analysis of twin peaks (new series, episodes 1 and 2)

May 22, 2017

The new Twin Peaks embodies my favorite aspects of David Lynch’s work as it eliminates some of the more audience-friendly elements of the original series. Sacrificed in favor of a darker, more atavistic surrealism are many of the comic, rather satirical soapy trademarks of the 1990s episodes—the endearingly loopy eccentricities of the background characters, the comforting illusion that a tragic mystery will eventually be solved and some type of justice will prevail. Instead, chaos or some malevolent, inscrutable system of order inimical to humankind seems to dominate Twin Peaks and perhaps the world as a whole.

Like the bizarre glass cubicle that a lone witness must continually watch, the series is an enigmatic puzzle box from which at any moment something terrifying may emerge. Linearity, logic, and language twist and turn.  Attempts to communicate often result in nonsensical replies, reversed utterances, palindromic slogans. Doppelgangers wage a cryptic war amongst themselves, and, like the gods and demons of ancient lore, use humans as their pawns and sustenance. Severed body parts reshape to become new creations—an arm, for example, evolving into a monstrous, tree-rooted head reminiscent of Redon’s “Spirit of the Forest.”

Resurrecting imagery from some of his previous works (sinisterly sizzling electricity, menacing, meandering highways, dismembered corpses), Lynch engulfs viewers in his oneiric vision. Like a dream that momentarily fades but never actually ends, each of his works may merely appear to be a separate entity but may instead be part of one continually recurring nightmare, interspersed with scenes of humor and beauty but then resuming with renewed intensity.  Does the dreamer ever actually awake? Does the dream continue, even in death?

(Note:  I was especially surprised and pleased by the reference to “Armstrong.”  In the first episode, it was used as the name of a dog, but perhaps the name has symbolic meaning that relates to the severed arm that transforms itself into a terrifying new creation.)

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Writings by Alison Armstrong