes of the era. This trend continued into present-day television, with characters like Walter White and Tony Soprano reflecting Cooper’s multilayered identity. Dale Cooper isn’t merely just another fictional detective but rather an individual trying to make sense of the world around him while finding his own inner peace. Television has seen quite its a fair share of noteworthy protagonists, but few are as representative of their show’s ambition as Cooper. 

Twin Peaks: Leland Palmer
Does he even recognize himself? (Courtesy of ABC Entertainment)

TWIN PEAKS Boasts Quite The Cast of Characters

Dale Cooper has been rightfully recognized as the face of TWIN PEAKS. That said, the rest of the cast cannot be ignored. Ensemble shows may be commonplace, but the show elevated the approach. PEAKS characters seemed quirky and broad on first blush, but boasted significant depth. For instance, Audrey Horne began resembling a typical femme-fatale, but became increasingly three-dimensional as the show progressed. This progression repeats itself throughout the show with main supporting characters such as Bobby Briggs all the way down to bit players like Shelly and Norma. Rare was the TWIN PEAKS who did not develop nuanced layers before the series ended.

Another beauty of TWIN PEAK’S came from its diversity of characters. Some, like the Log Lady and Pete added absurdity and humor to the series. Others — Ben Horne and B.O.B. — mixed menace and danger into the proceedings. Leland and Sarah Palmer could be counted on for dramatic weight while James and Donna brought a sense of teen romance and youthful energy. Each player contributed to the richness of PEAKS’ world.

Twin Peaks: Sign
Come back soon! (Courtesy of ABC Entertainment)

TWINS PEAKS Offers an Experience All It’s Own

Many television series are notable for the impression they leave on viewers.  While most are known for being a journey, TWIN PEAKS’ original run is recognized a truly one of a kind experience. The way viewers enter the fold allows us to feel more interconnected than the average series. As a narrative, it rose above the standards of the medium. It also managed to weave together a story that was ambitious, overarching and artistic. With each rewatch it continues to reveal something fresh and exciting.

The world of TWIN PEAKS thematically centers around redemption, identity, and the ever-present battle between good and evil. These themes are what allow TWIN PEAKS to be a deeply complex and human body of work. 

Twin Peak’s original run remains one of, if not the most, significant piece of television. Thanks to its genre-blending, memorable characters and imaginative themes. Now that my friends is a damn fine series indeed.


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