The Secret History of Twin Peaks

Welcome to this special mini episode of Diane…!

This week Rosie and Bob give their initial reactions to Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks. Listener, they liked it!

The whole Diane team will be covering The Secret History in MUCH more depth at some point in early 2017. This is just a first impressions kind of thing.

…And please be warned: in a change to our usual policy there be SPOILERS all over the flipping shop here, so proceed with caution unless you and Twin Peaks are very old and familiar friends.

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The first case assigned to Major Milford for Grudge was mind altering. It came to him from an oblique angle, and his work on it took place over a three-year period , at the end of which the polar axis of UFO investigation would shift yet again…

 

No desperate begging for reviews and things this week you’ll be pleased to hear. It’s only a minisode after all. Have some admin though:

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Next episode: Err, excuse me mate, can I have the check please? I really mean it this time…

11 Responses to “Diane… Minisode: The Secret History of Twin Peaks”

  1. Michael Says:

    Been enjoying the show – it’s been a comfort as I’ve been in and out of medical stuff this month – definitely, thinking about Twin Peaks when consumed by fever is either optimal or the worst choice! But now it’s broken, so I thought I’d key up some Chet, er, Chris Isaak and give some thoughts. Since this is the entry on the book, it seemed like this was a safer space to comment on things that are spoilers – this ep had a spoiler warning itself, after all.

    Forgive me if I’m a little scattershot here, because I’m very much still in recovery.

    SPOILERS

    It seems to me that Twin Peaks has, essentially, three main problems. Speaking as someone who also loves the show, I doubt you’d disagree that its impending return is prompting a bit of stock-taking when it comes to its issues, as it’s going to be reborn in a very different world than the one in which it was first spawned. It might be worth examining its basic premise, even, given how many more things are on the surface in modern US society and elsewhere, that were once more buried – but despite the staging of the TP mythos as, essentially, White (Lodge) Knights who are called upon to protect female victims from becoming monsters, I think what the show and the film say about sexual abuse and community is worth the possible problematic aspects of its structure. And I think Lynch especially knows this, because the film makes it clearer that sympathy and compassion for Leland – a victim – does not in any way abrogate his monstrous culpability. If anything, the film casts the net wider and calls the whole town’s culpability into question (that scene in the Hayward house in The Missing Pieces!), which should arguably be the show’s main thesis.

    But if we accept these things as given – as we must, because we enjoy the show and the film so much – then it leaves us with three issues, each of which the second season’s flaws maximize. It’s less that they’re exclusive problems to the second season as it is that these issues are held in greater contrast without the first season’s structure to support them.

    1.) Orientalism: You guys have been amazing at digging into this, so I’d not spend a lot of words on it, but the Orientalism isn’t just a drag, it can also recontextualize the main mythos type stuff – we all argue that the darkness comes from the woods – that it’s a part of the town – but it’s not hard to read it as “invaders” from a particular angle – be they “alien abductions” or things carried on power lines or from outside time or what have you, there is a reading that can exist that pivots the darkness as being an encroaching OUTSIDE force, which can dovetail with Orientalism in that Lovecraft “unknowable other is racism” way. I feel that when the show is at its finest, this reading is far more difficult, because there’s a greater understanding of what the individual pieces mean and how they fit together – if BOB is that “Darkseid is the hole in the world” of Twin Peaks, it’s inherently tied to the abuse committed by a member of the community, not a foreign invader, for instance.

    But the cast and crew did not know the mystery’s solution until it was revealed, and Lynch and Frost can both be opaque on the reasonings for various elements – especially Lynch, obviously – and as they proceeded past the answer’s reveal, the lapses of intuition (Keaton’s directing, say) are only partially their own fault, as they didn’t have a road map – there were more lateral moves, rather than expansions – and the more modern “showrunner” concept would have kept things on a more even keel, and some ideas may not have surfaced – Frost and Lynch are as much to blame for Tojamura as anyone, sadly, but you’ve made it clear how when you put the gross part of it aside, it feels of a piece thematically, and that’s likely why it survived, but the poor handling of Josie is where the show suffers this aspect the most. Be it on Joan Chen’s shoulders or no, Josie early on felt like a chance to subvert that Orientalism – a soulful character who would do whatever it took to survive in a hostile world where she was very much alone – but what we’re left with is an ignominious end to a character who could have had value – we never ended up getting much into her connection with LAURA, outside of the Secret Diary book!

    2.) Revelatory Pacing: One of the strengths of season one was that each episode took place over roughly a day (or the night following the previous episode’s day) but as the second season rolled on, this structure came apart. It’s not merely the fault of later writers, though, it’s because the push to reveal the killer changed the show’s pacing. In season one, even subplots felt of a piece with the rest of the show, because it was a case of “what was important that happened on that day.” It also made sense, for instance, that you wouldn’t show the kids in school each day – some days what happened in school wasn’t important. But in the headlong rush to Leland’s unmasking, everything felt much more deliberately focused on getting all the pieces in place, with occasional diversions to give the rest of the cast things to do. As the structure disrupted, some aspects seemed to break apart – despite Nadine’s storyline in season two, it’s hard not to believe that many of the kids just… dropped out of school? You’ve talked at length about the weird liminal state that the kids exist in, between adults and teens, but the show seems to find it more convenient over time to elide the “teen” part, which is problematic because preying upon youth was a fundamental idea to the show early on.

    Because this pacing collapses, you have things like “James’ Wild Ride” which take up too much time. I don’t, per se, object to stepping outside Twin Peaks. I know other people disagree, but the show was slowly building a world, and seeing more of it under steadier hands might have benefitted the show’s scope over a longer time. Deer Meadow, Pearl Lakes, the town James travels to, these places are part of the world just as Owl Cave or Glastonbury Grove are, also. The problem is that the Wild Ride doesn’t reach a point that supports the story at all. If the point of his Wild Ride was something like “Even when I travel away from Twin Peaks, I find myself repeating what happened to Laura” – a point that you’d brought up on the show before – then we might look less poorly on the concept. Much like with the Orientalism, in season two a number of aspects of the show seem to exist for their own sake, rather than to support ideas.

    Especially with the book having come out, we’re all finally giving Mark Frost the credit he deserved more over the last twenty-five years. I think of it, in a way, like a comic writer and artist – Lynch’s painterly eye could render the lurid and the quotidian with oneiric power, but without that eye, what you have is, at times… lurid and quotidian. Which is why some things in season two work great – the building of mythos around the Lodges, for instance, which is pure Mark Frost. You’re certainly correct in your assessment that for a fan community that so often complains about season two, much of what has fueled the decades of theorizing has been material IN that season. But it’s important that in Twin Peaks, there are literally “twin peaks” – two things beside each other – and that while viewing the story as an allegory might be reductive, not having that thematic weight also leaves it more of an empty exercise. Which is to say, a Twin Peaks that forgets to check in with Sarah and Ronette until the finale is a Twin Peaks I can’t help caring less about, because it forgets that the wounds don’t close quickly.

    3.) Theresa Banks: When we think of how the world has changed since Twin Peaks, a lot of things come to mind – 9/11, Ferguson, Trump, all sorts of American sins and scars and uncoverings that will make the 80′s/50′s view of small town Americana feel differently than it did back then. But something far less important has also happened that will have an effect on how we view the storytelling – America has been flooded for at least a decade with procedural dramas, shows that lay out in near-pornographic detail every aspect of policework, whether it’s well-researched and credible or completely fabricated nonsense. And in the time since I first watched Twin Peaks, the question that’s eaten at my enjoyment of the show’s structure more than any other has been: Why don’t they talk about Theresa Banks?

    The pilot establishes that Cooper comes to town because the killing bears similarity to Theresa’s murder. He confirms his suspicions when he pulls the letter from Laura’s fingernail. Shortly after this, Theresa is never mentioned again. The film spends a lot of time on Theresa, of course, and all that material is terrific. I love Deer Meadow, the Twin Peaks Qlippoth, and I love Chet Desmond and all that stuff. But this isn’t about that, it’s about Cooper and Truman. They spend approximately zero minutes discussing the Theresa Banks case after the pilot episode, and as far as policework goes, it’s… not great?

    We know Leland/BOB killed Theresa, and we know why – we’ve seen the film – but Cooper and Truman make no attempt to prove a link to that killing before or after Leland’s reveal, despite the fact that this is very pertinent information! They’re ostensibly tracking a possible serial killer. Now, in season one, there’s a degree of reason to this – we’re following them one day at a time, very structured, and season one takes place over less than a week, and the leads and evidence in LAURA’S case are hot, and need immediate pursuit. But in the second season, Theresa’s absence becomes more and more notable, because you have Gordon Cole there, who assigned Coop to the case, and would presumably have some interest in that other case being closed (never mind that in retrospect, the film makes it clear they have a missing agent tied to it as well – retcon it may be, but it only makes the situation worse!)

    At some point Harry should have asked to be let into the loop on Theresa Banks’s murder. We were so pressured into rushing to Leland’s reveal, based on forces outside of Lynch and Frost’s control, that we forgot an entire, integral part of the mystery. And despite eventually closing that loop, the movie only makes that silence more noticeable in the series.

    What if James DID go to Deer Meadow, as one of you asked? What if at the climactic turn in that nonsense, it was revealed that Evelyn Marsh had known Theresa? Well, then it suddenly would’ve been interesting, right? Even in the version of the series we have, it might still be, because while Leland was unmasked, there were still so many questions about BOB and the Lodges and such, and learning more might have kept the heart of the show intact.

    This is why season two feels like floundering to so many, despite many strong scenes and character pieces and ideas. Despite the disruptions and the pacing issues, even with the core of the show gutted, there are ways they could have held onto the ideas and kept pushing forward in ways that would have kept to the spirit of the show. I feel like there’s no better example of this than the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant. Largely, nobody things fondly of that story, and people are glad it’s cleared up before Lynch’s half of the finale. But consider: the idea of that beauty pageant is exactly what you’d look for in a big Twin Peaks climax, be it season or series. The show was about a homecoming queen who was preyed upon; it concludes with a beauty pageant, which is practically an invitation to choose a victim. You even have Earle claming he’ll make the winner his bride, yeah? And you’ve given some voice to the idea that brides exist in that liminal space in Twin Peaks (Margaret, Nadine) – they’re up on that stage which can have a familiar red curtain behind them – there’s no reason that the pageant couldn’t have been the terrifying grand guignol ending, where the town is choosing a new sacrifice in the manner of Laura Palmer, a new beauty for the town to love and consume. The ultimate expression of the dark side of the town’s quirkiness. Annie and Shelly and whomever up on that stage, all these women who have risked being parallels for Laura all along (Donna should be there, too – you could tie it into her parentage subplot, even, a self-assertion that turns dangerous as it did for Laura) – the only one not there is Audrey, who had tried emulating Laura most of all, and escaped the flames before they consumed her.

    Couple quick notes on the book, which I enjoyed a lot:
    1) Because it was so focused on the literal mysteries, I feel like you have to read it with Secret Diary as a companion. It’s not TP without both.
    2) I know everyone’s focused on Annie’s removal from existence – and boy, that does raise some questions – what intrigues and frustrates me is the use of the ring. How are people reading that? Because I felt like the ring had a different meaning in the book than it did in the film. I’m willing to go along with “outside of time” as an explanation for how a ring crafted from a formica tabletop made it to the 1800′s, but in the film – even the Missing Pieces – the ring is worn by women. Theresa, Laura, the nurse who steals it from Annie. Cooper tells Laura not to wear it, but in the final moments of her death it’s ambiguous if Laura’s use of the ring protects her from BOB or seals her death – it does seem to be related to Ronette’s escape, in a way – but in the book the ring is worn by men: Clark, Nixon, Parsons, and seems to be cursed knowledge and misfortune. In the movie Desmond reaches for it and vanishes, but we never see him wear it. How do people feel about this?

    Great podcast, guys – I definitely don’t always agree, but I enjoy hearing your thoughts. It’s crazy to hear experience viewers treating the show as “new” in 2016, but it’s an interesting perspective – though I went crazy when you were laughing at Leland on the coffin, thinking about how that imagery isn’t funny at ALL when you know the truth.

  2. Adam Says:

    Find myself agreeing with most of that, Michael. Very interesting point about the ring.

    I’d want to say that leland on the coffin is both not at all funny and very funny indeed. It brings out the absurdity of death and grief, which is something that drama seldom goes near.

  3. Michael Says:

    I’d actually meant that being on top of her prone body, moving up and down, is rather suggestive in retrospect.

  4. Joel Says:

    Great comment, Michael (redirected here from Twitter). It’s interesting how the film carries so much of the burden of addressing and rectifying each of those objections about the show, but also makes them seem more egregious by contrast. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Twin Peaks needs Fire Walk With Me more than Fire Walk With Me needs Twin Peaks (though I think both benefit from each other).

    Regarding the ring, your point IS interesting; furthermore in the book the ring is worn very specifically by powerful men who lose their power – Lewis, Chief Joseph, Parsons, Nixon. Whereas in the film it is worn by powerless women who gain power – for both Teresa and Laura we ONLY see the ring on their fingers in moments when they are thwarting Leland/Bob through expanded knowledge/determination.

    Finally, I’m curious – have you read Martha Nochimson’s book The Passion of David Lynch? It digs into the stark Lynch/Frost divide better than anything else I’ve read albeit from a highly critical angle (she makes no bones about which vision she prefers, though she is careful to pay respect to Frost’s talent and intelligence). In particular she emphasizes their difference on masculine/feminine emphases and on openness to the unknown (the book’s primary lenses are feminist and Jungian). I can’t say I entirely concur with her conclusions but everything I’ve thought and written about that subject has been shaped by her work.

  5. Adam Says:

    MICHAEL. OH, FUCK! That is an amazing and unbelievably horrid observation!!!

  6. Adam Says:

    Joel, just bought David Lynch Swerves. So I should get TPoDL too, right?

  7. Adam Says:

    Sounds essential.

    Have you read her Phd thesis on soaps? I’ve ordered that too

  8. Michael Says:

    Haven’t read many books on the subject. I find that with most Lynch, you run risks letting other people’s interpretations in, because his work’s power is so significant as an experience, and in the case of Twin Peaks, so many people have vested interests in their readings for one reason or another that I’m quickly frustrated.

    Which is why I like “Diane” as a podcast – there have been times I’ve vehemently disagreed, but the tone is always just as a fellow explorer of the woods, rather than a guide, and so I can enjoy it and take what inspiration I can find without the conflict overwhelming the discussion.

    I should state for the record that I actually saw Fire Walk With Me FIRST, and so that’s always colored my view of the show… I came to it late enough that I knew the killer’s identity before seeing the film anyway, but the film is always going to be the lynchpin (haw haw) in my reading of things. I liked the film a lot but didn’t love it before seeing the show, because I was unused to the tone, and after seeing the show and understanding better what the film was doing, it became a favorite.

  9. Michael Says:

    Uh, well, I was just reminded on Twitter that Philip/MIKE wears the ring briefly in the film – just the one scene when they’re driving, I think, but it DOES happen.

  10. Adam Says:

    Academic crit is pretty much the only crit I read. I’m only half interested in theories that explain the show in a diagetic sense. Stuff that talks about the show as art, however, that I’m very keen on. Used to be concerned that other views would dilute my thinking – tbh, having now read tonnes of interesting minds tackle the subject, if anything they’ve enhanced it.

  11. Adam Says:

    It should also be pointed out that despite having an entire podcast to waffle on, our opinions are normally more nuanced or diverse than they might sometimes appear. We don’t always agree with each other, and we don’t always agree with ourselves (entirely)!

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