The Secret History of Twin Peaks
Published by Flatiron Books
Nov 07, 2016 Web Exclusive
With the Showtime revival of Twin Peaks looming, series co-creator Mark Frost seeks to tie up a few loose ends with The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a book that serves as a bridge between the original series and its new incarnation. It is essential for fans of the series, though disappointment awaits anyone looking for obvious clues to where the new episodes are headed. That said, fans will undoubtedly be enamored by the rich lore that connects the pieces of Twin Peaks' mysteries to a larger tapestry of conspiracy theories and folk mythology.
Back when the show was on the air, David Lynch and Mark Frost were forced to reveal the central mystery of Twin Peaks-who killed Laura Palmer-midway through the second season. Fair to say they learned a vital lesson about the very nature of the show's appeal; it is driven by questions, not answers, and the best way to keep audiences engaged was to keep them in the dark. But there was mounting pressure from fans and the network, and even rumors that Russian president Mikel Gorbachev persuaded George Bush to divulge the identity of Laura's killer. Lynch and Frost gave in, and with no central mystery to unravel, the show flailed into the most disappointing drop in creativity in television history.
Fast forward (nearly) twenty-five years, fueled by its cult status and obsessive fan base, and Twin Peaks is headed back to television. But could lightning really strike twice? The show's second season took an infamous plunge in quality, and initial reactions to Lynch's prequel film, Fire Walk With Me, were cold to say the least. The film has grown a bit more palatable over time, as the initial shock of leaving the show's cliffhanger ending unresolved gave way to incredibly moving performances and a furthering of the show's captivating mythology. More so, the film is pure, unfiltered Lynch, uninhibited by network notes but also missing Frost's knack for procedural storytelling.
Which is why The Secret History of Twin Peaks is a neat companion to the film. If Fire Walk With Me was Lynch's version of Twin Peaks leading up the Laura's murder, than Secret History is Mark Frost's take. Lynch's approach is impressionistic; set pieces tell a story through visual means more than dialogue or plot, often accompanied by a visceral soundtrack. The book, on the other hand, is more methodical, detail oriented, and thorough. Frost deepens character backstories, and even takes a few of the more forgettable townsfolk and puts them front and center. But the real story is of the town itself, and how the mysterious woods surrounding the small logging community shaped its history.
The book is presented as a dossier compiled by a mysterious Archivist, with notations from another mysterious FBI agent attempting to piece together the mystery of Agent Dale Cooper's fate. Frost digs deep into the town's roots, all the way back to Lewis & Clark' expedition. We learn about the town's origins as competing sawmills, and how that original rivalry shaped the future social structure of Twin Peaks. The Archivist theorizes that the spirits in the woods are the same creatures that inspired the atomic era's fascination with UFO's and extra-terrestrials. In fact, The Secret History of Twin Peaks might read more like an episode of the X-Files than Twin Peaks, but the reorganization of folk mythology is more consistent in Frost's world than Chris Carter's, and truthfully, the mythology takes a back seat to the more intimate moments of Twin Peaks.
Luckily, Frost knows the strength of these characters as well as anyone, and includes several more intimate stories from the characters themselves. A highlight: Deputy Hawk's journal entry recounting the love triangle between Ed Hurley, his wife Nadine, and Norma Jennings, the owner of the Double R Diner. This is classic Twin Peaks, capturing the show's atmosphere through beautifully printed pages and competing narratives that add dimension to material that is potentially dense and tedious. The book revisits themes originally introduced in the series, with an added focus on the differences between mysteries and secrets. Secrets are kept, but their answers are known. Mysteries, on the other hand, likely have no answers. This history of Twin Peaks may be secret, but it brings back the mysteries that make it a place worth revisiting.
Author rating: 8.5/10
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