Warning: Major spoilers for the original Twin Peaks and minor ones for the new series follow (but don’t worry, the identity of Laura Palmer’s killer is not one of them).
There are two great, lifelong loves that I have to thank my Aunt Bobbi for bringing into my life. One is Stephen R. Donaldson (specifically, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant). The other is Twin Peaks.
When Twin Peaks premiered I was 13 years old, a creature brimming with awkward shyness, fanatical but erratic religious faith, and passion for the horrific and bizarre. Twin Peaks scratched all those itches and then some. I was a fan from the first episode. Every character dripped with melodrama or eccentricities. Intimations of terror threatened from just beneath many of the scenes, especially those featuring Laura’s mother and her heart-stopping visions of BOB lurking behind the furniture in her house. My first exposure to the Black Lodge (as Cooper’s dreamworld in episode 3) hooked me for life. The night I learned who killed Laura Palmer became the first of several sleepless nights to follow. I watched it all — yes, even the “bad” season 2 — and loved it. The ending, with Agent Cooper seemingly succumbing to possession by the evil BOB, left me devastated and enthralled. Long before Firefly or Dead Like Me, Twin Peaks taught me the bittersweet pain of a fan deprived of the source of their joy before its time. The film prequel, Fire Walk With Me, did little to soothe this pain, instead leaving me raw and filled with longing.
For years afterward, rumors of a third season swirled. I was too young and too naive to understand that I shouldn’t get my hopes up, and was disappointed again and again. I was forced to console myself by hunting down rare editions of the original pilot and the then-elusive second season on VHS, doing my best to spread the gospel by subjecting my friends and family to weekend-long marathon viewings, and incorporating the best of Agent Cooper’s lines into my daily lexicon to ensure their well-deserved immortality (“This is — excuse me — a DAMN fine [insert name of food product here]”). I became a ravenous fan of David Lynch, watching everything he’d done from the utterly bizarre Eraserhead to, years later, Mulholland Drive.
Awfully, the cast started to die, beginning with Frank A. Silva — BOB himself. One by one, my hopes died with them. In my twenties I was finally able to watch season 2 and see the flaws critics had been harping on since the beginning, finding a way to embrace the good but acknowledge the bad. Twin Peaks had been a phenomenon, something fantastic and flawed and unique that I’d had the incredible privilege of experiencing as it happened. I made my peace with it. Life went on.
And then, a couple years ago, long after I’d given up, the rumors started up again. A third season. Mark Frost and David Lynch collaborating. Kyle Maclachlan signed on.
I didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t let myself believe it.
But it was true. And the weekend before last, I got to watch the first four episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks.
My wife watched with me, god bless her, even though my showing of Eraserhead on our first date nearly short-circuited our relationship before it even started. She knew what it meant to me, how long I’d been waiting for it. But as always when I watch Twin Peaks with a person whose opinion I care about, her presence added a layer of trepidation, an extra hurdle for the show to clear. I was nervous, and the first episode proved my nerves out.
It barely touched the town of Twin Peaks, and the characters it did show had aged so much they were nearly unrecognizable. The plot was thin on the ground, inasmuch as it existed at all. It was largely a collage of disassociated scenes, and while I could glimpse a bit of where it might be going, it was disappointing. The original Twin Peaks was clear out of the gates as to the stakes and the setup: “Who killed Laura Palmer?” This had nothing like that, no clear theme to grasp and carry the viewer forward — and even worse, it had a predictable horror-cliché scene wherein teens got slaughtered for getting too horny and having sex at the wrong time.
But Agent Cooper was there. Hawk and Lucy were there. Albert (talk about a bittersweet appearance — RIP Miguel Ferrer) was there. The Black Lodge — oh the Black Lodge, that magnificent, sober acid trip nightmare — was there, and so was Cooper’s BOB-possessed doppelganger, the bastard. And so we watched another episode, and then another, and then the last of the four in the initial batch.
And — Hello-o-o!! — god help me if I wasn’t in love all over again.
The show is about Cooper now, I realized — as it always had been. I had sort of expected him to just return quickly, to get the show back to whatever passed for “normal,” but thankfully I was completely wrong. The rest of the characters are put on a slow-burn ramp up while his bizarre journey back takes center stage. It is a fantastic, meandering course through the best of David Lynch’s star-flung imagination, and I relished every second of it, every scene, clinging to them with all the fervor of that long-gone 13-year-old. And when Cooper at last escapes the Black Lodge, he can’t help continuing to interpret every mundane event and bit of throwaway dialog as an omen, because he has spent TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN THE BLACK LODGE and how can he even remember how to hear anything else? As I write these words, I realize David Lynch’s genius in this — Cooper post-Black Lodge is every 27-year Peaks fan, certain that every scene and utterance holds hidden meaning for them. And even that realization plays into the very conceit it uncovers, hunting for symbolism where there may be none.
No, this is not the original Twin Peaks. This has far more Blue Velvet and Lost Highway in its DNA than the original series ever had, but there are hints of the original show’s idiosyncrasies here, getting excavated slowly like artifacts at a dig site: chocolate bunnies and hot coffee (Is it the bunny?). It’s almost as if Lynch is teasing me, doling it out slowly to keep me on the hook — but I’ll be damned if it’s not working. If it had met my expectations, if it had been just what I’d hoped for, it would’ve been a failure.
Instead it is glorious. It is funny. It is perfect. I love it.
Welcome back, Mr. Jackpots. I missed you so, so much.
Is religion to blame for the violent acts of its practitioners? Does Islam deserve to be held to account when terrorists act on its most violent teachings, claiming a “fundamentalist” belief in them?
As an atheist who left his “angry atheist” phase awhile ago, I’ve been grappling with this question anew in the wake of the events in Manchester. I don’t want to unfairly malign any religion or its practitioners; at the same time, I refuse to just close my eyes and pretend calls to violence don’t exist. If a given practitioner of ANY religion chooses to disregard parts of a religious text because they feel those parts are too violent or don’t fit into their worldview, good for that person — but I wish more of those people would take that opportunity to then go the next step and question the underlying text itself. What good is a religious text that requires a “conscience filter” from its readers? Remember, these books, whether we’re talking about the Bible or the Quran, claim to be infallible. One mistake should call into question that claim of infallibility, and ultimately, the entire text.
As it stands, the question of whether to blame the religion feels largely academic. What does it mean to “blame the religion”? Does that mean blaming the book, or blaming the institutions that spring up around the book? The first makes sense — if a book says “kill the people who disagree with you,” that book absolutely needs to be brought to account and should not be forgiven its claims. The second, though, is where the question gets thorny. On face, certain institutions (the fundamentalist ones) are obviously to blame for the violence. But how can peace-loving institutions be held blameless, when they claim to rely on the exact same book for their beliefs?
Ultimately, my issue with “blaming a religion” is that it is too broad a blanket. Like many other labels, it hits every individual person that falls under that label, when in actuality those individuals run the gamut from the murderers of ISIS to pacifists who wouldn’t hurt a fly. It always comes back to people and their individual choices, of course — but denying that those choices can be influenced by the violent passages in a book claiming to be the infallible word of God seems, to me, naive.
Let’s take stock.
My country now has an Executive branch which lost the popular vote and is likely compromised by a foreign government – a government which is historically hostile to the United States and has a vested interest in curbing the U.S.’s global power as it attempts countless power grabs for itself. Wars which were unthinkable four months ago now loom all around us.
It has a crippled Judicial branch missing 13% of its federal judges and a dysfunctional, 8-member Supreme Court, due to a concerted effort on the part of that Executive’s political party to cripple it and keep it crippled.
And it has a gerrymandered Legislative branch under the control of the same political party, which refuses to investigate the Executive because they share a party, regardless of the unprecedented and terrifying news that is exposed day by day or the desperate efforts of the nation’s intelligence and free press communities.
In ten years, we will look back at these days in one of two ways.
We will lament the fall of modern day Rome.
Or we will celebrate the moment when we rose up as one and took power back.
We can still seize the rudder, though time is quickly running out. We can still push back, and push and push and push until the rotten tumor at the heart of our government tumbles over a cliff. We still have a hope of a future where we can say, “That was the year we woke up. That was the year we said, ‘No more.’ That was the moment – on the cusp of their victory over compassion and reason – that we stood, and we fought, and we won.” We can still realize a future where we set the childish notions of pollution and hatred behind us. Where we require our technology to be subservient to our wisdom, not the other way around. Where we begin to transform this planet into something thriving, holistic, and beautiful, a realization of humankind’s greatest and deepest potential.
But it is a mutually exclusive proposition. We are on the knife’s edge, and gravity is pulling us the other way – away from that magnificent future, and toward failure.
That failure means surrendering not only a hundred years of social policy advancement, decades of climate work, and a social expectation of safety and respect. Those things were largely products of the past that some of us had foolishly taken for granted, but losing this fight also means losing the future. It means falling into a modern dark age, where science is ridiculed, the truth is determined solely by our malevolent leadership, and “social justice” becomes a term of mockery. It means watching the world literally suffocate under the weight of its own pollution, and witnessing an apocalypse that unfolds in slow motion over the span of our lifetimes: storms that annihilate our homes and extinctions that devastate our food supply. It means starving and warring and dying, all while the men in charge shriek that it’s not real and wage war against those who dare to trust evidence, condemning, imprisoning, or killing them.
Some say our children will ask us, “Where were you? What did you do?” I say we will ask ourselves.
The dangers in play in the U.S. are replicated worldwide. This all comes back to who we are as a species. We are explorers, investigators, and creators. We have discovered unprecedented wonders of technology, but if we don’t define them, they will define us. This is the moment when we decide whether the energy we’ve discovered destroys us, or propels us forward; whether our powers of communication create a brilliant focus on truth, or suffocate us in lies.
This is not just the most vital moment of your life. It is not just the most vital moment of my nation’s existence.
It is the most critical moment for our species in modern history.
We must stand up.
We must fight.
We must win.