Today is the 28th anniversary of the final episode of the original run of Twin Peaks. Episode 29, also titled “Beyond Life and Death,” left us with an indelible image: our beloved Agent Cooper, head bloody, reflection twisted to the tune of BOB, jabbering “how’s Annie? how’s Annie?” again and again and again.
I wasn’t born when the episode aired (I have outed myself as a Young now. I understand this). But Twin Peaks has been a part of my life for about a decade now. Here on this auspicious date, 28 years after the first “how’s Annie?” I’d like to reflect a little on my journey with Twin Peaks.
In high school, I took Latin. My teacher was, looking back, the perfect teacher for me. I don’t remember much Latin (raeda in fossa est being the exception. Lots of carts stuck in ditches). But I do remember spending many, many lunch periods in Mrs. Greenman’s classroom, just talking and learning and hanging out with like-minded nerds. (Mrs. Greenman, in early 2011, asked me a fateful question: “Did you hear they’re casting Sean Bean as Ned Stark?” To which I answered “Boromir as who?” She introduced me to A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, for which I will forever be grateful. She also talked about Harlan Ellison with me, and left me with a deep appreciation for that strange, irascible dude).
I don’t remember how Twin Peaks came up, exactly. But I do remember two things: she told me about the Log Lady, and told me that the Owls Are Not What They Seem. “Okay,” I thought. “I’ll check it out. That sounds cool.”
I pirated Twin Peaks. From the first, I was hooked. As someone about to leave high school, I was captivated by the awful nightmare feeling in Twin Peaks High when news of Laura’s death begins to spread. The girl running screaming across the courtyard of the school, Laura’s wail of despair, James’ throbbing forehead – all of it. It hit home. Not in a “realistic” way, but in a heightened way, something that spoke to parts of my brain I didn’t know existed.
I watched all of Twin Peaks. I watched it again in college, and encouraged friends to watch it too. I pirated Fire Walk With Me and watched it alone in my dorm room, a traumatic experience. (Tangentially: in the same week, I ripped and watched Leaving Las Vegas alone in my room. Rough!)
I have always loved fantasy. Speculative fiction, if you prefer. Stories that wrap themselves in the super-natural, that slip the surly bonds etc etc. For me, Twin Peaks was the definitive depiction of the way supernatural evil is inseparable from human evil. The darkness in Leland Palmer was inseparable from the evil entity BOB – the question of what came first, or which was really responsible, wasn’t the important question. We are all tangled in fear and weakness and evil. Leo Johnson wasn’t possessed by an evil Lodge spirit when he beat his wife and sold drugs; Ben Horne wasn’t sucked in by a hopping woodsman when he ran a covert brothel/human trafficking operation on the Canadian border.
I watched Twin Peaks, and loved it. And then it came back.
Twin Peaks: The Return aired in May 2017. At the time, my wife and I were making a move to a new city. We were moving away from friends and family to a new place – a beautiful place, and a place that had a great job for my wife, but a new place. She moved down a few weeks before I did. We took a weekend to get her mostly moved in, and then I returned to the apartment, cracked open a cold one, and watched the two-hour premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return.
The show followed me all through that summer (blessed as we were to get eighteen episodes!) I didn’t have a job lined up in the new city. Every Monday morning, I would wake up, make breakfast, see my wife off to work, and then curl up on the couch with a cup of coffee and watch the newest episode. You can see some of my tweets here: https://twitter.com/search?l=&q=peaks%2C%20OR%20twin%20from%3Abookshelfstud%20since%3A2017-05-01%20until%3A2017-12-31&src=typd
All that summer, The Return was mine. Joy, sorrow, love, death, horror, all of it.
The weekend of the two-part finale, I was back at my parents’ house, visiting for the weekend. I set myself up in the basement, on the little TV near the treadmill and the bookshelf of picture books and VHS tapes. (How many hours had I spent in this basement? When I was young the Star Wars movies babysat me here; here I played my first video games [Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Entertainment System], here I jammed on the drums with my friends in high school, here I ran and ran up and down the hall as a little boy, here I told stories with LEGOs and built great fortresses, here I fell asleep watching Thor with my then-girlfriend now-wife. What a place to be, this memory-soaked basement!) I turned all the lights off, set up a chair about three feet from the little TV, and just sat. And watched.
No story has affected me in quite the way Twin Peaks did. To call the ending of The Return “nightmarish” is to oversell the quality of my nightmares. There are rare days when I don’t think about that final episode. Rare days. I can’t describe what it meant to me, to be there for the end of Twin Peaks, and to see the way the nightmare tied itself together in an endless loop. Like a circle never drawn but always suggested.
To me, Carl Rodd was the centerpiece of The Return. Dale Cooper can keep his bravado and heroics, his “I am the FBI” and his “what year is it?” Carl Rodd is the man. Like James Hurley, he is a part of Twin Peaks (or Fat Trout Trailer Park) – he is cool, and he is here, and he will always be cool and be here. He plays his guitar. He helps his tenants out as best he can. (Is Carl Rodd the only good landlord? Yes). Moreover, he is a centerpiece of community, of the small things we all do every day to help other people. Sometimes it’s a bigger gesture – rescuing Shelley Briggs from her daughter Becky’s automobile rampage, for example, using a pan flute and his trusty panel van – but more often it’s a very small thing indeed, a hand laid on the shoulder of a grieving mother. (In fact, there’s something enormously touching to me about Carl Rodd’s presence as a helper in the wake of automobile accidents, of hit-and-runs. If Mr. Rogers told us to look for the helpers, Carl Rodd shows us how to be one).
We’re unlikely to see more of Twin Peaks. Most of the principal actors are passing on now. Frank Silva’s not around to be BOB. Miguel Ferrer passed away shortly after filming The Return. David Bowie became a teakettle. Catherine Coulson, the Log Lady herself, iconic heart of Twin Peaks, passed away during filming. Leave it to David Lynch et al to capture on film the fleeting beauty of the little town of Twin Peaks, the horror and the glory alike.