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can the return of twin peaks live up to its cult status?

For a generation of people who experienced Twin Peaks second hand and discovered it well after it was first broadcast, will its return to our screens in 2016 cause it to lose its relevance?

by Dan Wilkinson
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Oct 10 2014, 10:20am

Still from Twin Peaks

There are few things I'm tempted to try a second time: relationships, kale or wearing New Era caps. By returning to nostalgic memories to create something new, you often risk losing what was there before but there is opportunity to find a whole new depth to what you thought was over. Can things be improved the second time round?

Well there's a new addition to that list of born again temptations, in the form of Twin Peaks. Do we even have a choice as to whether or not to go back, lest we be afflicted with FOMO. I'll admit I came at the show from a nostalgic angle, having only just been born when it finished, I lean heavily into 90s nostalgia for a culture I didn't have the chance to experience. I first fell in love with the show after being bombarded by the various conspiracy theories surrounding it through the many, many Tumblrs devoted to the show. I was struck immediately by the show's atypical style and the genuine bizarreness of the story, something which was unusual without being quirky. I became obsessed with how the story could be interpreted in so many ways.

The definition of cult TV, Twin Peaks amazed and confused in equal measure, with a story filled full of evil owls, murderous giants and a pie obsessed FBI agent. For David Lynch to want to revive the series is an acknowledgement that he wants to give closure to the characters from that world, especially after seeing how much of a fanbase has grown out of two series of television that aired twenty three years ago, it's quite a feat.

The show famously ended on a cliffhanger with the ghost of Laura Palmer proclaiming to agent Dale Cooper that they'll see each other in 25 years time, that was 1991 and in two years time it'll be 2016, exactly 25 years after the show ended. All Twin Peaks fans' feeds went into overdrive as the American cable network Showtime has now renewed the show for nine more episodes. But will it be able to capture, or even better, that same magic as before?

My favourite part of the show revolved around it being an art student's version of a soap opera, how the storylines were so melodramatic yet oblique at the same time. I mean you had the daily struggles of a man stuck in a loveless relationship, with the added twist that he's forced to take care of his wife who believes she's a teenager. Or when car mechanic James was kidnapped and nearly forced to kill his lover's husband, all whilst battling his desire for his dead girlfriend's cousin, who looks exactly like her!

Within the context of a soap opera, even Lynch's most outlandish theories seemed at home in a world of evil twins and shower scene dreams. Though, that's not to say some of the plots when viewed more than once don't really stand the test of time, one of the finale's set pieces was a bomb going off in a bank raid, which really seemed out of place in the more dream-like direction for the final episode.

The scene everybody remembers most is the Black Lodge dream/warped reality sequence, where Lynch pushed sense out the window but kept everything beautifully stylised all the same. It memorably featured the "man from another world" speaking backwards whilst dressed in a red suit. The scene however can't make up for a brilliantly atmospheric first season and a very patchy second season, full of too many open story arcs, misguided character plots and some obvious pandering to the network. When I found out more about the show, the direction of the second season all made sense due to how little faith and control the show was given. This also affected how small the budget was; which constricted Lynch and fellow writer Mark Frost's vision. There's rumored to be more scope for where the series could have ended, which was ruined all because the central murder plot was revealed too soon by controlling executives. David Lynch at his singular and visionary best is reflected in his debut feature Eraserhead, pursuing a seemingly random story of man going quietly insane. There's hope for the new season.

There have been a great number of people who have kept the Twin Peaks name going whilst it's been away. Through being inspired to create clothes based on the patterns like Japanese fashion label Black Weirdoes, who felt a need to create the collection after realising how close to twenty five years the series had passed. There's also musicians like Lana Del Rey cribbing a lot of her music and style from the show pulling the boundaries between small town America and its dark edges...

With the show being renewed in an age where a once cult show can gain mass appeal, like Arrested Development did after it was cancelled, we could see Twin Peaks getting a more balanced and engaged fan base, unlike when the show suffered from drastically failing viewing figures in the second season, which led to its need for cult success to survive in the first place. Maybe what I'm really worried about with the revival is the sense that something that has meant so much to me could lose its relevance, it's potency, and like the revival of Arrested Development it could end up being more patchier and make me avoid the original show altogether.

So, is it better to embrace it or leave something that has made you happy? It may not be as good as you remember but it has the potential to surprise you again. I'm an eternal optimist, so think that there's nothing better than revisiting something nostalgically, as long as it has something new to give. Twin Peaks may once again rise to such heights , but for now I think only the inhabitants of the black lodge can predict the future. 

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Text Dan Wilkinson
Still from Twin Peaks