Thirty years ago, on April 8, 1990, one of television’s most influential series premiered: “Twin Peaks.” There’s something timeless about the series, which arrived at the cusp of one decade and channeled several others. With its combination of high-pitched soap opera and low-frequency supernatural hum, “Twin Peaks” was always bound to be one of the weirder shows ever to air on American television.
Until it came back, that is. Twenty-five years after ABC aired what was presumed to be the series’s final episode, Showtime brought it back for a run titled “Twin Peaks: The Return.” It’s a languorous, idiosyncratic and deeply bizarre television project. (Given the current state of the world, you would be forgiven for asking “What year is this?” and then screaming into infinity.) To celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Twin Peaks,” fire walk with us through some of The Times’s best writing on the series.
Seasons One and Two
Interested in rewatching some of the first two seasons? Our TV critic Margaret Lyons broke down several scenarios for a rewatch of the first two seasons — if you only want to watch one episode, have time for three, or seven …
“Don’t just rewatch the pilot,” she wrote. “Instead, watch Episode 3, ‘Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer,’ which is a fuller representation of the show’s outlook. This is when the show’s more out-there ideas really emerge. The episode features Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) taking the Twin Peaks law enforcement officers out to the woods to try an unusual technique: throwing rocks at a glass bottle to determine which suspects to pursue for the murder of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). He also delivers a mini-lecture on Tibetan Buddhism.
“More important, the episode ends with the series’s most iconic scene: the first trip to the Black Lodge, a room with chevron carpet and red velvet curtains. It’s a room the show returns to several times, and the disoriented dream-state becomes one of the series go-to moods. It’s also just downright freaky and cool.”
Are you watching the series all the way through for the first time? Three years ago, The Times recapped every episode of the first two seasons of “Twin Peaks.” In our first recap, Noel Murray writes, of the pilot, “It’s still about as effective an opening salvo as TV has ever produced. Its closest competitor may be the two-hour ‘Lost’ pilot, which similarly grabbed viewers with fascinating secrets, an eclectic cast of characters and a fresh take on a familiar genre.”
James Poniewozik and Mike Hale, two of our TV critics, discuss the series. As Poniewozik wrote, “It helped establish a figurative dream-language that you see in series like ‘Legion.’ It introduced the idea of a serial drama as a puzzle (‘Lost,’ ‘Westworld’). It showed viewers that a TV show could be the work of an auteur … But those shows came much later. I’m old enough to remember when ‘Twin Peaks’ was treated, for years, as a TV cautionary tale — a warning against seriality, experimentation and writing a mystery check your narrative can’t cash.”
‘Twin Peaks: The Return’
“In no iteration of ‘Twin Peaks’ is the origin or meaning of ‘Blue Rose’ explained, although the implication in both ‘Fire Walk With Me’ (where the term first comes up) and ‘The Return’ is that cases which earn F.B.I. Bureau Chief Gordon Cole’s ‘Blue Rose’ designation are akin to ‘The X-Files.’ They’re supernatural in nature, and in the ‘Twin Peaks’ universe, they are specifically associated with the dark forces housed within the Black Lodge,” wrote Noel Murray.
“Since the days of his early short films and his midnight classic ‘Eraserhead,’ David Lynch has pushed the boundaries of motion picture sound design, mixing mechanical clanks, distorted wails, whistling winds and pretty music into evocative soundscapes. With ‘Twin Peaks: The Return,’ in which he is credited as the sound designer, he has reunited with the composer Angelo Badalamenti to create a memorably atmospheric soundtrack,” wrote Noel Murray.
Our co-chief movie critic Manohla Dargis and chief TV critic James Poniewozik dived into the debate about whether or not the new season of “Twin Peaks” was more TV or cinema. (Why can’t it be both?)
If you want to see a scene that complicates the matter, watch the below clip. It’s unlike almost anything else on TV, but it arrived within the frame of a weekly series.