If nothing else, at least I understand all the Wally Brando jokes now.
Late last week I tweeted something along the lines that, since the beginning of the pandemic, I had decided to marathon a beloved television show and, with five episodes to go, I was very much not enjoying the experience. But by the time I realized I wasn’t enjoying the experience, I was too far in. Now that I’ve finished, I was going to update that tweet thread and, about ten tweets in, decided I should probably just write about it, even though I was hesitant about doing that because I didn’t really feel like getting yelled at by Twin Peaks superfans. (Also, if you’re going to yell at me, at least wait until you finish this piece. There’s a twist at the end.)
As I was watching, I talked to a handful of other people about Twin Peaks, whose opinions I trust, and their reactions varied from, “I could tell early that show isn’t for me so I stopped,” to, “Oh, yeah, I’m a big fan.” What’s curious is I didn’t talk to anyone who decided, “this isn’t for me,” yet finished the entire series. I suspect I’m in a very small minority here.
So, I just want to be clear, I am not trying to claim Twin Peaks — which debuted in ABC thirty years ago in April of 1990 — is “bad,” or anything along those lines. Having now watched three seasons* of this show, I truly get the appeal. I’m not even saying this to diffuse the superfans so they don’t yell at me (I’ll explain later). I promise, I really get it. But I truly did get to a point where I did dread watching this show. And when I was watching I was wishing I was watching literally almost anything else. But I didn’t want to give up. I had to finish.
*I was texting with former Uproxx colleague Alan Sepinwall (now of Rolling Stone) and he, I think wisely, told me what episodes to skip in the second season. His warning was that if I tried to watch all of them, especially the shows that David Lynch has no involvement with, he knew I’d give up and never make it to the third season. So, during this marathon that started in April, I watched all of season one. I watched the first nine episodes of the second season, then the finale. Then I watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Then I watched all 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return.
Why did I feel I had to finish this thing I wasn’t enjoying? Honestly, I’m not all together sure. I think that’s why I’m writing this. It certainly wasn’t a quest for “answers,” because I know David Lynch’s work well enough to know that wasn’t going to happen. (Spoiler: I was right!) My best guess is I needed something to look back on in 2020 and say, well, at least I did that. So, when I look back on 2020, at least I have this. I can say, “I watched all of Twin Peaks.” (Well, all of the Lynch Twin Peaks, which was the point.) Yes, I’ve also watched something like 220 movies since the end of March, but there’s something unfocused and random about that. But with Twin Peaks, it feels like structure, even though the show itself isn’t traditionally structured.
I’m generalizing a bit. There were a few more ebs and flows to the whole endeavor, as opposed to, “I didn’t like it from the beginning, but kept going.” The first season is a decent amount of fun. It’s eight pretty tight episodes. If nothing else, it’s good enough that it enticed me to want more. Yes, I was warned about the second season. Boy, were these warnings correct. Though, I just figured most the problems would happen after Lynch left after the Laura Palmer murder was wrapped up in the ninth episode. This was wrong. Even in those first nine episodes, scenes drag on and on, almost as time fillers. There are a couple good episodes in there, but this is when I started to resent Twin Peaks. But I kept going because I wanted to get to this mythical The Return, this “18-hour movie” I had heard so much about in 2017.
After finishing Fire Walk With Me (pretty good!) I started The Return. Okay look, again, I do see the appeal. But, watching all 18 hours of this, in a pretty short period of time, was not an enjoyable experience (hold that thought). By the time I finished “Part 13,” I had really reached a breaking point, which spawned that aforementioned tweet last week. Now, since that tweet, I did enjoy the last three episodes better than the others. So I don’t feel quite as harsh about it all. Though, on Monday night, after I watched the final scene, my first reaction was, “Thank god this is over. I’ll never have to think about Twin Peaks again.”
Then something weird happened. I started reading about The Return. I read all the crazy Reddit threads and fan interpretations. I read theory after theory for about five hours straight. I then realized I really like reading about Twin Peaks, even though I kind of hated watching it. I was not expecting this phenomenon. And then I realized this is what I was missing, especially with The Return: the weekly communal experience on social media, back in 2017, I was witnessing then as an outsider, not understanding all of your Wally Brando jokes. The crazy interpretations of this show are just as important as the show itself. That’s where the fun of Twin Peaks lies, as opposed to watching these episodes in a vacuum. And I usually don’t feel that way about television. After watching an episode of, say, Game of Thrones, the last thing I wanted to do was read about it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m still glad its over. But if you asked me a week ago, I’d tell you I regretted watching Twin Peaks. Many times I thought to myself, “I should have watched Billions instead.” And there are a few episodes that feel like they are still going. But, now, I’m not sure I feel that way. I do actually feel like I accomplished something this year. And I still want to read more and more interpretations. And later in the week I have a call scheduled with a friend to just talk about Twin Peaks – and I’m not dreading it. And, well, if nothing else, after 30 years, I finally understand all of your Twin Peaks references. Ah, yes, your references to coffee and cherry pie make sense now! And, most importantly, I know who Wally Brando is. (And, now, if you want to yell at me, you can yell it me.)
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.