It is happening again. It never stopped happening.
Twin Peaks returns this Sunday, May 21, 2017. It went off the air on June 10, 1991. A year later the prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was released. It’s been 25 years since Agent Cooper solved the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. We still don’t know why Bob exists. Season 3 may not shed any new light. It doesn’t matter. That’s not why we watch.
What brought the show back? It wasn’t the original fans. Though their devotion might have led to a film, the originals, people at least 40-years-old, aren’t why it is happening again.
Why is it this show and not another television program that wasn’t allowed to explore its potential? Why not Max Headroom? That show also captured the zeitgeist, ran for two seasons on network television and has a cult following. It’s a story set in a dystopia about the reach of media. What show could be more timely to revive? Twin Peaks. The time has never been better. The reasons why it worked will make it as timeless as a show can be.
We’ve written about this show more than any other but we’ve never really confronted the most basic truth about the show. Twin Peaks is a melodrama about sexual assault and sexual abuse and substance abuse. The mysticism, the idea of a serial killer than takes over bodies, passages from The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the pie, that’s all distraction. Marketable and fun distractions, but distractions. They’re the kind of distractions that allow for Agent Cooper, Log Lady, Leland Palmer and more to become a Funko toy. Hour long dramas like this typically don’t get toys without distractions.
Twin Peaks rides the line between horror and camp. Whenever there’s a scene featuring characters living through traumatic experiences, it’s usually followed by absurdist humor. It’s the dark and the light, never taking itself too seriously, that made the show work and makes its return welcome. It’s all there in the pilot.
Laura Palmer’s diary is introduced in the first 30 minutes of the pilot. Her father, Leland Palmer, asks an officer, “Do you have to take that?” It’s all in there. Leland’s involvement, Laura’s past, Laura’s hidden past, is all in that diary. Or in another diary.
A few scenes later, Agent Cooper breaks open the diary without a key. It’s light. The story is now about man trying to solve a mystery about what happened to the girl wrapped in plastic. And it’s funny. From the first episode, we should know how it’s going to end. The answer is in the diary. Or diaries.
Between the first and second season, Jennifer Lynch, the daughter of David Lynch, released The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. The book was popular, reaching number four on The New York Times bestseller list. It’s popularity made it easy to find in thrift stores in the early 00s.
I purchased the book for next to nothing 15 years ago. I read it and didn’t really care for it. It was fine, something I thought only completists would love. I sold it for much more than next to nothing. After the series was available on DVD but before Netflix picked it up, the Twin Peaks fan base was much smaller but just as rabid.
The book isn’t a large part of the Twin Peaks canon. I forgot about it until earlier this year. Audible released an audiobook version of the book, narrated by the actress that played Laura Palmer, Sheryl Lee, in advance of season 3.
I did not enjoy the first few chapters of the audio version. It felt like a cheap ploy to milk more money from a cash cow. A month later, I can’t stop thinking about it.
Jennifer Lynch was 22 when The Secret Diary was released. Sheryl Lee was 23. Both women were age appropriate to portray the character. It took some time, but listening to a 50-year-old portray a 12 through 17-year-old paints the series in a new light. The reason why this series works, the reason why The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is more than a neat item for the fan that needs to own everything. It works because of its portrayal of trauma.
The Secret Diary didn’t work as a piece of quickly produced book meant to cash in on a phenomenon. The work, 27 years after its release, no longer feels like another piece of branding. It’s a well written, extremely believable diary from a fictional character that goes through hell. It’s even better portrayed by the person that played Laura.
Laura Palmer was raped by her father. She turned to drug abuse and dangerous sexual conquests before getting murdered by her father. The television show doesn’t ever say anything that bluntly. The movie doesn’t say it but shows it. The book allows to reader to understand the facts. There’s not a lot of mysticism and merchandising opportunities in a teenager’s diary. The truth, the cold, harsh truth, is easier to understand in The Secret Diary.
Twin Peaks is back in the mainstream. The New York City Subway is offering Twin Peaks fare cards. Cast members are appearing on Good Morning America. It’s on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. More collectible merchandise and talk show appearances are coming. It’ll be great and fun and none of it will be about what happened to Laura. No one listened to Laura.