On the Massive Betrayal of Showtime’s ‘Twin Peaks’ RevivalLynch/Frost Productions
“The new [Twin Peaks episodes] will be set in the present day and continue storylines established in the second season. [Mark] Frost emphasized that the new episodes will not be a remake or reboot but will reflect the passage of time since viewers last checked in with key characters.” — Variety, 10/6/14
I don’t know how to feel about this, you guys. On one level it’s fantastic news. New Twin Peaks episodes with Mark Frost writing and David Lynch directing and key cast members probably returning? On the network that brought us Poltergeist: The Legacy and Dave’s Old Porn? Sign me up, and I mean “for Showtime, probable future home of the inevitable Early Edition reboot too.”
And yet: I can’t say I’m not a little bit disappointed, even a little bit angry. The news that Season 3 will pick up 25 years after the Season 2 finale is a slap in the face to the small but loyal army of fans who’ve spent decades supporting the Twin Peaks Expanded Universe, a thematically rich and deeply interconnected world of stories that Lynch and Frost appear to have summarily banished from the canon with today’s announcement. We don’t know for sure that the new episodes will ignore the continuity established in the various tie-ins that emerged in the years following the original series and the release of Fire Walk With Me, but Frost has confirmed that “things will happen in Twin Peaks,” which means at least one beloved Expanded Universe story — the hit comic-book series Twin Peaks Meets Spawn Vs. Predator, which I probably don’t need to remind you ends with Pete Martell heroically sacrificing himself to destroy the Predator and an Owl God–possessed Shelly Johnson by triggering an antimatter explosion that also levels the entire town — probably never happened. And if that game-changing Twin Peaks story line can just be wiped away like so many cherry-pie crumbs off a Double R Diner place mat, that means nothing is sacred.
As we all know, the various novels, comics, video games, and puppet musicals that make up the Expanded Universe owe their existence (and the “licensed” and “official” status that’s afforded them a place in the canon up until now) to a syndication contract that Lynch/Frost Productions signed with a now-defunct Argentine cable network in 1993, and specifically to a poorly worded clause buried deep in that document that authorized the reuse of Twin Peaks’s various characters and situations by production entities incorporated in Buenos Aires and the Buenos Aires provinces. This loophole — known as the “Página 18 Clause” — proved to be both massively exploitable and legally bulletproof, opening the Twin Peaks universe to any fly-by-night media company with the capital and the chutzpah to rent a post office box in la Paris de Sudamérica for the purpose of fig-leafery. Over the years, the original show’s cocreators have made no secret of their frustration with this state of affairs. As Lynch put it in 2002, during an interview with Film Comment, “IT’S ALL JUST HOOEY. LIKE SOMEONE SEWED A SAINT BERNARD COSTUME ON YOUR NEPHEW AND SENT HIM TO THE STORE FOR A BOTTLE OF MILK. A GLASS BOTTLE. ONE OF THOSE NEAT ONES, WITH THE COW EMBOSSED ON ITS SURFACE. YOU MIGHT THINK IT’S THE SAME COW EVERY TIME. NO SIREE.”
And yet: The cancellation of the original series created a void, and for decades the Expanded Universe filled that void. We invested our time and our money and our patience in each new chapter of the Twin Peaks saga, keeping the flame alive while the rest of pop culture moved on. By saying that these stories don’t matter, it’s as if Lynch and Frost are saying we, the Expanded Universe Peakers, don’t matter either. I’m not saying it was all worth keeping — I’ve been arguing since the old Usenet days that Twin Peaks: Rollin’ Thunder, a Singapore-only TurboGrafx video game in which you could play as Leo Johnson or not at all, shouldn’t be considered canon because it’s misogynistic, and because the box depicted Steven Seagal hiding in a tree, raising the possibility that the game was actually supposed to be a tie-in with On Deadly Ground. The same goes for the Flash-animated “Further Adventures of the Widow Milford” web series from the late ’90s, which was straight-up pornography with no real connection to the original show, apart from Billy Zane agreeing to supply the voice of a character named “Dong Justice Wheeler.”
Still, though — think of what we’re losing here. Freed from the constraints of a network-television budget, and in some cases unencumbered by anything like good sense, the creators who took up the Twin Peaks mythos in Lynch and Frost’s wake ran wild, building what was once a compact series about a deceptively sleepy small town into a galaxy-spanning adventure that has thrilled and befuddled generations of new fans. Now all those epic stories have been cast aside. The entire series of Twin Peaks: FBI Academy books for young readers, set in the early 1960s, chronicling the adventures of eagle-eared young Bureau trainee Gordon Cole? Gone. The controversial Shadows of the Black Lodge novels, in which the intrepid Jordan Cooper-Horne returns to her late mother’s hometown to open a doughnut shop and stumbles on a plot by talking owls to reverse the flow of the waterfall outside the Great Northern? Never happened, which means Jordan, Audrey Horne’s daughter, never marries the Log Lady’s half-dwarf son Colton in Book 7, which means the various dystopian futures chronicled in Dark Horse Comics’ 137-issue Twin Peakz 3000 never happened either, including the acclaimed four-part “Who Killed Diane” story arc, the comics-writing debut of Slavoj Žižek. (Neil Gaiman and Herb Trimpe’s out-of-print graphic novel A Handful of Garmonbozia is probably technically still canon, but only because it’s an unreadable 300-page book told from the perspective of a wasp stuck in a bowl of creamed corn.)
Are we really going to see a new Twin Peaks season without fan-favorite Expanded Universe characters like Agent Bartleby “Barry” Dunsmuir, the black-ops Fish & Wildlife Service investigator who reopens the Laura Palmer case in Wizards of the Coast’s trading-card game Twin Peaks: Quest for Judy’s Monkey, whose proprietary pictographic alphabet made it, infamously, the most difficult role-playing game of all time? Not one appearance by Jacques and Jean Renault’s other brother, Jermaine? No mention of the Blue Lodge? No WindomEarleBots? No Jim-Bob? I suppose the Armless Man will go back to being you-know-who, and the broken mirror in Agent Cooper’s bathroom will go back to not being a time portal to the age of the Knights Templar. I AM SIGHING A DEEP SIGH.
Ehh. Whatever. I’ll still watch the new episodes. But it’s a bummer to think of what might have been. Also, I don’t know how they’re going to pull it off without Frank Silva. That guy was crucial.