OWL IN DREAM: Expectations high in advance of "Twin Peaks" reboot
OKLAHOMA CITY – According to TimeAndDate.com’s calculator, it is 9,856 days, or 26 years, 11 months and 25 days between April 6, 1990 and March 31, 2017.
Why those particular dates? Because those were dates that the Entertainment Weekly magazines featuring key Twin Peaks actors – and co-creator David Lynch – on the cover.
As a spirit who looked a lot like murdered homecoming queen Laura Palmer told stalwart FBI Agent Dale Cooper in the Black Lodge – “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” That was in that remarkable, final episode of Twin Peaks, which aired on June 10, 1991, and ended with Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) smashing his head into a mirror and laughing maniacally: “How’s Annie? How’s Annie?”
But who, back in 1991 (and who was actually still watching Twin Peaks at that point?) would have seriously imagined that Twin Peaks would be roaring back to life on Showtime, and making a stunning return into the mass consciousness – and on the cover, once again, of Entertainment Weekly?
It’s a little more than 25 years, but it’s still pretty damn close.
It was as if back then, Lynch secretly knew that a quarter-century later, his bizarre creation would return to television and that his vision would finally be appreciated. These things take time. And, as actor Kenneth Welsh, who played the sinister Windom Earle in the second season was quoted as saying, the show is “art, fucking art!”
But American audiences can be finicky, even in the midst of the so-called “Golden Age of Television 2.0.”
So here we are, mere weeks before the May 21st return of Twin Peaks and it would be an understatement to say that expectations are very, very high right now.
And you know co-creators Lynch and Mark Frost (who liked a Tweet I sent to him about Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce tribe, Meriwether Lewis and its link to high weirdness and his recent book The Secret History of Twin Peaks) realize this as well. The buzz is as loud as ever, almost more so than I recall back in 1990, when Twin Peaks-mania was all the rage.
But with 217 actors, 400 pages of script (and Lynch directing all 18 episodes) and a lot of coffee, donuts and cherry pie to be made in the interim, well, as The Secret Sun’s Christopher Knowles noted, “The inherent promise of the revival (or the reunion) is that the intervening years will melt away and we can vicariously return to the Garden, back to our innocence. It's not only the promise but the danger; woe betide you if you don't fire up that time machine for your audience. With an artist as quirky and unpredictable as David Lynch that danger only multiplies. Exponentially.”
Knowles is right. Lynch is unpredictable. And with the absence of any real cinematic projects from Lynch in over a decade, one wonders what sort of creative bubbles were coming to the surface of his mind.
In June 2016 I interviewed Brad Dukes, a Twin Peaks fan and the author of the excellent Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, which I reviewed at that time.
But even after a great interview with Dukes, who offered some insight into the show, Lynch and Frost, and the actors involved, I could not get myself to do an article about it. There was something blocking me from doing so.
Nevertheless, I recently listened to the interview and now seems like a more appropriate time to post some of the things Brad Dukes told Red Dirt Report last June.
Dukes was fairly young at the time the original series aired. He watched it, intrigued by the mystery and the whole “Who killed Laura Palmer?” question. But when it was revealed that it was Laura’s father, Leland (Ray Wise), young Dukes was gobsmacked.
“After they revealed who killed Laura Palmer, it scared me. It really messed me up,” Dukes said. “I just quit watching it because I couldn’t handle it.”
But as the 1990’s progressed, and Dukes saw Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (the prequel released in 1992), he maintained some interest, at least later in the decade when DVD players were released, this after getting Season 1 on videocassette and wanting to now see it on even higher quality discs.
"Oddly”enough, the absence of (the DVD release) kept me curious,” about the show, he said.
Dukes spent the first decade of the 2000’s re-familiarizing himself with the series and taking an interest to such a degree that he decided to write what would become Reflections. Dukes, an approachable guy, was able to contact most of the key actors and creators involved and compiled this wonderful, 300-plus book – which did not include David Lynch, although it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Mark Frost, on the other hand, was very easy to communicate with and was already a fan of Dukes’ Peaks work.
All the while, Dukes said, none of the Twin Peaks folks indicated that there were any plans to reboot the show, saying that non one “really expected it to come back.”
Said Dukes: “Over the course of all my interviews, I didn’t think anyone really had their hopes up that this would happen. I think (composer) Angelo Badalamenti and Ray Wise have been in on the secret, but everybody else kind of looked back on it as this ‘once in a lifetime project.’”
But there was much there. I think back to the fall of 1991, months after ABC cancelled Twin Peaks, and how I was optimistic enough about the show’s staying power – or simply, its power – to naively try to start a Twin Peaks Fan Club at the small, conservative Christian college I attended in Arkansas. People simply weren’t ready for it, even though Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me would play over a single weekend in a theater in nearby Fayetteville the following autumn.
One of the Twin Peaks actors who is – oddly – overlooked is Sheryl Lee, who played Laura Palmer and Laura’s lookalike cousin Madeleine Ferguson. Noting Lee’s ambiguity in his book, Red Dirt Report asked about her and why that was.
“She is the sweetest person ever. So approachable,” Duke said of Lee. “I think that that part was just so heavy … to play dead. Her character was brutally murdered three different times on camera.
When you talk to her about it, there’s a lot of weight. A lot of emotions. I remember right after I put this book out I ran into her at (an event) in Los Angeles. She was watching some of those scenes that had not been released in 25 years. I think seeing that in such a fresh manner was really something for her. You have to give her kudos. Her performances are incredible on the screen. I don’t think she gets the proper credit she deserves.”
Michael Ontkean, who played Sheriff Harry S. Truman, has been off the radar, so to speak, for years. And it took some time for Dukes to get Ontkean, now living in Hawaii, to warm up to him and talk about the show.
“He is a very interesting and soulful guy and honestly, very cryptic. We traded emails for about a year, before he contributed anything to the book,” Dukes said of Ontkean.
At the heart of Twin Peaks, and what seems to really draw people to the series and its characters are a multitude of things – the camera work, lighting, set design, performances, mood – but also the examination of the human heart and what seemingly decent, small-town folks are capable of, under the right (or wrong) circumstances. Lynch and Frost understand this.
With a long-time interest in Tibetan Buddhism and the plight of the Tibetan people, I loved the fact that Lynch and Frost inserted that aspect of Agent Cooper’s personality into the show, from the “rocks and bottles” routine, to use a method in narrowing down potential murder suspects to an episode (the one that freaked out a young Brad Dukes) that shocks even to this day. Dukes wrote about it and I noted it in my June 2016 review, as follows:
One of the most interesting chapters, titled “Vehicle,” goes into detail about the making of Season 2’s episode “Arbitrary Law,” aired Dec. 1, 1990, where it is revealed that Laura’s father, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) was the one who murdered his daughter – while under the demonic control of BOB (Frank Silva).
It’s a shocking episode (directed by Tim Hunter and written by Mark Frost, Harley Peyton and Robert Engels), and Wise offers an amazing performance as he lives in his final moments (after BOB forces him to commit suicide) where Agent Cooper reads from The Tibetan Book of the Dead and helps Leland transition from life to death – and to see Laura and on the other side and how she has forgiven him.”
That was powerful stuff in 1990! It remains true today.
And the episode affected the actors involved in the scene in the jail. Michael Horse, who played Native American Deputy Hawk, told Dukes that when that scene was being filmed "he wanted to leave because (he felt) and 'evil' had been introduced."
As Dukes told Red Dirt Report of Horse's reaction: "I thought that was really profound. When you think about the nature of the whole story, I think that a lot of those emotions were palpable. That energy ... so I can't blame Michael Horse (feeling that way) because if was where 'Killer Bob' was being exorcised ... whether it was make-believe or not, I'd probably get out of there."
And it was after that episode that we learn even more about Cooper’s former FBI agent partner Windom Earle (whose name can be rearranged as the anagram "Owl in Dream"), who sneaks into town and expresses an interest in evil Tibetan sorcerers known as “dugpas” and their sinister magical abilities.
And just as Earle is to Cooper as Professor James Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes, each use their understanding of esoteric Buddhism, or Vajrayana.
Asked about the Windom Earle character -one I was particularly fascinated with - Dukes is not as big a fan of the character, despite admiring Welsh's work.
"I really enjoy his performance," Dukes said of Welsh. "I think the character could have been handled better, introduced earlier, before revealing the killer of Laura Palmer.”
Dukes continues: “I think people were worn out by the time Leland gets caught. That doesn’t take away from Kenneth’s performance, however. I wish the writers had made him a little more sinister. He was never really scary for me. He doesn’t scare me like BOB did. But he was a great foil for Cooper."
And with the reboot, it doesn't appear that Welsh is returning, along with other actors who played lesser roles in the second season.
"A lot of the characters in the the mid-to-late part of Twin Peaks (aren't returning)," he said. "I don't know if Lynch and Frost wanted to brush that stuff aside."
Sadly, we lost both David Bowie (who played Agent Phillip Jeffries in Fire Walk With Me) and Miguel Ferrer (who played Agent Albert Rosenfield), who did get to film his scenes before his death. But many others - and many new ones - are expected to be back in the haunted environs near Ghostwood National Forest - the fogbound lumber town of Twin Peaks, Washington.
Regarding Bowie, I ask Dukes if he thinks the international superstar (who died in January 2016) might make an appearance.
It would be a "great surprise," Dukes said, adding, that anything is possible when David Lynch (and Bowie, for that matter) are involved.
And despite that, Dukes notes how amazing it is that a show that essentially "went down in flames" over 25 years ago, is making a return, with "more popularity 25 years later."
“If you think about that very last frame of Season 2 ("How's Annie?"), they’ve got to top that. An ending that tops that. I don’t think they would go to all this trouble to make this new season happen if they didn’t have something crazy up their sleeve."
Referring to that popular notion of this point in television history as the new "Golden Age," Dukes said the creators will have to "turn everything on its head" and that "new doors for the medium" will need to opened.
“My hopes are way up. I’m expecting some game-changing television. They have a very high bar to reach,” Dukes said. “If you look back on what they did 25 years ago, it was revolutionary. And I am hoping for something else that is revolutionary."
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