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Twin Peaks returns Sunday, materializing like a giant with new clues to share and fulfilling the promise Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) made to Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) in their red curtained limbo: “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” Showtime will air two installments of what David Lynch describes as an 18-part movie. Each has a title that winks at its very existence. First, there’s “The Return Part 1 – My log has a message for you.” It’s a nod to the Log Lady, played by the late Catherine Coulson, who will appear in the new series. A moony witness to the cycles of occult suffering that moves through the wooded town of Twin Peaks like mist, the quirky clairvoyant is The Watcher of the TPU, her timber a recorder. “The Return Part 2 – The stars turn and a time presents itself” could refer to astrological mysticism, but rings to me like Lynch’s view of the show as an expression of destiny. “I love this world and I love the people,” the director told me back in March. “At the same time, I felt that the thing had drifted away and so part of me is kind of shut down about the possibility of going back. But then time passed, and now it seems like fate to go back.”
“The Return” will be eagerly embraced by fans that never left or discovered the show over time, who’ve been patiently waiting for their prodigal pop to get it together and come home to TV. Their geeking takes the form of blogging, Reddit board theorizing, and so much podcasting. The Twin Peaks Podcast, The Sparkwood and 21 Podcast, The Red Room Podcast, Diane, Deer Meadow Radio. In June 2015, Bryon Kozaczka, 37, gave his friend Ben Durant, 42, a Blu-ray edition of Twin Peaks for his birthday. Ben, a watcher from back in the day, asked Bryon, a newbie, to watch it with him. Their podcast, Twin Peaks Unwrapped, has chronicled their journeys of discovery and rediscovery. “I’m most excited about Twin Peaks mythology in relationship to the Black Lodge,” says Durant about the new series. “What’s going on with the Red Room, Bob, the Jumping Man, the Giant, Laura Palmer, and Cooper’s evil double? Can Cooper be saved? And I’m really excited that Lynch and Frost wrote all the parts and Lynch is directing all of them.”
We know the feeling. In the weeks to come, we’ll be discussing, analyzing, and over-thinking the new Twin Peaks via our own podcast, A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks. (Subscribe here to get new episodes every Monday!) In today’s pre-premiere episode, Darren Franich and I dig into our listener email bag, answer some questions, and share some fan theories. (Keep them coming, by the way: email@example.com.)
One thing Darren and I don’t discuss in the new episode is a matter I’ve seen raised over the past few days on the internet, a somewhat ironic concern facing the digital age of Twin Peaks fandom: to stay or not to stay on social media as the new show plays out over the next three months.
Fans are excited to be part of a buzzy pop culture event and experience something similar to the energy that the original Twin Peaks generated. But they also worry that spoiler reporting, live tweeting, and wild observations might subvert the enjoyment of coming to their own conclusions via an intense, unpolluted engagement with episodes, thinking and talking through it on their own or within their community. “I have been leaning towards getting off of Twitter or at least cutting back significantly,” says Mark Givens, 42, of the podcast Deer Meadow Radio. He elaborates: “I am afraid the internet is going to go hyper trying to ‘solve’ and over-analyze everything before it even gets a chance to soak in. I just finished a re-watch and was still picking up new things all these years later. To me, one of the best things about the show is the layered puzzles. I would rather sit with them for a while than be part of a race to solve and post to the world. At least that’s how I am feeling at the moment. We’ll see.”
Durant hopes to have it both ways. He and his partner will be on social media “interacting with the community and doing our best to stay away from the spoilers as we have done for the past two years.” But they’re divided about when to watch episodes 3 and 4, which will be available to subscribers of Showtime’s digital platforms on Sunday night. Durant will see them ASAP, because he doesn’t want to hear about them from other people. Kozaczka doesn’t want their conversation about the first two eps impacted by foreknowledge of what comes after them; he wants to watch episodes 3 and 4 the following week, closer to when they’ll be recording the podcast that discusses them.
The Twin Peaks fan subculture has exploded in recent years, fueled by revival hype and an accessibility that hasn’t always existed since the show’s cancellation in 1991. The business of Twin Peaks is a Mom and Pop operation – Lynch and Frost own the IP – with a complex history of deal-making and various partners, yielding an afterlife as byzantine and elusive as the show’s Black Lodge mythology. The first video box set, released in 1995, didn’t include Lynch’s masterful two-hour pilot because a different entity controlled its rights. Season 1 came out on DVD in 2001, again sans pilot, and the second season didn’t reach DVD until 2007, when Paramount Home Entertainment/CBS DVD brought out Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition. Many who’ve come to Twin Peaks over the past decade through disc and streaming report being impacted in the same way as those who watched it on broadcast television in the early ’90s. “I came upon Peaks like many others of my generation: Netflix,” says Sam Witt, moderator of Reddit’s Twin Peaks page. “I’d heard about it prior to watching, but one fateful night in 2012, I put it on, forever changing the way I feel about television, TV as art, and many other days.”
Unlike these latter day Twin Peaks true believers, John Thorne, author of The Essential Wrapped In Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks, is an original disciple who became the show’s chief evangelist and theologian. His walk of faith is a snapshot of modern pop culture fandom. He was a child of Star Wars and a proud geek with a passion of science fiction and comic books. He was also an avid TV watcher growing up and had a huge affection for the medium, but by the late ’80s he was growing restless. The likes of Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere, but he wanted more from the medium as he moved into adulthood. “I always thought it had potential that was not being used,” he says. A review of the Twin Peaks pilot intrigued him and he gave the show a shot. It was a revelation. “I was just blown away by the complexity of it, the detail, the challenge it gave to me as a viewer. That’s what I was looking for in TV,” says Thorne, who was 26 when Twin Peaks premiered in 1990. “I was a fan from day one, and I guess that’s it. That’s how it got me hooked.”
Thorne became even more engaged with the eclectically toned, formally-daring mystery serial as the Lynch-Frost storytelling began to suggest a supernatural dimension to the world. This, too, was boundary-pushing formally in 1990: broadcast TV, then more of an all-audiences business, was more wary of narrow-skewing sci-fi and fantasy genres than it is today. This was soon to change, thanks to The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and niche networks that could afford to be more cult. Twin Peaks helped pave the way for them. “I wasn’t sure what Twin Peaks was going to be [when I first started watching it.] I was just really interested in the use of the medium,” says Thorne. “As the supernatural elements crept into the show, that kind of stimulated my interest even more, flooring the accelerator.”
Twin Peaks may have been driving away with Thorne’s imagination, but the show was losing momentum in the larger culture and inside ABC quickly. In the spring of 1991, the network put the brakes on the series for good. Fans got the memo, so they engaged in the season 2 finale – a totally bonkers Lynch-helmed hour – knowing it was a series finale. History would later reveal that Lynch and his fellow producers were hoping to spur ABC into renewing the series by giving them an episode electric with high strange energy and many cliffhangers. It didn’t work.
“Obviously it was disappointing, but we were left with such an amazing cliffhanger, and the kind of cliffhanger that would really sort of indelibly be branded in your brain,” says Thorne, referring to the last image of the show, which seemed to suggest that Agent Cooper had been possessed by a demonic entity known as BOB (Frank Silva). “It was devastating, really. It was. It was like, okay, that’s how it’s ending. You kind of have to accept that it’s not a happy ending.” He notes that Lynch’s prequel film of the next year, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk Me, offered some relief by suggesting new possibilities for Cooper’s condition. “But at that time,” he says, “it was tough to accept it was over.”
And yet, Thorne’s relationship with Twin Peaks was just beginning.
RELATED: The Twin Peaks Cast Reveals Their Favorite Episodes
During the run of the show, Thorne read a magazine article about Twin Peaks that included a chart describing the characters and their connections to each other. He loved the concept, but he was also dissatisfied with the magazine’s work, so he decided to map the world of Twin Peaks by making his own charts. “That was the beginning of me trying to take the show apart – to open it up, look inside, and try to figure out how everything worked,” says Thorne. “So it was just something I was doing for fun.”
He was also giving it away to every Twin Peaks fan he knew, including the folks at Lone Star Comics, where he did his comics shopping. “I just made copies on a Xerox copy machine, go into the comic book store and give it to those guys who worked there. And they, in turn, spread them to the other employees that worked at other stores in the chain,” says Thorne. “They eventually made their way around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and to a guy who worked at another store named Craig Miller. And that’s how he came to know me before I knew him.”
In the summer of 1991, Thorne attended the Dallas Fantasy Fair and spoke at a Twin Peaks panel. Miller – who had previously self-published a humor magazine and a comic book – sought him out afterward with a proposal. “He said, ‘I want to do a magazine about Twin Peaks.’ I just immediately, without hesitation, was like, “Yeah! Let’s do that!” Because the show was so rich and I was bursting to write about it and to talk about it. Again, this is long before the internet. So it was like, how do we contact other fans and share our excitement about this show?”
The first issue of Wrapped In Plastic was published in October of 1992, a few months after the release of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It featured a cover illustrated by Miller, a review of the prequel, a photo gallery of memorable props from the show, and more. Subsequent issues would include a broader array of features, including interviews with TV and movie critics discussing the significance of Twin Peaks, book reports on literature that influence the show’s mythology, episode recaps, character analysis, theories, reporting on the current activities of Lynch, Frost and the show’s cast, and coverage of Twin Peaks legacy fandom. Thorne and Miller wanted to get interviews with the writers, directors and cast of Twin Peaks to inform their features but they were met with resistance at first. Enter the Watcher of the Twin Peaks universe: The Log Lady.
In 1993, Bravo began re-airing Twin Peaks, complete with introductions by Catherine Coulson playing the Log Lady character, written and directed by David Lynch himself. Some of them play like cryptic insight on how to read the show’s mysteries, such as this intro for the series finale, which flicks at Agent Cooper’s fate:
“We just contacted Bravo and said we’d like to talk to her. They said ‘Okay.’ And we were just like: Oh my God, we’re talking to the Log Lady!” says Thorne. “She became a great supporter of the magazine. She would mention it in other interviews that she’d do. She was a supporter of all Twin Peaks fandom. She just loved the fans. So that was our first get.”
More would come. 1995 was a banner year for Wrapped In Plastic, with issues featuring interviews with Michael J. Anderson, Sheryl Lee, Kenneth Welsh, writer/producer Harley Peyton, and co-creator Mark Frost. And they kept hustling. “We went to the Twin Peaks festivals and we’d get connections with the actors who happened to be there and get their contact info and set up an interview,” says Thorne, referring to gatherings like the long-running Twin Peaks Festival, started by fans Don and Pat Shook in the fall of 1993. (EW visited back in 1997.) “As time went along, the actors from the show were promoting new projects, and we’d take advantage of that to get interviews. So the ball just started rolling and it was great.”
In this way, Wrapped In Plastic became a must-read for Twin Peaks fans still haunted by the show and full of curiosity for how it was made, how to take the form that it did, and why it couldn’t have been any different than it was. Thorne, Miller and their collaborators managed to excavate massive amounts of behind-the-scenes information about the writing, producing and shooting of the television series, gleaned either through interviews or access to original scripts. (Last year, Thorne published a compendium, The Essential Wrapped In The Plastic: Pathways To Twin Peaks, an excellent resource for anyone looking for recaps, insight into the show, and essays that offers a nice balance of critical analysis and nutty theorizing.)
Wrapped In Plastic was distributed through comic book stores, independent book stores, and a few chains that offered a large magazine selection, including the now defunct Tower Records and Books. Circulation for Wrapped In Plastic fluctuated over its 13-year run; Thorne says the peak was 5,000. The X-Files, starring Twin Peaks alum David Duchovny, helped goose awareness for the magazine in 1994 when Thorne and Miller got an interview with Gillian Anderson and put Mulder and Scully on the cover of their 12th issue. “I think we were the second magazine in the United States to do an X-Files cover,” Thorne says proudly. “I can’t remember what the numbers were. Maybe 10,000 copies of that issue of X-Files? It went into three different printings, I know for sure. It might have been more than that. I can’t remember. It was so long ago!”
What Thorne knows for sure is that Wrapped In Plastic changed his life. “We kept on getting orders, so we kept on doing it. We were doing it every two months, without fail, like clockwork, until the very end we kind of pushed it back to a quarterly. But until then, every year, there were six issues. And it got better! It looked better, the paper quality got better, my writing got much better. I look back on the old stuff like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know what I was doing.’ But I think I learned a lot about criticism and analysis. In fact, I went back to graduate school because of Twin Peaks, because I was writing so much.” In 1997, Thorne graduated from Southern Methodist University with a Master’s degree in television production. “It changed my life, it really did, and working on that magazine.”
Wrapped In Plastic ran for 75 issues. The last, published in September 2005, featured interviews with Lynch, Frost, Coulson, writer/producer Robert Engels, and editor Mary Sweeney. It was billed, tongue-in-cheek, as a “giant-size ‘hiatus’ issue.” This issue – something of a cherished object of this particular Twin Peaks fan – included an essay, written by Thorne, that made me reconsider my low opinion of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and gave me new eyes to Lynch’s difficult film in a new way, as something full of possibilities for those frustrated by the way the TV show concluded. But why did Wrapped In Plastic have to end?
“Well, a couple reasons,” says Thorne. “We were really competing with the internet to some extent. Everybody could get news or interviews for free, and there were a lot of websites on Twin Peaks. And we’d been doing it, like I said, every two months for 13 years, so we’d kind of run out of things to say! Now, since then, I’ve got lots more I’d like to say about it. But at the time, it was just hard to fill those pages. We really felt like we needed to give quality content, so we just decided we were going to stop it and maybe bring it back. You know, we just never did.”
For Thorne, any hope or consideration of reviving Wrapped In Plastic ended five years ago. On November 7, 2012, Miller, 53, died in his sleep from a heart attack. “It was a shock,” says Thorne. “Without Craig, I just don’t feel I can do justice to what we did together with Wrapped In Plastic. … Craig and I always believed Twin Peaks would never come back. I think he’d be thrilled that it is, and I’m sure if Craig were around, we’d be hard at work getting Wrapped in Plastic back out there again.”
Wrapped In Plastic might not be with us to engage “The Return” and help us make sense of it, but Thorne will. He’ll be writing about it for a new magazine, The Blue Rose: A Twin Peaks Journal, and at his blog, abovethestore.blogspot.com. “I’m very excited about it,” says Thorne of the new series. “I have my feet on the ground, though. I always thought, if Twin Peaks actually did come back, it’s not going to be what you expect it to be. I still believe that very much. And that’s exciting to me. Because that’s what I wanted from it when I first came to it back in 1990. I don’t know what it’s going to be. But I think it’s going to be challenging, I think it’s going to be unusual. And I think it’s not going to be like anything else that’s on TV right now.”