Visit Twin Peaks, with its majestic waterfalls, verdant mountains and meticulous, slicing sawmill. It’s a town where the air is fresh, everyone knows everyone and beauty queen Laura Palmer has been brutally murdered.
So far, so Broadchurch (or any number of dramas where death comes to a close-knit community), but Twin Peaks is less a whodunnit than a whatsgoingon. Unable to use the violence and sex that fleck his movies, in 1990 director David Lynch got funnier and even stranger on TV.
Plot is replaced by a dreamlike series of images and symbols: 1950s easy listening, striped linoleum, drugs, serial killers, demonic possession, high-school sweethearts, soap operas, prostitution, a reverse-talking hallucinated dwarf, strong black coffee and “damn fine” cherry pie. It’s an Americana migraine, provincial values peeled away to reveal sin and depravity. Underneath it all is Angelo Badalamenti’s bucolic and unsettling soundtrack: dread in plaid.
Some view Twin Peaks as watered down, accessible Lynch, but that’s to underestimate its achievement. When you go to the cinema to see Blue Velvet, you are somewhat prepared. Twin Peaks was broadcast in primetime and was a massive ratings success.
The real draw here is the unique atmosphere: watching episodes back to back sends you into a pine-scented trance. Yet it’s solving the central mystery that will keep you hooked. When Lynch bowed to pressure from the network and revealed Laura Palmer’s killer halfway through series two, viewers departed, the plug was pulled and the finale was left on a cliffhanger.
But a flawed masterpiece is still a masterpiece. TV has improved a lot since it first appeared, but Twin Peaks — more overwhelming than ever, now it’s on Blu-ray — remains evergreen.