One of the most significant television events of 2017 is the impending release of the Twin Peaks revival. Fans of the series are waiting to see how the 26 year old cliffhanger will finally be resolved. David Lynch fans are excited for his first narrative feature in ten years. Surely, the fans say, Mark Frost and Lynch will have some great surprises in store that will once again revolutionize television.
These same fans seem to forget – or ignore – the fact that Lynch had already tried to continue the series a year after it was unceremoniously cancelled by ABC. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me promised to explore the underbelly of the titular Washington town and hopefully give the show closure.
The fact that there was still demand for more 26 years after the show was cancelled shows how well Fire Walk with Me did its job. Although the effects of the show are still felt in every time you press the power button on your remote, the most attention the film ever received was for the scenes it didn’t include.
Because Lynch squandered a lot of the good will he had built with the show by making the mistakes he and Frost had been so careful to avoid. We’re left with more questions than answers and Lynch’s trademark surrealist elements overwhelm the film’s plot and undercut the central mysteries. There are some who will praise the film’s excellent portrayal of fallen women and how good people can easily be corrupted. But it’s nowhere as good as what Lynch managed to do on prime time network television.
Instead of being a proper sequel to the show, the film is a prequel that revolves around the last week of Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) life and about the original BOB killings that attracted the attention of the FBI. Some of the characters from the show return for film, including Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin), Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), and Donna Heyward (Moira Kelly, who replaces Lara Flynn Boyle).
But the first half hour of the film focuses on characters that we’ve never seen – Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Keifer Sutherland). They go to investigate a murder in Deer Meadows, a town that is the polar opposite of Twin Peaks. The local law enforcement is uncooperative, the denizens are all physically unattractive, and the town looks like any industry or opportunity it once had is long gone.
It makes some sense that we’d start with Deer Meadows. One of Lynch’s biggest themes is the duality of existence and the show was built around how each person and place had two sides. Had Desmond and Stanley been established characters, we may have gotten some very good scenes that would have emphasized this theme. But we’ve never seen them before and Desmond doesn’t play the role of Cooper’s opposite – he’s a copy of Agent Cooper. His character is worthless to the franchise.
One of the other key elements missing from the film is the trademark humor that made the series a joy to watch. Desmond offers no humor to the situation he’s in and the townsfolk offer no quips. This lack of rib-ticklers sets the tone for the rest of the film. Lynch has never been given credit for being a humorist, but his best work has been simultaneously funny while it messes with our heads. Twin Peaks had many comedic moments that were a welcome break from the backwards speaking denizens of the Lodge. Fire Walk With Me abandons all of those moments. Granted, it’s difficult to make jokes in a film about incest and abuse. But the same themes were present in the show and Lynch still gave us a chance to relax. Audiences fell in love with the town in spite, not because of, the horror that lay just below the surface. Lynch never gave us another opportunity to visit the town. (There are some great deleted scenes that address this lapse, but those were buried for almost 24 years and came out too late to really impact the film.)
But the film’s biggest weakness is its focus on Laura Palmer. We learned all we needed to know about Laura Palmer in the show. She was nominally an idyllic American beauty queen, the pride of her parents and the hope of the next generation. But just below the surface was a scared, abused woman who was trying desperately to hide what she was becoming. It’s an old trope, but Lynch and Frost made it intriguing by precisely because we never saw her descent on the show. We’d see old videos of her with friends, pictures of her in pornographic magazines, and see excerpts from her diary. This was all we need to know to whet our appetites and send our imaginations soaring.
Fire Walk With Me acts as though we need to see all of Laura’s descent in order to really understand it. This undercuts the technique of the show. There’s also no drama in this story. We know Laura will end up, “dead. Wrapped in plastic.” By the time the film came out, we also knew who killed her. There’s no intrigue or suspense left in her story.
It’s a shame that Sheryl Lee gives the performance of a lifetime portraying Laura. Finally given free reign by Lynch to explore her character, Lee gives it her all. One of the best scenes in the film has her seeing her father come into her room the morning after he’s sexually assaulted her. She’s barely able to speak as she whispers out “stay away from me.” Throughout the film, Laura simultaneously seems to accept her fate and curse the powers that have doomed her. It’s a marvelous acting job. But it’s not enough to save the film.
The release date for the new series was just announced people are collectively holding their breaths. Lynch has also said that “the last seven days of Laura’s life” will lead into the plot of the new season. There is certainly enough material left in the world of Twin Peaks to build 18 hours of classic television. But if it’s anything like Fire Walk With Me, Lynch and Showtime will get the same reaction the film received in 1992 – a collective shrug and a sigh.
Despite all of its flaws, Fire Walk With Me shows where Lynch feels the future of the series belongs. He’s said what’s in the film is going to be vital to the new season.
And there are things that are introduced in Fire Walk With Me (and its recently unearthed deleted scenes) that could lead to the story line in season three. Lynch and Frost have kept the script under tight security. But there are a few unanswered questions from the film that could be explored in the new season.
- The Ring – A jade ring with the Owl Cave symbol came up quite a bit during Fire Walk With Me – Cooper warned Laura “not to take it” and The Man From Another Place teased the characters with it. The ring seems to be a key to the lodges and a direct way to communicate with the denizens inside. In fact, it offered Laura protection from being possessed by BOB.But the exact nature of the ring was never explained in the film. If the new season is going to explore the lodges, then the characters will need a way to get there beyond “dreams.” The ring may be the way.
- Cooper and The Lodge – What exactly happened with Cooper? The finale saw his evil side escape the lodge. The deleted scenes do nothing to address his fate, except for a scene with Cooper asking how he can leave the Lodge. It’s by far the biggest question of the new series – what happened to Cooper? Has his evil double been running around in our world for 25 years? Is the real Cooper back in our world? If so, how?This is the biggest question of the new show and, unfortunately, there aren’t many answers in Fire Walk With Me. However, it appears that Laura herself got the biggest clue about Cooper’s fate when she was told that Cooper “can’t leave” the lodge and was instructed to write it down in her diary. The discovery of a secret diary was a big plot point in season 2 and it will probably come back in the new series.
- The Nurse – One of the most famous deleted scenes shows a bloody Annie in a hospital as she recovers from her experience in the lodge. One of her nurses steals the jade ring, puts it on, and begins laughing. Even if we don’t know what the ring is, this scene provides us with a big clue. Other people seem to recognize what it is and the power it holds. And it’s well established that people from the lodges can exist in our universe.So where does that leave the nurse? She could be a new villain for the series – or maybe it’s a clue that there’s still more to the Twin Peaks residents than meets the eye.
- More Lodges/New Inhabitants – Two of the actors that played lodge denizens – Frances Bay and Frank “Killer BOB” Silva – have passed away since original show’s cancellation. Michael Anderson, the Man from Another Place, has confirmed he will not be appearing in the revival.This means that some of the show’s most intriguing characters will likely not be seen, but the lodge will have to be in order to address the hanging plot threads. So it’s likely that there will be new denizens with even more cryptic riddles. One of the big revelations in both the season two finale and Fire Walk With Me showed how the lodge can bleed into our reality. One deleted scene had Phillip Gerard (The One Armed Man) using the lodge backwards speech in our reality. The cast list includes a lot of famous musicians (Eddie Vedder, Trent Reznor, Sky Ferreira) whose roles have not been confirmed. Perhaps they’ll be the ones guiding people through the lodges.
- Annie – Another actress who has not signed on for the revival is Heather Graham, who received a big career boost for playing Cooper’s girlfriend Annie. Her character played an enormous role in the season 2 finale and she reprised the role for a few brief scenes in Fire Walk With Me.What was especially strange about Graham’s absence is her character’s connection to Laura Palmer. She was communicating with her and, seeing as how Laura was in the lodge with Cooper, it’s easy to imagine that she would be important to her story.There is an obvious explanation to her absence – and it would be a very sad one. If Cooper’s evil doppelganger escaped the lodge, then it’s possible that Cooper tried to kill Annie. He may have even succeeded and the real Cooper has to deal with the actions of his evil side.Even if Heather Graham isn’t in the new season, her character will likely be mentioned even if it’s to clear up her fate.
We’ll find out May 21, when Showtime broadcasts the first two episodes.