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 Twin Peaks

BEYOND THE OBVIOUS

Section Index


  1. First Sight
  2. The Appeal of Darkness
  3. Masters and Servants
  4. Angels and Demons
  5. Lodges
  6. A Game of Chess
  7. Appendix: Dreamscapes: David Lynch's Entries into Film

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Beyond the Obvious
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caveat: As can be inferred from the date of publication, this article may no longer represent my current views and style. It remains here for archival purposes to provide a sense of documentation and should be treated as such.

1. First Sight

A small, not very busy town in the Northwestern part of the United States, near the Canadian border. A mountain town, situated within large forests, a town not already touched by the hectic and the business of larger cities, a town where everyone knows anyone, a place ideal for vacation, but for crime? The quietness, the peace, the harmony of such a nice little town; but then such a crime? A high school girl is found dead, wrapped in plastics, floating in the nearby river. Laura Palmer is the name of the victim, the town is stunned at the sight of this act of crime and violence in this town of peace.

The investigation is led by the FBI in cooperation with the local Sheriff's Department. Special Agent Dale Cooper's set of mind is a strange combination of detective skills and strange ideas and a child-like curiosity. His overwhelming friendliness and joy of life helps him find allies within the town, e.g. Sheriff Harry S. Truman and his strange company.

Twin Peaks is extraordinary concerning the size of the cast, which dimensions almost come near that of The Simpsons. Single and seemingly isolated plots somehow influence the whole story; the acts of almost everyone seem suspicious and could contribute to the case. At first a simple investigation, Agent Cooper's efforts soon reveal connections to ancient and present stories of evil and good, of something in the woods nearby; apart from drug dealers.

Although the size of the cast as well as the many different plots might let Twin Peaks look like a soap opera, this is definitely not the case. It is perhaps kind of an intended first sight; the creation of an atmosphere one could feel familiar with. But the weird style of David Lynch and Mark Frost changes this into a strange combination of depressive and humorous moods; using subtle elements of vision and speech to slowly introduce us to a view on the strange nature of things in and beyond Twin Peaks.

"In Twin Peaks, no one is innocent" - this quote, which I found on the cover of the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me CD, describes very well the growing realization of the initial misconception, of a misleading first sight: The show introduces concepts again, concepts which are nothing new but on the contrary quite old; concepts which found the basis of any science fiction, of any horror story, any occult topic: Concepts of an enduring fight between forces of unimaginable might; concepts belonging both to religion and philosophy, concepts trying to chart the unexplained.

PJK
August 20th, 1998







2. The Appeal of Darkness

As evident, the first sight is an illusion, a convenient cover, a mask, nothing more. The realization sets in slowly but inevitably. No one and nothing is safe from the forces which influence can be felt in Twin Peaks. The investigations of Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman reveal the past of Laura Palmer; the past of a girl who was not at all just a high school girl.

Everything that is presented to us as the story is being enfolded piece by piece; a fragmentary approach which may be the only appropriate manner. A lot of humor is used and a lot of romance is included; but all of this cannot hide the terror behind, the quarrel of demons against demons. The character of the show might allow an allegoric way of interpretation or analysis, a way in which course deconstruction could be the only hope to arrive at a truth.

Deconstruction at first means generalization; centering the first thoughts on the most important or most obvious facts. In the case of Twin Peaks, firstly the show has ended before a conclusion could have been reached; and neither the movie could answer the remaining questions. Secondly, the style and method of the show, paralleled by The X-Files, was never to reveal all answers and always to ask more questions. So deconstruction firstly has to lead to a reduction: To find the general layers of description fitting the show's character.

Twin Peaks is not by chance a small town surrounded by the woods and located in the mountains. The set of the show, the stage, is supporting the idea that mankind may have built homes and towns but still is depending on and surrounded both by nature and by forces known and unknown. Every one who has already been in a forest or in their garden at night, with no lights or with a flashlight, will understand this. The darkness around as well as the strange sounds transform an at daylight common surrounding into something like an arena both of fear and anticipation. We go into the darkness to discover it. We do this because of our curiosity. All our knowledge is just a little flashlight, reaching out into the night, illuminating only small portions, fragments of reality. As we proceed, the path is unknown, we choose it and might change it when it becomes evident that a change could improve our chances. But while the vicinity may be enlighted by our flashlight of research, we go on and the light disappears; the only light except ours would come from the stars, from far away. A light both distant and present; guiding our path but not protected against clouds cloaking the light.

Why don't we just stay at home? Use the homes our flashlights have created? The innate curiosity is driving us; a property of life which has ensured our survival all the time. When we proceed into the dark, we do not know what we will find. There is no preparation for the unknown, no answer to the unexplained. The tapestry of reality is always a personal experience, a personal piece of fiction. Personal fictions meet and can be linked at very basic convening agreements. The lives of people are being intertwined, their fates interwoven, their paths crossed. The appeal of darkness will always stay; but depending on which light we carry our reality will be shaped differently.

PJK
August 25th, 1998







3. Masters and Servants

We do not really know anything around us, do not even know our own self to full extent. Our perception doesn't grant us ultimate or complete access to knowledge and reality; we have to depend on experiences that are either our own or somebody elses, told to us. But nevertheless we seem to have a quite narrow and defined, even confined, perception of the world around us, a pretty fixed picture and understanding of what it is that's around us. We do not know what was before, we do have our history and trust the historiographies - our senses mostly following the course of the scientific method. Proof is needed to define everything completely; anything less solid is said to be a fairy tale or a piece of fiction. Conventional thinking might give us - and every single one of us, although in different aspects - some comfort and some solid trust and confidence into an ability of ours to shape the world and control it (see General Discussion Pages).

The paths we take to control the world around us manifest themselves quite individually - there is a different path and a different history, a different past, present and future for every single one of us. To connect those individual paths means to create an artificial structure, to try to combine things which are on first sight quite different, even contrary. But if we concentrate on the basics of things, we might recognize our different paths as something not so different at all - survival is a need for every one. But instead of trying to focus our energies into finding common grounds and possibilities to expand our experiences and to create a society based upon the integration and acceptance of diversity, we again artificially divide and conquer, create structures and concepts which limit our possibilities.

The choices we have are the choices remaining after a process of structuring - if children are born, their future is already somehow prewritten - by the rules and limitations society has created. We might some day be able to escape old structures, but any such attempt is a strenuous and painful process. One of the oldest structures mankind has to deal with is that of slavery; not just in direct but also in a more metaphorical sense. Society creates masters: headpersons and superiors, people who can order others to do something. We might believe that we have overcome this way of thinking, but it is still present in our minds; one just has to look at dictatorships or even at the history of one's own country. If economy sees an option, it seizes it. Humans have learned to ignore disturbing concerns for quite some time now; we might think that we are free, but our own thinking is still dominated by egoism. Our own self cannot be centered around anything else than itself; we might try, but we still are servants of our own nature, of our own emotions, needs and preoccupations.

If we have free will - which is quite a controversial issue - we are or should at least be able to differenciate between certain positions, certain alternatives. Those choices are usually being described as Good and Evil. The question we have to answer for ourseleves is which side to serve - for we would not be able to be a master of anything. We might claim to be, but we aren't. We can only serve - the sooner we realize that the better. But whom do we serve? We can only serve each other, and we can serve God. Those who serve Evil have no choice anymore - unless they turn around and serve the other side. There is a difference in how each side treats its members, a difference made visible in Twin Peaks, Millennium or The X-Files.

After having watched shows like Twin Peaks, Millennium or The X-Files, one is again confronted with the above mentioned alternatives. But then there is another possibility: We might not even know which side we really serve. We might have other intentions than actual accomplishments: Laura Palmer definitely knows which side she's on, but she doesn't want that; she fights and prays - and receives salvation. B.O.B. is a messenger, he is havoc, but he is just uncontrolled negative emotions: He has given his free will away, there's no turning back for him - in contrast to the One-Armed Man. Mr. Horne seems to belong to the ones who do not know which side to serve. And then there are those who think they can be masters, amongst them Agent Cooper and Windom Earle. But both are not prepared for what awaits them at the end.

PJK
September 12th, 1998







4. Angels and Demons

There are some aspects of Twin Peaks and its successors like The X-Files / Millennium which make me wonder about the thesis that we now would be living in a demystified, atheistificated world; that the tales of past and present about unexplained phenomena and religious icons are not anymore reaching a significant audience. What a statement concerning the final decade before the next millennium - what a statement in face of the ongoing success and influence of science fiction and horror stories.

The kind of history which was told in the so-called communist countries aimed at something, at the reign of world communism, at the destruction of religion, of any philosophy but communism. History was being interpreted as a linear succession of events, always leading one step further unto the final solution. Such a view of reality can also be found within the writings of the era of Enlightenment; strict logic and mathematics and an edifice of rationality were supposed to be the things finally changing the world forever, denying religious concepts and simplifying religion to such an extent that it would serve 'rationality' (One of the worst and most disgusting pieces of writing of that time is Lessing's play 'Nathan der Weise'; playing with religion in a childish and silly way, pretending to be about religion but in fact trying to destroy it).

The so-called rationality then was believed to be such a great achievement of thinking - but did it change or even improve history? Secularization and a concept of tolerance meaning nothing else than ignorance would begin to rule the world. But then, there is nothing wrong with secular thinking - religion is a private and personal concept and must not be connected with a government or state; otherwise freedom of religion and freedom of thought could not be granted. But secularization can also have the opposite effect: By declaring atheism the doctrine of the state, nothing changes. Did history change? Did history from then on lack wars and crime and cruelty? Doesn't seem so. But nevertheless, atheist and strictly scientific thinking is still latently called the more progressive way.

This seems to have changed in the recent years and decades, at least in television and cinema. A transformation into another kind of philosophy? The return of belief - also the return of superstition? Well, consuming tales about werewolves does not imply believing in those stories; also looking for new answers is nothing malific but in contrast something extending our horizons, bringing us some steps closer towards new answers. If there is something like a good mixture between secular and religious concepts; if any kind of fanatic religion (atheism included) is being excluded from politics; if we do not just tolerate other views but accept them and try to learn more about them and integrate them into society; if all those elements were to be considered and eventually included into our lives, we really might extend our view of reality - for limitations based upon hollow phrases will never be a progressive approach.

Twin Peaks has included some religious or paranormal elements into it: spiritual entities, doppelgangers, messengers and observers (the owls?), even angels. David Lynch has already done this in 'Wild at Heart', did it again in 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'. What he probably used for storytelling is part of a trend manifesting in recent fiction; showing both an increased awareness and need for new answers.

PJK
September 25th, 1998







5. Lodges

The central topic of Twin Peaks - after the Laura Palmer murder seems to be more or less solved - is the search for the lodges performed both by Windom Earle and his hunter, Agent Cooper. With this change of focus, the show concentrates much more on strange phenomena, it drifts away from a crime show concept it didn't fit in anyway, getting more and more a Lynchier show. With the change of direction also comes a change of pace, initiated by the appearance of Windom Earle, Cooper's nemesis. Earle is playing his very sick game of chess, looking for nothing but power and revenge. He really is an antagonist for Cooper, he is smart but evil.

Throughout the show, there have been various references to unusual phenomena, mostly connected to Project Blue Book and by this implying extraterrestrial influence; but also just showing strange and unusual behavior of the inhabitants. But Lynchian weirdness is just a mask, it is masking a symbolism which solution is known just to David Lynch and Mark Frost themselves (if at all). Apart from concrete answers (which will never come, that would contradict every aspect of Lynch's work) there are just guesses, deconstruction attempts trying to recover at least some pieces of the whole (as done on various websites, check the Links Page and the Twin Peaks / David Lynch Webring).

One part of the unexplained phenomena on the show are the owls, which are said to be 'not what they seem'. So, if they are not owls, they might just have the shape of owls and contain another entity's soul: They would be watchers, observers, messangers or just carriers for the spirit of other beings. The beings referred to would originate from the Lodges; entities like BOB or the One-Armed-Man or the Little Man From Another Place or the Giant. Judging from what has been said at the show, the owls have always been there, have shown up in the past already. The 'Evil in the Woods' surely is not just a term referring to the drug business there. The Bookhouse Men are observers too, an organization dedicated to fight this evil; they might find their counterpart in Babylon 5's Rangers.

So I'm at comparison again. The Lodges would be places where our world and other dimensions meet. These points of linkage would than be inhabited by timeless and shapeless beings (similar to DS9's wormhole aliens???) influencing our reality. But comparisons do not work entirely; they are a very poor means of explanation also for the very fact that there simply is not enough data to draw any conclusions. But from what David Lynch is trying to tell us with his other projects, he surely is not interested in tales of little gray men. His stories concentrate much more on good and evil in general; supernatural phenomena are just means of storytelling.

There is talk about two lodges - the Black Lodge and the White Lodge. Really? Whom do we have seen in which Lodge? Cooper is granting salvation for Laura obviously in the White Lodge; the Giant who has been helping Cooper is obviously a being from the White Lodge too. The Little Man From Another Place could prove difficult to assign to, although I tend to put him rather into the Black Lodge, as well as BOB and Earle. And the One-Armed-Man? Surely the Black Lodge, but why not the White now? Hasn't he changed? - - - You see, I'm having a pretty serious problem here. Major Briggs is being said of having been to the White Lodge, describing some beautiful place. But what if both Lodges are one and the same? The term of color then would be a means of describing the kind of influence the combined Lodges would cause. The Lodge itself would be a place beyond Good or Evil; but its power could manifest itself in both ways - a Black and a White way.

PJK
October 21st, 1998







6. A Game of Chess

The game between Agent Cooper and Windom Earle is a dangerous game, a deadly game - both because of various reasons, but the most endangering and critical reason would be that none of them is fully aware of the consequences of his own actions. This inability (and in-enabledness) of both men would culminate into the tragic that both are being caught and consumed and kept by forces and concepts none of them is able to understand. This lack of knowledge has fatal consequences, for both of them are forced to give up their identity and their loyality to concepts they previously believed in. Windom Earle might definitely be the bad guy, but he, too, fells victim to the spiritual entities inhabiting the Black Lodge. Salvation is a goal appreciated by both of them, salvation from the past and for their lack of understanding.

What is the consequence of their game of chess - apart from the lives taken by Earle and the personal tragedy for Cooper when his loved one, Annie, disappears? The connectedness of the very town of Twin Peaks is proving throughout the game - none of the actions of Earle is singular, his appearance is causing a long-lasting and far-reaching chain of events striking hard into the heart of the town. A game - a setup, a constructed havoc, a mayhem created by anti-creational force, a distortion of reality. The change of pace is a catalyst for more action, action driving several plots to their ultimate peaks and chaos. The death of Josie and the fate of her spirit as well as the resulting desparation of Sheriff Truman, the (serious?) change of heart of Benjamin Horne, the personal tragedy resulting from Horne's involvement in the family matters of the Haywards, the general succession of events leading to the ultimate cliffhanger.

Windom Earle's interest in the lodges - how can that be explained? Is there a personal interest in that, a motivation for raising the stakes in this personal vendetta of his? A continuing effort to solve the puzzle he was confronted with while working for Blue Book? A puzzle he couldn't solve then and is hoping to solve now? Did he know about the Lodges while working for Blue Book, or did his involvement have more to do with extraterrestrial phenomena (which the Lodges would very well be, but departing from the usual conception of ET influence on this planet)? The motivation of Windom Earle could be a key to his game, but the easiest (but most incomplete) explanation of his doings would be a combination of his yearning for revenge and his zealous search for the Black Lodge.

There still is another factor to be taken into account, the influence of the Lodges themselves. The Lodge inhabitants regularly appear on the show, may it be in the form of the owls or the Giant or the Little Man From Another Place, might it be through their counterparts (the old man in the hospital holding the spirit of the Giant), or BOB, or any indirect way of experiencing their influence (blue electric light, shaking of hands, microphone failures, messages from the Log Lady or Major Briggs, several visions etc.). The resulting observation would lead to the implication that there is a continuing influence on the inhabitants of Twin Peaks, an atmosphere of darkness and desparation.

The game played in Twin Peaks is a Lynchian game, a never ending game, a devastating game, a never fully explained game, a cosmic game, a game allowing multiple interpretations. Weird is just a mild description for this style. The inhabitants of the town are not the players, they are merely puppets whose strings are moved from somewhere else, ultimately by Lynch, of course, but when trying to find an in-show explanation, the Lodges could very well serve not only as observers but also as an influencing institution.

PJK
October 22nd, 1998







IMDb/David Lynch

7. Appendix: Dreamscapes: David Lynch's Entries into Film


I think it is safe to say that David Lynch's work counts among the most original in American film. His extraordinary vision has already spawned several motion pictures and television series, of the latter category Twin Peaks being the most well-known. He established himself as a director with the stunning and bizarre 'Eraserhead' and has continued to give us new perspectives ever since.

Originally being a painter, his focus is different than that of other directors. He creates strange characters who act in a strange way, he deviates the perspective of reality to show which is usually hidden, neglected, feared. To describe his films in terms of genre seems to me either impossible or incomplete at best: But recurring element are always a mostly very subtle horror and a strange sense of humor. Now follows a list of his works related to cinema and television (sources: Chris Rodley. Lynch on Lynch.; IMDb entry on David Lynch).

Short Films:

  • 'Six Men Getting Sick' (1966, 1' film loop)
  • 'The Alphabet' (1968, 4')
  • 'The Grandmother' (1970, 34')
  • 'The Amputee' (1974, 5')
  • 'The Cowboy and the Frenchman' (1989, 22')
  • Lumière et compagnie (1995, 55")

Motion Pictures:

TV Series:

  • Twin Peaks (1990-1991, TV series)
  • On the Air (1992, TV series)
  • Hotel Room (1993, TV series)
  • Mulholland Drive (1999, TV series, cancelled during production)

Music (with Angelo Badalamenti):

  • Floating Into the Night (1989, from 'Blue Velvet', Twin Peaks, Industrial Symphony No. 1)
  • The Voice of Love (1993, from 'Wild at Heart' and 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me')
  • plus soundtrack albums from all his movies except Eraserhead

Other:

  • Industrial Symphony No. 1: The Dream of the Broken Hearted (1990) (live performance / video)
  • American Chronicles (1991, TV series / documentary)

PJK
August 25th, 1999





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