Saturday, June 5, 2010

Twin Peaks: Am I on drugs, or are they?

So in the wake of Alan Wake, my friend is making me watch Twin Peaks, claiming I'm severely culturally malnourished.  While I don't disagree, I also don't generally sit still for long periods of time.  Twin Peaks has been an exception.

Going through the day-to-day chores of moving house, such as sorting out papers into piles that are then sorted into other piles, I frequently found myself staring at the TV screen, forgotten bank statements dangling limply from my hands.  It wasn't the Days of Our Lives web of deceit or the semi-ridiculous 90s clothing that was inspiring my attention.  It was the vision of a small-ish town rocked by the murder of a girl who, so far as they knew, had done nothing wrong.  When Laura's parents found out in the first fifteen minutes of the first episode that she was dead, I was astounded and a little embarrassed to find myself crying.  Her parents' reactions, while very melodramatic, were as accurate as my own experiences with loss, uncomfortably so.  I realised I was averting my eyes to avoid watching their grief, as if I were actually in the same room and embarrassed to be part of the spectacle.  I can see why, when it came out, everyone was spellbound.

I'm only up to episode 4 of the first season, but if it weren't so late, I would keep watching.  The strangeness of some of the sections - the agent's dream sequence, for example - made me feel as though I were in a dream, or possibly the whole series had been a dream, or my whole life.  The unresolved sexual tension between almost every character with almost everyone else makes the town a little creepy, even when it's a place where a man who has just lost his daughter can be offered a consoling hug from the policeman delivering the news.  It's a good, wholesome town, where some of the residents are just a bit too fond of each other.  I haven't seen a faithful relationship yet, even for what seems like small-town 1950s America, but is really just backwater midburg in the 90s.

For all that Twin Peaks was made almost 20 years ago, I'd find it hard to say that it's aged.  Despite the clothes and the hairstyles, and some of the music, the reactions and interactions are just as relevant now as then.  The closest I've come to a similar plot is reading The Lovely Bones, which broke my heart, and I'll be interested to see if Twin Peaks does the same.  I've been forewarned that it becomes a little strange toward the end of season one, but I read Laura Palmer's diary when I was 14 (long, long before I ever knew anything about the TV show) and, let me tell you, that was an education.  If the series is only half as weird as that book, I will be happy.

So what's the verdict?  Thus far, I can see Alan Wake as the mirror, or a different lens.  Our super-happy FBI agent has become more of a cliche, but that suits both the genre of the supposed book and the game itself.  The Log Lady is the Lamp Lady, and very similar.  The diner is similar, the lodge is similar, and in Twin Peaks they've just started talking about the Darkness.  Does it upset me that they're so alike?  Not in the least.  Alan Wake is that very rarest of creatures - an homage with a soul of its own.  Watching Twin Peaks is like reading the first draft of Alan Wake, back when it itself was a dream.  And, for myself, I'm very happy the world still has a place for the butterfly dreaming it's a man.

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