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Brad Dukes' book "Reflections" looks back on "Twin Peaks" from perspective of those involved with show

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BOOK REVIEW: Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes (short/Tall Press) 2014

Last Friday, exactly 25 years to the day (June 10, 1991) that ABC aired the final episode of the groundbreaking cult TV mystery Twin Peaks, I began reading Brad Dukes’s  insightful oral history of this unique phenomenon – and literally couldn’t put it down until the very last page.

I note the quarter-century mark precisely because in the series, in another dimension known as the red-curtained “Black Lodge,” the key character in the short-lived series, Laura Palmer (played by Sheryl Lee), tells FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) that she would see him again in “25 years.”

And so here we are, 25 years later, and incredibly, Showtime agreed to allow Twin Peaks to be resurrected and rebooted by creators David Lynch and Mark Frost and featuring many of the surviving cast members. For obsessive fans like Dukes and I, this turn of events is nothing short of incredible.

And yet when Dukes published Reflections in 2014, the reboot plans were only in their very earliest stages. So, Dukes’s book serves as a way of re-whetting the appetites of old fans (and new ones) and reminding them why this atmospheric and darkly humorous “anti-soap” continues to inspire the TV and movie community , along with the darkly beautiful and jazzy Angelo Badalamenti-crafted soundtrack inspiring musicians who are bewitched by his ethereal soundscapes, first introduced to audiences on April 8, 1990. Who knew the remarkable legacy Twin Peaks would leave on pop culture and the collective psyche of the TV-watching world?

But on to Reflections

Missing in these 300-odd pages, amidst “reflections” of the show from everyone from MacLachlan to Frost to Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne) toMiguel Ferrer (Agent Albert Rosenfield) and many, many more, is, of course, David Lynch himself. But then he’s a tough one to nail down when he isn’t talking about a new film project or the positive aspects of Transcendental Meditation.

Many in these pages recall the highs and lows of the making the show and working with a quirky and creative genius like David Lynch (Eraserhead, Dune, Blue Velvet, etc.) and how that experience stayed with them and even changed them. Many said their Twin Peaks experience was one of the most important of their careers.

And while Season 1 goes in depth into the key question – “Who killed Laura Palmer?” – a question which transfixed the nation, Season 2 has many high points as well, including the storyline involving the sinister former FBI Agent Windom Earle, as played by Kenneth Welsh. And while Agent Cooper is the show’s example of duty and honor and goodness and with a healthy interest in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, Windom Earle is the exact opposite. He is searching for the entrance to the Black Lodge, a place foretold by the evil Tibetan sorcerers that seem to have Earle under their spell. It is with Earle that young, girl-next-door Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham) is taken into the Black Lodge and Cooper follows in hopes of saving her. As Kenneth Welsh recalls: “I thought it (the finale) was fantastic. I hadn’t seen anything so interesting since Pat McGoohan in The Prisoner. I thought it was really extraordinary, like when Bob burns me  and send me to hell. It was astonishing what David came up with. It was art, fucking art!

Getting the different perspectives from the actors, writers, directors and others involved with Twin Peaks is utterly fascinating. The book is all of their voices. Dukes merely asks the questions and lets them talk about highlights – and about anything, really.

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.

Agent Cooper holds Leland as he is dying, after it is revealed he killed Laura, while possessed by BOB. (Lynch/Frost Productions)

As Sheryl Lee notes, the story is still disturbing, where a father molests and kills his daughter. She seems, from Dukes’ interview, to have some vague reservations about the show somehow. And Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry Truman) is just off-the-wall, if you ask me.

But back to this key episode.

One of the actors in the show and in this particular episode, Native American Michael Horse, who played Twin Peaks Deputy Hawk, recalls the filming of the episode and how uncomfortable that ending scene in the flooded jail cell – as BOB leaves Leland after killing him – telling Dukes: “That was really interesting to me because we were all in that room and I knew we were calling on evil. When Bon was going to come out of Ray Wise, the director said someone would go for help and I said, ‘I’ll go!’ I didn’t want to be in that room when they were calling on that evil. It had become that real to me. I had a chance to get out of that room and I took it. It was uncomfortable.”

Getting that sort of deep insight about being on the set of Twin Peaks is valuable for fans such as myself. Not only is the viewer at home unsettled by what he or she is seeing on a primetime TV show, but the actors are as well. As Lynch told Wise, while it was tough to see the character of Leland go, it had a redemptive quality and Wise says “(Lynch) made it sound so good, so I guess I couldn’t complain after that.”

Dukes includes plenty of behind-the-scenes photos from the set in both Washington state and in southern California. As everyone ultimately agrees, there has never been anything like Twin Peaks on television - before or since.

Red Dirt Report will be interviewing Brad Dukes about Reflections and more about his thoughts on Twin Peaks and the upcoming reboot, expected to air on Showtime in 2017. Stay tuned!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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