When Laura Palmer said “I’ll see you again in 25 years” in the Twin Peaks series finale back in 1991, few of the show’s remaining viewers would have believed her words were actually prophetic. Only a year earlier, the groundbreaking series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost had burned as brightly as any pop culture phenomenon of the era, but by the end it had largely slipped out of the public consciousness due to creative fatigue and network incompetence. Fire Walk with Me, Lynch’s prequel film released a year later, was unfairly savaged by critics and bombed at the box office, at which point it appeared Twin Peaks was dead and buried.
At first it seemed the show’s influence would be short-lived as well. Although such early ‘90s hits as The X-Files and Northern Exposure liberally borrowed from Twin Peaks, it’s not as if the prime-time landscape was noticeably transformed in its wake. But the 21st century brought the rise of the cable drama, and suddenly Lynch/Frost’s DNA was all over the scene. David Chase cited Twin Peaks as a prime influence on The Sopranos, most notably in its intricate dream sequences. The “dead girl” formula, by which an entire series of plot complications are introduced by the discovery of a murder victim, cropped up again and again in shows like The Killing, The Bridge, and True Detective. Even network television got in on the act, as the creators of Lost and Hannibal have been quick to cite Twin Peaks’ twisty plotting and baroque visuals as key inspirations. The new Pivot series Fortitude, in which an outsider lawman arrives in a quirky, secretive Arctic town to investigate a crime, is unimaginable without its Pacific Northwest predecessor.
The past couple of years have seen a remarkable resurgence in Twin Peaks’ popularity as a new generation of fans has caught up on the show via instant streaming. Last year’s extravagant Blu-ray release promised to be the last word with its inclusion of 90 minutes worth of Fire Walk with Me deleted scenes, but only a few months later the improbable announcement was made: Twin Peaks would return as a nine-episode Showtime miniseries in 2016, with all episodes written by Lynch and Frost and directed by Lynch. Kyle MacLachlan has since confirmed that he will return as Special Agent Dale Cooper (and presumably his evil doppelganger introduced in the series’ waning minutes).
Given all of this, the ECW Press/Pop Classics entry on Twin Peaks: Wrapped in Plastic (Amazon, iBooks, IndieBound, Powell’s) is the beneficiary of good timing…to a point. The news of the show’s revival didn’t hit in time to be included in Andy Burns’ slim volume (at least, not in the advance reading copy), and so the notion that Twin Peaks could return is treated as unlikely rumor in these pages. Still, new fans looking for a breezy overview of the series’ history and influence to date will find exactly that here.
Clocking in at around 100 pages minus footnotes, Wrapped in Plastic is hardly comprehensive, and longtime Peaks adherents will be very familiar with much of what it has to offer. Burns recounts the series’ origins, as the unlikely pairing of indie filmmaker Lynch (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet) and TV writer Frost (Hill Street Blues) concocted an offbeat primetime soap opera built around the discovery of murdered homecoming queen Laura Palmer “wrapped in plastic.” Burns recounts the ways in which Twin Peaks pushed the boundaries of network television in terms of sex and violence, and the battles with ABC network suits intent on revealing the killer sooner than the creators had planned. He includes oft-told tales of Lynch’s intuitive working methods, such as his spur-of-the-moment inspiration to turn set dresser Frank Silva into the fearsome demon BOB. He delves into the show’s recurring motif of doubles, from Laura Palmer and her identical cousin Maddy to Deer Meadow, the dark inverse of Twin Peaks seen in Fire Walk with Me. And he reviews the mythological underpinnings of the show’s supernatural elements, such as the white horse and the Black Lodge.
Wrapped in Plastic is at its best in its survey of the influence Twin Peaks has had over the past several decades, not only in the shows mentioned above but in lesser-known homages like the videogame Dark Premonition and the “Dual Spires” episode of USA Network’s Psych. But Burns largely overlooks the failings of the second season that helped hasten the series’ demise. After the murder was solved, both Lynch and Frost were largely absent from the series, and producers Robert Engels and Harley Peyton essentially became the showrunners, leading Twin Peaks down a dire path of bland quirkiness (the Miss Twin Peaks contest, Ben Horne in the Civil War, James Hurley on the road). Fans looking for a more in-depth examination of the show’s inner workings from beginning to end would be better off with Brad Dukes’ Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, released last year. As an introductory work for newcomers, however, Wrapped in Plastic fits the bill.